Rabat reaching for title
By finishing on the podium of the Japanese Grand Prix in the lead of his Finnish teammate once again, Tito Rabat has moved one step closer to the Moto2 World Championship title.
After winning the pole position, his eighth since the start of the season, Tito Rabat thought he might be on line for a new victory, riding a track on which he already made it to the podium last year – but Tom Lüthi and Maverick Viñales prevented him from doing so. “I wasn’t feeling very comfortable in the first laps and Lüthi seized the opportunity to break away,” said the Marc VDS rider. “There are days like that; maybe it’s because of the pressure as the title comes closer…” Plagued by traction problems, Mika Kallio slipped back to fifth place after scrapping with Rabat to get to the podium. In MotoGP, Stefan Bradl finished ahead of Pol Espargaro to cross the finish line in seventh position. In Moto3, Oliveira, Migno and Navarro all fell when they were in the top ten.
By making it once again to the podium, Tito Rabat now has a 38-point lead over Mika Kallio in the overall standings. Second in the championship, the Finn in turn has a 32-point lead over Viñales with only three races left. In MotoGP, Bradl is still in ninth place, but the German rider lost one point by finishing behind Iannone who is still ahead of him in the overall standings. Finally, in Moto3, Oliveira dropped back to eleventh position while Migno and Navarro keep their respective twenty-fourth and twenty-eighth positions despite their DNF at Motegi.
In the MotoGP calendar, Motegi is no doubt the most demanding circuit in terms of braking. Indeed, since the last Grand Prix of Japan, the MotoGP teams are allowed to use 340 mm disks instead of the usual 320 mm. On the Japanese circuit, there are three hard bends for braking where the riders arrive in the fifth gear and another where they arrive flat out in sixth. Even the slower corners are very demanding for the brakes. The grip of the front tire is generally very good, which further increases the strain in terms of deceleration. For the last two years, the temperature of the discs is monitored in particular. The motorcycles are getting faster and faster, heavier and more balanced, allowing the riders to brake later but that means really applying the brakes. For the Honda riders, the situation is under control. “On some circuits, we use 340 mm discs, but it is not a choice dictated by safety, it’s more a matter of personal feeling,” explains Christophe Bourguignon, the technical director of the Honda LCR team. “But the conditions at Motegi are extreme. Some teams even go so far as to install air scoops to cool the brake calipers. It’s difficult to get them below 420 degrees, but we know they must not exceed 750 degrees. That’s a limited range. 340 mm discs allow us to gain around fifteen degrees. The high-density brake pads that go with them, and the air scoops used to cool the calipers allow us to gain another thirty degrees … We also ask our team to avoid using the other riders’ slipstream: it disrupts the bike’s cooling and increases its speed, and thus the constraints and pressure on the brakes.”