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The two men at the top stage a historic duel in the rain-soaked Japanese GP – with everything on the line
In pouring rain at the Twin Ring Motegi, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) staged one of the greatest MotoGP™ duels of all time, putting everything on the line down to the final lap, and the final corner. And despite the best efforts of the reigning Champion, it was Andrea Dovizioso who emerged victorious from ‘Victory’ corner in Japan – taking his fifth win of the season, the seventh of his career, and one of the most spectacular in history. Marquez was an incredibly close second, with Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) completing the podium.
It was Marquez took the lead off the front row, with Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) soon pouncing on the first lap to take second and then take over in the lead. Marquez was followed by Petrucci and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), with Dovizioso staging a stunning start to tag on the back. Marquez then fought back as Lorenzo moved back slightly, before Petrucci struck at the front and the trio who would head the remaining laps was decided: Petrucci, Marquez, and Dovizioso.
As the laps ticked down, the two title contenders remained locked together and Petrucci found some clear air in the lead. But with 12 laps to go Marquez made his first move to take over, with ‘DesmoDovi’ then through on his compatriot to keep close company with the Championship leader. They pulled away, and the stage was set.
With six laps to go, Dovizioso attacked at Turn 6, and the cat and mouse continued. Marquez then hit back with a brutal pass in Turn 3 with three laps to go, and the fuse was lit. Dueling it out with some of the most spectacular racing of the season – and in the pouring rain – it seemed Marquez was holding the cards as the final lap approached.
Pushing hard to catch the race and Championship leader, the gap was hovering just over half a second for Dovizioso, until Marquez suddenly suffered a moment at Turn 8 and the Ducati was back on him. The Italian struck to take the lead soon after and prepared himself for the aptly-named victory corner – knowing the number 93 was close behind and undoubtedly with Austria on his mind.
The door didn’t prove closed for Marquez as he shot up the inside, but Dovizioso was prepared for the move and kept it together as the Repsol Honda headed wide. Almost neck and neck over the line, it was ‘DesmoDovi’ who took the victory in a duel that will go down in history – and he cuts the gap to 11 points at the top.
Behind the trio on the rostrum it was a stunning ride for Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) into fourth, as the Italian picked his way through from P12 on the grid as was able to close in on his teammate Alex Rins, then getting past him in the latter stages. Rins was top rookie after his own display of brilliance, however, earlier shadowing Zarco and then moving through as the Frenchman faded.
After dropping back after a stunning start, Jorge Lorenzo was able to move back past those ahead of him to cross the line in sixth for another good haul of points – getting back Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) as his final victim, with the Spaniard coming seventh. Zarco faded in the latter stages to head home in P8, ahead of a difficult day for Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). Viñales is now 41 points off Marquez at the top of the table.
Loris Baz (Reale Avintia Racing) completed the top ten as he sliced through in the rain, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) taking another top result for the Austrian factory in P11. In twelfth, it was wildcard Yamalube Factory Racing rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga – 2017 Suzuka 8H winner and former MotoGP™ podium finisher – as the Japanese veteran impressed as ever.
Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) took his best ever result and some good points in P13, with the points scorers completed by Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing) and Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) crashed out of contention, but rider ok.
Now the Championship heads for the legendary Phillip Island, with the gap at the top now cut down to 11 points and three rounds remaining. Motegi was a duel that will go down in history, as will 2017. But with whose name engraved on the trophy?
Andrea Dovizioso scores a fantastic win in the GP of Japan at Motegi to cut the points gap from Marquez to 11. Sixth overall for Jorge Lorenzo, with Ducati now second in the Constructors’ standings
Andrea Dovizioso powered to his fifth win of the year today at Motegi at the end of an exciting race and a terrific scrap right down to the final corner with Marc Marquez. The Ducati Team’s Italian rider has now reduced the gap in the overall standings to 11 points to the Spanish champion, with three rounds left in the 2017 MotoGP World Championship.
