These just in:
A race-long battle with Dovi ends with the Italian crashing with two to go and the Spaniard taking title number seven
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) wrapped up a sensational seventh World Championship title at the home of Honda, Motegi, claiming a stunning victory at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan after a race-long battle with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). It didn’t end the way of Buriram, however, with the Italian crashing out of contention at Turn 10 with two laps to go and Marquez left with one lap alone in the lead to take the win and the crown. ‘DesmoDovi’ had to push to the limit, and that he did.
Dovizioso got the perfect launch from P1 as Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) 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 (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) 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.
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. Rossi brought his YZR-M1 home in a second consecutive P4, with Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) 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 (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) seventh.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) 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 (Alma Pramac Racing) – 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 (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), the Malaysian beating Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) by less than a second.
Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and teammate Pol Espargaro were line astern in P12 and P13, with Yamaha wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) claiming home turf points in P14 and P15 respectively. Miller crashed midway through the race, with Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) also crashing – riders ok. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) retired in the early stages.
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.
Marc Marquez crowned 2018 World Champion at Motegi
Marc Marquez took an incredible victory at Twin Ring Motegi today, becoming the 2018 MotoGP World Champion with three races to go, in front of Honda President and CEO Mr Takahiro Hachigo, who joined him on the podium.
After starting from the sixth spot on the grid, Marc was immediately able to recover four positions, taking over second place and engaging in race-long battle with title contender Andrea Dovizioso and fellow Honda rider Cal Crutchlow. With two laps remaining, the Italian rider crashed out of the race, just after Marc had passed him in preparation for a last-lap duel.
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.
Dani Pedrosa started from 11th on the grid and recovered up to eighth place at the end of the first lap, but he struggled to maintain a good pace and was not able to improve further than that.
Marc’s victory today also extended Honda’s lead in the Constructors World Championship to 47 points, and the Repsol Honda Team’s lead in the Team Classification to 51.
Winner 2018 MotoGP World Champion
“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.”
“Today the race was very disappointed I could not reach my expected performance. I had not the perfect feeling on the bike and I struggled a lot. That’s a shame, because this is a track and a place that I like very much. Anyway, that the situation and we need to try and manage as best as possible. I wish to congratulate Marc, what he has done is amazing. He has been strong everywhere this season and he was able to make only few mistakes, gaining points all the time. He is a rider that evolve continuously. I think the team as well did a great job.”
“Despite the expectations and pressure to win his third consecutive title, Marc has mesmerized his fans with an outstanding performance throughout the season. I congratulate Marc for another job well done. I would also like to thank the team who supported him, our many sponsors who have supported our racing activities, and MotoGP fans all over the world for supporting the sport.”
Unlucky race for Andrea Dovizioso at Motegi, the Italian rider crashing out two laps from the end while fighting for the win with Marquez in the Japanese Grand Prix
It was an unlucky Japanese Grand Prix for Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian rider led the race for the first 20 laps, but was then passed by Marc Marquez. He followed his Spanish rival until two laps from the end but then lost the front of his Desmosedici GP while entering Turn 10 and crashed out. After getting back on his bike, Andrea finished the race in eighteenth place.
Jorge Lorenzo 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. The Ducati Team wishes to thank Jorge Martinez “Aspar” and the Angel Nieto Team for its collaboration and Alvaro Bautista for his availability.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 18th
“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.”
LCR Honda CASTROL rider Cal Crutchlow produced the goods at HRC’s home race on Sunday as he claimed second place at the Twin Ring Motegi. Having been consistently fast throughout the weekend, the Briton got the result his efforts deserved as he followed home HRC colleague Marc Marquez who secured a fifth MotoGP World Championship title with victory in Japan.
Starting from the front of the second row, Crutchlow quickly latched on to Marquez and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso as the three riders pulled clear at the head of the race. The LCR man looked comfortable as he stayed with the title rivals and it was only in the closing stages that they moved away. But Dovizioso then crashed on the penultimate lap allowing Crutchlow to come through for second after holding off the late challenge of Suzuki’s Alex Rins.
Cal Crutchlow – 2nd
“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.”
