MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2017 – Round 15: Japan – October 15, 2017

Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez Scores Breathtaking Second Place at Honda’s Home Grand Prix

Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez

MotoGP World Championship challengers Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) fought an unforgettable victory duel in atrocious weather conditions at Motegi.

The Spaniard and the Italian raced way ahead of the pack as heavy rainfall flooded parts of the circuit, both realizing that every point counted in their thrilling duel for the 2017 crown.

Both men tried to make their escape from the other but neither was prepared to accept defeat and after half-distance, when they had overcome early leader Danilo Petrucci (Ducati), the lead changed on several occasions. The tension increased with each passing lap until the final few laps, when Marquez seemed to have the edge. The reigning World Champion started the final lap less than half a second in front, both men riding at unbelievable speed in the heavy rain.

Marquez was a fraction ahead when he had a huge slide at turn eight; his left foot coming off the footpeg. This allowed Dovizioso to close the gap and make a plan for the final few corners. He edged past Marquez with just three corners to go and looked set for his fifth victory of the season, but Marquez was not to be denied. The super-brave 24-year-old squeezed inside Dovizioso at the final Victory corner; however, the move lost him some momentum and Dovizioso won the drag race to the checkered flag.

Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez

Three-times MotoGP king Marquez crossed the finish line two tenths behind Dovizioso to become the youngest rider to score 100 podiums across all three MotoGP classes. He now stands 11 points ahead of Dovizioso with three races to go.

Without doubt this is one of the greatest World Championship battles since the dawn of motorcycling’s global racing series in 1949. Both men now have everything to play for at the last three rounds. But while everything is wide open in the Riders World Championship, Honda is ahead in the Constructors World Championship and the Repsol Honda Team are in front of the Teams World Championship. All in all, this Japanese Grand Prix was a great day for MotoGP and for motorcycling, all of it watched trackside by Honda Motor Co., Ltd. President & CEO Takahiro Hachigo.

Such was the drama at the front of the race that millions watching at trackside and at home barely noticed the heroics being played out further down the pack. Honda’s top independent-team rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda RC213V) did his best in the horrible weather but crashed twice and then retired.

Marquez’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) also struggled in the very bad conditions. The rear tyre he chose for the race never worked the way he wanted, causing plenty of wheelspin and eventually forcing him into the pits to retire. It was a great shame for the 31-year-old Spaniard who has such a great record at Motegi: he won the 250cc race in 2004 and the MotoGP race in 2011, 2012 and 2015.

Like all the riders, but especially those further back in the pack, water spray and therefore visibility made the conditions particularly treacherous. Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) did his best and managed to secure one World Championship point with a 15th-place finish. The day was even more difficult for his team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V), who was substituting for the injured Jack Miller and riding his first MotoGP race for a whole year. He suffered rear-traction issues in the woeful conditions to finish the race in 18th place.

The rainy conditions didn’t stop the Honda CBR600-powered pack from providing a thrilling race, with the first seven riders past the checkered flag covered by less than eight seconds.

Victory went to Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex), younger brother of Marc, who superbly fought his way through the spray to take the lead from pole-starter and long-time leader Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex). It was the 21-year-old former Moto3 World Champion’s third Moto2 victory, his first coming at Jerez in May.

Alex Marquez

Alex Marquez

Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing Tech 3) scored his first Grand Prix podium in second place, just 1.4 seconds behind the winner and just ahead of the brilliant Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia Kalex) who enjoyed an impressive charge through the pack.

Impressive Moto2 rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) took fourth place from Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex) and Nakagami, who lost speed in the closing stages as the rain eased.

This race was also crucial for the outcome of the championship, with series leader Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) riding a superb race, coming through to finish eighth, most importantly three places ahead of title challenger Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten Kalex) who suffered from vision problems in the spray.

Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda NSF250RW) once again proved his brilliance in wet, slippery conditions by taking a dominant Moto3 victory, just weeks after he won in similar soaking conditions at Misano. Fenati’s win was also Honda’s 14th from the 15 Moto3 races so far this year.

Romano Fernati

Romano Fernati

Fenati’s third victory of the year kept the World Championship alive. Current series leader Joan Mir (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) went into this race holding a mammoth 80-point lead, but finished outside the points in 17th position. The young Spaniard had started from 20th on the grid – the result of a sanction imposed at the last race – and the atrocious weather conditions and lack of visibility prevented him from moving forward.

Twenty-one-year-old Fenati goes to Australia next week trailing Mir by 55 points, so the title is still only a distant prospect for the Italian, but it’s not an impossibility. What is certain is that a Honda rider will win the crown, with NSF250RW riders currently holding the top six positions in the championship. Honda has already claimed the Moto3 Constructors World Championship, its 17th in the 125cc/Moto3 category, since its first in 1961.

Fenati took control early on, leaving the pack to dispute the final podium places. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) had a superb ride at his home race, very much in the hunt for his first-ever top-three finish, until he lost contact just before the finish. Nevertheless, the 20-year-old from Chiba finished fourth, comfortably bettering his previous best result of eighth.

Suzuki finished several seconds ahead of Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW), who also featured up front in the early stages. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Racing Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) was seventh and John McPhee (British Talent Team Honda NSF250RW) tenth.