Dovizioso, who started from row 3, moved up to third in the early laps behind Petrucci, who led until lap 12, and Marquez. Once he had passed the Pramac Racing Team rider, who eventually finished an excellent third at the flag, Andrea began to chase down Marquez up at the front. Dovizioso then caught and passed him on lap 21, but three laps later Marquez was back in the lead. The Ducati man didn’t lose touch with his title rival however, attacking four corners before the finish to hold onto his first place until the chequered flag.
Jorge Lorenzo eventually finished in sixth place after starting from the second row. The Spanish rider got off to a good start and led during the opening lap, but then dropped a few positions following a contact with Zarco and suffering from a poor feeling with rear tyre grip. Six laps from the end Jorge began his recovery from ninth and after passing Viñales, A. Espargarò and Zarco, he finished the GP of Japan in sixth place.
Thanks to today’s result, Ducati moves into second place in the Constructors championship with 273 points.
MotoGP returns to the track next weekend at the Phillip Island circuit, the venue for the Australian Grand Prix.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1st
“It was a difficult race because at the start there wasn’t much grip and I didn’t have a good feeling with the bike but I never gave up, not even when I was losing ground, and this made all the difference. Marc was really quick and he tried right until the end, but there were some places where I could attack and he also made a small mistake on the last lap which gave me a chance to catch him again and try and pass him at Turn 11. I knew that he was going to attack me in the final two corners but I was prepared for this, I closed the door on him and he had to go a bit wide to pass me. It was absolutely vital to win here and I’m really so pleased for the whole team and for the championship.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 6th
“I can’t be happy with my race, because we had the potential to try and win if there hadn’t been so much water on the track. We weren’t able to find the right setting to be quick in these conditions and without rear grip it was impossible for me to do anything more. I gradually succeeded in getting a better feeling with the bike, and I improved my pace and was able to pass Viñales, Zarco and Aleix Espargaro. In the end we were missing almost a second per lap today, and that’s a pity because this weekend we were always fast. I want to congratulate Andrea, because he’s proving to be a really strong rider, mentally as well, and he is able to take advantage of every chance of fighting for the world title. Hats off, and congratulations to him and all the team!”
Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager)
“There was so much tension today but in the end also so much satisfaction! Andrea was awesome, he did a truly perfect race, and in so doing reduced the gap from Marquez to eleven points. His fifth win of the season, here in Japan, has a special significance and I’m really happy. Pity about Jorge, who wasn’t able to get the result in a weekend in which he had always been competitive. Now we are thinking about Phillip Island, and we know that it will be a tough battle until the very end but we have all the right cards to fight for the title right down to the wire.”
Marc Marquez scores 100th career podium after epic Motegi battle
With the Japanese Grand Prix facing wet weather all weekend, the race was no exception and the tricky conditions made the epic duel between Title contenders Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso even more dramatic.
The Italian prevailed over the Repsol Honda rider fighting to the last corner of the last lap after the pair closely chased and passed each other time and again after passing provisional race leader Danilo Petrucci on lap 13.
Marc began the final lap out front but a small mistake at turn 8 – where he almost crashed out – allowed Dovizioso to close in and then take the lead. Marc tried one final attack braking late into the last corner but he exited a little wide and Dovizioso won the drag race to the finish line by 0.249s.
Marc’s second place signals his 100th career podium from 165 starts (the younger rider ever to achieve this milestone), and his 61st in the premier-class. He retains an 11-point lead in the Championship before round 16 at Phillip Island next Sunday.
Dani Pedrosa had a very difficult race as he had some issues with his rear tyre that forced him to retire on lap 21.
