This year’s Moto2 World Championship leader Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) brings a 21-point advantage to Japan, following another brilliant win at Aragon three weeks ago. A fortnight before that the talented 22-year-old had crashed out of the lead at a soaking-wet Misano, allowing his main title-challenger Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten Kalex) to close the points gap.

Morbidelli has been this year’s star turn in the Honda CBR600-powered series. He took his very Grand Prix victory in Qatar back in March and has scored a further seven wins since then. Meanwhile Luthi has won only once, at August’s Czech GP, but has scored well with his consistency, with only one DNF so far, compared to Morbidelli’s two DNFs.

The Italian and Swiss riders are both fast at Motegi. Last year Luthi won the Japanese Moto2 round, while Morbidelli finished third. Whichever of them wins this year’s championship, this will most likely be their last chance, because they both graduate to MotoGP in 2018, riding Honda RC213V machines for the Belgian-based Marc VDS squad.

Morbidelli and Luthi are so far ahead of the rest of the pack that their title battle is a two-way affair, leaving Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) duelling for third overall.

Marquez, younger brother of Marc, had been in the Moto2 title fight until a couple of crashes cost him too many points. He was injured during Misano practice, which forced him to miss that race. He bravely returned for the subsequent race at Aragon but had to withdraw while riding with the front-runners, due to the effects of the injury. Those two no-scores allowed Oliveira to move into third overall. The Portuguese and Spaniard come to Motegi separated by two points.

Star rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex) holds fifth overall, with three podiums so far. Next is Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex), winner of June’s Italian Moto race and scorer of four pole positions. The Italian veteran is just seven points ahead of Nakagami, who won his first race of the year at Silverstone and will be doing everything in his power to win again in front of his home crowd at Motegi. This is the 25-year-old’s last chance to win his home Moto2 race before he graduates to MotoGP next year, joining Crutchlow at LCR Honda.

The Moto2 top ten is completed by Simone Corsi (Speed Up Speed Up), Misano winner Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing Suter) and reigning Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM).

Japan has hosted a round of the motorcycling World Championships on and off since 1963, when the Japanese GP was held at the brand-new Suzuka circuit, the country’s first roadrace venue. Honda founder Soichiro Honda built Suzuka to give his countrymen the chance to compete on a real racetrack, helping to improve Japanese riders and Japanese machinery, and to bring GP racing to Japan. Motegi staged its first World Championship race in 1999. The track is a great test for riders and machines, with braking stability and acceleration performance especially important.

MotoGP’s Asia-Pacific adventure continues next weekend in Australia and the following weekend in Malaysia. The season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 12th.

Franco Morbidelli

Franco Morbidelli 21

“We’re heading into a key part of the championship; with three races in three weekends where anything can happen. The championship is obviously our priority, but so is continuing in the way that’s been so successful for the team and me this season. Yes, I could go into the next four races with the aim of riding cautiously just to pick up points, but that’s not my way and that wouldn’t be working to our strengths. This year we’ve been strongest when fighting at the front of the race so, if it’s possible to win in Japan, then I will push to the maximum to win. If it’s not possible to win then that’s a different scenario and picking up maximum points will be important, but this is something we won’t know until we line up to race on Sunday.”

EG 0,0 Marc VDS
Thomas Luthi

Thomas Luthi 12

“Now we have three weekends and three races. I always like this last part of the championship. I’ve had a lot of success at Motegi, but also at Phillip Island and at Sepang in the past, so let’s hope we will continue like that. Motegi is a very special track, with many heavy braking points. I know we can also have some special weather conditions there, but I’m ready. I have finished with the championship just yet. Twenty one points is a lot, but it’s also nothing, with four races to go. As usual, we will stay focused, enjoy the work with my crew and hopefully get a good result.”

CarXpert Interwetten
Miguel Oliveira

Miguel Oliveira 44

“Now we are in third place overall, and I think this will be our fight for the rest of the season. It will be a tough battle with Alex for third overall, but we are getting better all the time, so I am confident that we have a very good chance. Our bike has yet to complete a full season, so that every new track is hard work for us, so we will have to work very cleverly this weekend because we have no data from Motegi. However, we have already shown what we can do this year, even if the bike is new.”

Red Bull KTM Ajo
Motul Grand Prix of Japan

Twin Ring Motegi, Japan

Moto2 2017, Round 15

Rider Standings
Sunday, 24 Sep 2017 - Open world standings grid
# Rider Num Nationality Nat. Points Pts. Team Constructor Constr.
1 Franco MORBIDELLI 21 ITA 247 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex
2 Thomas LUTHI 12 SWI 223 CarXpert Interwetten Kalex
3 Alex MARQUEZ 73 SPA 155 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex
4 Miguel OLIVEIRA 44 POR 154 Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM
5 Mattia PASINI 54 ITA 144 Italtrans Racing Team Kalex
6 Francesco BAGNAIA 42 ITA 129 SKY Racing Team VR46 Kalex
7 Takaaki NAKAGAMI 30 JPN 116 IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex
8 Simone CORSI 24 ITA 94 Speed Up Racing Speed Up
9 Dominique AEGERTER 77 SWI 92 Kiefer Racing Suter
10 Brad BINDER 41 RSA 67 Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM
11 Hafizh SYAHRIN 55 THA 65 Petronas Raceline Malaysia Kalex
12 Luca MARINI 10 ITA 59 Forward Racing Kalex
13 Jorge NAVARRO 9 SPA 59 Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex
14 Xavi VIERGE 97 SPA 57 Tech 3 Racing Tech 3
15 Fabio QUARTARARO 40 FRA 45 Pons HP40 Kalex
16 Marcel SCHROTTER 23 GER 44 Dynavolt Intact GP Suter
17 Lorenzo BALDASSARRI 7 ITA 40 Forward Racing Kalex
18 Sandro CORTESE 11 GER 35 Dynavolt Intact GP Suter
19 Remy GARDNER 87 AUS 17 Tech 3 Racing Tech 3
20 Axel PONS 49 SPA 17 RW Racing GP Kalex
21 Xavier SIMEON 19 BEL 16 Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 Kalex
22 Yonny HERNANDEZ 68 COL 15 AGR Team Kalex
23 Stefano MANZI 62 ITA 11 SKY Racing Team VR46 Kalex
24 Jesko RAFFIN 2 SWI 11 Garage Plus Interwetten Kalex
25 Khairul Idham PAWI 89 MAL 9 IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex
26 Tetsuta NAGASHIMA 45 JPN 7 Teluru SAG Team Kalex
27 Ricard CARDUS 88 SPA 7 Speed Up Racing Speed Up
28 Joe ROBERTS 20 USA 6 AGR Team Kalex
29 Isaac VIñALES 32 SPA 6 Be-A-VIP SAG Team Kalex
30 Alex DE ANGELIS 15 RSM 4 Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2 Kalex
31 Andrea LOCATELLI 5 ITA 4 Italtrans Racing Team Kalex
32 Danny KENT 52 GBR 3 Kiefer Racing Suter
33 Edgar PONS 57 SPA 2 Pons HP40 Kalex