Stefan Bradl fills in for Alex Rins at Motegi on Saturday – In the wet Grand Prix, the German plays poker with slicks and is happy to score two World Championship points in the end
Alex Rins made his return in Japan after an injury lay-off of almost four months. However, he had to throw in the towel after the practice day in Motegi: “I was able to do a lot of laps in the morning, then not so many in the afternoon because of the pain in my leg. “
“It’s more or less what we expected,” said Rins. “We wanted to see how my leg was doing and how much pain it was in. The doctors had allowed me to come here but said stop if the pain gets too big.”
Stefan Bradl jumped in as he did last time out for the LCR team in India. “I was expecting it,” says the German. “When Lucio [Cecchinello] called me on Wednesday and told me that Alex was coming to try it, I expected exactly what happened in the end.”
“That he would try it on Friday and then hand the bike over to me. It’s understandable that he wanted to try after such a serious injury and the long break. At this point we are.” So Bradl was back in action from Saturday.
But it was not easy: “In the past four weeks I rode different chassis. They were completely different configurations. It was difficult to adjust to them in a short time. I almost crashed several times on Saturday.”
The interesting thing was that Rins’ bikes were built with an old chassis version. It was the chassis with which he won in Austin in the spring. In addition, Rins had mounted the old aerodynamics from the beginning of the season.
For Bradl, they changed to the new aerodynamics on Saturday, which he had also ridden in India. After the difficulties with the old chassis on Saturday, he also received a newer version for Sunday.
When it started to rain at the start of the Grand Prix, Bradl decided, like Michele Pirro (Ducati) and the Yamaha trio, not to come into the pits at the end of the first lap and to switch to the second bike with rain tyres.
“I had nothing to lose,” Bradl laughed. He was flushed up to second place. “From my point of view, Quartararo chose the best time [to pit].” At the end of the second lap, the Yamaha rider had turned into the pits. Bradl followed one lap later.
“For me, though, it wouldn’t have made much difference in the end. It was fun to see when everyone pitted. The race was definitely exciting to watch. It was fun for me too because it wasn’t a normal race. I’m happy about the two world championship points.”
“With rain tyres, my pace was pretty good. Then when it rained harder I had a nice duel with Cal. But in the spray I didn’t want to ride very close behind him. I think the stewards stopped at the right time. A restart would have been too dangerous.”
Japan was Bradl’s sixth race appearance of the season. It was the fourth time he has scored world championship points. He will also be on the scene in Indonesia in a fortnight’ time when Rins is expected to make his next comeback attempt. “Yes, I have a plane ticket,” confirms Bradl.