Original article by Daniel Smith – MOTO Contributor
Torrential rain throughout the weekend was not enough to dampen the excitement of the action on track yesterday at the #JapaneseGP, as another titanic clash took place between runaway championship contenders Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) and Marc Marquez (Honda).
Over the last handful of laps, the pair swapped places too many times to count after they had streaked away from the chasing Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac), who, once again, could not finish a strong wet weather performance on the top step of the podium. As the final lap began, Marquez looked to have made the decisive charge for victory as he pulled ahead by over half a second, but a huge moment at turn eight, which nearly threw him off his motorcycle, allowed Dovizioso to get close enough to slipstream the Honda man down the back straight and make the race-winning overtake.
Then, just like in Austria two months ago, Marquez made an audacious move at the final corner but ran well wide, allowing Dovizioso to sweep back under him and take the checkered flag, cutting the gap in the standings between the pair to just 11 points with 75 still on the table. They have both produced some of the most enthralling racing this season, and both deserve the title, but only one can prevail.
Suzuki enjoyed their best results since this race last season as Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins finished 4th and 5th, respectively, much to the delight of the factory bosses watching from pit lane. Granted, wet races are a great equalizer among teams, but Suzuki may have finally solved their problems, and they have the talent to be perennial podium contenders next season if that is the case.
Jorge Lorenzo, Dovizioso’s teammate, had a peculiar race. He started extremely well and led the first few laps before dropping through the field like a stone and then recovering by the end of the 24 laps to finish in sixth. Aleix Espargaro probably hoped for more after qualifying fourth on the Aprilia, but he will still he happy with solid points for seventh. Johann Zarco (Tech 3) started strong before fading towards the end, but he still placed higher than factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales, who held on for ninth ahead of Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati).
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi crashed early on as the factory Movistar team struggled for grip all weekend long. Luckily, he did no further damage to the leg he broke just six weeks ago. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) retired with three laps remaining.
There is now just one week before the lights go green again in Australia for the second of three back-to-back races. Known for its high speeds, the Phillip Island circuit will favor the Ducati, so Dovizioso will have a good chance to gain further ground in the standings. However, Marquez has proved time and time again to be a ferocious racer, and he will not take this head-to-head loss lightly.
Motegi MotoGP Results
1. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Ducati 47 minutes 14.236 seconds
2. Marc Marquez (Spa) Honda +0.249s
3. Danilo Petrucci (Ita) Ducati +10.557s
4. Andrea Iannone (Ita) Suzuki +18.845s
5. Alex Rins (Spa) Suzuki +22.982s
6. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Ducati +24.463s
7. Aleix Espargaro (Spa) Aprilia +28.010s
8. Johann Zarco (Fra) Yamaha +29.474s
9. Maverick Viñales (Spa) Yamaha +36.574s
10. Loris Baz (Fra) Ducati +48.506s
1. Marc Marquez (Spa) Honda 244 points
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Ducati 233
3. Maverick Viñales (Spa) Yamaha 203
4. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 170
5. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Yamaha 168
6. Johann Zarco (Fra) Yamaha 125
7. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Ducati 116
8. Danilo Petrucci (Ita) Ducati 111
9. Cal Crutchlow (GB) Honda 92
10. Jonas Folger (Ger) Yamaha 84