Bowing to the inevitable
2018 Grand Prix of Japan
With Boris Mihailovic
As predicted by everybody, Marquez secured the MotoGP championship at the Twin Ring Motegi track at a time that didn’t require the Australian faithful to prop open their eyes with matches.
Of course he won it. He was always going to win it. He is riding at a level that doubtlessly frustrates the shit out of his competition (and I use the term loosely), and his domination of the series is total.
More power to him. We may not see the like of him until…well, the next great rider comes along and makes even Marquez look ordinary. But that does not appear to be any time soon.
So to the rest of the field and Sunday’s race…
You might have noticed Lorenzo was not there. He will not be there at Phillip island, either. He has a broken left-hand radius bone in his wrist from his get-off in Thailand. And while the arm may have served to play soccer on the beach in Phuket and apply suntan lotion to his mates’ backs, it proved to be somewhat challenging at Motegi. Lorenzo did a tentative lap at the start of FP1, then returned to the pits shaking his head and making ouchy faces.
Motegi is especially hard on broken wrists. It’s a circuit with five cartilage-crushing braking zones. The teams rate it as a Level 5 braking track (Phillip Island is rated as a Level One), and have to run the massive 340mm discs if they don’t want their riders to meet the Japanese fans up close and personal in the stands.
Motegi was a bridge too far and too ouch for Lorenzo. But it was Game On for the rest.
Especially Dovizioso. He had to finish ahead of Marquez to keep the championship alive and hammered himself onto pole position. Surprisingly, he shared the front row with Zarco and Miller. Behind them sat Crutchlow, Iannone and Marquez – who I am convinced was just screwing with them all. You know, letting them think he wasn’t going to cane them all like naughty children when the red light went out.
Row Three was Vinales, Rins, and Rossi, and you could almost see a faint flicker of hope from what is, at the moment, a quite a gloomy and despondent Yamaha team. Vinales had been relatively quick in Practice and Rossi… well, as the Pom commentators never tire of telling you, you can never discount Rossi. Except this year. You can quite easily discount him this year.
It was all Dovisioso off the line. It had to be, and Desmo Dovi got that. Most encouragingly, it was all Dovi for quite a while. He led for 20 laps with Marquez just behind him. Regular viewers would have no doubt as to what this meant, and would ultimately mean as the race reached its closing stages.
Marquez was going to do him. But at a lap and corner of Marquez’s choosing. Having greatly matured in racecraft this year, he is content to follow and observe. Until he’s not. If he is behind you, then he will make an attempt to pass you. It’s what he does.
For the first few laps, there were two groups of three riders – Dovi, Marquez and Miller (as always carrying the well wishes and ultimately crushed hopes of his Australian fans), followed by Crutchlow, Rossi and Rins.
The following group swapped places a few times, with Cal cheekily forging ahead into a brief second place, and Rossi showing some of his old time rock’n’roll and keeping up.
Then the front of the race evolved into groups of pairs. Dovi and Marquez eked out a bit of a gap, followed by Cal and Rossi (which ultimately became Cal and Rins, then Cal and Iannone, as Rossi once again faded away).
Jack sailed off into the stones on Lap 12 after being passed by the very fast blokes, while Vinales hammered pointlessly away somewhere around tenth place. That he actually finished seventh was entirely due to Iannone binning it two laps after Jack went off, and Dovizioso crashing (but he remounted and scraped home in 18th, some 42 seconds off the lead).
But Dovizioso did try. The sad-eyed bastard has been the only rider to keep Marquez as honest as inhumanly possible this entire season, and he was seriously trying to catch the young Spaniard when Marquez finally got sick of tail-gating him and decided he was going to win everything on the day – race and championship.
And then he did just that. What followed was bizarre even by MotoGP standards.
Redding went to congratulate the new chap, belted him on the back and apparently dislocated his shoulder, which is why Marquez was lying down when he was trying to put on his championship T-shirt. Then he got up, put on the gold helmet and rode to a pre-built red platform which was meant to be an arcade game.
Marquez mounted the stairs (I have no idea how quickly this substantial thing was erected, but it was up and working when he got there), and proceeded to… well, play a very old video game. It lasted maybe 10 seconds, then the whole thing lit up and declared the player had attained Level Seven (the number of his world championships).
I kinda liked it back when Rossi was carrying blow-up sex dolls on his back during the victory lap, and when Lorenzo almost drowned in that lake after jumping in in his leathers.
Still, as world champion, Marquez may celebrate in any way he pleases – even if it’s naff and lame and weird.
We are only a few days away from the Phillip Island round. Marquez will probably win that as well.
|MotoGP 2018 Championship Standings|
|1.||Marquez Marc||Repsol Honda Team||296|
|2.||Dovizioso Andrea||Ducati Team||194|
|3.||Rossi Valentino||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||185|
|4.||Vinales Maverick||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||155|
|5.||Crutchlow Cal||LCR Honda||148|
|6.||Zarco Johann||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||133|
|7.||Petrucci Danilo||Alma Pramac Racing||133|
|8.||Lorenzo Jorge||Ducati Team||130|
|9.||Rins Alex||Team Suzuki Ecstar||118|
|10.||Iannone Andrea||Team Suzuki Ecstar||113|
|11.||Pedrosa Dani||Repsol Honda Team||95|
|12.||Bautista Alvaro||Angel Nieto Team||83|
|13.||Miller Jack||Alma Pramac Racing||74|
|14.||Morbidelli Franco||Marc VDS Racing Team||38|
|15.||Rabat Tito||Reale Avintia Racing||35|
|16.||Espargaro Pol||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||35|
|17.||Syahrin Hafizh||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||34|
|18.||Espargaro Aleix||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||32|
|19.||Smith Bradley||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||23|
|20.||Nakagami Takaaki||LCR Honda||19|
|21.||Redding Scott||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||12|
|22.||Kallio Mika||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||6|
|23.||Abraham Karel||Angel Nieto Team||5|
|24.||Nakasuga Katsuyuki||Yamaha Factory Team||2|
|25.||Pirro Michele||Ducati Team||1|
|MotoGP 2018 Team Standings|
|1.||Repsol Honda Team||391|
|2.||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||340|
|4.||Team Suzuki Ecstar||231|
|5.||Alma Pramac Racing||207|
|7.||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||167|
|8.||Angel Nieto Team||88|
|9.||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||58|
|10.||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||44|
|11.||Estrella Galicia 0,0||38|
|12.||Reale Avintia Racing||35|