Marc Marquez takes fifth premiere title
Dovizioso crashes out with two laps to go
Jack Miller crashes on lap 14
Marc Marquez put the 2019 World Championship to rest at the home of Honda, Motegi, claiming victory after a race-long battle with Andrea Dovizioso, with the Italian crashing out of contention at Turn 10 with two laps to go, leaving Marquez with one lap in the lead to take the win and the crown in a record setting achievement.
With his eighth win of 2018 and the 69th in his career (across all classes), Marquez becomes the youngest rider of all time to reach the milestone of seven World Championships (125cc in 2010, Moto2 in 2012 and MotoGP in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018); he does this at the age of 25 years and 246 days, taking the record from Mike Hailwood, who was 26 years and 140 days old when he won his seventh title, the 1966 350cc crown.
“I feel really, really good. I would say it’s a dream came true, or better, that I’m living a dream. It’s something so special, here together with my team, all the Honda and HRC people, my family and my staff. It has been a great season, and ever since Aragon I’ve been tasting, imagining this title, because it was very close. Then I realized that this wasn’t my style, and I needed extra motivation, so I set the goal of trying to achieve it with my first match ball—in Motegi, by winning the race. This circuit was a challenging one to manage that, but it seems like when I’m under pressure, I feel better on the bike! Today the race was as I expected. I was prepared to make a good start and immediately make some passes. I got to second place at the end of the first lap, and then was able to follow Andrea and stay with him. I thought I could try and attack before the last lap because I felt I had something extra to give. He was pushing very hard and made a mistake, and that’s a shame because he deserved to be here on the podium. That’s also something that I think Dani would deserve at least once this season. Anyway, when I crossed the finish line it was an explosion of joy. My people prepared this Level7 celebration, but I didn’t know anything ahead of time. I never want to know, but I think it’s because I used to play that kind of game a lot. Now it’s time to celebrate this seventh title and enjoy these final three races.”
Dovizioso got the perfect launch from P1 as Johann Zarco and Jack Miller just came into contact off the front row. Marquez, meanwhile, kept the inside line from P6 to get himself into P3 before dispatching Miller at Turn 9 for P2 – and Dovi’s qualifying advantage had disappeared after just half a lap.
Crutchlow then got past Miller to latch onto Marquez and Dovi, with Valentino Rossi making a great start from P9 to get himself up to fourth as he passed Miller into Turn 11.
The three at the front then put the hammer down as Dovizioso slammed in a 1:45.7 on Lap 6 though, and Crutchlow and Marquez kept tabs on the Italian but fourth place Rossi suddenly found himself over eight tenths back. The pace was fluctuating but the leading trio started to edge away from the nine-time World Champion bit by bit, who in turn had two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders homing in on him.
With 11 to go, the two Hamamatsu factory machines passed Rossi and were closing in on the front three, with fifth place Alex Rins setting a lap nearly a second quicker than race leader Dovizioso. Then, Marquez made his first move on Lap 14 at Turn 9, but on the exit of Turn 10 he ran wide and onto the dirt.
That was the first blast of drama at the front as the moment kicked up a huge puff of dust and dirt to hamper his exit, allowing Dovizioso to re-take the lead into Turn 11. The Suzukis were firmly in the fray at this point but then disaster struck for Andrea Iannone; the Italian crashing out at Turn 10.
With eight to go, Dovizioso and Marquez exchanged 1:45s with Crutchlow a whisper behind but a lap later the number 35 was two tenths slower as the front two started to make the decisive break. Dovi’s intent was clear: a fastest lap of the race, hammer firmly down and the pin pulled.
And so it was, Dovizioso vs Marquez on the final five laps. Marquez sat behind the Desmosedici before making a move into P1 at Turn 9 – no immediate reply for Dovi. With three to go the Ducati was swarming, but there was no way past with two to go.
Then, a huge moment and one that decided the 2018 title. Pushing hard to keep with Marquez, Dovi tucked the front of his GP18 at Turn 10 with just over two laps to go, crashing out of the race to leave Marquez with a healthy margin to Crutchlow and Rins. Pushing to the limit to deny the Spaniard the Italian found that limit and just stepped over it, and Marquez was left chasing the crown in clear air.
“I’m obviously pretty disappointed because we wanted to win this race at all costs, but all in all it has been a positive weekend because we were very quick and we confirmed our competitiveness. Even though we did a good race we were unable to make the difference against Marquez, and so I want to congratulate him because also this year he deserved to win the championship. Pity about the crash: I didn’t overdo it but simply tried to prepare for the exit of the turn in the best possible way in order to attack him and I made a small mistake that cost me dearly.”