Honda MotoGP Rider Quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team: 2nd
“Of course I tried and gave it my 100 percent, 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 okay.”

Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez

Honda Moto2 Rider Quotes

Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS: 1st
“I’m really happy for this victory and I knew I had this potential despite my crash on Saturday morning in practice. I managed the race very well, it is never easy to stay calm in these conditions and I waited for my moment to go to the front. At the end I could open a gap and control the victory. I want to thank my team, the doctors and everyone who has helped me to come back after my injury.”

Xavi Vierge, Tech 3 Racing Tech 3: 2nd
“I am so happy. It has been a very challenging weekend and the track conditions have been tough, but yesterday was a good day and today was even better! I finished the race in second, which is amazing, and it is a dream come true. I have to say thanks to the Tech3 Racing Team for believing in me and working hard every day. Also, to my family who help to motivate and push me. Finally, of course, I have to thank my sponsors because without them none of this would be possible.”

Hafizh Syahrin, Petronas Raceline Malaysia: 3rd
“I am so happy and proud to achieve my second podium result from the last three races – this shows the team is working very hard to help me to achieve my best performance. The conditions were very difficult, changing all the time, and the battle with the other riders was very strong. I had to push very, very hard to get the better of my rivals and the end we did it, so I am very happy. Now I look forward to the next few races, especially with my Malaysian fans at Sepang.”

Honda Moto3 Rider Quotes

Romano Fenati, Marinelli Rivacold Snipers: 1st
“The Championship is never lost until the arithmetic confirms it. Today I didn’t think about that. In these days we worked well and in morning warm-up we made a modification which helped us to improve. I felt comfortable on the bike and everything went well. It was not easy, it was very cold and I was totally wet but staying ahead is easier! Why I am so strong in the wet? Probably I trust my team and my bike. I enjoy this victory now but I am also thinking about Australia – Phillip Island as it is a track I love.”

Tatsuki Suzuki, SIC58 Squadra Corse: 4th
“Of course, I very much wanted to get onto the podium at my home race in front of the Japanese fans. At one point of the race I thought this was possible, but in the final few laps I found the situation more complicated. In the end I had to be happy with fourth position, which is still my best result in the World Championship, so I leave Motegi happy and motivated for the last few races of the season.”

Aron Canet, Estrella Galicia 0,0: 5th
“I found it very hard to ride fast because of the difficult conditions, so I think we still have to improve our setup in wet conditions. With so much water on the track it was very difficult to improve and, as it has not stopped raining, there was more and more water on the surface with every lap that went by. It has been the most difficult wet race of my life and to finish in fifth position is very positive, because with this result we still have the runner-up spot within reach. There are three races left and I think we can do it. With this result, we have also secured third position overall from Fabio Di Giannantonio and Jorge Martín. In Australia we will keep trying.”

MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2017

Round 15: Japan Race

MotoGP Class

Rank Rider (Team)
1 Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)
2 Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)
3 Danilo PETRUCCI (OCTO Pramac Racing)
6 Jorge LORENZO (Ducati Team)
7 Aleix ESPARGARO (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
8 Johann ZARCO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)
9 Maverick VIÑALES (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)
10 Loris BAZ (Reale Avintia Racing)
11 Pol ESPARGARO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
12 Katsuyuki NAKASUGA (Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing)
13 Sam LOWES (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
14 Hector BARBERA (Reale Avintia Racing)
15 Tito RABAT (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)

Moto2 Class

Rank Rider (Team)
1 Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)
2 Xavi VIERGE (Tech 3 Racing)
3 Hafizh SYAHRIN (Petronas Raceline Malaysia)
4 Francesco BAGNAIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)
5 Mattia PASINI (Italtrans Racing Team)
6 Takaaki NAKAGAMI (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)
7 Miguel OLIVEIRA (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
8 Franco MORBIDELLI (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS)
9 Dominique AEGERTER (Kiefer Racing)
10 Lorenzo BALDASSARRI (Forward Racing Team)
11 Thomas LUTHI (CarXpert Interwetten)
12 Remy GARDNER (Tech 3 Racing)
13 Marcel SCHROTTER (Dynavolt Intact GP)
14 Ikuhiro ENOKIDO (Teluru MOTOBUM Racing Team)
15 Tarran MACKENZIE (Kiefer Racing)

Moto3 Class

Rank Rider (Team)
1 Romano FENATI (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers)
2 Niccolò ANTONELLI (Red Bull KTM Ajo)
4 Tatsuki SUZUKI (SIC58 Squadra Corse)
5 Aron CANET (Estrella Galicia 0,0)
6 Philipp OETTL (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing)
7 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO (Del Conca Gresini Moto3)
8 Jakub KORNFEIL (Peugeot MC Saxoprint)
10 John MCPHEE (British Talent Team)
11 Nakarin ATIRATPHUVAPAT (Honda Team Asia)
12 Nicolo BULEGA (SKY Racing Team VR46)
13 Andrea MIGNO (SKY Racing Team VR46)
14 Marcos RAMIREZ (Platinum Bay Real Estate)
15 Jorge MARTIN (Del Conca Gresini Moto3)