MotoGP kicked off the flyaway races in Motegi this weekend. The title fight saw Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo face issues as Honda‘s Marc Marquez claims fifth World Championship. This is Marquez’s third MotoGP title, the two previous being 125cc and Moto2, respectively.
The Moto2 paddock saw the weekend’s big news. Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter had signed a deal with the Leopard team for 2017. However, the CarXpert Interwetten team, in a surprise move, has terminated the rider’s contract. As a result, Spanish rookie Iker Lecuona was granted a seat for the remainder of the 2016 season.
Marc Marquez Claims Fifth World Championship; Rossi & Lorenzo Tumble
Home rider Hiroki Ono claimed pole position for the weekend event. Alongside him, Italian rider Andrea Migno and newly crowned Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder of South Africa. However, Ono was demoted to fourth after he was caught for irresponsible riding in Free Practice One. Migno inherited pole, which sawBinder and Italian rider Enea Bastianini promoted to second and third. The start of the race saw Spanish rider Jorge Navarro lose control of his bike and wipe out Scotland’s John McPhee and Argentina’s Gabriel Rodrigo.
The race saw several riders lose the front end of their bikes. The most significant was that of Spanish rider Aron Canet and Italian rider Andrea Locatelli. Incidents plagued both riders, going down in the same corner in separate instances. The two Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra riders made up for a dismal qualifying session from 12th and 23rd to run with the leading group. Italy’s Francesco Bagnaia was even up to the top three positions, but later fell down the field to finish sixth. Spanish teammate Jorge Martin was up among the top ten positions despite nursing an injury. Ultimately, Martin retired due to the pain being too much to bear.
Back at the front, a fierce battle brewed between Bastianini and Binder. Meanwhile, Ono fended off the two Sky VR46 bikes of Migno and Italy’s Nicolo Bulega. A dive-bomb by Migno failed and the Italian dropped it in the gravel. At the head of the field, Bastianini pulls off a last gasp pass of the reigning world champion claimed a close victory. Ono delighted the home crowd with third place. That delight soon turned into heartbreak as he is disqualified for being underweight. That promoted Bulega, celebrating his 17th birthday, onto the podium.
French rider Johann Zarco shattered the lap record to seize pole position for Motegi. Swiss rider Tom Luthi and Italian Franco Morbidelli join him on the front row. England’s Sam Lowes was fourth and Spain’s Alex Rins, who was one point behind Zarco in the championship, had a torrid qualifying and started 22nd.
At the start of the race, Luthi sprinted into the lead as Zarco, Morbidelli, and Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami battle alongside him. Zarco moved a step closer when Rins dropped it in the gravel. Lowes, too, would slide off course. The champagne would remain on ice because Luthi fended off Zarco’s challenge to snatch a well-deserved victory. Morbidelli broke Japanese hearts as he took the final podium spot from Nakagami. The other point scorers were: Nakagami, Germany’s Sandro Cortese, Italy’s Simone Corsi and Mattia Pasini, Spain’s Julian Simon, Germany’s Marcel Schrotter, Belgium’s Xavier Simeon, Spain’s Xavi Vierge, Italy’s Luca Marini, Malaysia’s Hafizh Syahrin, Japan’s Tetsuta Nagashima, and Spain’s Isaac Vinales.
Italy’s Valentino Rossi, Spain’s Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo locked out the front row, in an all out battle for the championship by the three contenders. A few riders were missing on the grid this weekend. Italian rider Andrea Iannone was still injured, so Spanish rider Hector Barbera was called in to replace him. In Barbera’s place was Australian rider Mike Jones. Spain’s Dani Pedrosa broke his collarbone during practice and was substituted by Japanese rider Hiroshi Aoyama. Yamaha also fielded a test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga from Japan.
Off the line, Lorenzo got away well and led Rossi and Marquez. But Marquez soon hit the front and there was no looking back. Rossi was the first one to crack and took a tumble, thus eliminating his chances of a tenth world championship. A few laps later, Yamaha’s chances of a world championship went up in a cloud of dust when Lorenzo also binned it into the gravel. All that was left was for Marquez to stay upright until the end. With that, Marc Marquez claims fifth world championship, his third in MotoGP. Rossi and Lorenzo’s misfortunes promoted Andrea Dovizioso and Maverick Vinales onto the podium spots. The other point scorers were Spain’s Aleix Espargaro, England’s Cal Crutchlow, Spain’s Pol Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista, Italy’s Danilo Petrucci, England’s Scott Redding, Germany’s Stefan Bradl, Japan’s Nakasuga, Colombia’s Yonny Hernandez, England’s Bradley Smith, Spain’s Tito Rabat, and Japan’s Aoyama.