Round one of the All Japan National MX Championship Series got underway this weekend at Kyushu Raceway in Kumamoto, Japan. As usual, there was plenty to see both in the pits and on the track. Akira Narita's factory Honda CRF450R was the biggest attraction of the weekend, as it is all-new from the ground up.
For seven-time National Champion Akira Narita, this weekend's race at Kyushu not only marked his first ride aboard his new works bike, but also with Monster Energy as a personal sponsor. The popular US-based energy drink is just now beginning to be sold in Japan, as it required some ingredient changes to be approved for import. Narita is the sport's first Japanese rider and he is very excited about the new venture. "I am so happy to be a part of the Monster family!" he wrote on his Instagram account @n982
Before the weekend's racing got underway, Narira told us that he was nervous about his first race of the season, but it didn't keep him from clowning around for our cameras! Though it this is actually his second stint as a factory Honda rider, he has spent the last few years competing as a Yamaha-backed privateer. "There is more pressure now," he said. "If you are on Honda, you are expected to win." And win he did. Narita swept both motos on Sunday.
Narita's works bike looks to be based on a pre-production 2013 platform, and is much different than the factory Honda being raced by Russian Bob in the MX1 World Championship Series. We were told that the GP bike is not a prelude of what's to come in the near future, which leaves this machine as the best sneak peek at 2013.
Narita's machine was equipped with a dual muffler system, which was made by the Mugen Power company. After debuting the patented design on the production CRF250Rs in 2006 as an innovation that offered better chassis balance and handling, it was dropped when the CRF250R got a revamp in 2010. We heard rumors about the twin pipes making a return on the '13 Honda several months ago, so we weren't too surprised when we saw them on the number-one machine. We were surprised, however, to see an aftermarket system on the Honda works bike, as the team usually builds its own systems. MFJ sound limits are the most strict in motocross, and machines go through the two-meter max test in tech inspection, and again after each moto. And yes, Narita's bike had a distinctly different sound than the rest: throaty and low, yet nice and quiet.
Unlike the AMA series where the red number plate is used to designate the series points leader, all riders in the premier International A 1 (450) class run red backgrounds on their machines.
The champ's bike was outfitted with two identical buttons on his handlebars; the extra one no doubt activates an ignition retard feature for better traction during starts.
Will a hydraulic clutch come standard in 2013? From the looks of Narita's machine, we'd say that it looks like it. Unlike the parts that grace the AMA factory Honda's, the system on the Japanese factory bike look more like production components.
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