Avintia Racing started the Japanese Grand Prix with high expectations, as Hector Barbera was rewarded for his good season and rode injured Andrea Iannone’s Desmosedici GP inside the official Ducati Team. After qualifying eight yesterday, Barbera was aiming at a good result in the race today, but he lost the front in turn one on the ninth lap, when he was fighting with Pol Espargaro for the seventh place. He picked the bike up and finished the race, but without any options for the point rankings. Next week in Australia he will have another chance to show his potential with the factory team.
The race was not easy for Loris Baz either. He started from the back of the grid and although he improved his pace and reduced a gap of three seconds with Hiroshi Aoyama to just 0.8s on lap 19, he had to realize that he still isn’t in his best physical condition after two consecutive injuries. Finally, he was not able to fight for the championship point that seemed within reach in the battle with the Japanese rider. On positive result from this race is the fact that Loris got his confidence back, right in time ahead of the next race at Phillip Island, one of his favourite tracks where he did a great winter test.
Mike Jones, who got the opportunity to replace Barbera this weekend, finished his first race in MotoGP. The 22-year-old Australian got 18th place and was really happy with the experience he had in Motegi. “Mad Mike” will ride Barbera’s bike at his home race in Phillip Island.
HECTOR BARBERA #8 P17
“For me it was a fantastic opportunity to ride the 2016 Desmosedici GP and race for a factory squad like the Ducati Team and so I want to thank both Ducati and Avintia Racing for giving me this opportunity. For me it was all new: in fact, I didn’t know either the bike or the guys in the team, but after every session the situation improved a lot. Unfortunately in the race I was not able to get a good start, especially because the clutch is very different to the one I normally use, and I immediately lost two positions. I took a bit of time to pass Petrucci and then I caught Pol Espargaro, who I tried to overtake several times, until I tried with even more decision and unfortunately I crashed. I feel bad about it because I think that today I could have finished in fifth or sixth place. In any case I picked the bike up to finish the race, but in the crash the two wings had broken off and I was no longer able to ride it well. However it was a great experience and I am very happy that I have been given another chance next week at Phillip Island.”
LORIS BAZ #76 P16
“I got my confidence back during the first ten laps. But when I’m riding the bike I feel that I’m on the limit, and then I see the lap times and I’m far away from the pace. One positive thing from today is that I gained a better feeling and my race pace was better than ever this weekend. Negative is that we are still far from where we should be. I also realized that my physical condition is not at 100%, because when I caught Aoyama, I had no more energy left. Now we go to Phillip Island, a track I love and where I was fast during the winter test. I’ll have some days to relax and train before the race, so I hope to improve and to be competitive again.”
MIKE JONES #7 P18
“I’m very happy and I can’t believe the experience of finishing my first ever MotoGP race. It was fantastic to be part of the Avintia Racing Ducati team this weekend. They worked so hard to help me learn so much, but definitely I gained more experience through the race. My start wasn’t very good. We tried a practice start in the warm-up this morning and I felt really, really good, but we changed the clutch for the race and when I went to do the race start it felt different, so I really struggled with the start. Once I got going, I tried to follow the guys in front of me, but I had a few small problems and I couldn’t get the bike stopped like in qualifying. But I just wanted to finish the race, no matter how, and I did it. I really want to thank Avintia Racing and Ducati for this opportunity and I hope to do it better at Phillip Island.”