Francesco Bagnaia finished in second place in the Gran Prix of Japan, behind race winner Jorge Martin, after prohibitive weather conditions forced the Race Direction to bring out the red flags after 12 of the scheduled 24 laps had been completed.
The light rain that began to fall as the grid lined up on slicks for a race declared ‘wet’ became more intense on the opening lap, forcing most riders into the pits at the same moment for a bike change. After the pit stops had cycled through, the top three title contenders emerged in first, second and third, with Martin ahead of Bagnaia and Bezzecchi (VR46 Racing Ducati).
Despite the difficult conditions, the Ducati Lenovo Team rider tried immediately to recover some ground on the fellow Ducati rider and managed to lower the gap before the conditions worsened. At that point, Bagnaia made a small mistake that allowed Martin to reopen the gap of more than a second. On lap 13, when the rain intensified, the race was red-flagged. Bikes returned on track to contest the race on a new 12-lap distance, but rain intensified again, and after the sighting lap, it was clear that there weren’t the conditions to continue the race. As riders completed 50% of the race full points were awarded. Thanks to the second place, Bagnaia keeps the Championship lead by 3 points over Martin and 54 over Bezzecchi.
Michele Pirro, who started from the 21st on the grid, was the last to pit in for the bike swap as he hoped the weather conditions would improve. The rider from San Giovanni Rotondo led the race for a few laps but closed it 16th after the flag-to-flag.
Francesco Bagnaia (#1 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 2nd
“It was a good race but very risky. In the last two or three laps, the aquaplaning started to be too heavy; we were all with the medium rear, so it was on the limit. Before the interruption, I was closing the gap to Jorge, but then I made some mistakes and was close to losing the front, and I was back to the same gap as before. In any case, we must be happy with this result. We know perfectly well how risky it is racing on the wet, and finishing second is a good result. Now, with three points between me and Jorge, it becomes interesting, but I like it because I think it could be a good competition between us.”
Michele Pirro (#51 Ducati Lenovo Team) – 16th
“Let’s say I played the joker card by staying out when it started raining because I said maybe it’ll stop, and so I did three laps on slicks. Afterwards, the situation was on the limit, and I had to come into the pits. Except that the others had already pulled out a lead. When we restarted, I had better confidence with the bike. I could have had a good race even in the wet, but they interrupted it. Safety comes first. It would have been nice to finish these two difficult weekends with a better result, but I thank the team for everything. At least I put my heart into it as a Ducatista!”
The MotoGP World Championship will now have a break before continuing its series of overseas races with the next round – the Grand Prix of Indonesia – scheduled from 13th-15th October at the Mandalika International Circuit.
- From Ducati Media House