“Of course I tried and gave it my 100%, fighting until the last lap and the last corner. It was an amazing race with the two guys fighting for the Championship fighting for the win. Today there was a lot of water on track and for some reason I was struggling a little more than expected. I tried to push and be smooth but Andrea was very fast too for the entire race. Entering the last lap, I knew I had only a very small advantage ahead but then I made a small mistake in turn eight, well, quite a big mistake actually, and he caught me. After he passed he was very strong on the brakes and I wasn’t able to match him. In the last corner I tried again but it was not possible to pass him again. Today he did an incredible race and won but anyway I’m happy with our result as I was expecting him to be very very fast here. We scored some good points and made a good show for the fans so it’s ok”.
“It’s been a very difficult day and I’m really disappointed as there was a great opportunity to have a nice race. We have improved so much during the free practice sessions, from FP1 to yesterday, but it isn’t clear what happened with the rear tyre today in the race. At the beginning the rear tyre spun a lot and I lost a lot of traction which prevented me from opening the throttle on the straight. This issue continued to persist and halfway through the race it became worse and worse. I tried everything to make the bike work but it was almost impossible to ride in these conditions. I lost so much time and when I finally dropped out of the points I took the decision to retire, rather than crash. With so much water on track I didn’t expect to have problems with the extra soft rear tire and in fact Petrucci used the same one and he ended up on the podium. We will study together with Michelin the data and try to avoid it from happening again.”
Motegi (Japan), 15th October 2017
Today Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Maverick Viñales put in a consistent ride at a very wet Twin Ring Motegi track to secure ninth place. Valentino Rossi had an impressive start to the Motul Grand Prix of Japan and was riding in eighth position when a crash in turn 8 brought an end to his challenge.
Viñales had a great start to Yamaha‘s home race, riding midfield through the spray from a 14th-place starting position to eighth in the opening lap. He had to let Alex Rins and teammate Rossi past on lap 3 as he warmed his tyres, but this setback was only temporary.
The Spaniard overtook Jorge Lorenzo three laps later, while Rossi crashed out of the race, and reclaimed eighth place. He gradually started to up his pace as his confidence grew at the very wet Motegi track, but soon realised Aleix Espargaró, riding directly in front of him, was too far ahead.
In the second half of the race Viñales focused his attention on defending his eighth place from Lorenzo, who arrived at the back of his Yamaha with six laps to go. The number-25 rider put his head down, but was unable to hold off his compatriot. He crossed the line in ninth place, 36.575s from the front.
Rossi also had a good launch off the line, starting from 12th on the grid. He quickly began his charge and had picked up three positions by the end of the first three laps. The Doctor spurred on his YZR-M1 to prevent his rivals from clearing off at the front, overtaking Lorenzo on lap 6. However, his pursuit came to a premature halt when he suffered a crash in turn 8 and was unable to rejoin the race.
Today’s race results see Viñales and Rossi hold third and fifth place respectively in the championship with a 41 and 76 point-gap to the leader. Yamaha is in third place in the Constructor classification, 29 points from first, and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP is chasing the Team title in second place with 43 points to the top of the rankings.
The team will soon head south to take part in next week‘s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix on Phillip Island, Australia.
When we arrived here in Japan, we weren‘t expecting this weekend to be as difficult as it turned out to be. We really worked hard to try to find a solution. We put in a lot of effort, but we weren‘t able to do it in the end. We never found the rear grip that the riders were looking for in almost all the sessions, as well as in the race itself, but Maverick and Valentino tried to make the best of it. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, and I expect that we will use the next round to explore different solutions for the future.
I expected things to be a little bit worse, because this morning I was trying to be in the top-15. Finally, in the race, I pushed a lot in the beginning. I tried to risk only the necessary, trying to give our best. Today this was the maximum and we will have to think now about Australia. Until all the points are collected it is impossible to know if there is still a chance to win the championship. For sure we we’ll face different circumstances in Australia. It will be a different bike and different tyres, we don’t know what we’re going to have there, but it’s a track I like a lot, I like to ride there, so I can’t wait to be on the bike again.
