With such a strong bike-and-rider combo, only a technical fault stood between Access Plus Racing-Ducati Philippines-Essenza and a top 10 finish during the Asia Road Racing Championship’s (ARRC) visit to the Zhuhai International Circuit. And no thanks to a fried speed sensor, Timothy Joseph “TJ” Alberto and Jonathan Serrapica ended up in 12th and 16th places at best.
Both riders had high hopes coming into Round 5 as their pair of Panigale V4Rs were well-suited to the high-speed 4.319 km track. This was evident in Alberto’s lap times that peaked at 1:36.484 during Qualifying, which was a massive 1.611 sec improvement over his pace in Free Practice.
Unfortunately, his teammate suffered technical problems early on. The #48 sent the Swiss-Italian rider into the gravel during FP1. While the team was able to complete repairs in time for FP3, the crash clearly had an effect on the bike’s handling as well as Serrapica’s confidence.
The strong pace allowed Alberto to fight for position in Race 1 on Saturday. A quick start off the line moved him up to P12 by the end of the first lap and proceeded to work his way into P9. But as he was closing within a second of the top 6 battle, his charge was cut short when an electrical fault caused his #77 machine to slow down with only 3 laps to go. Luckily, he managed to continue and made it to the chequered flag in 12th out of a 19-bike ASB1000 grid. Serrapica, on the other hand, gave it his best shot to wrestle a hard-fought 16th place finish.
The faulty speed sensor, caused by high track temperatures on race day, was fortunately an easy fix and got the Filipino rider back on the hunt in Race 2 on Sunday. This time, he would get as high up as P12 before the same issue re-appeared. Still, Alberto managed to secure 13th spot at the finish and score valuable championship points for Access Plus Racing-Ducati Philippines-Essenza. Meanwhile, Serrapica wrapped up a difficult race weekend in China in 17th.
Despite the less than ideal results, the team was more than pleased to see improvements on their race pace. They’re hoping that they can bring this to the Sepang International Circuit in September and take the fight to the front runners.
TJ Alberto, #77 Ducati: “I’m quite happy about the race weekend despite encountering problems in both races. We closed the gap to the top guys even further and made big improvements to the previous rounds. The team did a really good job on bike setup and I felt really confident riding the Panigale V4R at Zhuhai, which was the best race I’ve ridden all season. With all the steps we’ve made, I’m now really looking forward to to Sepang in September. Thank you everyone and our sponsors for a great experience in China.”
Jonathan Serrapica, #48 Ducati: “It was a difficult weekend. Started with a crash in FP1 that lost me valuable track time as the team made repairs to my bike. We then encountered technical issues with the #48 Ducati during the races which prevented me from performing well on track. I feel sad with the results, even more so for the mechanics who worked really non-stop to get me in both races on time. But still thankful for everyone’s efforts and the sponsor’s support in this situation. Onto the next race in Malaysia.”
Toti Alberto, Team Principal: “Although we came to China with hopes of scoring good results, technical issues prevented both our riders from delivering their full potential. Still, I’m really proud of TJ and Jonathan. They gave 100% despite the circumstances and never gave up. We’ve now identified the problem, which was caused by the high temperatures at Zhuhai. It’s an easy fix and hope to bounce back in the penultimate race of 2019 next month.”
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.