A huge wheelie over the line was his first celebration as he took an eighth win of the year and his seventh Championship, breaking yet more records. The youngest to take five premier class crowns and seven titles overall, Marquez also joins the exclusive club of riders with five premier class titles or more – alongside Valentino Rossi, Mick Doohan and Giacomo Agostini.
Crutchlow held off Rins for P2 at the line, with Rins less than two tenths behind the British rider to secure a phenomenal home podium for Suzuki.
“Everyone saw it was a good battle today. We’re pleased with the result at Honda’s home race and the Team’s done a fantastic job. The problem we had was that Dovi (Andrea Dovizioso) kept slowing down the pace so it allowed the people behind to catch up, but I think we did a great job managing the situation. I was struggling a little bit on the left hand side with the rear grip so I was trying to save the tyre for the end of the race and keep (Alex) Rins at bay, that’s all I needed to do. Then Dovi crashed and I took second place so in the end I was very pleased. At the moment we’re riding very, very well, we’ve had some good results lately and now we head to Phillip Island in good spirits. Of course congratulations to Marc for winning the world title: he made an incredible season”.
“I’m feeling really happy and so are the team, especially as Japan is the home race for them. We did a great race; I was able to overtake riders at the start, and have good race pace. After Andrea crashed I assessed the situation and thought Crutchlow might be too far in front, but I decided to try and catch him. But it was difficult to pass him because he was braking really hard. But finally we got 3rd and we’re so pleased. I’m still learning, and for sure it’s fun to fight with the other riders, even if it’s very hard. We’ll try to end this season with more podiums!”
Rossi brought his YZR-M1 home in a second consecutive P4, with Alvaro Bautista claiming P5 in Japan after a strong latter half to the race – an equal best result of the season for the Spaniard. Zarco couldn’t recover from a difficult start, he ended P6, with fellow Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales seventh.
“Fourth place is not a bad result. I think that we’ve worked well today, because this morning we made another step and I felt better with the bike. So, I started the race quite optimistically, trying to fight for the podium. Unfortunately some other riders were faster than me. I tried to not give up, not to make any mistakes and to arrive at the end of the race with a good pace.”
Dani Pedrosa crossed the line eighth on his last Grand Prix visit to Japan, the ‘Little Samurai’ having a healthy five-second gap back to ninth place Danilo Petrucci – and the Italian losing ground to Crutchlow and Zarco in the Independent Team Championship. Battle of the rookies was won by tenth place Hafizh Syahrin, the Malaysian beating Franco Morbidelli by less than a second.
Bradley Smith and teammate Pol Espargaro were line astern in P12 and P13, with Yamaha wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Takaaki Nakagami claiming home turf points in P14 and P15 respectively. Miller crashed midway through the race from eighth position, with Karel Abraham also crashing – riders ok. Aleix Espargaro retired in the early stages.
Jack Miller – DNF
“It’s a shame because the weekend was really positive. The race pace wasn’t bad and I felt like I could close the gap to Rins and Iannone but after Zarco overtook me, I made a mistake in braking and crashed. Now we go to Australia and I want to do well in my Home-GP.”
That’s it from Japan and now we pack up and prepare for Phillip Island. The Championship is over but the on-track battles will remain as breathtaking as ever – so join us again in a week when the pressure, and the gloves, will be off.
Jorge Lorenzo also came into the circuit this morning to say hello to the team and then left immediately after for Europe. In the next few days Jorge will undergo some more tests on his left wrist, which is still giving him pain after the crash at Buriram. The aim for the Mallorcan rider is to be back on track at Sepang in two weeks’ time. In the meantime his place in the factory team at Phillip Island will be taken by Alvaro Bautista, who finished fifth at Motegi today.
