“An irreplaceable ambassador of motor sports worldwide”
The Japanese rider, whose racing career spanned 10 years from 1994 to 2004, was involved in a fatal traffic accident near his home in Tokyo on Sunday afternoon.
Local police say that Abe collided with a truck
that was making a U-turn on a two-lane municipal road when he was out riding a motorcycle.
Abe made his World Championship debut at the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix in a wild card appearance, on the back of his title triumph in the All Japan Road Race Championship in the 500cc class. He challenged for the win against the likes of Kevin Schwantz and Mick Doohan in his first outing on the world stage, before crashing out with just three corners of the Suzuka circuit remaining. A full ride with Kenny Roberts' Yamaha team followed.
The first of Abe's three wins in the World Championship came in 1996, again in Japan, and over the next few seasons the popular rider never finished outside the top ten in the overall standings. Over the course of his career he rode for the likes of Roberts, Wayne Rainey, Luis d'Antin and Herve Poncharal in their Yamaha projects, and took a total of 17 podium finishes from his 144 Grands Prix appearances. His last race in MotoGP was the 2004 Valencia Grand Prix.
Since leaving the World Championship, Abe had been competing in his homeland as part of the All Japan Superbike Championship, whilst always a popular face when visiting the MotoGP paddock at Grand Prix events in Japan.
In a press release issued on Monday morning, Yamaha Motor Co Ltd President Takashi Kajikawa paid tribute to Abe.
“I am deeply saddened to hear this tragic news. Loved by fans in Japan, Europe and the Americas and throughout Asia, Norifumi Abe was an irreplaceable ambassador of motor sports worldwide. Here in Japan the fans were especially excited to see Abe return to the All Japan circuit after 14 years of international competition, and certainly their sense of loss at his passing is great. We pray that his soul rests in peace and we send our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.
”, he said.
DORNA / CAPSIS International