Reigning MotoGP Riders World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) wrote his name in the record books at Twin Ring Motegi today with a masterful start-to-finish victory that gave Honda its 25th MotoGP Constructors World Championship.
Honda has become the first motorcycle manufacturer to reach this important milestone 60 years after commencing its world-class racing adventure at the 1959 Isle of Man TT. The second most successful manufacturer in this category has scored 16 constructors crown.
Today’s Japanese Grand Prix victory was the 26-year-old Spaniard’s tenth victory of 2019 and his 54th MotoGP victory, which puts him equal with Honda’s most successful premier-class winner Mick Doohan, who won 54 500cc races between 1990 and 1998. After the race Marquez was congratulated by Honda legend Jim Redman, who won six world titles and 45 GP victories during the 1960s.
Although the six-times MotoGP World Champion made the race look easy it certainly wasn’t. Yesterday was mostly washed out by rain, so riders and teams had only one full day of data with which to find the perfect set-up for today’s race. Nonetheless, yesterday Marquez scored his 90th pole position across all categories and his first MotoGP pole at Motegi.
Today he was perfection personified: grabbing the holeshot and never letting his rivals get near enough to attack, apart from a brief three-corner spell on lap one, when Fabio Quartararo was in front. But on Turn Ten the Frenchman nearly fell as Marquez regained the lead. From then on Marquez steadily built his advantage to take his fourth successive victory. During the last laps he eased his pace by a fraction because Motegi is probably MotoGP’s toughest on fuel consumption. At the checkered flag he was 0.870 seconds ahead of Quartararo, who held second place throughout, under pressure from final podium finisher Andrea Dovizioso.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) had an excellent Japanese Grand Prix. The 33-year-old Briton qualified fifth fastest yesterday, his best grid performance since April’s Grand Prix of the Americas. Today he fought his hardest throughout the 24 laps. Eventually he broke clear of the third group to chase down the riders in the second group, fighting with Alex Rins and others.
In the final laps Crutchlow and Rins closed on fifth-placed Franco Morbidelli, who had started from the front row. The trio were right together throughout the final lap, jostling for position. As they attacked Victory Corner – the final turn – Crutchlow got an excellent exit drive to use the awesome horsepower of his RC213V to power past Morbidelli on the race to the finish line. He beat the Italian for fifth place by 0.047 seconds! This was his best race result since July’s German GP, when he finished third, behind winner Marquez.
Local hero Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) did not have an easy home Grand Prix. The 27-year-old from Chiba has been suffering from a deteriorating right shoulder since he was knocked down by a rival during June’s Dutch TT. Visits to several experienced surgeons advised him to undergo surgery as soon as possible in order to be fully fit for the 2020 season. The Japanese therefore took the difficult decision to have the operation in Tokyo next week, so he will miss 2019’s final three races in Australia, Malaysia and Valencia, Spain.
This weekend the former Moto2 race winner battled through the pain barrier. In yesterday’s tricky conditions he qualified 13th and in today’s race he was focused on continuing his impressive run of points-scoring finishes during his second season in the premier class. However, his physical condition – especially at a track with several heavy-braking zones that demand a lot of upper-body strength – was always going to cause him problems over the gruelling 24-lap race. Finally he finished in 16th position, just one place outside out of the points.
Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) completed the race in 17th place, less than three seconds behind Nakagami. Like the Japanese, the Spaniard is not in the best physical shape, having also crashed heavily during June’s Dutch TT. The three-times MotoGP king has scored points twice since he returned to action at August’s British GP but didn’t quite make the cut today.
The MotoGP paddock rushes to Australia next, for next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, which is followed immediately by the following weekend’s Malaysian GP. The season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 17.