It is now clear that Honda’s 2019 MotoGP champion Marc Marquez has his sights set on the single season points record of 383 set by The Rider Formerly Known as Jorge Lorenzo with Yamaha in 2010. Why else bother winning the Motul Grand Prix of Japan when a win would mean so much more to any number of other riders? Winning motorcycle races is in #93’s DNA, much they way it was with Nicky Hayden. He just can’t help himself.
With the real action behind him all day, and discounting Andrea Dovizioso, who has second place for the year by the throat, most of the attention today focused on young Fabio Quartaro – could this be his week? – Maverick Viñales, Alex Rins and Danilo Petrucci, all of whom have a dog in the fight for third place for the year. One rider who doesn’t, after today, is aging rock star Valentino Rossi, who crashed out, unassisted, of the race and the top tier of riders for 2019. Anyone feeling bad for Rossi is advised to feel bad instead for Lorenzo, who limped home in 18th place today, out of the points, no longer relevant in the premier class. It wasn’t that long ago that they were The Factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers, capable of going one-two on any given weekend. C’est la guerre.
Rossi just snuck into Q2 on his last lap in FP2, knocking 7/10ths off his best previous lap on soft front and rear. Rain was in the forecast for Saturday. After FP2, Moto3 leader Lorenzo Dalla Porta was overheard whispering “I kicked your ass today, pendejo,” to second-place Aron Canet, having nosed him out of 11th by .001 second. FP1 and FP2 in Moto3 leave more to the imagination than do the same sessions in MotoGP. All those guys with foreign-sounding names on what seem like hundreds of teams. Matt and Steve earn their money herding cats, staying on top of Moto3. I can’t keep up yet.
On Friday in Moto2, series leader Alex Marquez was having his way with the likes of Brad Binder, KTM rookie Jorge Martin – finally – and Luca Marini, with Sam Lowes punching above his weight in fifth. Someone got in Alex’s ear during the last off-season and changed his outlook on life. Someone he respected had to have said to him, “Look. You need to sack up. You’re a freaking Marquez and have always practiced well against Marc. He thinks you can dominate Moto2 and earn a 2021 contract with the factory team of your choice. You’ll be 25. At which point he looks forward to kicking your butt. But you need to stay on the effing bike and quit effing around. You’ve got the bike and the team, now you need to blow these guys away.” And away, it seems, in 2019 he blows goes.
In MotoGP, after FP2, there were four Yamahas in the top six, joined by Marquez and Dovizioso. Why the Yams were doing so well here I had no idea, other than to remind myself and everyone else that Friday is Friday unless it rains on Saturday. We need the weather gods to make this one more interesting. Everyone wants to see Fabio bust his cherry. Son of Rossi and all that. One door closes, another opens, etc.
Sidebar: So our boy Cal Crutchlow is warning new teammate/temp Johann Zarco that the 2019 RC213V is harder to ride than the 2018 version. Just sayin’. One wonders why Cal doesn’t insist on using the 2018 chassis with the 2019 engine, the way Marquez did in 2015 when that year’s Honda MotoGP bike was unrideable. Marquez switched back to the 2014 frame and won the second half of the 2015 season going away. Coulda saved Lucio Cecchinello some money, too. It’s not like they’re doing a ton of development work at LCR.
Crutchlow and Rins escape Q1, on to Q2, while the pitiable Lorenzo would start 19th on Sunday, 1.8 seconds behind Crutchlow, up from last on the last two laps. A shadow of his former self. Tentative. Hurting his team. Dude needs to renounce second year of his contract and hang them up. He’s got enough money for several lifetimes. Time to rest on some laurels.
FQ and MM have taken 13 out of 15 poles 2019. Takaa Nakagami was clearly wounded but showed toughness in front of his homeys before he shuts down for the season. The announcers pointed out what we’ve been saying here for some time – any weather is Marquez weather. He took his first premier class pole at Motegi on Saturday, closing the loop, having now poled at every circuit on the calendar. Franco Morbidelli and Quartararo join Marquez on the front row, making my pre-race prediction look less ridiculous, Jack Miller back of the second row, together with Crutchlow and Viñales. As a postscript, Rossi would start tenth.
In Moto2, Luca Marini took pole, followed by Augusto Fernandez, BadAss Lorenzo Baldassarri, Alex Marquez fourth, Jorge Navarro fifth. Moto3 would start Sunday with a front row of Niccolo Antonelli, Alonso Lopez, and Tatsuki Suzuki. Series leader Dalla Porta starts from sixth; his nearest rival, Canet, from eighth.
As little as qualifying means in the premier class, it means even less in the lightweights.