Today was the end of a very difficult weekend. Because of the wet conditions I was not very competitive, I was struggling a lot with the wet setting of the bike. In the race I was trying to follow Aleix Espargaró and I was trying to stick with him, but unfortunately I crashed. Now we’ll try to do some good races and it will be important during the next weekends to give Yamaha as much information as possible to improve the bike and to decide on the direction for next year.
Zarco perseveres to complete Japanese Grand Prix in 8th – Determined Nozane unfortunate on race debut
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Johann Zarco experienced a challenging afternoon to finish the Motul Grand Prix of Japan in 8th. The French star lunged forward from pole position as the rain continued to pour. After relentlessly battling at the front of the field for the opening laps, he settled into a formidable rhythm as he battled against the gruelling conditions. Eventually, he powered across the finish line and now optimistically awaits the Australian Grand Prix next week.
Meanwhile, substitute rider Kohta Nozane endured a tough time after falling in the early stages of the race. The promising young Japanese rider who was riding with a small fracture in his right hand following a crash in FP4 yesterday made progress after the start before unfortunately sliding off on the 4th lap. Monster Yamaha Tech3 would like to thank Nozane for his efforts during the Japanese Grand Prix.
Position: 8th – Championship: 6th – Points: 125
Johann Zarco – 2017“It was a tough race. I had a good start and the feeling was quite ok at the beginning. However, the rear was sliding a little bit but I was able to control it and overall, the front felt great which allowed me to brake how I wanted to. I was slightly limited with the corner entry yet, on the whole, it was positive. Some riders overtook me but I managed to stay with them, even if I lost a bit in acceleration. This means that we are doing a good job as we can make this same step in the wet as well as the dry. I waited when I was running in 4th and I thought that I would get more confident with the front and then catch the leading group. Yet, the opposite happened and despite the fact that I always felt good on the brakes, the tyres wore, which limited me. By the end of the race, there was a lot of spinning and even though I tried my best to find a solution on the straight by carefully opening and closing the throttle to catch some grip, the other riders got past me. This was why I lost the positions at the end but we will try again in Australia next week.”
Position: DNF – Championship: Not classified
Kohta Nozane – 2017 “After the warm-up session, under a local anesthetic, I decided that I could race today. The track conditions were pretty bad this afternoon when compared to this morning. If I was not injured then I could have managed the GP better, but the fact is that I crashed quite early on. I am frustrated with myself and I have to say sorry to Yamaha and to the entire team. However, these three days have been like a dream and again I would like to thank Yamaha and Hervé for trusting me!”
“Altogether I believe that it has been a positive weekend for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team. It was an incredible feeling on Saturday to get the pole position with Johann Zarco for the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. This was special for us all and also for our partners, with Motul being the title sponsor for this race and I’m sure it’s something that they enjoyed. We knew that today was going to be very difficult as the conditions were really challenging and almost dangerous. There was a lot of standing water on the track and it never stopped raining. Yet, Johann had a great start and stayed behind the top three for most of the race. However, we knew that the end of the GP would be tricky and Johann quite easily kept the riders behind him until the last five laps, and there we couldn’t fight anymore as there was no more grip on the rear tyre. To lose four positions in the final few laps is not something that we can be happy about but 8th is still a good result and we collected some valuable points. Overall, the weekend was positive and I would like to thank Yamaha for looking after us in the way that they did. On the other side of the pit box, Kohta Nozane was really impressive on Friday and we thought that he would eventually be fighting for a top ten finish on race day. Unfortunately, a small mistake at the beginning of FP4 saw him crash and fracture his right hand, which meant it would be very difficult. Yet, he never gave up and worked hard throughout the night to get his hand fixed. The warm-up went well, so we thought it was ok to compete. However, I think it was just a bit too much and he wanted to start his home Grand Prix so we gave Kohta the chance and I’m happy we did. Yet, we were not very confident because we could see how badly his hand was and at such a hard braking circuit, with a fractured right hand, it was almost impossible. I would like to thank him and I think he has shown that he has a really good level and he could be a very successful MotoGP rider in the near future. I don’t know what Yamaha has planned, but it was a pleasure for us to look after Kohta. He is a really nice guy and we would eventually like to give him another chance to show his full potential. Thanks to the whole team and we will pack everything tonight and then head to Australia where we hope there will be no rain.”
