Motegi, JAPAN: In an action-packed Grand Prix of Japan, Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) Racing Team rider Anthony West conquered a strong 11th place, whilst his team-mate Rafid Topan Sucipto enjoyed a thrill ride with the best of the world before crashing out four laps from the end of the Moto2 race.
Both riders had a good start, but couldn’t take advantage of their positions, as the race was red-flagged during the first lap.
Spaniard Tito Rabat had crashed at the exit of turn one and Scott Redding, Pol Espargarós only remaining rival in the title fight, hadn’t been able to avoid Rabat’s bike, which meant an end to Reddings race, shattering his last hopes for the championship.
West, one of the fastest, but also one of the most experienced riders in the Moto2 class, had almost a seventh sense when he pulled on a tight inside line in this corner and managed to avoid the melee.
The 32-year-old Australian started well a second time and held 135h place after one lap, but struggled with speed and a lack of traction and found it difficult to get further towards the front.
Only in the last two laps, he managed to get the upper hand in the group he was in to secure eleventh place.
West said: “My position is good and points are always good, but I am still disappointed. I was almost touching the rear tyres of many of the riders just trying to get in their slipstream so I could try and out-brake them in the next corner. Everything I did was a battle to get more speed out of the bike. In the end I beat the group I was with, so I am happy with that. But it was hard. From the beginning of the race, I had big problems with rear traction. Entering the corner I had no grip, then mid-corner I had no grip either and on the exit, the rear wheel would just spin out. It was difficult to ride. In the end our result doesn’t look bad, but I feel we are far away from where we should be.”
He added: “I feel I am riding the bike at the limit, but the bike shouldn’t be in this position. Luckily, I didn’t get involved in the crash after the first start. A lot of things have happened at the exit of turn one on this track, with people running into each other, so I was extra cautious. I saw a bit of movement and immediately went to the inside. I was glad I did, because I was right behind them when they all went down. Bad luck for the guys that got injured, it is never good to see a crash like that. I am just glad that I was able to avoid it.”
Sucipto, who had been the sensation in qualifying when he put his bike into fifth position, enjoyed a fantastic experience battling with the top riders of the Moto2 category.
In the extended free practice session yesterday, he started to adapt his Speed Up prototype to dry conditions, but neither his engineers nor the young Indonesian teenager himself expected his race pace to be as fast as it was.
Learning from the top riders around him, Sucipto started to brake later and harder to the point of his front fork bottoming out under the brake force, which eventually made him lose the front going into turn one.
Sucipto said: “I was a little bit nervous before the start, but I tried to relax on the grid and I was okay when the lights went out. After the first start however, I almost crashed because another rider banged into me. That’s why the second start was even more difficult for me. But I got away well again and when another rider hit the brakes really hard right in front of me, I managed to do the same and was able to follow for a while, which felt really good.”
He added: “My only problem was that when we tried to find the best possible set-up this morning, we still didn’t have the right references and when I was faster in the race, these settings didn’t match my pace with harder braking and later corner entries.”