Norifumi "Norick" Abe - Icon - Up To Speed

Norifumi Abe 1975-2007

Norifumi "Norick" Abe burst on the MotoGP scene at the tender age of 18 with a thrilling ride in the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix. After winning the 500cc class of the All-Japan Championship in '93, he was offered a wild-card ride for his home GP and shocked the establishment by challenging for the win. Riding a bright-red Honda NSR500 adorned with Mister Donut logos, the lanky teen with the shoulder-length hair started off fourth, and then incredibly passed Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz and Luca Cadalora to take the lead. The fairytale ended when he fell three laps from the finish.

Abe's performance impressed none other than Kenny Roberts, who offered him two additional wild-card rides that year and a fulltime gig for '95, kicking off an eight-year run at the highest level of motorcycle racing.

Abe won three 500cc GPs during his career, including the Japanese GP at Suzuka in 2000, where he defeated soon-to-be World Champion Kenny Roberts Jr. in one of the most action-packed races in series history. At the post-race press conference, Abe famously said, "I think, 'Sure Kenny come, sure Kenny come...but Kenny no come!'"

Abe's career took a downturn when MotoGP regulations switched to 990cc four-strokes in '02. He stepped down from active competition to work as a development rider, did two seasons of World Superbike racing and in '07 returned to the All-Japan Championship from whence he came.

Tragically, Abe was killed last October when a truck made an illegal U-turn in front of the scooter he was riding in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. He was 32.

Among Abe's many admirers is seven-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, who was so impressed with the Japanese rider's '94 debut that he has run "Rossifumi" stickers on his bikes throughout his career.