Jack writes about a weekend of wild weather with a happy ending in Doha.
That was a seriously weird weekend, a weird weekend with a good ending. I’ve never seen it rain much in Qatar in all the years I’ve been coming here, and this week it seemed like it never stopped. We got the race in – just – so to finish eighth, score eight points and get the season off to a massively positive start was as good as I could have hoped for.
It was a better result than what we’d thought, for sure, because things didn’t start all that well when I had a crash in the first practice and shook myself up a bit. After that it was pretty unusual with the practices being affected by the wind and the weather, and then we lost qualifying completely with the rain. It was one of those weekends where things could have easily gone the other way for me, so to start the season off on the right foot is really nice.
The race was delayed by about 45 minutes on Sunday in the end, and that was 100 per cent the right call. We went out for a sighting lap and we were all OK until we got to Turn 14, and then heaps of us had to run wide because the track was wet, you probably saw us all sit up and raise our arms. Turn 16 was wet as well, and there was just no way you could race with a slick on that surface, or put wets on because the other 95 per cent of the track was completely dry. The double sighting lap we did later on to check things out was the right move because we could push through there to see if it had dried properly. It made things later and the wait was frustrating for everyone, but delaying it was the best call. The amazing part about it was that we somehow got 40 minutes in where it didn’t rain to get the race done. Not like we’ve had that happen much in Qatar this year.
Some of the riders made a last-minute switch to soft tyres – maybe they were thinking the race might get shortened if it rained again, or maybe because they felt the later start would make the track cooler and you could run them for 20 laps. It wasn’t even a consideration for us to be honest. We did a lot of laps on the soft in practice, and they just didn’t last for me or give me the feeling that I wanted.
I made a really good start and got up to 10th on the first lap from 16th, and then spent most of the race pretty comfortably inside the top 10. I ended up in a bit of a tussle with Jonas (Folger) on the last lap – he’d qualified well but started badly and was out of position, and I could tell he was going to come up to me at some stage because he’d been quick all weekend. I knew that they were coming, and Aleix Espargaro got past me, but I was right there with Scott (Redding) until later in the race when my arm got a bit tight in the last few laps.
The transfer from being on the brakes to full gas wasn’t the best, so I had to nurse the arm home a bit. I was trying to play with the numbers working out what pace I could run at the end there and if I had some in reserve to push if I needed to, so it was good that it all worked out and I didn’t drop that extra point on the last lap. I spent most of the second half of the race in eighth so it was good to keep it, and good that I had my best MotoGP race here in the three years I’ve been in it. Even though I wasn’t feeling the best in those last laps, I was able to push through.
Being from Townsville, I’m pretty on top of what a lot of rain looks like, so this week maybe wasn’t as weird for me as it was for some of the other guys – saying that, you just don’t expect that to happen in the desert day after day. We got a bit lucky too as it absolutely pissed down again as soon as the race finished! By the time I was back in the garage and the guys were on the podium, it was pouring again.
It’ll be good to get home for a bit before we head to Argentina for the next one. The fans there are really passionate and I like the track, and I should have had a good result there last time but made a big mistake. We’ve got some good points now after a strong pre-season, so we’ll be confident of making up for that this time. Talk to you from there.
This story originally appeared on redbull.com
Photos courtesy of Marc VDS.