Round 4 at the iconic Suzuka Circuit was easily one of the most anticipated events in this year’s Asia Road Racing Championship (ARRC) calendar. However, it also became one the most challenging weekends by far for Access Plus Racing-Ducati Philippines-Essenza in Asia Superbike 1000 (ASB1000).
Coming from a strong outing at Buriram, it surprised riders Timothy Joseph “TJ” Alberto and Jonathan Serrapica that they were off the pace in FP1. But a quick setup change on their Ducati Panigale V4Rs did shave seconds off their lap times and close the gap to the leaders. However, their progress was cut short after both crashed out heavily in FP3.
The team worked through the night to get the Alberto’s #77 Ducati repaired for Qualifying the next day, while Serrapica had to jump on the spare bike due to the damage sustained on his #48 machine. Despite the setback, the Filipino rider did well to end up 14th fastest whereas his teammate was 16th.
Alberto was forced to take a conservative strategy in Race 1 on Saturday. After the previous day’s incident, his focus was to bring the bike home safely and score as much points as possible. He gained 2 places in the opening lap and slotted into 12th , which he held until the chequered flag dropped. Serrapica, on the other hand, struggled as he was still in pain from the crash, yet soldiered on to earn 14th place at the finish.
Regrettably, a torrential downpour drenched the team’s hopes of a strong result in Race 2 on Sunday. Given their limited experience with the Panigale V4R in the rain, Alberto and Serrapica just didn’t have the pace to put on a challenge in the wet. They crossed the finish line in 13th and 15th places, respectively to collect valuable points for the championship.
TJ Alberto now moves up to 9th in the overall standings with Jonathan Serrapica in 15th as the season reaches its halfway point. The ARRC resumes on August 9/11 at the Zhuhai International Circuit in China for Round 5 in the 2019 calendar.
TJ Alberto, #77 Ducati: “It was a weekend of mixed emotions. While we didn’t have the pace at Suzuka, what’s important is that we scored championship points in both races. I’d like to thank everyone in team for all their efforts despite the results not being the greatest. With some setup changes on the Panigale V4R, we feel optimistic that we can be on the same pace as the front-runners in China next month.”
Jonathan Serrapica, #48 Ducati: “I was really looking forward to the race at Suzuka Circuit and continue our progress with the Panigale V4R in Thailand. It’s a legendary track on a such a beautiful country. Unfortunately I had a big crash in practice, which wiped out my chances at a good finish. But I have to thank the whole team for the great job they did, working overtime to prepare the spare bike and allow me to race. Just have to focus on the positives and come back stronger for the next race in China.”
Toti Alberto, Team Principal: “Thank you to everyone who came to show their support for the team in Japan. Ducati Suzuka was there to help us, so did Ducati Japan and its aftersales director Taiko Mori-san. AELLA also joined us the entire weekend to make sure all their products worked well. We may have had one of the most difficult races so far in 2019, but I’m happy that we were able to give our best with help from our Japanese family. Also I’m really glad to see how much the team has stepped up to get us where we are now in this championship.”
Team Access Plus Racing-Ducati Philippines-Essenza is sponsored by Access Plus Group, Ducati Philippines, Essenza, AELLA, Dickies Philippines, Öhlins Philippines, Century Hotel Angeles City, LV8, and Pradera Verde.
[Photos by Leo Cordova]