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Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) made it four wins on the bounce with a superb victory at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. The 2019 World Champion held off an early challenge from second place finisher Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), who was made to sweat in the final stages by third place Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) - the Italian claiming his 100th Grand Prix podium.
It wasn’t the perfect getaway for polesitter Marquez but he held his advantage into Turn 1, with Quartararo braking late to get underneath his teammate Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the duo went slightly wide, allowing the fast-starting Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) to grab P3 on the exit of Turn 2. A frantic opening lap then unfolded as Quartararo passed Marquez for the lead at Turn 7, only for the number 93 to pounce back at the tight Turn 10. It was a late lunge from the Honda man as the duo ran slightly wide. Quartararo looked for the cutback but almost lost the front of his YZR-M1, with third place Miller sniffing an opportunity to grab P2. That door quickly closed though as Miller almost ran into the back of Quartararo.
Round 16: MotoGP™ Motul Grand Prix of Japan
Suddenly though, Marquez had pulled the pin. Eight tenths were his advantage over Quartararo as the two in-form men started to break clear of the chasing pack. Hovering around the second mark, Quartararo couldn’t quite latch himself onto the back of the leading RC213V as the gap kept swinging from 0.9 to 1.2 seconds each lap. Further behind, the battle for the final podium spot was intense. Miller was holding P3 but it wasn’t long before the Australian was suffering with tyre issues. Morbidelli, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Dovizioso were ready to pounce.
On Lap 10, Morbidelli passed Miller, with Viñales and Dovizioso also getting the better of the Pramac Ducati in quick succession. This group was over three seconds off Quartararo at the midpoint of the race, with ‘El Diablo’ now dropping to over 1.5 back of the relentless Marquez. For P3, it was two Yamahas vs one Desmosedici. With 11 laps remaining, the number 04 surpassed the number 21 and soon after, the blue number 12 machine was also through. Morbidelli was seemingly starting to struggle as it soon became Dovizioso vs Viñales for the final rostrum place. It was a real insight into how two different motorcycles work around different areas of the track, Viñales constantly threatening in the second and third sectors, with Dovi using the Ducati grunt to defend on the stop-and-go parts of Motegi.
Now over two seconds back, Quartararo had given up chasing Marquez. But, the Frenchman would need to be careful. Dovi had fended off the swarming wasp that was Viñales and the Ducati man was setting personal best laps, which saw him rapidly reel in Quartararo. With two laps to go, Dovi had a Petronas Yamaha SRT machine within touching distance, closing Quartararo down by 0.8 on the previous lap. Would it be enough though? On the last lap, the podium fight concertinaed up as Marquez cruised round for the win. Dovizioso couldn’t quite get close enough to make a final lap lunge on Quartararo and it would end Marquez, Quartararo and Dovizioso on the podium – and three reasons to celebrate.
Marquez’ win gave Honda the constructors crown, Quartararo claimed 2019 Rookie of the Year and Dovizioso notched up a ton of Grand Prix podiums. Viñales ran out of steam in the latter stages as a fourth podium in the last five went astray. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) beat Morbidelli by 0.047 on the run to the line to grab his first top five finish since the Czech GP. Morbidelli’s early podium hopes sadly faded as the Italian picked up P6 in Japan, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) recovering from P11 on the grid to P7 in the race. Teammate Joan Mir rode a solid race to finish just over a second behind Rins to finish P8, with the Ducatis of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Miller rounding out the top 10.
Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) crashed out of contention in Japan – riders ok.
Quartararo: "Now we need to set new goals!"
Step two of three completed for Honda and Marquez, the riders and constructors title have now been sewn up, with Marquez also equalling Mick Doohan's 54 premier class win tally. It’s not long to go until the riders are back out on track at Phillip Island, as the Teams Championship between Ducati Team and Repsol Honda Team intensifies.
1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)
2. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.870
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 1.325
4. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 2.608
5. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 9.140
6. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 9.187
7. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 9.306
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 10.695
9. Danilo Petrucci (Team Ducati) + 14.216
10. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 18.909
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