Rabat and Aoyama ready to race in Motegi
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Tito Rabat and Hiroshi Aoyama completed a confidence boosting qualifying session in advance of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Rabat will start the 24-lap race at the 4.8km Twin Ring Motegi circuit from position 19 on the grid.
Aoyama, who is replacing the injured Jack Miller, has qualified 21st despite not having raced a Honda RC213V in MotoGP for 12 months.
Rabat’s fastest lap of the weekend so far, a 1’56.903, came despite the Spanish rider making a crucial error with his qualifying strategy in the tricky conditions.
He elected to stay out in the hope that he could cool down the rear tyre enough for a faster lap on his final time attack. Rabat had been impressively ninth fastest in the earlier FP4 session.
As riders went out for the Q1 session the steady rain that had drenched the Motegi area since Friday morning had eased although track temperature failed to rise above a chilly 17 degrees.
On his home track Aoyama, the 2009 250cc World Champion, stayed calm despite the tricky conditions and steadily built his pace. His qualifying lap of 1’57.157 was his fastest of the weekend and easily two seconds quicker than his best in FP1 on Friday morning.
Despite the drying track in Q1 all practice and qualifying sessions for the past two days have forced riders to used Michelin’s wet weather tyres with no track time possible on slicks.
However both Rabat and Aoyama have made significant set-up progress in the unpredictable weather conditions to be ready for round 15 of the MotoGP World Championship.
Tito Rabat: 19th – 1’56.903
“I pushed right from the start of the session and went second fastest but then I made a mistake with my strategy. Rather than come in and change the rear tyre I decided to stay out and try to slow down and cool the tyre and then go again for another fast lap. At the end of the session I had big slide on the rear and knew it was time to stop. It’s a pity but despite this I feel I can do a strong race tomorrow.”
Hiroshi Aoyama: 21st – 1’57.157
“During Friday practice I spent most of the time looking for the limit of the Michelin rain tyres and it takes time to understand this limit. And the team have worked hard to make a good step to improve rear grip, which is important in these conditions. In full wet conditions we are OK but as we saw in qualifying things change when the track begins to dry out. My rear tyre was overheating but the track was still too wet for a slick. Overall we made some good steps and I’m looking forward to racing in my home Grand Prix tomorrow.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“The conditions were difficult but both Tito and Hiroshi did some good laps although Tito didn't have the best strategy for the wet weather tyres on a drying track. It is a pity about the weather conditions because it has not been easy for both riders to show their true potential. Hiroshi has only been on the bike for two days having not raced MotoGP for one year. Now we must wait to see what the weather will bring for the race, as it is impossible to predict what will happen.”