Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) continued his fine run of form to take a fantastic P3 at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, seeing him secure his third podium of the season and a magnificent home rostrum for Suzuki.
“It’s very special,” comments Rins, who has now leapfrogged teammate Andrea Iannone in the Championship standings; the latter crashing out just ahead of him at Turn 10 midway through the race. “At Suzuki’s home, we finished in third position, on the podium. Since yesterday I knew that I had good race pace to be third or fourth, fighting and, in the end, it was like this. I’m very happy because from the beginning, from the start, we pushed really hard, we overtook a lot of riders.”
It's been a trait of the Spaniard to significantly better his qualifying result in the race on Sunday and the Twin Ring Motegi was no different. A P8 starting slot wasn’t ideal for Rins but after dispatching Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) midway through the race, the number 42 rider soon found himself on the tailpipes of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol).
“When I got to Crutchlow I was trying to overtake him, but, in the end, the front of the bike was bumpy, it was a bit unstable and, for this reason, it was hard to overtake him, but third position here is very nice.
“It was fun but not easy,” continued Rins, who explains how battling with both Iannone and Rossi has helped him learn things for future GPs. “They (Rossi and Iannone) have a lot of experience on overtakes, on races. I learnt a lot. Every race I learn something new and fighting with them is a pleasure for me. We need to continue on this line.”
Suzuki have already lost their concessions for next season after a much improved 2018 has seen the Hamamatsu factory take six podiums, with a best result of P2 coming at Assen thanks to Rins. But being behind the Honda of Crutchlow allowed the 22-year-old to identify where the GSX-RR needs to improve if they are going to consistently challenge for race wins and future Championships:
“I think on the slow corners the Honda bike has a little bit more acceleration than us. On the long straights, Cal was able to exit easier from the corner. We need to keep working. We are going very fast with our development, so we need to keep constant and, little by little, we’ll get there. Basically, we are preparing for next year, to fight from the very beginning, from Qatar at the top positions.”
Australia and Phillip Island now await Rins and Suzuki. The Spaniard claimed victory at the venue in 2013 (Moto3™) and 2015 (Moto2™), while in 2014 he crossed the line second in the lightweight class. Can he add to those podiums come Sunday afternoon?