ALEIX ESPARGARÓ SEVENTH AT MOTEGI
ANOTHER SOLID TOP TEN FOR APRILIA AND CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS FOR SAM LOWES TOO
ALBESIANO: “WE ARE STABLY IN THE TOP TEN, BUT NOW THE GOAL IS TO IMPROVE IN THE RACE”
Aleix Espargaró rode his Aprilia RS-GP to a seventh place finish in the GP of Japan held in Motegi in the persistent rain. This is another placement that, after the Aragón race, confirms the Aprilia rider as a solid presence in the MotoGP top ten.
After two days of practice and qualifying as a protagonist, consistently in the top five, Aleix started well from the second row, but a few problems with aquaplaning from the start of the race made him lose contact with the front runners. As the laps went by, Aleix found his rhythm and in the final phases he defended his position well, overtaking Zarco who had started from pole position.
It was also a good race for Sam Lowes who was able to find his pace in the extreme conditions, overtaking several rivals and moving up from 24th place on the first lap to finish the race 13th.
“Seventh place is a good result, but our potential was better than that. To be honest, I am disappointed. After the speed we demonstrated all weekend, our expectations were different. Unfortunately, I never found my rhythm in the race. I had big problems with aquaplaning that cost me a lot of ground. I don’t really understand it. I even tried to change the engine map, but the situation did not improve much. Toward the end of the race, when it stopped raining, I was able to do a few good laps, getting close to the Suzukis, but then it started raining again and I had to settle. In these final races I want to try to get into the top ten in the rider standings.”
“In the early laps I struggled to get the tyres and brakes up to temperature because of all the water. Once I found my pace, I was able to ride a good race. I overtook a lot of riders and had a fun ride. With three weekends in a row, it is important to get off on the right foot. I managed to do that, also gaining great experience in such difficult conditions. I had gotten very close to Pol in eleventh place. Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to overtake him because there were only a few corners left, but the bike had a problem and we will have to look into what caused it. I lost a position, but I am satisfied with how I rode throughout the weekend anyway. I finished in the points and, above all, I battled down to the last lap.”
ROMANO ALBESIANO – APRILIA RACING MANAGER
“Aleix’s result is another placement that confirms us stably in the MotoGP top ten. It was a very positive weekend in which we demonstrated great competitiveness both in true wet conditions and in mixed dry and damp conditions which had really penalised us in the past, so this is also a very important sign of improvement. In practice we did much better than we did in the race and that indicates that we need to improve our race management so that on Sunday we can confirm all the good we are able to do in practice and now in qualifying as well. It was also a nice race for Sam who does very well in these conditions and he managed to finish in the points.”
FAUSTO GRESINI – TEAM MANAGER
“Aleix did a very good job. We can be satisfied and today Sam also demonstrated his qualities in the wet. Of course, we were in the top spots all weekend, but a finish like this should be considered positive because it is still a top ten and because our goal here was to confirm the nice result from Aragón, so we are in line with this target. It is true that in the race we did not repeat our extraordinary performance in practice and qualifying, but we had some spinning that we had not had even in warm up. In any case, we battled once again today with fierce rivals, leaving several behind us.”
An unhappy weekend for Cal Crutchlow and the LCR Honda team was compounded when the Briton failed to finish the Japanese Grand Prix. As it did throughout this year’s event, more rain fell at the Twin Ring circuit in Motegi on Sunday and Crutchlow suffered two falls in a difficult wet race that was eventually won by Andrea Dovizioso.
