The riders' Championship may already have been decided before the paddock arrived at the Twin Ring Motegi, but the Motul Grand Prix of Japan saw plenty of milestones: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a commanding victory to wrap up the constructors' Championship for Honda, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) pushed him as hard as he could and took second to secure Rookie of the Year and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) pounced on Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) to take his 100th Grand Prix podium.
It wasn’t the perfect getaway for polesitter Marquez but he held his advantage into Turn 1, with Quartararo braking later to get underneath his teammate Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and start his stalking of the reigning Champion early. But that allowed the fast-starting Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) to grab P3 on the exit of Turn 2, and a frantic opening lap then unfolded as Quartararo passed Marquez for the lead only for the number 93 to pounce back at the tight Turn 10. It was a late lunge from the Honda man as the duo ran slightly wide, with Quartararo looking for the cutback but almost losing the front, foot slipping into the air. That gave third place Miller a sniff at second, but the door quickly closed and the Aussie almost hit the back of the Frenchman ahead.
At the front, meanwhile, Marquez had pulled the pin. Eight tenths were his advantage over Quartararo as the duo started to break clear of the chasing pack, that then becoming a second as the rookie hovered close but not quite close enough. Further behind, the battle for the final place on the podium was getting intense, however, with Miller holding P3 as Morbidelli, Viñales and Dovizioso all started to close in...
It didn't take long for Morbidelli to lead the trio past Miller, but the group was over three seconds off Quartararo at the midpoint of the race and after staying within almost-striking distance of the reigning Champion for the first half, ‘El Diablo’ was also starting to drop back. With 11 laps to go, Dovi took Morbidelli before Viñales followed suit and it soon became Dovizioso vs Viñales for the final rostrum place, with two different machines making for an interesting concertina of a duel.
As the final few laps appeared on the horizon, Quartararo had been dropped by Marquez but the Frenchman would need to be careful. Dovi had fended off Viñales and the Ducati man was on a charge, closing in by eight tenths in a single lap. Would it be enough? On the last lap, everything suddenly tightened up as Marquez cruised round for the win and Quartararo closed in; Dovizioso closing in on him...but the Italian couldn’t quite get close enough to make a final lap lunge. Marquez took the win, Quartararo second and Dovizioso third, all with big reasons to spray the prosecco with a smile on the podium: manufacturer glory, rookie genius and a century of rostrum finishes.
Viñales took fourth after just being denied the podium, ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) in P5 as the Brit beat Morbidelli by 0.047 on the run to the line to grab his first top five finish since the Czech GP. Morbidelli’s early podium hopes sadly faded as the Italian picked up P6 in Japan, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) recovering from P11 on the grid to P7 in the race. Teammate Joan Mir rode a solid race to finish just over a second behind Rins in P8, with the Ducatis of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Miller rounding out the top 10.
One name noticeably absent from that run down is that of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who had a tough race that then ended early in a crash, as was the situation for Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was 11th and got the better of impressive KTM-riding rookie Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) in P12, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) taking 13th. Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) made it three KTMs in the points in P14, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) the final man to score.
That's it from Japan and another weekend to remember for Marquez and Honda. Step two of three is now complete with the riders' and constructors' titles sewn up, can they catch Ducati in the team standings? Marquez also equalled Mick Doohan's 54 premier class win tally at Motegi, and it’s not long to go until the riders are back out on track at Phillip Island for the eight-time Champion to try and go one better. Meanwhile Quartararo will arrive as Rookie of the Year, and he'll also have his first shot at taking the honour of top Independent Team rider...on Miller's home turf. Tune in next weekend for the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Marc Marquez: "It was not easy, especially because we were pushing, I was pushing from the beginning because the strategy was clear. I tried to open a gap from the beginning because I felt strong in Warm Up but I started to play a lot with the switches; like you saw with fuel I was on the limit. It’s one of the worst circuits for it here so I was playing with it, then I pushed and when I had two seconds I started to play with it again. It wasn’t easy to ride that race because you have to think about a lot of things on the bike but I was able to manage it in a good way and finish the race on the limit. And the Repsol Honda Team did a great job because they found the best compromise!"
