Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) contests Honda’s home Grand Prix this weekend with the aim of further increasing his advantage in the battle for the 2017 MotoGP crown.
The reigning World Champion, who has won three of the last four MotoGP titles, goes into the Twin Ring Motegi event holding a 16-point advantage over Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), after winning the last two races, at Misano and Aragon. So far this year Marquez has won five races, with just three rounds remaining after Sunday. He has ridden brilliantly and worked superbly with HRC and his Repsol Honda crew to keep improving the RC213V.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) currently holds fourth place in the championship, after claiming an excellent second-place finish at Aragon. Together the two Spaniards hope to increase Honda’s lead in the Constructors World Championship and the Repsol Honda Team’s advantage in the Teams World Championship to deliver the triple crown.
Marquez and Pedrosa arrive at Motegi after visiting Honda Motor Co., Ltd Head Office in Tokyo, where they met fans on Tuesday, along with Japanese Moto2 star Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex).
Motegi has good memories for Marquez: last October he wrapped up the 2016 MotoGP title at the Japanese venue, situated in the hills to the north east of Tokyo. At the same time he achieved his first MotoGP victory at the track, bettering his second-place MotoGP finishes in 2013 and 2014, which followed two earlier victories in the smaller classes, in Moto2 in 2012 and 125cc in 2010.
The 24-year-old’s latest GP win at Aragon was his 60th across all classes and his 34th in MotoGP, which makes him Honda’s second most successful premier-class rider after Mick Doohan, who dominated much of the 1990s aboard a Repsol Honda NSR500.
Thirty-one-year-old Pedrosa has also enjoyed success across all three classes at Motegi, which was constructed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Honda Motor Company in 1998. He won the 125cc race at Motegi in 2002, the 250cc race in 2004 and the MotoGP race in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Marquez and Pedrosa have both mastered Motegi despite very contrasting riding styles – whereas Marquez has a more aggressive, spectacular technique, Pedrosa is very smooth and inch-perfect. This is one of the great attractions of motorcycle racing – that different riders can use different ways of riding to the same effect.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda RC213V) comes to Japan hoping to be in the battle for another podium finish. Honda’s top independent-team rider has already come close to claiming a top-three finish at Motegi, when he ran out of fuel on the last lap of the 2012 Japanese GP, some years before he joined Honda. Last year Crutchlow finished Motegi in fifth place, the first non-factory rider. This year the 31-year-old Briton should once again have the speed to fight towards the front of the pack.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) will miss this weekend’s action after breaking the tibia bone in his right leg in a trials-bike mishap. His place will be taken by former 250 World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V).
The 35-year-old from Chiba contested his last full MotoGP season in 2014, riding a Honda RCV1000R, after enjoying a long career in Grand Prix racing. The highlight, of course, was when he won the 2009 250 title, riding a Honda RS250RW. Aoyama won nine 250 GPs, aboard Honda and KTM machinery, including the 2005 and 2006 Japanese GPs at Motegi.
Last year Aoyama rode two MotoGP races, taking the place of injured Pedrosa at the Japanese and Malaysian GPs, scoring one point at Motegi, with a 15th-place finish. In 2015 he rode three races for the Repsol Honda Team, while Pedrosa recovered from surgery, scoring an excellent 11th-place result at COTA. Aoyama currently does important testing working with HRC.
Miller’s usual team-mate Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) scored points last time out at Motegi, finishing last year’s race in 14th place. The former Moto2 World Champion has scored points at nine of this year’s races and has tasted champagne at Motegi, twice finishing in the Moto2 top three.
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.