Massa feeling competitive on both tire compounds

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Felipe Massa believes that he could be in the running for a strong result in China following a successful FP2 session on Friday.

Massa finished the session quickest on the soft tire, but he was also impressive on the longer hard tire runs that could prove key in the race on Sunday.

“Our race pace looks competitive,” Massa said in an interview. “The car is handling well on both types of tire and degradation was not excessive, even if the higher wear rate of the soft compared to the medium compound will be an important factor when it comes to choosing the right strategy. I feel confident and hope that the whole weekend can keep moving in this direction.”

Many drivers struggled to look after their tires during practice, either locking up or dropping off the pace dramatically. However, Massa had the upper hand on both compounds, although he did compare the difference between soft and hard tires as being like two different cars.

“When I fitted the softs, the car improved a lot and this meant I was able to set the fastest time of the day. It was impressive, like driving two completely different cars.

“Tires will play a key role in this Grand Prix because of the high level of degradation over a long run. We will have to ensure we pick the right strategy for Sunday, as well as deciding on which of the new parts we tried this morning to fit to the car.”

Massa is chasing his first race win since the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix, and his current form has seen many pundits end calls for Ferrari to drop him from their line up. If he were to outqualify Fernando Alonso in China, it would be the fifth race in a row where Massa has been the leading Ferrari on the grid.

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Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.