Zarco fights for strong sixth in Japan – Impressive Syahrin seals top 10
Starting the Motul Grand Prix of Japan from the front row of the grid, Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco ended the first lap in seventh position. The fast Frenchman was fighting hard to keep up with the front group, showed a strong pace and finally saw the chequered flag in sixth position. With three rounds to go, Zarco is back to sixth in the overall standings and still in striking distance for the fight of the independent riders’ championship.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage, Hafizh Syahrin showed a stunning race. Starting from the sixth row, he occupied P18 after the first lap, but step by step upped his pace and made up one position after another. The strong MotoGP newcomer eventually finished inside the top 10, gaining another point on Franco Morbidelli and is now missing out on the Rookie of the Year lead by just four points.
Position: 6th – Championship: 6th – Points: 133
“I want to say, it was a good race. I really gave all I could give regarding energy and potential of me and of the bike. It’s a shame, as the start was good, but the first four corners I lost a lot of positions. I could not go where I wanted to go, it was too difficult and then the first ten laps maybe have been the most difficult. Later, the second half of the race, I got a strong pace and I was feeling more comfortable on the bike – not enough to catch the first group, but good enough to be fast. I could see the crash of Iannone and Dovizioso and I saw that also Rossi was forcing to be fast, so I was pushing myself to prepare to overtake him, trying to fight with him on the last lap. Unfortunately, Bautista was also coming back after his start. When he overtook me towards the end, I totally lost the contact to Valentino and the possibility to finish in fourth position. Anyway, I need to be happy. The weekend has been decent, I was feeling quite good on the bike, although I feel that things are missing. About the championship; many things are moving. Cal (Crutchlow) did a great race and his 20 points are very important for our fight for the best independent rider.”
Position: 10th – Championship: 17th – Position: 34
“I’m really happy to be in the top 10. This is what I always want for myself and now we’re inside the top 10 for the second time, so I’m really delighted. Thank you very much to the whole team, because they made a good job. We are always working truly hard to be strong in the race. Thanks as well to everybody who supports me and especially my family, who came here. We need to continue working hard. The next race in Phillip Island, I will do my best. It will not be easy, but I’m already looking forward and try to be in a god shape before my home Grand Prix.”
“As always in Motegi, Japan, a lot of things are happening during the MotoGP race. Clearly, we didn’t get the start we were hoping for with Johann. Jack (Miller) was a bit aggressive, hit him twice and we couldn’t get the benefit of our front row position. He just tried to stay on the outside almost every corner of the first lap, but you loose a lot of positions and from that moment, it was just a mission to recover and try to catch the guys in front of him. For sure, he didn’t have the pace and I think nobody inside the Yamaha camp could fight with the top group, but the disappointment started to go away when we saw him coming back. He was catching Valentino (Rossi) tenth by tenth, but he arrived at 0.4 behind him with around four laps to go, so we were really hot on seeing on what could have happen during these last laps. But unfortunately Bautista was catching him, passed him and that was the end of the story. It was too late to try a move on Valentino. It’s been a though race, but I think Johann did his best and I want to thank him for the whole weekend, because he showed great spirit and great determination on track, which is what we want and we are happy to see him like he was, when we started the year. On the other side, we are very, very happy with Hafizh, who ended up fastest rookie again. He didn’t have such a good start and lost a few positions. It’s difficult to pass and I told him before, be careful and take your time – and this is what he did. But we could see as soon as he was passing another rider, there was quickly a gap as he was so much faster and catching up. He eventually managed to reach a top 10 position. This is a great achievement. The lap times were great, he was lapping exactly the same and sometimes quicker than both, Johann and Valentino, which is something we are very proud of. He didn’t do any mistake, but was learning every single lap. We are very pleased. Franco Morbidelli finally managed to pass Bradley Smith in the very last sector of the very last lap, so we just got one point on him. Anyway, we are only four points behind him in the championship, three rounds to go, so it’s going to be very exciting. I think he’s learning a lot and I’m very proud of Hafizh. What he did today is a remarkable race and performance.”
