Nozane, previously part of Yamaha’s Japan MotoGP testing team, was propelled into a surprise race debut for the Tech3 team at Motegi 2017 (pictured) following the sudden retirement of Jonas Folger due to health concerns.
Nozane caught the attention of Factory Yamaha legend Valentino Rossi on his way to a 13th best time, a fraction behind The Doctor, during Friday’s rain-soaked practice session.
“[He’s] very good,” said Rossi. “I followed him and he was fast. He has some experience with the M1 but I don’t think he has driven the M1 since March. He’s very young and I think he can be a very good Japanese rider for MotoGP…”
Unfortunately for the Japanese, he then suffered a fracture in his right hand in FP4 and – after continuing to impress by setting the ninth fastest time in warm-up – crashed again in the early laps of the wet race.
Still only 26 years old, Nozane hasn’t raced in MotoGP since, but did win the Japanese Superbike title in 2020, leading to a World Superbike spot with GRT Yamaha for 2021 and 2022.
Nozane’s wet weather skills earned him his best WorldSBK result, seventh in last year’s Mandalika Final, and he has yet to crack the top ten this season.
But Yamaha is hanging on and will now move Nozane to the Moto2 class, where he made his World Championship debut as a wildcard with FTR in 2012, followed by three rides on a MotoBI/TSR chassis in 2013 (best result 16th).
“Restart” in Moto2
Nozane said: “I was able to win the JSB1000 title in 2020 and have spent two years in WorldSBK since then. It was a big challenge to get results and I’ve had a lot of difficult races so far, but I’ve also learned a lot and gained a lot of experience.
“For 2023 I will make a fresh start and compete in Moto2. I realize this will also be a big undertaking but I will do my best to produce some great races for my fans and for Yamaha.”
“We are delighted to announce that we will welcome Kohta Nozane to our Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team for the 2023 season,” added Tetsu Ono, General Manager of Yamaha’s Motorsport Strategy Department
“He is one of the best riders in Asia who has experience with Yamaha bLU cRU. We will start a new chapter with him with the aim of showing everyone the passion for motorsport.
“We will continue to support talented riders from Asia. We hope everyone will follow our challenge in Moto2.”
2023 will be the second year of the VR46/Yamaha Master Camp team, currently led by Manuel Gonzalez and Keminth Kubo.
“I’m delighted to welcome Japanese driver Kohta Nozane to the team for 2023,” said sporting director Gelete Nieto. “With this signing we are strengthening our team even more in the second year of our participation in the Moto2 category.
“I want to thank Yamaha for all the effort and support they are putting into this project. I am sure that together we will achieve great results.”
VR46’s own Moto2 team will enter into a new partnership with Fantic next season.