A cold and wet day welcomed the Grand Prix of Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, forcing teams and riders to adapt a different wet-weather set-up rendering useless the two previous days of dry practice. The 24-lap fight ended with Aleix Espargaro in 11th place, while Maverick Viñales couldn’t make it to the finish due to a crash he suffered in the middle of the race.
Rain welcomed the riders from early morning and the threatening low clouds required race direction to delay all sessions in order to match the safety requirements of the medical helicopters, which couldn’t take-off in the low cloud. When the program was cleared to go ahead both Espargaro and Viñales took to the track for the warm-up, which was the only chance to finalise a wet set-up for the race. They immediately found a good feeling and the pace was pretty fast, both being in the top-10.
At the start of the race, both Espargarò and Viñales made a good start, but then Viñales struggled to keep pace losing positions to his competitors while Espargarò consistently improved his position with many overtakes on his rivals.
Unfortunately both Suzuki riders visited the gravel trap today. The first was Espargaro, who pushed the front to the limit and went too far into a corner, meaning he had to leave the track, losing several positions but thankfully without a crash. After re-joining the race he made-up places, finally ending in 11th place.
Viñales’ turn to go into the gravel was with 11 laps to go but unfortunately he had worse luck: he suddenly lost the front in a very hard braking section and crashed and subsequently couldn’t re-join the race thanks to the damage suffered by his GSX-RR in the crash. This ruined his race as he was making progress through the field as he found better feeling with his GSX-RR. This was a shame as his pace was constantly improving and he was well into the top ten when he suffered his crash.
Satoru Terada – Project Leader:
“First of all I feel happy that we came back here racing in Japan, it was the first time after our withdrawal in 2011 and it was nice to find all our supporters back. The weekend has been very hard for us, or at least it was on the Sunday. Aleix made a very good start and also the first part of the race; this is very good because he was able to fight with other factory riders and was in sixth position. This is positive for our project but I guess it was also nice for our many fans who crowded the main grandstands. In the race, Maverick crashed and Aleix ended in 11th, which is not such a good result, but despite the troubles they both had a very good pace in the race, which shows progress. Maverick made a good improvement throughout the weekend and Aleix was able to fight with the factory riders, which is an important step for us. Also we need more experience in the wet; it was hard for us because we had no reference points but we now have much more feedback, which will be useful for us. Now we go to Australia which is a smoother track, I think it will be suitable for our GSX-RR and hopefully we’ll get good results.”
“I’m disappointed for the final result because I have the feeling we could have got a position closer to our real potential today. This morning in the warm-up I had a very good pace and I was positive for the race, in fact my start was very good and I was immediately fighting with the factory riders. Unfortunately the front tyre’s performance dropped off a lot, I didn’t have a proper feeling from it and I did some hard braking, that pushed me in the gravel. Luckily I didn’t crash and could re-join the race, but I lost many positions. From there I could recover many places but then the rear tyre performance dropped, so-much-so that at the end of the race it was almost a slick, so we need to improve a lot our electronic management on wet tyres. We had the same issues in Misano and Silverstone, so that’s an area where we must improve. It is positive that in all the last races we made many improvements. In the dry we are pretty competitive and also in the wet we are getting better and better, even if the final result of this race is not what I was expecting or wishing for.”
“I’m sad with this result because I felt I could do much better. We have no experience in the wet and for this reason I was pretty happy on how the warm-up went. I felt pretty competitive and confident. In fact my start in the race was not bad, even though I needed the early laps to find confidence, so I lost some positions. Then I managed to find a confident race pace, that allowed me to improve and get very close to the top 10, but unfortunately I then crashed. I had some issues with the gearbox: I couldn’t make the proper gear-changes, so in turn 11, I was braking hard and suddenly lost the front. It was such a fast crash that I didn’t even realise what had happened, now we are investigating the possible causes so we can learn for the future. For sure we have much room for improvement in wet conditions, both for the machine set-up and electronics but also myself in the riding style and tyre and grip management.”
GP of JAPAN – Race Classification:
1. Dani PEDROSA, Repsol Honda Team - 46'50.767 2. Valentino ROSSI, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP - +8.573 3. Jorge LORENZO, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP - +12.127 4. Marc MARQUEZ, Repsol Honda Team - +27.841 5. Andrea DOVIZIOSO, Ducati Team - +35.085 6. Cal CRUTCHLOW, LCR Honda - +37.263 7. Bradley SMITH, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 - +37.667 8. Katsuyuki NAKASUGA, Yamaha Factory Racing Team - 44.654 9. Hector BARBERA, Avintia Racing Ducati - +48.572 10. Scott REDDING, EG 0,0 Marc VDS - +50.121 11. Aleix ESPARGARO, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR - +1'00.535 N.C. Maverick VIÑALES, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR
World Riders Championship after the GP of Japan:
1. Valentino ROSSI, Yamaha - 283 2. Jorge LORENZO, Yamaha - 265 3. Marc MARQUEZ, Honda - 197 4. Andrea IANNONE, Ducati - 172 5. Dani PEDROSA, Honda - 154 6. Bradley SMITH, Yamaha - 152 7. Andrea DOVIZIOSO, Ducati - 150 8. Cal CRUTCHLOW, Honda - 98 9. Danilo PETRUCCI, Ducati - 93 10. Pol ESPARGARO, Yamaha - 88 11. Aleix ESPARGARO, Suzuki - 81 12. Maverick VIÑALES, Suzuki - 74