Motegi (Japan), 21st October 2018
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi showed his fighting spirit today at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. It earned him fourth place and valuable championship points, putting him in close contention for the battle for second in the championship standings. Teammate Maverick Viñales had a challenging start to the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, but with his typical determination took seventh position, so he can continue to fight for second and third place in the final three rounds of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship.
Rossi had a great start from ninth on the grid and soon wrestled himself to fifth place on the first lap. He continued to fight with Álex Rins for the position and made his pass stick at the end of lap 2, eager not to let the four front-runners get away. The Italian set a provisional fastest lap, a 1’46.052s, to cut the over 1s margin in half. Just one lap later he arrived at the back of the leading group. Wasting no time, he made a block pass on Jack Miller in turn 11, with 20 laps to go, to take over fourth place. He now had to close a 0.6s gap to stay within podium contention but couldn’t make strides.
Unable to drop under the 1’46 mark, he had to let the chasing Suzuki’s pass him on lap 10 and 11. When Andrea Iannone crashed on lap 15, the number 46 moved up to fifth place again, but the gap to Rins was now over two seconds, so the Doctor focused on the men behind him instead. Johann Zarco and Álvaro Bautista were on the move in the final five laps. However, the battle amongst the two bought the Yamaha rider time, which he used to perfection. As Andrea Dovizioso crashed on the penultimate lap, the nine-time World Champion crossed the line in fourth place, 6.413s from first.
Viñales didn’t have the start he had hoped for and needed a little time to get into the groove. He began the race as seventh on the grid but was pushed back to tenth in the busy first corners. Lapping in the mid-1’46s, the Spaniard was unable to keep a charging Bautista at bay but gained a position as Jack Miller crashed on lap 11. He moved up another place when Iannone fell four laps later and used this as his cue to up the pace.
The youngster dropped into the low 1’46s just when the riders in front of him started to struggle a little. He launched his first attack on Dani Pedrosa on lap 19, but it didn’t last. A lap later he made it stick and put his head down. He knew that closing the over 2s margin to Bautista and Zarco would be a tall order and instead made it his priority to win some championship points. After Dovizioso went down, the number 25 rider took seventh place at the chequered flag, 13.330s from the race winner.
Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing Team wild card rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga made his experience count in Motegi today. He rode a confident race, securing a strong 14th place aboard his YZR-M1, finishing 32.550s from first. This achievement earns him two championship points and puts him in 24th place, ahead of seven other riders.
Today’s results see Rossi hold third position in the championship standings with just a 9-point gap to second. Viñales remains in fourth place with a 30-point gap to his teammate. Yamaha holds third place in the Constructor Championship after the race in Japan, with a 100-point margin to first, while the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team have reclaimed second position in the team standings with a 51-point gap to first.
Yamaha extend their congratulations to Marc Márquez of the Repsol Honda Team on taking the 2018 MotoGP World Championship Title.
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action at the Phillip Island circuit next weekend for the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, held from October 26th – 28th.
First of all, I would like to congratulate Marc Márquez and the Repsol Honda Team. For us it was a challenging race weekend. Valentino made a step in the morning and started the race perfectly. He was feeling good with the bike and was positioned at the front in the early stages, but he came just short of being able to battle with the front runners. For Maverick we decided to take a risk on the set-up that ultimately didn’t pay off. We had hoped to end today differently. However, Vale and Maverick are still serious contenders for second and third place in the rider standings, so we still have a lot to fight for next weekend in Australia.
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.
We shuffled a lot with the settings of the bike, but we couldn’t be fast in today’s race. We tried something different before the race, but it didn’t really work. We followed a direction we used in Buriram to see if that would work, but in the end it wasn’t like that. I couldn’t ride like I wanted to, so we need to keep working and trying to stay focused on the way we manage the race weekend, and stay strong. We are going to try to do our best again on Phillip Island, and we’ll try to see where we stand.
Second-best result of the season for Smith in Japan plus first Moto3 podium for Binder
RACE 16th Rd. MotoGP 2018 – Twin Ring Motegi (JAP)
Bradley Smith rode his Red Bull KTM RC16 to 12th position around the sun-kissed corners of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit for his second best classification of the 2018 MotoGP campaign. Pol Espargaro was 13th to end seven rounds of injury problems with his first points on the board.
