Raul Fernandez 9th in #JapaneseGP, Miguel Oliveira 18th after red flag
Round 14 of the MotoGP World Championship couldn’t have been any more unexpected with rain hitting the Mobility Resort Motegi just when the MotoGP race of 24 laps was about to start. While it was just drizzling on the grid, the very first lap hinted at the possibility of bike swaps for the riders. The rain then picked up significantly and literally flooded the track at halfway through the race so that it had to be stopped after 12 laps being too dangerous for the riders to continue.
CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team rider, Raul Fernandez, started from P11 on the grid after a decent Friday and Saturday in Japan. Like the majority of the field, the Spaniard swapped to his prepared rain bike after lap one and was back in P15 at the end of the second lap. With each meter he gained confidence and was already back in the top 10 after lap six, fighting for P9.
Yet, he had to serve a long lap penalty in lap 12 but was quickly back inside the top 10 after that. When the race was red flagged in lap 13, Fernandez was in ninth position and was therefore later rewarded with seven points, getting his third top 10 result in a row after an eighth position in San Marino and a P10 in India last week.
On the other hand, Miguel Oliveira, who is known to usually quickly find a decent feeling in rainy conditions, just showed his talent again. He started from P16, swapped bikes after the first lap and was then in P11 at the end of lap two. He quickly progressed through the field and was already in fifth by the end of lap six and made another pass to fourth on lap seven. He was gritting his teeth and fighting hard, but his visor was full of water, prompting him to pit in at the end of lap 12, after being in a strong sixth position before.
The Portuguese was eventually ranked in P18 when race direction decided conditions are too risky to race. Oliveira has to leave Japan without points, but is already looking forward to the next round in less than a fortnight in Lombok, where he won the inaugural Indonesian Grand Prix last year.
Today, I’m honestly quite angry for the long lap penalty. For me, I feel it was not fair. It was my first race with flag to flag in MotoGP, I crossed the line a little bit ahead of my number. Yes, that was wrong, but I didn’t have space really and in this hectic moment, I think this can happen. I think to have to do a long lap is quite harsh for this. But at the same time, I’m very happy with the work that we did throughout all the weekend. The team did a fantastic job and we were fighting for top six. Then we had the red flag because the track wasn’t safe, and we didn’t restart the race. Anyway, we will try again in Mandalika.
It was actually going well, the flag to flag was smooth with no big issues. I changed the bike and started my wet race and I was feeling quite competitive. Then with more rain I felt even better, the bike was handling quite well. But then three laps before I retired, I started to struggle to see. I couldn’t see anything and it never happened to me, I couldn’t even see where I was going to put my wheels. There was so much water and I was telling myself to be calm and not to quit. But I came half a lap distance and that was my race finished. The guys pulled in the bike into the garage which made it complicated to then restart, but finally I could restart from the pit lane, but the race was already ended.