For Seely, the Honda HRC rider was thrilled about the prospect of racing in Japan. “Believe it or not, this will be my first-ever trip out of North America,” the Californian said. “I’ve only raced in Canada before and been down to Mexico for fun.”
A huge fan of drifting, Seely also thirsted to get up and close with the homeland of the auto sport he loves almost as much as motocross. Upon arriving in Japan, Seely and his mechanic, Rich Simmons, were treated to a tour of the Honda factory in Tochigi, as well as a visit to the Twin Ring Motegi racetrack, which Honda owns. There, Seely was treated to a tour through the museum that’s filled with many historic racing automobiles.
After a the tour, the American Honda contingent that also consisted of Team Manager Dan Betley and Crew Chief Jay Burgess conducted a quick shakedown of the 2017 CRF450R that was shipped back to Japan for the race at Sugo. “It’s nice to have a bike that I have been riding, instead of flying over with just my suspension and controls,” Seely said. “Oftentimes for flyaway events like the off-season Supercross events in France, Switzerland, and other European countries, racers will race bikes provided by domestic importers and install their own suspension components, exhaust systems, and more personal effects like handlebars, grips, etc. Because the recent earthquake in Sendai, Japan, affected production of the CRF motocross bikes—and because Honda wanted Seely to be 100 percent comfortable in what he was racing—the team boxed up a factory CRF450R in California and shipped it to Japan for him to race. Early in the team’s development of the all-new 2017 CRF450R there was only one test bike that Seely and new team recruit Ken Roczen had to share, but by the time Sugo rolled around, there were enough to go around.
At the Japanese test session, the ignition mapping and EFI programming was adjusted to work with the different fuel that the MFJ (Japanese racing federation) requires. “There wasn’t a whole lot to test or change from our normal race spec that we arrived at back in California,” Simmons reported. “We have to race with what is basically pump gas over here in Japan, so some electronic stuff needed to be adjusted, but that was basically it.”
The track Seely tested at was a far cry from the churned-up, rough and jumpy tracks that he’s used to testing on in SoCal. Tracks in Japan are rarely attended to, and most are hard-packed with few large jumps. “The Japanese team members were asking me how my bike’s low-end felt with the different gas and settings,” Seely said with a laugh. “But I had to tell them that I had no idea, because I was wide open everywhere!”
Unless you’ve been to Japan yourself, it’s hard to understand just how different the country and culture are from the United States. Day-to-day life is extremely fast paced, public transportation is necessity, and the people are polite and courteous. Litter is practically non-existent even though public trash cans are a rarity, and an automated option of almost every human interaction can be found. From ordering your lunch at a coin-operated ticket machine to purchasing a subway train ticket to push-button, butt-washing toilets, Japan is a technological wonderland. “I love Japan,” Seely said after only a couple days in the country. “I want to move here.”
But what about the food? A self-proclaimed picky eater, Seely was actually quite adventurous when it came time to eating. “I’ve been eating a lot of chicken and fish and trying to stay away from red meat for a few months now,” he said. “But I figured that I’d have to break that diet while in Japan, because I’d get sick and tired of chicken otherwise.”
Meals with Seely in Japan were entertaining, but the kid from Newbury Park, California, proved to be far more adventurous than expected. On Friday night before Saturday’s qualifying sessions, Seely joined Akira Narita and his crew for yakiniku, a popular Japanese meal that involves grilling your own meat at the table. Although there was no getting him to try beef tongue, Cole did go to bed with a full stomach.
At the track, Seely was a hit with the Japanese fans who rarely get to see a full-fledged Supercross star in person. “It’s crazy, the fans in Japan are different,” he said. “Some people told me ahead of time that they are a lot more respectful here and that some fans will actually give you presents.” The first gift Seely was given were a pair of apples, complete with his name and number faded into the fruit’s skin. We didn’t understand the Japanese explanation of the creative process, but we imagine that stickers were applied to the fruit when it was still on the tree, and the sun did the rest.