ROUND 16: JAPAN 2019
JAMES TOSELAND’S INSIDER INSIGHTS: 22nd OCTOBER 2019
TWIN RING MOTEGI - JAPAN
Before I get into my blog, I would like to send my condolences and best wishes to all the people that lost family and friends in the devastating hurricane that swept through Japan a week before this Grand Prix weekend.
What another outstanding race it was for the youngsters! 5 riders crossed the finish line with less than half a second separating them!
Unfortunately the championship took a knock after Aron Canet crashed with only a handful of laps remaining.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta had a comfortable lead of 22 points going into this race and Aron knew he had to be ahead of him at the chequered flag to claw that gap back.
Just before Aron’s crash it looked as though his KTM didn’t have the pace of Lorenzo’s Honda and at this point of the season it was win or bust for Aron and unfortunately for him it ended up being the latter.
To rub salt into Aron’s wound, Lorenzo had a champion’s ride and took his 2nd victory of the season. Lorenzo’s championship lead is now 47 points. With 3 rounds remaining there are only 75 points up for grabs now and it looks like it’s Lorenzo’s championship to lose.
Thailand’s winner, Albert Arenas had another fantastic ride to take 2nd place and the young Italian Celestino Vietti rounded out the podium in 3rd.
Tatsuki Suzuki was visibly devastated not to finish on the podium at his home race when he was nudged wide at the final chicane but he gave it his all and the home fans showed their appreciation for his efforts with a gutsy fourth place ride.
Our own, John McPhee had another great ride in 6th with Marcos Ramirez finishing 8th and Toni Arbolino crashing out, that 3rd place finish in the championship is still very much alive!
John is only 8 points behind Ramirez and 25 points behind Arbolino. Come on John!!
There’s no time to dwell on things for Aron Canet though as Australia is up next and it is this weekend!
Time to reset, re-focus and put Lorenzo under as much pressure as he can.
Australia has always produced amazingly close racing so all the top runners will have to have maximum concentration because one small mistake on the Phillip Island circuit comes with a hefty punishment.
With the devastating weather front that passed through Japan only one week before the MotoGP event, it was a remarkable achievement that they were able to host the event at all.
Because of the changeable track conditions Triumph were unable to take their 14th lap record of the season so far.
Saying that though, it is 13 lap records taken in the 16 races we’ve had this year.
I’m sure this stat was unthinkable to Triumph before the season started in their inaugural year in the Moto 2 championship. It has been such a success story for the British manufacturer and as their global ambassador, I couldn’t be more proud of what they have achieved this year.
It was a great battle at the front of the race with Luca Marini taking back to back victories for the first time in his career.
Luca’s dominant win last time out was backed up by a brilliant win here in Japan. It wasn’t as straight forward this time out though with Moto 2 veteran Thomas Luthi pushing him all the way to the finish line.
Thomas must have found something in the setting on his Triumph 765 because he hasn’t had the pace to run at the front for some time now, and this injection of speed couldn’t have come at a better time for him.
With Augusto Fernandez finishing 8th in the race, Thomas’ consistency through this quiet period could keep him in the top 3 of the championship at the end of the year.
The second place finish for Thomas promotes him up to 2nd in the championship with only 3 rounds left.
Ride of the day though was from the Moto 3 world champion, Jorge Martin!
I noticed his huge improvement last time out in Thailand when he crossed the line in a brilliant 6th place and that confidence boosting ride obviously carried into this weekend.
It was Jorge’s first Moto 2 podium and you could see what it meant to the young Spaniard.
Well done to him and all his team in nurturing a very talented rider through what is one of the most competitive championships in the world. Don’t be surprised if Jorge is running at the sharp end for the rest of the season.
Once these talented young riders figure it out, they rarely go backwards!
It was a scrappy race for the championship leader, Alex Marquez. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rider try and crash as much as Alex did this weekend and still find himself attached to his motorcycle!
His saves were phenomenal and I’m sure Alex will be grateful for every single point he scored on Sunday as it was so close to nil!!
Alex’s 6th place wasn’t a great result but because of his closest rivals also having a tough day, he actually came away from Japan extending his championship lead to 36 points.
It’s obvious to see with Alex’s close high side moments, his right hand is getting a little bit nervous as the championship draws to a close and his 2nd world title beckons.
I’m sure his team will be telling him to smooth things out this weekend in Australia as it looks like his championship to lose now.
One mistake though and it could still all turn on its head!
There was one huge difference for me in what was the 3rd consecutive 1-2 for Marc Marquez and Fabio Quartararo here in Japan.
In Spain and Thailand, you could see the 2019 MotoGP world champion sussing out who this new flying Frenchman was.
Marc followed Fabio for most of the races in Spain and Thailand and you could see he was figuring out what skills his new rival had in his armoury.
He punched on the last lap in both of these races to minimise the lessons he would be teaching if he let Fabio follow him in his amazing rookie season.
Fabio deservedly won the rookies championship at the weekend with that 2nd place finish but with the championship wrapped up last time out it was a very different Marc Marquez here in Japan.
Without having to score any points on Sunday, Marc wanted to show the young Frenchman just what skills he had when the hand cuffs are off and tried to disappear into the distance to halt Fabio’s increasing confidence.
Marc’s gauntlet never really came crashing down as he would have hoped though and Fabio was just close enough throughout the entire race to have learned all he needed to in order to figure out how to stay with the 8-time world champion.
This information is priceless for the rookie.
Fabio now knows he can match the pace of Marc when he has nothing to lose and that is a huge confidence booster once again for him and it shows just how much respect Marc has for Fabio by not wanting to show his hand until now.
Andrea Dovizioso had a great ride to round out the podium and there were some great battles further down the field.
Cal had a really strong ride in 5th as he battled all the way to the finish line with Franco Morbidelli and Alex Rins in close pursuit.
Maverick Vinales had his 6th consecutive top 5 finish to take 4th but his teammate had a day to forget as Valentino Rossi unfortunately crashed out of the race.
We know Marc Marquez has already wrapped up this year’s MotoGP championship with one of the most dominant performances in MotoGP history but the Moto 3 and Moto 2 championships are very much alive!
The points gap at the top were both extended at the weekend to where both Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Alex Marquez can nearly taste the champagne but not enough to take anything for granted!
I can’t wait to see what happens this weekend in Phillip Island!
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