The crucial MotoGP World Championship flyaway triple-header got off to a difficult start for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Hiroshi Aoyama and Tito Rabat in Japan today.
Wet and chilly conditions at Twin Ring Motegi meant both of today’s 45-minute practice sessions were confidence-building exercises for Aoyama and Rabat, who worked effortlessly to improve the wet set-up of their Honda RC213V machinery.
All of Aoyama’s vast experience came to the fore today when the Japanese rider, who is substituting for the injured Jack Miller this weekend, delivered a mistake free performance in tricky conditions.
The former 250cc World Champion improved his pace around the 4.8km Twin Ring Motegi by a massive 1.7s this afternoon and reduced his deficit to the best time by a full second.
A 22nd place finish on the combined standings was an impressive display from the 35-year-old considering his last taste of MotoGP competition came almost a year ago when he participated in the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
Today’s dismal weather presented Rabat with the perfect opportunity to gain vital missing confidence in wet conditions. The Spanish rider went about the task with typical enthusiasm and determination, but progress was limited after the disruption of a crash in the early stages of FP1 at turn 7.
Rabat recovered to lap 1.3s faster in FP2, despite using the same Michelin rain tyres for the whole of both sessions, but he is still missing confidence to push his RC213V closer to the limit in rain conditions.
Hiroshi Aoyama: 22nd - 1’57.548
“It is a fantastic feeling for me to be back in MotoGP and I have to once again thank Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS and Honda for this opportunity. It’s extra special to be racing at home as well and the only shame is the weather. This morning it was just about being calm and steady while I tried to understand the performance of the Michelin rain tyres because I don’t have so much experience with them. I was careful and I improved this afternoon but I still don’t feel like I am pushing at 100% while I try to find more confidence with rear grip. If you don’t have good rear grip it is not so easy at this track because of the hard acceleration points.”
Tito Rabat: 23rd - 1’57.645
“Today was a difficult day. I had the crash early in FP1 that didn’t help my confidence in these conditions and this afternoon we continued to use the same set of tyres to save some for tomorrow. The truth is though I am too slow. All I can say is I will try my best to improve tomorrow and hope that the conditions are more favourable.”
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