MotoGP Race Classification – Grand Prix of Japan 2018
- Marc MARQUEZ SPA Honda 42’36.438
- Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR Honda +1.573
- Alex RINS SPA Suzuki +1.720
- Valentino ROSSI ITA Yamaha +6.413
- Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA Ducati +6.919
- Johann ZARCO FRA Yamaha +8.024
- Maverick VIÑALES SPA Yamaha +13.330
- Dani PEDROSA SPA Honda +15.582
- Danilo PETRUCCI ITA Ducati +20.584
- Hafizh SYAHRIN MAL Yamaha +24.985
- Franco MORBIDELLI ITA Honda +25.931
- Bradley SMITH GBR KTM +26.875
- Pol ESPARGARO SPA KTM +27.069
- Katsuyuki NAKASUGA JPN Yamaha +32.550
- Takaaki NAKAGAMI JPN Honda +37.718
- Xavier SIMEON BEL Ducati +39.583
- Jordi TORRES SPA Ducati +39.839
- Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Ducati +42.698
- Scott REDDING GBR Aprilia +49.943
- Thomas LUTHI SWI Honda +52.707
- Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Suzuki +1’01.848
MotoGP Standings following Grand Prix of Japan
- Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 296
- Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 194
- Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 185
- Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha SPA 155
- Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda GBR 148
- Johann ZARCO Yamaha FRA 133
- Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati ITA 133
- Jorge LORENZO Ducati SPA 130
- Alex RINS Suzuki SPA 118
- Andrea IANNONE Suzuki ITA 113
- Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 95
- Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati SPA 83
- Jack MILLER Ducati AUS 74
- Franco MORBIDELLI Honda ITA 38
- Tito RABAT Ducati SPA 35
- Pol ESPARGARO KTM SPA 35
- Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha MAL 34
- Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia SPA 32
- Bradley SMITH KTM GBR 23
- Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda JPN 19
- Scott REDDING Aprilia GBR 12
- Mika KALLIO KTM FIN 6
- Karel ABRAHAM Ducati CZE 5
- Katsuyuki NAKASUGA Yamaha JPN 2
- Michele PIRRO Ducati ITA 1
Fabio Quartararo produced a quality ride to seal a second victory of the season as he held firm to beat Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, with Lorenzo Baldassarri claiming third on his 100th Grand Prix start. However, huge drama then emerged post-race with the Frenchman being disqualified from the rankings; his Speed Up machine’s tyre pressure under the minimum required.
That gives Bagnaia another impressive win for his tally and inches him closer to the crown – with the first match point against Miguel Oliveira, promoted to third after the DSQ ahead of him, now on the table in Australia next time out.
It was Quartararo who got the initial launch from P2 to get past pole man Bagnaia on the run down to Turn 1, however, the Frenchman ran slightly wide to allow the latter to take the lead of the race. Quartararo though latched onto the back of Bagnaia as the two quickly made a 0.9 gap back to third place Lorenzo Baldassarri, but the Italian soon reeled the pair in before Quartararo took over at the front – a calculated move into Turn 11.
The pair then settled into their rhythm, with Baldassarri keeping tabs until the mid-stage. By Lap 12, the leading duo had started to exchange fastest laps of the race as they started to gap the Pons HP40 rider, who in turn had managed to edge out a comfortable 2.8 second buffer to fourth place Xavi Vierge. He, in turn, was joined by Oliveira as the battle for P4 raged on between Brad Binder, Iker Lecuona, Alex Marquez and Augusto Fernandez – and Oliveira grabbing P4 from Vierge on Lap 15.
Meanwhile, back at the front, neither Quartararo nor Bagnaia would budge from the mid 1:51s as the margin remained between two and three tenths – Baldassarri now a lonely third, nearly four seconds adrift. Bagnaia’s first real warning shot came on Lap 19 at Turn 8, threatening to make a move up the inside but thinking better of it as Quartararo closed the door. With two to go, the Frenchman wasn’t cracking under the relentless pressure from ‘Pecco’, the latter looking particularly strong through seven and eight. Bagnaia smelt blood on Lap 21, closing up before crossing the line to head onto the last lap.
Bagnaia wasn’t close enough around his favoured turns seven and eight, and nor was he at nine or ten as Quartararo held firm. What about on the run down to the Turn 11 hairpin? Again, no way through for the Italian as he then conceded victory to Quartararo before the notification of disqualification came through.
Baldassarri therefore took P2 on his 100 Grand Prix start, he finished 5.3 seconds ahead of third place Oliveira and the latter now with a mountain to climb if he’s to take the title. Marquez battled his way to a heroic fourth after suffering a huge crash in FP1, with Binder crossing the line in sixth but therefore promoted to fifth. The South African beat Fernandez to the line by three tenths, who thought a career-best P7 was a top result – and it’s now a P6. Vierge’s early race charge didn’t last as he crossed the line next, with Lecuona taking eighth after dropping back slightly.
Luca Marini couldn’t reproduce his stunning Thailand ride after a more difficult weekend and he is classified in ninth, with Marcel Schrötter completing the top ten ahead of Joan Mir. Home rider Tetsuta Nagashima scored points for the third race in a row and was next up, ahead of Dominique Aegerter and Mattia Pasini.
Remy Gardner set himself up for a strong home Grand Prix next weekend with another point scoring ride in today’s twenty-two lap #JapaneseGP at Motegi. Despite giving it his usual 100%, Gardner had to be content with fifteenth at the flag, a possible faulty tyre the cause for him not being able to repeat his qualifying form.
“It’s always tough when you have a mixed day in terms of weather on the opening day, but we started well and my pace was good in both the wet and dry. Qualifying we made another step and I was confident of a solid result in the race. I felt really good in the warm-up, but the race was definitely not what we wanted, or expected. As soon as the race started I had no rear grip at all, and we are sure it was because of a duff tyre. It’s a disappointment as I felt strong but what can you do, it’s just bad luck. We scored another world championship point and that’s important as we head to my home race. I can’t wait to get to Phillip Island and to put on a show for the home fans!”
