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Pol Espargaro delivered a solid performance at Yamaha’s home Grand Prix to cross the finish line in eighth position at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
The reigning Moto2™ World Champion who won his title in Japan last year, leapt off the line from seventh to retain his grid position by the close of the first lap. He was then pushed back a place but locked into a firm race pace to defend his standing of eighth, a position he proceeded to hold at half race distance.
However, the premier class rookie firmly set seventh place in his sights and began consistently inching closer to Stefan Bradl. On the last lap, Espargaro had impressively reduced the gap to close right in on the rider but despite an audacious late charge and an attempt to overtake, he wasn’t able to pass. The performance by the 23 year-old Spaniard, in his first race in Japan aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike, boosts his championship point score to 116 with only one point separating him from sixth position with three rounds remaining.
Espargaro commented, “It was a tough race today and I just never felt comfortable and couldn't go any faster. My start was an ok one and I did recover a position initially, but I struggled a lot in stopping the bike on full fuel load. From the middle of the race on, I regained some tenths every lap to close the gap on Bradl who was in front of me but unfortunately I caught him too late and couldn't find a way through. I guess this is all part of my learning experience and we have to analyse our data now to see where we can improve for the next round in Phillip Island.”
Meanwhile, Bradley Smith rode a firm and tireless race to clinch ninth position at the ‘stop-and-go’ Twin Ring Motegi track.
Smith reflected, “Although ninth is nothing to be hugely excited about, there are still a lot of positives to take from the race. In terms of the distance back from the leader, I would have been inside the twenty second bracket with Pol, had I not made a small mistake with three laps to go. However, my finish today was still one of the closest for me this season, which is a good step forward.”
“This position seems to be where we are at right now or at least for this race and I extracted the most from myself and my motorcycle here in Motegi. However, in Philip Island I am sure that we can have a better result as it is a track that I really enjoyed last year on the Yamaha, which performed well.”
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