Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi showed his fighting spirit today at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. It earned him fourth place and valuable championship points, putting him in close contention for the battle for second in the championship standings. Teammate Maverick Viñales had a challenging start to the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, but with his typical determination took seventh position, so he can continue to fight for second and third place in the final three rounds of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.
Rossi had a great start from ninth on the grid and soon wrestled himself to fifth place on the first lap. He continued to fight with Álex Rins for the position and made his pass stick at the end of lap 2, eager not to let the four front-runners get away. The Italian set a provisional fastest lap, a 1’46.052s, to cut the over 1s margin in half. Just one lap later he arrived at the back of the leading group. Wasting no time, he made a block pass on Jack Miller in turn 11, with 20 laps to go, to take over fourth place. He now had to close a 0.6s gap to stay within podium contention but couldn’t make strides.
Unable to drop under the 1’46 mark, he had to let the chasing Suzuki’s pass him on lap 10 and 11. When Andrea Iannone crashed on lap 15, the number 46 moved up to fifth place again, but the gap to Rins was now over two seconds, so the Doctor focused on the men behind him instead. Johann Zarco and Álvaro Bautista were on the move in the final five laps. However, the battle amongst the two bought the Yamaha rider time, which he used to perfection. As Andrea Dovizioso crashed on the penultimate lap, the nine-time World Champion crossed the line in fourth place, 6.413s from first.
Viñales didn’t have the start he had hoped for and needed a little time to get into the groove. He began the race as seventh on the grid but was pushed back to tenth in the busy first corners. Lapping in the mid-1’46s, the Spaniard was unable to keep a charging Bautista at bay but gained a position as Jack Miller crashed on lap 11. He moved up another place when Iannone fell four laps later and used this as his cue to up the pace.
The youngster dropped into the low 1’46s just when the riders in front of him started to struggle a little. He launched his first attack on Dani Pedrosa on lap 19, but it didn’t last. A lap later he made it stick and put his head down. He knew that closing the over 2s margin to Bautista and Zarco would be a tall order and instead made it his priority to win some championship points. After Dovizioso went down, the number 25 rider took seventh place at the chequered flag, 13.330s from the race winner.
Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing Team wild card rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga made his experience count in Motegi today. He rode a confident race, securing a strong 14th place aboard his YZR-M1, finishing 32.550s from first. This achievement earns him two championship points and puts him in 24th place, ahead of seven other riders.
Today’s results see Rossi hold third position in the championship standings with just a 9-point gap to second. Viñales remains in fourth place with a 30-point gap to his teammate. Yamaha holds third place in the Constructor Championship after the race in Japan, with a 100-point margin to first, while the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team have reclaimed second position in the team standings with a 51-point gap to first.
Yamaha extend their congratulations to Marc Márquez of the Repsol Honda Team on taking the 2018 MotoGP World Championship Title.
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action at the Phillip Island circuit next weekend for the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, held from October 26th – 28th.
Fourth place is not a bad result. I think that we’ve worked well today, because this morning we made another step and I felt better with the bike. So, I started the race quite optimistically, trying to fight for the podium. Unfortunately some other riders were faster than me. I tried to not give up, not to make any mistakes and to arrive at the end of the race with a good pace.
We shuffled a lot with the settings of the bike, but we couldn’t be fast in today’s race. We tried something different before the race, but it didn’t really work. We followed a direction we used in Buriram to see if that would work, but in the end it wasn’t like that. I couldn’t ride like I wanted to, so we need to keep working and trying to stay focused on the way we manage the race weekend, and stay strong. We are going to try to do our best again on Phillip Island, and we’ll try to see where we stand.