Round 15 of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship took place at Motegi with the Motul Grand Prix of Japan but the first of the series of flyaway races saw PBM MotoGP duo Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes unable to add to their points tally.
The Penrith-based PBM team were hoping to continue their remarkable consistency this season but soon it became apparent that there was work to do with both riders languishing down the order during Free Practice. Qualifying didn't quite go to plan either for Ulsterman Laverty, on the Rapid Solicitors and Silkolene-backed Aprilia ART-powered PBM, nor Australian team-mate Parkes, on the Silkolene-backed PBM, neither of whom could break into the top 20.
Despite starting on row eight of the grid, former British Supersport Champion Laverty and Parkes, twice runner-up in the World Supersport Championship, were confident of a good performance in the 24 lap race.
Both PBM riders made good starts with Laverty gaining a few places before settling into a rhythm just outside the top 20. As the race progressed, Laverty clawed his way up to 19th before crossing the line in a battling 18th place with Parkes just a couple of places further back.
Although neither rider added to their points score, it was yet another pair of finishes for the Cumbrian team meaning that out of the 30 available finishes so far this season, Laverty and Parkes between them have brought the British-made bikes home in 27 of them, remarkably scoring top 20 placings in 23 races.
Parkes, who holds 21st in the championship table, has scored points in Assen (11th), as well as in Qatar and Indianapolis (15th) whereas Laverty, who occupies 26th in the standings, has managed just the one points scoring ride into 14th, also at Indianapolis, where both riders created history for Paul Bird's British team to score points in the same race.
Parkes is eighth in the Open class standings and third in Rookie of the Year. Laverty occupies 12th in the Open class whilst importantly for the PBM team, they hold sixth place in the Constructor's table and 11th in the team's standings.
The PBM MotoGP team is next in action at Phillip Island in Australia next weekend for round 16 of the series, followed the week after at Sepang before the final race of the season in Valencia on November 9th.
Michael Laverty: "It was a tough weekend for us; we really struggled for rear grip right from the first session. We made some improvements throughout practice and qualifying to have our best setting for the race but it was still a struggle. The race was fun though; it was a good battle with Di Meglio and Broc keeping me on my toes throughout. We have a quick turnaround now as we move onto Phillip Island in just a few days and do it all again at one of the best circuits of the season."
Broc Parkes: "At the start the race was OK although I didn't have a great pace but I was in the battle with the Open class guys and could just hang in with them but unfortunately could not attack them. I felt I was losing a lot of time on the back straight and had to work hard to catch back up. My lap times were consistent so I'm happy with that. We lost rear grip and I had still a lot of chatter which is something I have struggled with all year but it was not as bad here. The last five laps I dropped off a couple of seconds to the guys in front. I gave good feedback to the team so I hope we can fix the problems for my home race at Phillip Island this weekend.”
Phil Borley, Technical Director: "We have had another difficult weekend and again struggled for pace, with similar problems to those we encountered at the last race. Although we made some improvements during the practice sessions, we did not find a setting that gave us the rear grip we needed to be more competitive. Hopefully at our next race, the flowing nature of the Phillip Island circuit will suit our bike more and we can be closer to some of the other Open bikes."
Image courtesy of Gold & Goose: Broc Parkes in action in Japan