Antonelli rises above rain in Japan


Red Bull KTM Ajo rider adapts perfectly to difficult conditions on first day of Japanese GP, with the fifth best time. Bo Bendsneyder is eleventh after an unfortunate FP2.

The Twin Ring Motegi welcomed the Motorcycle World Championship to Japan with rainy conditions on the opening day of the flyaway rounds. On fully wet asphalt, the Red Bull KTM Ajo Moto3 riders completed two positive Free Practice sessions. Niccolo Antonelli, fifth, was one of the outstanding riders of the day, leading the way for much of FP2. Bo Bendsneyder, eleventh on the combined timesheet, suffered two crashes in the afternoon after a satisfactory first session.

Amidst heavy rain and a completely wet track, Bendsneyder adapted quickly to the conditions, always riding in the Top 10 and repeatedly going among the three fastest riders. He ended the session tenth, with a best time of 2:11.477. Teammate Antonelli waited five minutes before leaving the pits in order to analyse the situation, and lap after lap the Italian lowered his times. In the final minutes he also broke into the Top 10, going eighth with a 2:11.240.

Track conditions remained the same in FP2, but the Red Bull KTM Ajo riders had a contrasting session. Antonelli led the entire last quarter of the session and was only beaten to the top spot once the chequered flag fell, missing out by 6 thousandths of a second with his 2:10.634 lap. On the other hand, Bendsneyder suffered two crashes -both at Turn 5- which hindered his progress, and he placed 22nd with a 2:13.698. time.

Tomorrow sees qualifying take place at 12:35pm local time. In the last two Japanese GPs, a Red Bull KTM Ajo rider has always been on the front row in Moto3.

Results (Combined practice times FP1-FP2)
1. Nicolo Bulega (KTM) 2:09.577
2. Andrea Migno (KTM) 2:09.705 +0.128
3. Romano Fenati (Honda) 2:09.896 +0.319
4. Aron Canet (Honda) 2:10.068 +0.491
5. Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 2:10.634 +1.057
11. Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 2:11.477 +1.900


“This first day in Japan went really well. We completed two good Free Practice sessions. Especially in the afternoon, we felt very comfortable and were even able to lead the way for a large part of the session. That is important for us. It looks like the weather conditions will not change much; there is an 80% chance of rainfall on Sunday, so we’ll try to get the best out of ourselves in the wet and prepare for the race.”

“Today’s FP1 went quite well; we had a good feeling in the wet and we were consistent. In contrast, FP2 was quite difficult. As soon as I went out I suffered a crash, I think because the tyre was still a little cold and I braked a bit late. I continued going step by step and things weren’t bad, but the feeling was not the same as in the morning and the bike was moving around a lot. I entered the pits to try to change something and after the first lap I suffered a highside. Although it was a difficult FP2, I know we will get on the right path tomorrow; we’re going to stay calm, I can’t wait for tomorrow and we’re going to fight for a good spot on the starting grid.”