Pol espargaro and Augusto Fernandez both in the points at rain-hit Motegi
The party was cut short on Sunday at Mobility Resort Motegi for the MotoGP™ class, with torrents of rain bringing the main race to an end after just 12 out of 24 laps. That being 50% of the race completed, that meant full points were scored today after riders were shown the red flag two times this afternoon in Japan. At the first red flag, Augusto Fernandez was seventh and Pol Espargaro fifteenth, results which turned out to be the final ones. So yes, the race has been interrupted by the rain, but that’s a top 10 result for rookie Fernandez in Japan, his second best result of the season on a Sunday after his fourth place in Le Mans, and Pol Espargaro managed to take the final point-scoring position, in P15.
After a weekend without a single drop of rain, everyone thought we would avoid it in this year’s edition of the Japanese Grand Prix. But hopes came to an end when the rain came early this morning in Motegi, leaving the track wet for the warm up session, although it had stopped by the time riders went on track for their ten minute-practice. No sign of rain for the Moto3™ race, no sign of rain for the Moto2™ race neither… and of course the rain was going to be there just in time for the main race, at 15:00 (GMT+9). As riders lined up on the grid, drops of rain started to fall, but most of the class was in slick tyres. Lights went out at 15:00 LT, but the drops were getting bigger and bigger, and the white flag allowing riders to swap their bikes was shown briefly after the race started. Quickly, Augusto Fernandez returned to the pit box for a bike swap, opting for a soft at the rear, in prevention of a heavier rain. He found himself at the back while the rain continued to get heavier, until it was absolutely pouring down. A few crashes occurred, but Fernandez appeared to be comfortable in these conditions, and he started to overtake riders, one after the other, until he reached the seventh position. Then the red flag was shown by the race direction, as the track was impracticable. The race was set to be restarted at 15:50 LT, but during the warm up lap, riders raised their hands to signal that it was not possible to do more, so that was a second and final red flag which was shown, bringing the Japanese GP to an early end. That’s a seventh position for the rookie in the rain, his second best Sunday’s result, highlighted by his fastest lap in 1’56.454, today’s second fastest lap!
Pol Espargaro was again starting from the twelfth position today. When lights went out, he took a rather decent start, making an entry in the top 10 after a couple of turns. Just like his teammate, he returned quickly to the pitlane to swap bikes, and rejoined the action on track. However, with the rain getting more intense and the Spaniard not having had much wet time this year, the confidence was not the same as his teammate, and it took him a bit more time to accustom himself to the wet conditions. Lap after lap, he was losing ground on his rivals, and was in P15 when the race was red flagged. That’s still one point for the number 44, who’s weekend was highlighted by his qualifying performance. Time to head home after two intense weeks in India and Japan, and recharge batteries for the upcoming triple header, which will start with the Indonesian Grand Prix in Lombok island, from October 13-15, 2023.
“We took P7 after a crazy race here in Japan. The track was way too dangerous for the race to resume, so there was no other choice than putting an end to it, although I was feeling very good and was ready to go again. There was already so much water on the track the last three laps before the first red flag, , and it was not possible any more to go on. Anyway, I had made a good start, managed to overtake a couple of riders and my lap times were good, so I am happy with today’s race! It was a good weekend in the end for us, time to rest a bit and head to Indonesia in two weeks.”
“The race was a little crazy with the red flag. I don’t really know how to feel, because I am unsure about what happened at the race start. The rear grip completely disappeared from the first laps, maybe the tyre was overheated or we had an issue on the bike, I don’t know. I felt super weak, and was towards the last, unable to ride the bike. We will need to analyze the data and check what has happened, in order to avoid this in the near future if we get another wet race, which is very likely as we are heading to Indonesia next.”