1 - Marc Marquez (SPA - Honda) 42'41.492
2 - Fabio Quartararo* (FRA - Yamaha) +0.870
3 - Andrea Dovizioso (ITA - Ducati) +1.325
*Independent Team rider
Moto2 : Marini makes it a career first with back to back wins
Italian stalks Lüthi in a measured assault on the victory - but the Swiss rider takes back second in the standings
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) clinched back-to-back wins for the first time in his career after fighting off Dynavolt Intact GP’s Tom Lüthi in the closing stages at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. In a fiercely competitive Moto2™ race, Marini and Lüthi were joined on the podium by 2018 Moto3™ World Champion Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who earned a debut top-three finish in the intermediate class after starting from 14th on the grid.
A fortnight on from taking victory in Thailand, Marini started from pole and got the perfect getaway to help him take the holeshot, but it was the polar opposite start for ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team’s Tetsuta Nagashima as the home hero crashed on the sighting lap, only to make the grid before then crashing again at Turn 1 in the first bouts of drama. Behind Marini, meanwhile, FlexBox HP 40 teammates Augusto Fernandez and Lorenzo Baldasarri started to squabble over second place, allowing Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Somkiat Chantra to join the podium hunt.
A little further back, Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was having all sorts of problems, compounded by a huge moment on the exit of the final corner on Lap 2. Despite being nowhere near as dramatic his FP3 miracle moment, it was certainly a close call for the title protagonist and there was also a frightening moment for Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder after the South African ran wide on the exit of Turn 1. The 2020 MotoGP™ rider hit the grass and was well and truly sideways, with Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) snapping his handlebar when brushing past him, that consequently ending the Brit's race. Binder remained in it, but it was going to be an even taller order to win it after that as he got going again outside the top 20.
Nine laps down, Marquez was embroiled in a fierce fight over sixth with Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Fernandez, with some serious moves starting to see the leaders able to escape. The main threat at the front at this point looked like coming from Lüthi, however, who made quick work of Baldassarri before homing in on Marini. The Italian stood firm for a lap but the Swiss rider hit the front with a classy move up the inside at Turn 9 soon after.
Meanwhile, Marquez began to muscle his way through by, again, showing some serious aggression. The Championship leader squeezed past Chantra for fifth as the Thai rider began to slip backwards, but Martin started to threaten forwards...
With two to go, the podium picture took shape. Marini dived through on Lüthi and, within a few seconds, Martin had pounced on Baldassarri. Despite their best efforts, both those on the receiving end were unable to respond, meaning Marini took the chequered flag and, as a result, a 50-point haul in the space of a fortnight. Lüthi was back on the podium for the first time since Barcelona in second, and Martin tasted intermediate class bubbly for the very first time after a remarkable ride through from the fifth row of the grid.
Behind Baldassarri in fourth was Beta Tools Speed Up’s Jorge Navarro, who again showed incredible late race pace to take another top-five finish. Marquez came across the line in sixth place, meaning he now sits 36 points clear in the standings, and it's now Lüthi closest with three races remaining. Italtrans Racing Team’s Enea Bastianini ended the race in seventh ahead of Fernandez and Schrötter, who both slipped backwards, with MV Agusta getting themselves inside the top ten thanks to Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) in P10.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up) took P11 ahead of Brad Binder's slice back through to 12th, with Chantra ending up down in 13th by the flag. Dominique Aegerter (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) made it both bikes in the points for MV, with Andrea Locatelli (Italtrans Racing Team) completing the scorers behind the Swiss veteran.
That's it from Motegi after a somewhat surprising race, with everything still up in the air for those on the chase - and Marquez still very much in charge. Will the baton remain with Lüthi Down Under? Or will Fernandez, Binder, Navarro and the rest take it back? Find out next weekend.
Luca Marini: "This was a different race and weekend to Buriram for sure. Last week I was so much faster in race pace and I knew I could start making a gap in the first laps, but here I wasn't sure I had such great pace. I was losing out in T1 and T2 a bit during the whole weekend so I tried in Warm Up to find a different way to manage the bike in those corners, but in the race I was quite consistent, I started to save the rear at the beginning but maybe too much because the pace was high. Tom was pushing a lot and when he overtook me I saw I could do something more, and I thought if I carried on like that I'd lose too much and stress the tyre too much coming back. So I tried to stay in his slipstream and use it to not lose as much accelerating, and on the straight, to manage the tyre. In the end he was struggling a bit more and I was faster, so it was quite easy to overtake him, I just had to find the right moment. I didn't want to overtake him on the last lap because I knew that would be difficult because he was braking quite hard. I was clever and I thought a lot during the race, trying to do everything right and not make mistakes, so I'm really happy and I want to thank the team because they're doing a great job and the bike was fantastic this weekend in wet conditions as well!"
