Piquet relishing return to site of first Formula E victory

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Nelson Piquet Jr. is looking forward to returning to Long Beach next weekend, one year on from claiming his first Formula E victory.

Piquet followed in his father’s footsteps to win at the famous street course upon Formula E’s first visit to Long Beach, kicking off a run of form that would take him to the championship.

Although the struggles faced by NEXTEV TCR in season two mean that Piquet stands little chance of repeating his win, but he is still looking forward to returning to Long Beach.

“It’s a race and track that I really like. It’s an iconic circuit and, having lived and raced in America for six years, I love the country so it feels like a home track,” Piquet said.

“Our reality this season is that we won’t be fighting at the front unfortunately so we will go and do the best that we can.

“We have the same approach to each race this season. We are working hard to see what improvements we can make race-to-race and we are trying different strategies to try to get the best possible out of the weekends. If we can finish in the points it would be good for us.”

Reflecting on his 2015 victory, Piquet said that if felt particularly special to have emulated his father 35 years later.

“It was very special. For a few races I knew we were competitive enough to achieve it and we were just waiting for that win, but it almost felt like it was meant to be that weekend, it was a great moment,” Piquet said.

“It was at Long Beach that my father had won his first F1 race 35 years previously and I was wearing a replica design of his Formula 1 helmet there, which meant a lot. I also won my first FanBoost, so it was a very key weekend.

“In the race I had everything under control, the start was amazing, the car was great and we found something that won us the race.”

The Long Beach ePrix takes place on April 2.

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.