A severe change in the climate at Mobility Resort Motegi meant a shortened Grand Prix of Japan, and Jack Miller made it through the rain-lashed conditions to notch 6th in the final classification for round fourteen of twenty.
The looping 4.8km run around the Mobility Resort Motegi was made complicated and chaotic by the wild swing from warm and cloudy conditions to torrential rainfall just in time for the MotoGP race.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing had initially pulled up to 3rd and 5th positions on the grid primed to chase for victory and podium rewards. Both Brad Binder and Jack Miller had fought for the top slot of the Q2 qualifying session and Binder had initially broken the circuit lap record on Friday. The South African then rushed to a decent 2nd position during the 12-lap Sprint Saturday afternoon.
As the field assembled rain started to fall and the race was declared ‘flag to flag’. The KTM RC16s both got away well but, like almost all the rest of the pack, both Binder and Miller pulled into the pitlane before the end of the first lap to swap bikes and to a wet tire configuration. Sadly, Brad’s efforts to draw up to the top five ended shortly after as he lost control into Turn 3. Miller persevered and was holding 6th position when the state of the track became too perilous to continue and the race was red-flagged. The Grand Prix was initially due to be restarted but with parts of the layout still extremely wet and with the light fading due to the delay the results were declared.
Binder is 4th in the championship standings and with a gap of 64 points to close down to the top three. Miller holds 9th while Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are the 4th best team in the current rankings. KTM retain 2nd position in the Constructors table and will now be able to take a well-earned break before the Pertamina Grand Prix of Indonesia at the Mandalika Street Circuit in mid-October.
Jack Miller, 6th: “Not the best day but also not the worst and I’m happy we finished. It took some time for the tires to get going in the first part and I managed to save the rubber while gaining some time on the guys as the rain started to fall harder. We made a couple of tweaks to the bike to try and challenge those boys for the restart but it wasn’t meant to be today. 6th place today but I wanted more.”
Brad Binder, DNF: “Overall I think we had a positive weekend here in Japan. We were fast in all sessions and to bring home a podium in the Sprint yesterday was fantastic but unfortunately today it was tricky with the weather conditions and we came in after the first lap for the bike swap. I started to feel good in the rain and with good pace but I had a small lock going into Turn 3 and that was it. Thank you to my team for their hard work. We’ll try and make up for it next time around.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “A strange Sunday! Having a flag-to-flag after one lap meant that a delayed start might have been a better decision but it is like it is. No wet practice during the weekend meant we were quite conservative with our settings and electronics. It’s a shame. We had a very good GP from Friday until this afternoon. After the Quali and the Sprint yesterday our expectations were high. In conditions like these anything can happen. It was a weird and tricky situation but our riders gave their best.”
Results MotoGP Grand Prix of Japan
1. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati 24.06.314
2. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati +1.413
3. Marc Marquez (ESP) Honda +2.013
6. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +6.837
DNF. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
World championship standings MotoGP
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati, 319 points
2. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati 316
3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Ducati, 265
4. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 201
9. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 125
KTM GP Academy
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Deniz Öncü had a clear view of the track for the launch of the 17-lap Moto3 Grand Prix on Sunday morning. The Turk’s 2nd best lap-time in qualifying meant he had prime space on the grid and used it to his advantage to push the KTM RC4 into the leading group. Öncü had brandmate, Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Daniel Holgado, as an orange shadow. The Spaniard was the second part of a breakaway quartet that eyed victory.
Öncü crashed in Turn 7 with seven laps to go. It was a rare DNF for #53. Holgado was a tenth of a second away from P2 but 3rd place delivered his first podium since the Austrian Grand Prix (round 11) and his seventh of the season. The Spaniard is firmly in contention for the title and is now 3rd in the standings, 9 points from Masia. Rookie Jose Rueda rode well to find the top ten in Japan and Filippo Farioli just missed out on GP points with 16th.
Daniel Holgado: “An amazing race, very fast and I’m happy with this result and to get back on the podium. I need to stay a bit clam for the championship now because we have many races to come in a short time. We’ll relax briefly now and get ready for the next Grands Prix.”
Moto2 sped around Motegi for 19 laps. Pedro Acosta lunged his Red Bull KTM Ajo machine from the second row and the world championship leader was, once more, a competitive and threatening presence for his opposition. Acosta went on to score a solid and solitary 3rd place to extend his podium tally to eleven for the year and pull his margin at the top of the standings to 50 points; the equivalent of two GPs with just six remaining. Albert Arenas zipped past the finish line with 18th position.
Pedro Acosta: “It was, I think, a really tough race. I made a mistake into the first corner and then I tried to push but the rear was pushing the front a bit too much today. The boys ahead of me had a bit too much pace today. We took the maximum and maybe next time we can fight for the win.”
The island of Lombok is home to the Mandalika Street Circuit and the second Indonesian Grand Prix to take place at the track will kick-off a three race back-to-back streak also taking in trips to Australia and Thailand.
Results Moto3 Grand Prix of Japan
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 33:30.018
2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +1.546
3. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3 +1.602
10. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +9.734
16. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3 +16.674
DNF. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo +22.933
World championship standings Moto3
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 199 points
2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 193
3. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 190
5. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 147
8. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 100
24. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 7
Results Moto2 Grand Prix of Japan
1. Somkiat Chantra (THA) 35.19.273
2. Ai Ogura (JPN) +1.353
3. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +3.080
18. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +27.371
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 252 points
2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 202
3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 159
14. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 61