Viñales had a great start to Yamaha’s home race, riding midfield through the spray from a 14th-place starting position to eighth in the opening lap. He had to let Alex Rins and teammate Rossi past on lap 3 as he warmed his tyres, but this setback was only temporary.
The Spaniard overtook Jorge Lorenzo three laps later, while Rossi crashed out of the race, and reclaimed eighth place. He gradually started to up his pace as his confidence grew at the very wet Motegi track, but soon realised Aleix Espargaró, riding directly in front of him, was too far ahead.
In the second half of the race Viñales focused his attention on defending his eighth place from Lorenzo, who arrived at the back of his Yamaha with six laps to go. The number-25 rider put his head down, but was unable to hold off his compatriot. He crossed the line in ninth place, 36.575s from the front.
Rossi also had a good launch off the line, starting from 12th on the grid. He quickly began his charge and had picked up three positions by the end of the first three laps. The Doctor spurred on his YZR-M1 to prevent his rivals from clearing off at the front, overtaking Lorenzo on lap 6. However, his pursuit came to a premature halt when he suffered a crash in turn 8 and was unable to rejoin the race.
Today’s race results see Viñales and Rossi hold third and fifth place respectively in the championship with a 41 and 76 point-gap to the leader. Yamaha is in third place in the Constructor classification, 29 points from first, and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP is chasing the Team title in second place with 43 points to the top of the rankings.
The team will soon head south to take part in next week’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix on Phillip Island, Australia.