The MFJ Grand Prix is not just any race, but "The Race" of All-Japan motorcycling. The 52nd edition and the final round of the 2020 season of JSB1000 (Japanese Superbike), saw the victory by the veteran Katsuyuki Nakasuga in Race 1 and the conquest of the championship by Kohta Nozane. It was an all-Yamaha Factory Racing Team affair, with the two protagonists going head-to-head on the Suzuka track. While unable to beat his teammate, for the future GRT Yamaha rider in World Superbike it was a triumph that came at the end of a year that he totally dominated.
Arriving at the rollercoaster track following six consecutive wins at Sugo, Autopolis and Motegi, Kohta Nozane lined up for the final round of the season with the title one step away: with a margin of 52 points (out of the 56 available ) over his closest pursuer, Ryuichi Kiyonari, all he needed to do was pick up four more points. A mere formality, even if the 25-year-old from Chiba wanted to honour the championship until the end.
His teammate, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, soon joined the Yamaha battle. Following two podiums at Motegi, the nine-time JSB1000 champion once again capitalized on his experience at Suzuka. First with a stratospheric pole position in 2'04.128, in the heat of the Japanese afternoon he managed the situation perfectly. At first he allowed Nozane to get in front, while remaining a few tenths behind, "Kats "then launched a decisive attack at the Triangle Chicane three laps from the end.
The last few kilometres were exciting, with Nozane trying in every way to respond to the pass by his friend and rival, but without finding any gaps. For Nakasuga it was a desired as well as deserved win, the 53rd in his career and his first in this crazy 2020, a demonstration that confirmed his excellent feeling with the historic track located in the Mie prefecture.
After the chequered flag, the party inside the Yamaha Factory Racing Team box continued with Kohta Nozane's conquest of the All Japan Superbike 2020 title. It was a memorable year for the Yamaha rider, and an excellent business card for 2021 when he will join Garrett Gerloff in the GRT Yamaha Team in World Superbike.
Kazuki Watanabe (Yoshimura Suzuki Motul Racing) completed the day's podium. Always fast and steady during practice, the Hamamatsu manufacturer's rider achieved his third podium of the season, after a race in which (for the most part) he remained close to the Yamaha duo.
The first race of the weekend proved to be a disappointing one for Ryuichi Kiyonari, fourth at the finish with the first CBR 1000RR-R SP of Kehin Honda Dream SI Racing, more than ten seconds from the leaders and never competitive enough to worry Nozane in the fight for the title.
Behind him, Ryo Mizuno (MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO Honda) beat his brand-mate Kazuma Watanabe (Kehin Honda Dream SI Racing) in the sprint. Thirteenth overall for the legendary Akira Yanagawa (Will Raise Racing Kawasaki RS-ITOH), with a glorious past in World Superbike (three wins and 23 podiums) and MotoGP (four appearances between 2002 and 2007).
The protagonists of the All-Japan Superbike Championship will be back in action tomorrow, at approximately 7 am Italian time, for the start of Race 2 which will bring the curtain down on the 2020 season.