Starting from down in 15th spot on the grid, Crutchlow was hampered by the spray from bikes in front of him in the early stages before he crashed on lap five. The LCR rider managed to remount and then head back out on his spare bike, although he was well down the field. However, a miserable time in Japan was complete when he fell again and the Briton is now looking to move on and regroup in Australia next week – the scene of one of his two premier class victories last year.
Cal Crutchlow – DNF
“Obviously, it’s a disappointing end to the Japanese Grand Prix. I was fighting at the start of the race, but I was really far back in the pack and there was so much spray from the other bikes I think all the riders found it very difficult to see.
“Then unfortunately I crossed the river at turn seven, there was some rear brake pressure and I high-sided the bike off throttle. But I remounted and took the spare bike and then had a very strange crash as I was not pushing hard and was about to enter the pit in one more lap because I was not going to score any points.
“We hit the stream of water in the back straight, but it was a really mysterious crash the second one. Now we have to take the positives to Phillip Island, which are that I won there last year, but there have been no real positives from the Japanese Grand Prix apart from visiting Japan itself.”
Solid points in MotoGP & Podium in Moto3 for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing at Motegi
RACE 15th Rd. MotoGP 2017 – Twin Ring Motegi (JAP)
Following KTM‘s best qualifying in MotoGP yesterday, the rain continued today at Motegi, Japan, to give some of the worst conditions seen for a Grand Prix in many a year but through the rain Pol Espargaro scored yet more points for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing in their debut MotoGP year. Niccolo Antonelli returned to the podium with his Moto3 KTM RC250 GP after brilliantly starting from the front row, his second position today was a fabulous fight back after injury mid season, proving his speed and commitment as a racer. Moto2 was again a thrilling race with Miguel Oliveira and his KTM Moto2 bike just 3.5 seconds off the podium in seventh place. The MotoGP World Championship now moves on to Australia and the spectacular circuit of Phillip Island next weekend.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team had never before been on Japanese soil but the team managed to brilliantly qualify both bikes through Q1 directly into Q2 for the first time to be 7th and 8th on the grid as the lights went green. Through enormous plumes of spray both Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro made great starts. The pace was frenetic at the front but Espargaro cut through the rain on his KTM RC16 to be easily inside the team’s regular target of the top 15 to cross the line in 11th, just outside the top 10. Bradley Smith played it safe in the first few laps but saw the flag in 17th place.
Espargaro: “It is so hard to ride in these conditions, but considering this is the first time we’ve been here in Japan with the KTM it has been super impressive to qualify so well as a team and then face this race with this amount of water on the track. We’ve never raced in conditions such as these and that was such a step, but in the end I finished 11th. Finishing the race was a priority; we did that as a team so we’ve got more points in the pocket not just from a top 15 finish, but a finish from just on the cusp of the top 10.”
Smith: “They were tricky conditions out there with a lot of water; kinda similar to what we had in Misano but here it just kept on raining. I went back a bit from seventh on the grid…but I was seventh on the grid! It’s been a positive weekend in many ways and through all of the sessions even after a small crash this morning which put me a little on edge at the start. We have had many positives from the wet laps here to take forward to Phillip Island and Sepang, particularly for it rains there. Overall I’m happy with the overall weekend as it was the first time in these conditions so we’ll learn going forward.”
Mike Leitner (Team Manager MotoGP): “For all riders that was a difficult race but especially for us as we have not so many kilometres of experience in the wet, but we performed so well yesterday in qualifying that gave us a chance today. Much of this on going improvement is coming from the KTM Motorsport team in Austria who are working so hard reacting, designing and manufacturing new parts. In today’s race, when you have to look after the tyre we still have potential to improve. Pol did so well and to be fair, Bradley was not so bad at all but not quite in the points, but after his great qualifying yesterday he showed he can ride a bike well. But as I said, in the rain we’ll take this data forward for the next wet race that could easily be in Australia or Malaysia.”