Round 16 of the Moto GP in Motegi delivered highs as well as some brutal lows for Macna riders Filip Salac, Marcos Ramirez, Jakub Kornfeil and Andrea Locatelli across the weekend. After a strong showing from all riders in the previous round in Thailand, expectations and confidence was high heading in to the weekend. Filip Salac was the first to succumb after a big highside in free practice 2, leaving the young rider battered and bruised, and requiring medical treatment in the medical centre for injuries sustained in the crash. Such were his injuries that he was not able to ride at all on Saturday, which left him unable to set a qualifying time. Still determined to race, Salac would be forced to start from Pit Lane.
Filip Salac starts from Pit Lane in Motegi for Round 16 of the Moto3 World championship
With Salac not able to ride the qualifying session on Saturday, Kornfeil and Ramirez were left to fly the flag for Macna in Moto3, in what would be really tough conditions. The skies opened up on Saturday morning in Motegi, with torrential rain hitting the circuit, delaying the morning practice sessions and leaving the riders with very difficult conditions to set their qualifying lap times. Kornfeil found a wet setup on his Redox PrüstelGP KTM that was working very well, and at the conclusion of qualifying had set the 7th fastest lap time, which would see him starting from the front of the third row on Sunday. Ramirez also worked hard for setup in the wet conditions, pushing hard throughout the qualifying session, and finished just 3 tenths of a second off Kornfeil’s time, but with the riders so close in the Moto3 pack, Ramirez’s time was only good enough for 12th, and a start from the 4th row on Sunday.
Ramirez laps a wet and slippery Motegi circuit on Saturday
Sunday brought sunny skies and surprisingly warm conditions for race day in Motegi, another challenge for riders and race teams, as now tyre choice would be critical for the race, with little data to work from due to the rain and cold conditions experienced across the previous 2 days of practice and qualifying. Moto3 lined up as the first race of the afternoon, with Kornfeil starting from 7th, Ramirez from 12th and Salac starting from Pit Lane.
When the lights went out, it was typical Moto3 bar to bar action up front, with a whole gaggle of riders battling for track position on the opening lap. Kornfeil’s strong weekend up to this point all came crashing down when attempting to pass for 6th position when he tucked the front in a fast left hand corner and was left spearing in to the gravel trap, unfortunately taking Argentine rider Gabriel Rodrigo with him. Jakub Kornfeil was left unscathed after his Macna leathers truly did their job holding up to the high speed crash, but the same couldn’t be said about his bike, with the damage leaving him unable to take any further part in the race. A dejected Kornfeil trudged back to the pits only able to watch on as a spectator to the conclusion of the Moto3 race.
Ramirez rode a strong race, moving through the field from his 12th place start, and able to latch on to the leading group of riders for the first half of the race. Towards the latter stages of the race Ramirez lost touch with the leading group, which was setting a cracking pace up front, and instead of risking throwing away a strong finishing position, Marcos rode smartly to bring home an 8th place finish, after battling Jaume Masia all the way to the finish line who would just pip him for 7th by less than 2 tenths of a second. After starting from Pit Lane, Salac battled manfully riding through extreme amounts of pain, circulating towards the back of the field for the entire race, eventually crossing the finish line in 22nd position and outside of the points. Ramirez still holds down 4th spot in the championship battle with just 3 rounds remaining, while Kornfeil sits in 13th after his DNF, and Salac now in 24th after not scoring any points.
In Moto2, Andrea Locatelli was looking to continue to improve on his previous rounds finishes, and after struggling for set up in the cool conditions in free practice on Friday, Andrea was setting some great times in the wet conditions on the Saturday, well inside the top 10 in free practice, and looking to progress out of Q1 and in to Q2 to secure a good starting position for race day. Such is the competitiveness of the Moto2 class, that even Q1 was stacked with talent and on a drying track Locatelli set about putting down a lap time that would see him progress to Q2, but when the chequered flag wave to conclude the Q1 session Andrea was just 2 hundredths of a second shy of making it through. His time would see a 19th place starting position on the grid for Sunday.
With the very warm conditions on Sunday, tyre management would be an important focus for Andrea, and as such he rode a strong race, battling to push forward from his starting position. At the conclusion of the 22 laps, Locatelli had ridden his Kalex in to 15th position, finishing inside the points, further adding to his championship tally. Locatelli sits 17th overall in the Moto2 World Championship standings with the 3 rounds remaining.
All Macna riders are set for a quick turn-around, with round 17 of the Moto GP World Championship commencing this Friday at the iconic Phillip Island circuit. We are looking forward to some great racing and great results this weekend.