Another excellent performance from Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales saw the Spaniard finish third at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan claiming the final spot on the podium and 16 points to his championship efforts.
Great start from the Spaniard
Qualifying seventh on the grid, behind his teammate Aleix Espargaro who started ahead of him on the same row in sixth, and after being third fastest in the morning warm-up session, he worked hard to remain near the front of the pack throughout the race.
Aleix initially went off and mixed with the front leaders challenging Movistar Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi to a dual as the nine times Italian world champion looked to claim as many points as possible in a bid to stop Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) sealing the championship.
Vinales commenced in battle with his teammate
Vinales hunted down his teammate who had eventually dropped to fifth behind Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso; he caught him with seven laps to go. Just prior to this Rossi had crashed out on lap seven at turn 10 when he lost the front. Then Aleix Espargaro went wide on track allowing Vinales to pass with ease.
Of course Aleix Espargaro retaliated but Vinales was able to remain fourth. This is when Lorenzo crashed out of the race with just four minutes remaining when the front of his M1 tucked in too. This meant that if Vinales could fend off his teammate for the remainder of the race then he would be on the podium. He crossed the line just 0.626 seconds ahead of Aleix Espargaro; he was third collecting 6 points which meant he was able to move up to fourth in the championship with 165 points.
Vinales moved above Pedrosa in the championship
He moved above Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa who was unable to compete in the 15th round of the season as he suffered a huge high-side during Free Practice that left him ruled out with a broken collarbone. He was flown home to Spain where he underwent surgery in the hope for returning in the next round of the season at Philipp Island the weekend after.
Memorable weekend for the Suzuki rider and team
Vinales’ podium in Motegi was the first time Suzuki had made it there in many years. It was Vinales’ 100th MotoGP performance and the podium came on the 54th anniversary of when Ernst Degner won the first World Championship title for the manufacturer at the Argentinian GP on the Suzuki RM62.
Vinales spoke of how he was “very happy for this podium” saying it was the “result of two main points”. On of those being that he felt the “team managed to make good improvements” since the day previous, and they gave him a machine he felt “more comfortable” with than during Qualifying.
The second point being that he felt he “managed to make a very wise race”; he spoke of how the “jump was not as good as I wanted” however he “decided to stay calm and not to waste the tyre”. This was in an attempt to “keep some performance for the end of the race”. He thought this is what “allowed” him to “be consistent” and keep his “performance for the end of the race”.
He spoke of how he thought it was a “nice battle with Aleix” however he said that when “finally” he “managed to overtake him” that he found it was “too late to go and catch up for the second place”. He described that the “podium [is] very emotional” and being there “in front of all our fans and colleagues from the Suzuki factory”.