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.

MotoGP Motegi Marquez GP AN
Repsol Honda are heading to Australia chasing a record 24th Constructors Title, which would also be Honda’s seventh in the past eight years.

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.

MotoGP Japan Fri Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo on Friday in Japan

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.

MotoGP Motegi GPstart GP AN
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Motegi Dovi GP AN
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Motegi Dovi GP AN
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Motegi Crutchlow GP AN Cover
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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).

MotoGP Motegi Crutchlow GP AN
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Motegi Crutchlow GP AN
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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.

MotoGP Japan Motegi Marquez
Marc Marquez – 2018 MotoGP Champion

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.

MotoGP Motegi Marquez GP AN
Motegi MotoGP 2018 – AJRN Image

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 MarcRepsol Honda Team296
2.Dovizioso AndreaDucati Team194
3.Rossi ValentinoMovistar Yamaha MotoGP185
4.Vinales MaverickMovistar Yamaha MotoGP155
5.Crutchlow CalLCR Honda148
6.Zarco JohannMonster Yamaha Tech 3133
7.Petrucci DaniloAlma Pramac Racing133
8.Lorenzo JorgeDucati Team130
9.Rins AlexTeam Suzuki Ecstar118
10.Iannone AndreaTeam Suzuki Ecstar113
11.Pedrosa DaniRepsol Honda Team95
12.Bautista AlvaroAngel Nieto Team83
13.Miller JackAlma Pramac Racing74
14.Morbidelli FrancoMarc VDS Racing Team38
15.Rabat TitoReale Avintia Racing35
16.Espargaro PolRed Bull KTM Factory Racing35
17.Syahrin HafizhMonster Yamaha Tech 334
18.Espargaro AleixAprilia Racing Team Gresini32
19.Smith BradleyRed Bull KTM Factory Racing23
20.Nakagami TakaakiLCR Honda19
21.Redding ScottAprilia Racing Team Gresini12
22.Kallio MikaRed Bull KTM Factory Racing6
23.Abraham KarelAngel Nieto Team5
24.Nakasuga KatsuyukiYamaha Factory Team2
25.Pirro MicheleDucati Team1


 MotoGP 2018 Team Standings
1.Repsol Honda Team391
2.Movistar Yamaha MotoGP340
3.Ducati Team324
4.Team Suzuki Ecstar231
5.Alma Pramac Racing207
6.LCR Honda167
7.Monster Yamaha Tech 3167
8.Angel Nieto Team88
9.Red Bull KTM Factory Racing58
10.Aprilia Racing Team Gresini44
11.Estrella Galicia 0,038
12.Reale Avintia Racing35


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