In Moto3 today, in a nutshell, series leader Dalla Porta won the race while his nearest pursuer, Spaniard Canet on the KTM, crashed out of seventh place on his own, the 2019 Moto3 season having thereby been effectively decided on Lap 14 at Motegi. LDP sits with 47 points on Canet with three rounds left. Turn out the lights, the party’s over. For the record, Celestino Vietti, who turned 18 last week, captured the third step on the podium, his first, certainly not his last, on the dash to the flag. Onions.
In Moto2, Italian fast mover Marini won his second consecutive race, putting himself in the conversation for second place for 2019 but, alas, not for first, as Alex Marquez, by fighting hard for a difficult 6th place finish, conserved his 2019 margin at 36 points, with second place now belonging to Thomas Luthi, who is, somehow, still in the game. If Marquez can avoid a DNF, which he narrowly accomplished several times today, he will win the title. A fall, and all of a sudden it’s a real race again. Oh, and his save during FP3 will go down as perhaps one of the greatest EVER.
MotoGP – Nothing here. People fighting for third and fourth. Rossi and Lorenzo on the back nine heading for the clubhouse. Fabio is The New Kid in Town.
Moto2 – Alex Marquez will spend another year in Moto2 next year before heading off to the greener pastures of MotoGP in 2021. There are fast movers everywhere you look in Moto2, just not many who appear ready to make the leap to MotoGP. Which is why guys like Tito Rabat and Karel Abraham can still find rides year after year.
Moto3 – With Dalla Porta seemingly a lock to move up to Moto2 next year, there are a number of fast young Italians joining the usual cast of Spaniards in the 250cc class. The impact of Valentino Rossi’s ranch is being felt in all three classes, especially in Moto3.
Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, Franco Morbidelli, Jack Miller
Tranche 3: Danilo Petrucci, Joan Mir, Takaa Nakagami, Pecco Bagnaia, Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro
Tranche 4: Aleix Espargaro, Miguel Oliveira, Andrea Iannone, Mike Kallio
Tranche 5: Jorge Lorenzo, Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat
After Motegi: Normalizing the Distribution
Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, Danilo Petrucci
Tranche 3: Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro, Valentino Rossi, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Takaa Nakagami
Tranche 4: Aleix Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, Miguel Oliveira, Mike Kallio, Joan Mir
Tranche 5: Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat
Other than the wind chill factor, Phillip Island is one of most everyone’s favorite tracks. The MotoGP season’s leaves are all changing color now; winter is closing in. Dalla Porta has his first break point this weekend. Marquez is likely to have his in Sepang. We will be there, bringing you the contrived victory celebrations that make watching this part of the season worthwhile.
|2019 MotoGP Motegi Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||42:41.492|
|2||Fabio Quartararo||Petronas Yamaha SRT||+0.870|
|3||Andrea Dovizioso||Mission Winnow Ducati||+1.325|
|4||Maverick Viñales||Monster Energy Yamaha||+2.608|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda Castrol||+9.140|
|6||Franco Morbidelli||Petronas Yamaha SRT||+9.187|
|7||Álex Rins||Suzuki Ecstar||+9.306|
|8||Joan Mir||Suzuki Ecstar||+10.695|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Mission Winnow Ducati||+14.216|
|10||Jack Miller||Pramac Ducati||+18.909|
|11||Pol Espargaro||Red Bull KTM Factory||+25.554|
|12||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM Tech3||+27.870|
|13||Francesco Bagnaia||Pramac Ducati||+29.983|
|14||Mika Kallio||Red Bull KTM Factory||+31.232|
|15||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia Gresini||+32.546|
|16||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda Idemitsu||+37.482|
|17||Jorge Lorenzo||Repsol Honda||+40.410|
|18||Karel Abraham||Reale Avintia Ducati||+43.458|
|19||Hafizh Syahrin||Red Bull KTM Tech3||+46.206|
|20||Sylvain Guintoli||Suzuki Ecstar||+50.235|
|DNF||Valentino Rossi||Monster Energy Yamaha||4 Laps|
|DNF||Andrea Iannone||Aprilia Gresini||17 Laps|
|2019 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 16 Rounds|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||350|
|2||Andrea Dovizioso||Mission Winnow Ducati||215|
|3||Álex Rins||Suzuki Ecstar||176|
|4||Maverick Viñales||Monster Energy Yamaha||176|
|5||Danilo Petrucci||Mission Winnow Ducati||169|
|6||Fabio Quartararo||Petronas Yamaha SRT||163|
|7||Valentino Rossi||Monster Energy Yamaha||145|
|8||Jack Miller||Pramac Racing Ducati||125|
|9||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda Castrol||113|
|10||Franco Morbidelli||Petronas Yamaha SRT||100|