Entering the circuit on Saturday. (Sunday was about 20 times busier than this)
In January 2017, we decided to go to Japan for a holiday, and specifically to include MotoGP at the Motegi Twin Ring.
I did a lot of google research and came up with very little, so I am writing this account of the trip to MotoGP so that others may gain, perhaps, a little bit of confirmation of “the things you read on the internet”.
Firstly, as soon as you decide to go, book accommodation!! We didn’t finalise an itinerary and hotels until probably, April, and we found ourselves in quite a difficult situation.
By that stage, on the Race weekend – hotels were still available in Utsunomiya, but they were $1000 per night. Added to this accommodation difficulty is that the MotoGP calendar wasn’t “confirmed” until about March. Furthermore, Motegi Twin Ring doesn’t release tickets until June.
My suggestion is to book using Booking.com at hotels which allow free cancellation of the booking. Book the hotels and dates you think you’ll need, cancel or alter them later. Watch the FIM MotoGP websites regularly for the calendar confirmation and ticket releases.
The two towns close to Motegi which have a good range of accommodation and public transport are Mito and Utsunomiya. We wanted to stay in Utsunomiya because that’s where the charter buses go from. Book at Mito if you have transfer to the track figured out from that direction.
You can also go to Twin ring direct from Tokyo with Motegi88. We didn’t want to have such long days, so we didn’t choose that option.
Given that we messed up the accommodation… we did end up travelling to Utsunomiya on the first morning we attended (the Saturday) by bullet train (Shinkansen) from Tokyo.
We then found the charter bus and headed to the track. That night, we had to stay in Nikko (A 40 minute extra train ride out of Utsunomiya – we didn’t really have a choice).
Then Nikko to Utsunomiya and to the track again on Sunday. We did finally get accommodation in Utsunomiya on the Sunday night, after the event was over! We were tired by then and glad not to be en route to Tokyo like many others.
I’m not personally familiar with any other MotoGP track on the circuit, however Motegi seems like one of the more remote ones. It is in a quiet rural area, and the rumour you find online that a “single road lane” leads to it, is generally true. From Utsunomiya, it’s two lanes each way, then half way there it narrows down to one each way. Since everyone is going in the same direction, that’s just a single lane.
About the buses:
We caught a charter bus from Utsunomiya station. There are tour buses from Tokyo as well. We decided against this option due to the travel times we expected. I’d read about “5 hours to get back to Tokyo” and we weren’t keen on that.
My research confirmed that there is only a single (council) bus to and from Motegi each day. We didn’t want to risk that so we went with the charter company. They had lots of buses. They were filling them up and they were leaving when full. People with a reservation got on the buses first.
There were people without reservations lined up… complaining about how disorganised it was. I suggest those people could have been more organised themselves and reserved a seat before they came. To us (with reservations) it was hectic but generally well organized – there was even a lady walking back and forward through Utsunomiya station with a big sign “FIM MotoGP Buses” and directing people to the correct station exit.
The company is called Motegi88. The reservations don’t open up until about a month or two before the race. So, we’d booked flights, accommodation, trains, everything – except the last 90 minutes journey to the track. That’s a little unnerving, but we kept an eye on the Motegi88 website every few days and it appeared. We booked the seats right away. There is no online payment, you pay in cash on the day. 3000 yen each person return.
That’s Utsunomiya Station – viewed out of the window of the charter bus.
On the charter bus; about to head to the track.
21kms to Motegi! This is the two-lane each way section of the road to Motegi.
Further on, the road is reduced to one lane each way.
Coin lockers at Utsunomiya Station. There are only a handful of lockers to suit large suitcases. We chose “luggage-forwarding” to our next hotel instead of risking not getting a locker and having to carry all of our luggage around at Motegi.
One of the many parking areas within the Twin Ring grounds.
The delay on the single lane wasn’t too bad on the Saturday (QP, etc). On the Sunday morning (Race day) it was very backed up. We got 95% of the way to the track easily, then the last 3kms were crawling at a snail’s pace. Really, we could have walked it faster.
Saturday traffic getting into the circuit.
Traffic at a standstill on the Sunday morning. My camera is at full zoom here, looking far ahead up the road.
About the tickets.
We bought through GPT. I had to follow up email them because we didn’t get any kind of confirmation. It’s because my bank charged some $30 fee and therefore they were $30 short on the ticket payment. Of course, they could have told me! But I finally secured tickets and they arrived in the mail a few weeks before we departed.
We bought paddock passes. I’m not sure this was a great investment. You don’t see a lot, much of it is fenced off and with umbrellas everywhere it was difficult to see much. There was a special viewing area at corner 3-4 for paddock pass holders; that was the closest we were able to get to the track, so that was good. I saw Dovi walking from his pit garage to demountable offices behind (a 2 second glimpse!), and we saw the Moto3 riders roll out of their garage for their race, and gave them a clap. But we were only in the “paddock” for about 25 minutes, probably. For the money, we probably wouldn’t buy those again. We also had to go and find a paddock pass activation booth to exchange our “tickets” for a “track pass”. This was confusing and GPT didn’t outline any of this prior.
Grandstand seats – hard plastic and no back support. bring a foam pad or something! We bought ponchos for 1500yen each upon arrival. They were pretty awesome, we’ll use them at other places I’m sure.
I got spoken to by a Japanese worker at the grandstand for standing up too long. It was in-between races (no riders on track) so I don’t know what the issue was… anyway, he had to do something to prove he was working, I guess.
Looking in the Moto3 pit garages (You couldn’t see MotoGP garages this clearly)
Here are the temporary grandstands. This is how close we were to the track and the noise.
In this image you can see (top down) – the pits, pit lane, the main straight, the temporary grandstands, the food-truck lane, fixed grandstands. Great view! Weather is a bit average!
I wanted to walk around the circuit more – however it was a very wet MotoGP so it was a bit of a struggle with backpacks, ponchos, and keeping the camera and phones dry. There are a lot of stairs and my partner wasn’t comfortable doing big miles around the track in these conditions. Adding to this, we only went on the Saturday and the Sunday, while skipping the Friday. On the Saturday we wanted to see the Honda Museum at the Twin Ring so that we were trackside all day Sunday; this also shortened the time we had to walk around the whole circuit. If we’d gone on the Friday as well I think we would have had more time to explore.
There were a lot of food vans, but they were all selling similar things. Noodles in a bowl, and variations of. Meat on a stick (all different meats). karaage chicken, with or without rice. long skinny fries. Doutor, etc. Japanese fast food. We found some pizza slices for 400yen each. Didn’t see much western food and none of it seemed overly healthy. On the second day we brought a lot of our own snacks like muesli bars, bananas, etc to get us through the day. The coffee was terrible.
We steered clear of the promotional area; just too busy. I looked at the Honda stand and said “no way”; I didn’t even attempt to squeeze in even though I might have bought a T-shirt or something.
Honda Museum: One of the only places to sit down on comfortable (bench) seats. (I am writing another blog about the Honda Museum on it’s own).
Overall, I wanted to go to Motegi “one day” and we did it. It was fantastic to be in Japan, and the racing was really amazing. We saw Dovi win the race on the final corner. Afterwards, media said it was one of the “rider battles of the decade”. So, we can say we were there for that. We won’t go again since we have a lot of other places we want to go, but we certainly don’t regret it. We might go to Phillip Island (our home GP) in a couple of years.
Jorge Lorenzo during FP1
Wheelie control in action
Rossi on the main straight
This is the view from the top of the Twin Ring fixed grandstand (final corner)- our seats were closer, in the temporary grandstands you can see in the foreground of this image.
Looking down towards Turn 1