So after a big twist at the Twin Ring Moteig, Bagnaia increases his stranglehold. It’s not all over for Oliveira as we now head to venues where he claimed victories at last season – but can the latter claw back a 35-point deficit?
Moto2 Standings following Japan
- Francesco BAGNAIA Kalex ITA 279
- Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM POR 244
- Brad BINDER KTM RSA 167
- Lorenzo BALDASSARRI Kalex ITA 148
- Alex MARQUEZ Kalex SPA 137
- Fabio QUARTARARO Speed Up FRA 136
- Joan MIR Kalex SPA 128
- Marcel SCHROTTER Kalex GER 123
- Mattia PASINI Kalex ITA 114
- Luca MARINI Kalex ITA 110
- Xavi VIERGE Kalex SPA 109
- Iker LECUONA KTM SPA 59
- Jorge NAVARRO Kalex SPA 55
- Simone CORSI Kalex ITA 47
- Sam LOWES KTM GBR 46
…18. Remy GARDNER Tech 3 AUS 28
The Championship pendulum swung again in the Moto3 class as Marco Bezzecchi took a stunning third win of the season, beating Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Darryn Binder on the run to the line as double disaster hit for Del Conca Gresini Moto3.
Championship leader Jorge Martin crashed out of contention pushing to fight at the front and his lead was cut to a single point, with teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio also suffering a fall and likewise, failing to score.
Pole man Gabriel Rodrigo got the launch as the lights went out to lead into Turn 1, with Bezzecchi slotting in behind the Argentine rider after John McPhee got a slightly sluggish get away from P2, thus allowing Martin to make up one place from P4 on the grid. The front four initially threatened to make an early getaway but it soon became a group of thirteen at the front, with the lead of the race chopping and changing between the two main title contenders, along with the likes of Rodrigo and the hard-charging Binder.
Then on Lap 14, there was a massive moment for Martin heading into Turn 11 as both Binder and Bezzecchi attacked – one each side – and the Spaniard made slight contact with his Championship rival. But the Honda rider somehow managed to stay upright on without losing too much time.
This left Binder to lead with Bezzecchi and McPhee slotting in behind, Martin dropped down to fifth. However, a lap later with five to go, disaster struck. Trying to get back on terms with the leaders, Martin lost the front of his Honda and crashed out of contention battling Dennis Foggia and Tony Arbolino – and that after the drama for teammate Di Giannantonio, who suffered a huge highside at Turn 12.
This left Bezzecchi in prime position to take full advantage and with three laps to go the Italian had created a half-second lead, but that was soon extinguished by Binder and the chasing pack, setting the scene for a frantic finish.
Bezzecchi led onto the last lap but Binder made his move at Turn 5 and then held station until the final corner. However, heading out of the aptly named ‘Victory Corner’, Bezzecchi got the superior run and fired his KTM past Binder to snatch a vital victory at the line by just 0.041 seconds, with Dalla Porta also getting a devastating drive to deny Binder of second by an even smaller margin of 0.001. A stunning end to a magnificent Moto3™ race and one of the closest Grand Prix podiums of all time.
Foggia had another great ride to come home P4, he beat McPhee to the chequered flag by 0.039, who in turn got the better of Arbolino. Enea Bastianini came home P7 and polesitter Rodrigo would end up P8 at the line after losing touch with the leaders in the latter stages. Battered and bruised home hero Ayumu Sasaki made it a solid finish in ninth after staying with the leadig group for most of the race, and rounding out the top ten was Jakub Kornfeil.
Heading into the final three races of the season, the gap at the top of the Championship sits at just one point, with Martin holding the smallest of advantages of Bezzecchi. Will we be in for more drama in Australia? There’s only a week until we find out!
Moto3 Standings following Japan
- Jorge MARTIN Honda SPA 204
- Marco BEZZECCHI KTM ITA 203
- Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO Honda ITA 175
- Enea BASTIANINI Honda ITA 142
- Lorenzo DALLA PORTA Honda ITA 131
- Aron CANET Honda SPA 118
- Gabriel RODRIGO KTM ARG 116
- Jakub KORNFEIL KTM CZE 108
- Marcos RAMIREZ KTM SPA 90
- Andrea MIGNO KTM ITA 79
- Albert ARENAS KTM SPA 69
- Jaume MASIA KTM SPA 66
- John MCPHEE KTM GBR 60
- Philipp OETTL KTM GER 57
- Niccolò ANTONELLI Honda ITA 56