1 - Luca Marini (ITA - Kalex) 40'57.279
2 - Tom Lüthi (SWI - Kalex) +0.560
3 - Jorge Martin (SPA - KTM) +3.593
Moto3: Dalla Porta supreme, Canet crashes in pivotal Motegi showdown
The Italian pulls the pin to take his second win of the season and set up a first match point Down Under
Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) is now seemingly in charge of the Moto3™ World Championship, with the points leader stretching his legs at the Twin Ring Motegi to take his second win of the season and capitalise on a crash for key rival Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team). Buriram winner Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team) ran him close though, within a tenth by the line, with rookie Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) completing the podium and breaking some home hearts in the process...
Off the line it was Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) who took the holeshot from third on the grid, with Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) up into second as polesitter - and recovering rider - Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) dropped back to fourth. There was immediate drama too as Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) suffered contact from Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) and they both went down, with Dalla Porta vs Canet raging as an early a battle for seventh.
Vietti had something to say about that, however, the rookie getting in the mix and Canet then the man to break free of the fight and move forward first. Not long after though, Dalla Porta was back on his tail and the two were slicing forward, catching Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Suzuki in the lead.
With 12 to go, Dalla Porta hit the front, with Canet a little further down in the mire as the Spaniard started fading slightly in fifth. Drama hit a different contender first, however, as Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) crashed at Turn 5 - all but derailing his chances at the crown.
It was a group of seven with eight to go as Dalla Porta led Suzuki, Garcia, Arenas, Vietti, Canet and John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) around the Twin Ring Motegi, but the latter half of the headline hit just a lap later: Canet's crash. The Spaniard went down alone and was able to rejoin, but later pulled in - leaving Dalla Porta with an entirely open goal.
By five laps to go McPhee also departed the group as the Brit faded back to fifth, but it remained game on at the front. And as is so often the case in Moto3™, the battle raged to the final lap, the final corner and right down to the flag.
Dalla Porta was the man in the lead as Suzuki stalked the points leader, with Arenas down in third and Vietti the final man in the quintet at that point. But as Arenas took second, Vietti took fourth and the Spaniard was looking for a way through. Ultimately, however, the next and final attack came from Vietti as the Italian rookie struck through the final complex of corners, leaving Suzuki desperately tucking into the bubble to try and use the slipstream to the line. It was to no avail though as Dalla Porta outlasted Arenas' attack to take the win and Vietti was able to do the same to the home hero, the Italian rookie pipping him to the podium.
Garcia took his best yet result in an impressive fifth, within half a second of the win, with McPhee coming home sixth. Jaume Masia (Mugen Race) out-duelled Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) for seventh, with Lopez crossing the line a few tenths further back in P9. Andrea Migno (Mugen Race) completed the top ten after fending off Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race).
Polesitter Antonelli held on through the pain barrier to P12 and beat home hero Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) by thousandths, with two more Japanese riders completing the points: rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) and wildcard Ryusei Yamanaka (Estrella Galicia 0,0). In the same group, Stefano Nepa (Reale Avintia Arizona 77) and Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) just missed out.
That's it from Japan and a hard-fought Moto3™ mosh pit, next up it's Phillip Island and we can probably already say it'll be one of the races of the season...so buckle up and tune in to see if Dalla Porta can wrap up the crown Down Under.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta: "I’m over the moon, not for the crashes for the others of course but for my performance because I had a fantastic race. After some problems in Warm Up, for the race the team worked hard and the bike was so good. I started looking for the other riders, Canet was aggressive on the first laps but once I overtook him and Suzuki I could do my rhythm and push. I’m so happy, and we’re going to Australia next which is another track I like. Also, I promised my grandmother when she died that I would celebrate a victory for her so this is for her."
1 - Lorenzo Dalla Porta (ITA - Honda) 39'34.866
2 - Albert Arenas (SPA - KTM) +0.094
3 - Celestino Vietti (ITA - KTM) +0.198