The riders’ Championship may already have been decided before the paddock arrived at the Twin Ring Motegi, but the Motul Grand Prix of Japan saw plenty of milestones: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took a commanding victory to wrap up the constructors’ Championship for Honda, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) pushed him as hard as he could and took second to secure Rookie of the Year and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) pounced on Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) to take 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 later to get underneath his teammate Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and start his stalking of the reigning Champion early. But that allowed the fast-starting Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) to grab P3 on the exit of Turn 2, and a frantic opening lap then unfolded as Quartararo passed Marquez for the lead only for the Honda rider to immediately counter at the tight Turn 10. It was a late lunge from Marquez as the duo ran slightly wide, with Quartararo looking for the cutback but almost losing the front, foot slipping into the air. That gave third place Miller a sniff at second, but the door quickly closed and the Aussie almost hit the back of the Frenchman ahead.
At the front, meanwhile, Marquez had pulled the pin. Eight tenths were his advantage over Quartararo as the duo started to break clear of the chasing pack, that then becoming a second as the rookie hovered close but not quite close enough. Further behind, the battle for the final place on the podium was getting intense, however, with Miller holding P3 as Morbidelli, Viñales and Dovizioso all started to close in.
It didn’t take long for Morbidelli to lead the trio past Miller, but the group was over three seconds off Quartararo at the midpoint of the race and after staying within almost-striking distance of the reigning Champion for the first half, ‘El Diablo’ was also starting to drop back. With 11 laps to go, Dovi took Morbidelli before Viñales followed suit and it soon became Dovizioso vs Viñales for the final rostrum place.
On the last lap, everything suddenly tightened up as Marquez cruised round for the win and Quartararo closed in; with Dovizioso closing in on him…but the Italian couldn’t quite get close enough to make a final lap lunge. Marquez took the win, Quartararo second and Dovizioso third, all with big reasons to spray the prosecco with a smile on the podium: manufacturer glory, rookie genius and a century of rostrum finishes.
Victory for Marquez at Honda’s home round in Motegi earned Honda the Premier Class Constructors Championship for a record 25th time. As a result, Honda claim both the Riders and Constructors Championships in the same year for the 20th occasion as they celebrate the 60th Anniversary of competition. It also marks Honda’s 70th Constructors Championship across all classes.
Marquez said: “It wasn’t an easy race. I was pushing from the beginning, the strategy was clear – I had to try to open a gap. I felt strong and with the team we had calculated a pace of 1’46 low but then I was able to ride in 1’45 high – good news for me but I had to slow down a little bit. I worked on riding as smooth as possible and I was able to open the gap to two seconds but in the final two laps we were getting a little low on fuel because Motegi is always very demanding. There was a little bit of pressure to win the Constructors Championship in Japan, but I love the pressure and it is great to win it here for Honda because everyone works so hard. All the Repsol Honda Team did a great job to find the best setting and strategy for this race.”
The victory is the tenth 2019 and his fourth in a row, the first time Marquez has achieved four-straight wins in the premier class since 2014. Taking his 54th win in the premier class, Marquez draws level with the legendary Mick Doohan as the most successful premier class Honda rider. The 14 podiums, 13 of them in succession, of 2019 also move Marc Marquez to 350 World Championship points, just 33 points shy of Jorge Lorenzo’s all-time premier class points record of 383 with 75 points still to play for.
Viñales took fourth after just being denied the podium, ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) in P5 as the Brit 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 in P8, with the Ducatis of Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Miller rounding out the top 10.
One name noticeably absent from that run down is that of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who had a tough race that then ended early in a crash, as was the situation for Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was 11th and got the better of impressive KTM-riding rookie Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) in P12, with Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) taking 13th. Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) made it three KTMs in the points in P14, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) the final man to score.