Today Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales put in a consistent ride at a very wet Twin Ring Motegi track to secure ninth place. Valentino Rossi had an impressive start to the Motul Grand Prix of Japan and was riding in eighth position when a crash in turn 8 brought an end to his challenge.
Viñales had a great start to Yamaha’s home race, riding midfield through the spray from a 14th-place starting position to eighth in the opening lap. He had to let Alex Rins and teammate Rossi past on lap 3 as he warmed his tyres, but this setback was only temporary.
The Spaniard overtook Jorge Lorenzo three laps later, while Rossi crashed out of the race, and reclaimed eighth place. He gradually started to up his pace as his confidence grew at the very wet Motegi track, but soon realised Aleix Espargaró, riding directly in front of him, was too far ahead.
In the second half of the race Viñales focused his attention on defending his eighth place from Lorenzo, who arrived at the back of his Yamaha with six laps to go. The number-25 rider put his head down, but was unable to hold off his compatriot. He crossed the line in ninth place, 36.575s from the front.
Rossi also had a good launch off the line, starting from 12th on the grid. He quickly began his charge and had picked up three positions by the end of the first three laps. The Doctor spurred on his YZR-M1 to prevent his rivals from clearing off at the front, overtaking Lorenzo on lap 6. However, his pursuit came to a premature halt when he suffered a crash in turn 8 and was unable to rejoin the race.
Today’s race results see Viñales and Rossi hold third and fifth place respectively in the championship with a 41 and 76 point-gap to the leader. Yamaha is in third place in the Constructor classification, 29 points from first, and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP is chasing the Team title in second place with 43 points to the top of the rankings.
The team will soon head south to take part in next week’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix on Phillip Island, Australia.
Position: 9th – Championship: 3rd – Points: 203
“I expected things to be a little bit worse, because this morning I was trying to be in the top-15. Finally, in the race, I pushed a lot in the beginning. I tried to risk only the necessary, trying to give our best. Today this was the maximum and we will have to think now about Australia. Until all the points are collected it is impossible to know if there is still a chance to win the championship. For sure we we’ll face different circumstances in Australia. It will be a different bike and different tyres, we don’t know what we’re going to have there, but it’s a track I like a lot, I like to ride there, so I can’t wait to be on the bike again.”
Position: DNF – Championship: 5th – Points: 168
“Today was the end of a very difficult weekend. Because of the wet conditions I was not very competitive, I was struggling a lot with the wet setting of the bike. In the race I was trying to follow Aleix Espargaró and I was trying to stick with him, but unfortunately I crashed. Now we’ll try to do some good races and it will be important during the next weekends to give Yamaha as much information as possible to improve the bike and to decide on the direction for next year.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“When we arrived here in Japan, we weren’t expecting this weekend to be as difficult as it turned out to be. We really worked hard to try to find a solution. We put in a lot of effort, but we weren’t able to do it in the end. We never found the rear grip that the riders were looking for in almost all the sessions, as well as in the race itself, but Maverick and Valentino tried to make the best of it. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, and I expect that we will use the next round to explore different solutions for the future.”
Zarco Perseveres to Complete Japanese Grand Prix in 8th – Determined Nozane Unfortunate on Race Debut
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Johann Zarco experienced a challenging afternoon to finish the Motul Grand Prix of Japan in 8th. The French star lunged forward from pole position as the rain continued to pour. After relentlessly battling at the front of the field for the opening laps, he settled into a formidable rhythm as he battled against the gruelling conditions. Eventually, he powered across the finish line and now optimistically awaits the Australian Grand Prix next week.
Meanwhile, substitute rider Kohta Nozane endured a tough time after falling in the early stages of the race. The promising young Japanese rider who was riding with a small fracture in his right hand following a crash in FP4 yesterday made progress after the start before unfortunately sliding off on the 4th lap. Monster Yamaha Tech3 would like to thank Nozane for his efforts during the Japanese Grand Prix.
Position: 8th – Championship: 6th – Points: 125
“It was a tough race. I had a good start and the feeling was quite ok at the beginning. However, the rear was sliding a little bit but I was able to control it and overall, the front felt great which allowed me to brake how I wanted to. I was slightly limited with the corner entry yet, on the whole, it was positive. Some riders overtook me but I managed to stay with them, even if I lost a bit in acceleration. This means that we are doing a good job as we can make this same step in the wet as well as the dry. I waited when I was running in 4th and I thought that I would get more confident with the front and then catch the leading group. Yet, the opposite happened and despite the fact that I always felt good on the brakes, the tyres wore, which limited me. By the end of the race, there was a lot of spinning and even though I tried my best to find a solution on the straight by carefully opening and closing the throttle to catch some grip, the other riders got past me. This was why I lost the positions at the end but we will try again in Australia next week.”
Position: DNF – Championship: Not classified
“After the warm-up session, under a local anaesthetic, I decided that I could race today. The track conditions were pretty bad this afternoon when compared to this morning. If I was not injured then I could have managed the GP better, but the fact is that I crashed quite early on. I am frustrated with myself and I have to say sorry to Yamaha and to the entire team. However, these three days have been like a dream and again I would like to thank Yamaha and Hervé for trusting me!”
Monster Yamaha Tech3 – Team Manager
“Altogether I believe that it has been a positive weekend for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team. It was an incredible feeling on Saturday to get the pole position with Johann Zarco for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. This was special for us all and also for our partners, with Motul being the title sponsor for this race and I’m sure it’s something that they enjoyed. We knew that today was going to be very difficult as the conditions were really challenging and almost dangerous. There was a lot of standing water on the track and it never stopped raining. Yet, Johann had a great start and stayed behind the top three for most of the race. However, we knew that the end of the GP would be tricky and Johann quite easily kept the riders behind him until the last five laps, and there we couldn’t fight anymore as there was no more grip on the rear tyre. To lose four positions in the final few laps is not something that we can be happy about but 8th is still a good result and we collected some valuable points. Overall, the weekend was positive and I would like to thank Yamaha for looking after us in the way that they did. On the other side of the pit box, Kohta Nozane was really impressive on Friday and we thought that he would eventually be fighting for a top ten finish on race day. Unfortunately, a small mistake at the beginning of FP4 saw him crash and fracture his right hand, which meant it would be very difficult. Yet, he never gave up and worked hard throughout the night to get his hand fixed. The warm-up went well, so we thought it was ok to compete. However, I think it was just a bit too much and he wanted to start his home Grand Prix so we gave Kohta the chance and I’m happy we did. Yet, we were not very confident because we could see how badly his hand was and at such a hard braking circuit, with a fractured right hand, it was almost impossible. I would like to thank him and I think he has shown that he has a really good level and he could be a very successful MotoGP rider in the near future. I don’t know what Yamaha has planned, but it was a pleasure for us to look after Kohta. He is a really nice guy and we would eventually like to give him another chance to show his full potential. Thanks to the whole team and we will pack everything tonight and then head to Australia where we hope there will be no rain.”
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