Today, we start the week on a very sad note. Motorcycle GP racing star, Norifumi Abe died in an accident yesterday, near his home in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, in Japan. The 32-year-old Abe was riding a scooter when he collided with a truck making an illegal U-turn. Abe was taken to a hospital immediately, but did not survive.
Norick won the All-Japan 500cc motorcycle GP racing championship in 1993 and made his debut as a wild-card rider for Honda at the 1994 500cc Japanese GP at Suzuka. While Kevin Schwantz ultimately won that race, Abe put in an absolutely brilliant performance and from there on, there was no looking back for him.
Between 1995 and 2002, Norick raced full-time in the 500cc class, taking three wins and 17 podium finishes in 144 Grand Prix races. Sporadically, he continued to race in MotoGP till 2004, moved to World Superbikes for 2005 and 2006, and to the All-Japan Superbikes Championship for 2007.
Here's a video clip from 1994 - Norick's debut race in the 500cc world championship class, at Suzuka, in Japan
The video clip above shows why Abe was a bit special. Watch as he (bike no.56) hangs in there with Doohan, Schwantz and Cadalora. He outbrakes Schwantz repeatedly, rides around him from the outside and passes pretty much everyone, before crashing out of the race. Even Valentino Rossi was amazed by Abe's amazing performance in this race.
In his autobiography, Rossi says, 'I was struck immediately by this wild-card named Norifumi Abe. Abe had long straight hair and even when he was standing still, he looked like a great character. But most of all, he rode like a madman. He was absolutely fearless. His racing style made me think he was an absolute nutter. He took turns with his steering locked, and often had to keep himself up with his knee. His suit was usually smoking, and he overtook in the most outrageous spots. His steering finally gave out and he fell... But to me, Abe was a hero!' (In a tribute to Norifumi Abe, Rossi sometimes even used the name 'Rossifumi' for himself...)
We, at Faster and Faster, offer our condolences to Abe's family and friends - our hearthfelt sympathies are with you. And, Norick, we'll miss you...