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Norick Abe profile

By Dan Moakes
November 11 2005

Norifumi “Norick” Abe
nationality · Japanese
born · 7 September 1975
died · 7 October 2007
grand prix début · 1994
world superbike début · 2005

Sadly killed in a road accident, Norick Abe had been one of the fastest riders in Grand Prix racing - despite being among the last to get access to a four-stroke machine at the end of the 500cc era. The 2002 season had seen him in his eighth straight year on a Yamaha 500 - he remained a remarkably consistent racer, and had yet to finish a full season outside the top ten to that point. The time he spent racing the under-developed M1 in 2003-04 was not so kind to him, and yet the marque kept the faith and found him a spot in World Superbikes from 2005, and back home in Japan for 2007

Began racing minibikes

Raced in the United States; Road racing début

2nd in Japanese National A 250cc championship

All Japan 500cc Road Racing Champion

1994 Mister Yumcha Blue Fox, number 56 Honda
Débuted in the 500cc GP series at Suzuka, making an instant impression. As a wildcard, the spectacular Norick was battling in the leading group until he crashed with three laps to go. Injury to Marlboro Team Roberts rider Daryl Beattie led to two more races, on a number 56 Yamaha. Abe’s outings in the Czech Republic and the United States yielded a pair of sixths, and he finished 17th in the points

Norick Abe 1995 - photo by Elliot L Doering
photo by Elliot L Doering ·

1995 Marlboro Team Roberts, number 17 Yamaha
Now a full-time GP runner, Abe scored five top six finishes, including fourth in Jeréz and third in Brazil. He was ninth in the championship, with 81 points

1996 Marlboro Yamaha Roberts, number 9 Yamaha
Eight top six results included a first win, at home in Suzuka, and three other podiums, in Britain, Austria and Brazil. 148 points gave Norick a career best of fifth overall in the standings. He also scored one fastest lap

1997 Yamaha Team Rainey, number 5 Yamaha
Abe’s 126 point total was largely generated by results outside the top six, but did include three fifths, as well as third in the season closing Phillip Island race. He was seventh in the World Championship

1998 Yamaha Team Rainey, number 5 Yamaha
A whole string of top six finishes included three sixths, two fifths, and a fourth. He also made the podium at Járama, where he was second, and at Donington Park and Barcelona, both third. This amounted to sixth overall, with 128 points

1999 Antena 3 Yamaha-d’Antin, number 6 Yamaha
Norick took his second victory, at the Jacarepaguá circuit in Río de Janeiro, and brought his podium total up to thirteen by also finishing third on three different continents. A 136 point tally gave him sixth in the 500 series, once more

2000 Antena 3 Yamaha-d’Antin, number 6 Yamaha
With a third race win, again at Suzuka, and two European second places, Abe was lying third overall after the first six events. Unfortunately, with a late fourth in Brazil as his best subsequent finish, he was overhauled by season’s close and ended up only eighth

2001 Antena 3 Yamaha-d’Antin, number 6 Yamaha
Once again, Norick’s early season proved more effective than some of his later performances. However, a fine second in Jeréz, where he also qualified on the front row, was backed up by fourth place at five separate venues. 137 points were enough to share sixth overall with works Yamaha rider Carlos Checa

2002 Antena 3 Yamaha-d’Antin, number 6 Yamaha
Pushed completely off the first two rows in qualifying, by the four-strokes and some of the Honda 500s, Abe nevertheless forged his way through to a string of top eight results on the 500 Yamaha. The best of these were fourths in France and Britain, and it all added up to a highly creditable sixth in the standings again. His first taste of the 990cc machinery came in the penultimate race

2003 Yamaha Racing Team, number 17 Yamaha
Engaged to perform the role of Yamaha’s full-time test rider, Norick started the GP season as temporary stand-in for the injured Marco Melandri in the Fortuna Yamaha Team, and later raced as a wildcard at selected events for the factory team. He scored points in each of his five outings, with a best of eighth in South Africa. 31 points placed him sixteenth overall, ahead of several full time riders, and his best qualifying saw him tenth in France

2004 Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3, number 17 Yamaha
Following these decent showings, Abe made a full-time return to GP racing in 2004, as Melandri’s new team-mate in the split livery customer Yamaha team. His bike in the Gauloises blue of new factory signing Valentino Rossi, Norick’s qualifying form made him the slowest M1 rider. But in a number of races the old spirit was evident - particularly in Germany, where he ran fifth; and Italy, where he held the lead early in the wet restart. Two seventh places were his best results, but a number of other scores took him to 74 points, and thirteenth overall - just a few behind podium finishers Xaus and Melandri

Norick Abe 2005 - photo © Raceline Photography
© Raceline Photography

2005 Yamaha Motor France-Ipone, number 3 Yamaha
For 2005, and after 145 Grands Prix for Yamaha, a slot was found for Norick with the same manufacturer in Superbike racing. The YZF-R1 allowed the same riding style, but his form was similar to the year before. He looked good in Qatar and Spain, but crashed out of the latter event when a podium was on. Regular points scoring included a best result of fourth in the Czech Republic, but it was one of only three top six results. The final tally saw him twelfth equal on 123 points

2006 Yamaha Motor France-Ipone, number 3 Yamaha
The second year in World Superbikes brought more good riding in Valencia, where a double fourth was the best of his season. Points came in most races, but usually outside the top eight. With the Italian Yamahas regularly on the podium, it didn’t seem that Abe had fully adapted his riding to the four-stroke Superbike, and this time he came 13th with 112 points

2007 Y’s Gear Racing Team, number 81 Yamaha
Norick continued to race a Yamaha R1, but switched back to domestic competition in the All-Japan Superbike 1000 championship. He lay third in the series after six of the eight rounds, having scored every time, and with a best result of third at Tsukuba. Sadly, this fast and popular rider lost his life before the end of the season, when his road bike was hit by a heavy vehicle performing a U-turn. He will be missed by friends and fans alike

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