In contrast to Red Bull KTM’s wet debut experience with the hard braking and acceleration of demands of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in 2017, the sixteenth round of the 2018 season took place in sunny and warm conditions in central Japan. Marc Marquez clinched the win and the MotoGP crown but it was a positive weekend of work and achievement for the team as both riders brought home points for the first time since the Grand Prix of Italy at Mugello.
Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro launched from the fifth row of the grid with his KTM RC16 for the 24 lap race that begun in the early hours of Sunday morning CET. Both were fixed in the large group disputing lower top ten positions and down to 15th place.
The lap-times were very close and the gap from the leaders to the middle of the pack hovered around the 10-15 second mark for the opening phases of the Grand Prix chase. Smith followed Danilo Petrucci for most of the race and then had to scrap with Hafizh Syahrin. Another position was gained thanks to Andrea Dovizioso’s penultimate lap crash but Smith just lost out to Franco Morbidelli on the last circulation.
Espargaro had made the more lively start and was initially on the fringes of the top ten. The Spaniard’s lack of race time was evident once more and he just missed the last few hundredths of a second per lap to remain in contention. Espargaro crossed the line in 13th for his first points in eight races.
Smith: “We were fighting for tenth position for quite a long time but in the last eight laps I just seemed to struggle a little bit with the Medium rear with edge-grip and Hafizh could catch me quite easily. I tried a little bit too hard into Turn 11 with Franco and ran wide. A bit frustrating to finish 12th in the end but it is some good points and KTM were strong here, and all weekend. We got some good data because I ran the Medium and Pol the Soft so we can look at the positive and negatives. Now to Phillip Island and last year there was good for us. We were competitive all weekend and it is one of the stronger tracks for us.”
Espargaro: “Physically: no excuses, I could finish the race in the points, and for the first time since June. Honestly I am not so happy with the result – the team put in a lot of effort and we wanted to show the progression of the KTM – and we were quite far from the top guys. We chose the Soft tyre for the rear and I think it was a good choice apart from the end. I was recovering my race speed again and it was nice to be back fighting in the points. We’ll look for better at Phillip Island, which is one of my favourite tracks. We need to improve.”
Mike Leitner (Team Manager MotoGP): “We have to be happy to have both riders in the points again. Bradley did a solid job and we are happy with his 12th position but his mistake in the hairpin allowed Franco to catch him. He gave his maximum. Pol finished his first race in the points since Assen and after his long rehabilitation. I’m really happy to see him back in the pit after the race with some points and no issues. I think he will be stronger in Phillip Island. We didn’t have any technical issues in the race and this shows that we, and everyone at KTM, are working hard and we are getting better and better. Everybody knows that this class is very competitive. We would like to get inside the top ten; that is still a big target this season. Let’s go to Phillip Island and try to get it.”
ALEIX ESPARGARÓ STOPS IN THE FIRST PART OF THE RACE
SCOTT REDDING NINETEENTH
Sunday did not start well for Aleix Espargaró due to a crash on turn seven during the warm up session that left the rider with pain in his neck and in less-than-optimum conditions for riding in the race. From the start, Aleix had to deal with a grip problem at the front that had a decisive impact on the early laps, so much to convince him to pit on the seventh lap.
Scott Redding rode the only RS-GP over the finish line in the Japanese race. The English rider finished nineteenth, so outside of the points zone, despite a good start which, in the early stages of the race, had placed him in the battle for a good finishing position.
“What happened today was strange. From the start the instrument cluster was showing an alarm for front tyre pressure and temperature which went to abnormal levels. It was impossible to ride. The wheel locked up in braking even when going straight and I was forced to retire. It was not an easy weekend for us. We need to analyse the situation well to figure out what happened.”
“I think I had my best start of the season. I made up a lot of positions and in the early laps I felt good. The grip was good, I was in the group and I was able to keep the pace. At a certain point, the front tyre began to move around. I chose the soft because the medium was unusable. I tried it in the warm up session too, but without results. I was managing things rather well, but then I began losing grip at the rear and I had to settle for finishing the race.”