Avintia Ducati rider Hector Barbera was recently selected to replace factory Ducati Team rider Andrea Iannone, who would be missing in action for several rounds of the MotoGP season due to injuries sustained in Free Practice of the meeting at Misano.
Barbera made his factory Ducati debut in place of Iannone
He was chosen to ride the Desmosedici GP 16, making his debut on the factory Ducati, and he returned to his own machinery for the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit where he finished the race in fourth as the top independent team rider.
It was the Spanish rider’s first independent team victory of the year as despite some very good performances so far this season, LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow has been incredibly strong and dominated the competition. Barbera thoroughly enjoyed his experience making his debut in the MotoGP on the factory Ducati, despite the fact he didn’t get the desired results.
Both Avintia Ducati riders strong in the wet in Sepang
Anyway, the experience must have paid off as he and his teammate were both strong in the wet conditions at the newly resurfaced and restructured track, and after qualifying in 12th on the grid, he ran a great race and finished fourth and entered parc ferme after the race to celebrate with the podium winners, matching his best result of the season so far.
The penultimate round of the season in Sepang turned out to be another wet one; riders expected to be faced with the high humidity in Malaysia but instead, after dealing with rain and wind in Phillip Island, were faced with thunder storms and a track that although grippy in the wet, took longer to dry than expected. Piloting a Ducati, he was at an advantage as the strong acceleration the Italian bike has was well suited to the two long straights that make up the end of the lap.
Barbera benefited from crashes ahead of him
The track was incredibly wet at the start of the race and a lot of spray was kicked up from the tyres, Barbera was cautious at the start but found that when the track began to dry out as the rain held off, his lap times dropped and his confidence built and he was able to gain several positions. Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team), Cal Cruthclow (LCR Honda) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), all crashed out of the race too which played right into his hands.
It came down in the end to a battle with his teammate in the closing laps. Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati) was having a great run in the wet at Sepang and the two fought it out for several laps until Barbera passed Baz and then went on to finish the race less than 1.5 seconds ahead of him. Crutchlow’s crash meant that he was the highest placed independent team rider, and Iannone’s crash left him as the second highest placed Ducati rider at the penultimate round of the season.
Barbera hoping for a top ten finish
The 13 points collected in Sepang mean that he is ninth in the championship on 97 points, now just 27 points behind Pol Espargaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha), but at this late stage he has no chance of catching the Spaniard. Barbera finishing ahead of Iannone, in the final showdown of the MotoGP season in Valencia, will mean that he will finish up the championship as the second highest placed Ducati in the 2016 standings.
Barbera happy with incredible result in Sepang
Barbera was feeling “really happy” as he described his fourth place in Sepang as “incredible” and his “best result in MotoGP ever”. He explained that “after two difficult races in Japan and Australia” that he felt he “really needed this result” to help him to “get a boost of confidence and energy” before his home race in Valencia. He said, “There is no doubt that this result came in the right moment.
Barbera said that, although he was very happy for himself, he was also “extremely happy” for his teammate Loris as he felt he needed the result (fifth) "even more” than Barbera did. He explained that “this result” of fourth and fifth in Sepang “is fantastic for the whole team”.
Barbera keen to highlight Avintia’s achievements
He felt that they are “showing this season that with hard work, big efforts and huge passion you can achieve important things”. He feels that “Avintia is the best example” of this as he explained they, “Don’t have the resources of many teams, but in passion we are world champions.”
Barbera highlighted that they are “in the top 10 after 17 races, ahead of many factory bikes” and they noe are heading to Valencia “determined to give [their] best again” and aiming to “close this fantastic season with the best possible result.”