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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MotoGP 2014 – Motegi: Round Up

Marc Marquez wins his second successive world title at Honda’s Motegi circuit as the battle for the runner up spot intensifies.



Not just that. This is the first time a Honda rider has taken the title at the famous Japanese circuit. Before Marquez, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner have earned their titles at Motegi. Last year, Marc Marquez became the youngest ever MotoGP world champion. Now this year so far, at 21 years of age, he rode a “safe” race to clinch his second premiere class title.

For Marquez, things haven’t really gone according to the plan in the last two races. At Misano, he faced a more-than-ever-determined Valentino Rossi who rode a brilliant race and won in front of his home crowd. Marquez was unlucky enough to finish 15th after he fell trying to chase Rossi during the race. And at Aragon (Marquez’s home track), he misjudged the changing weather conditions which eventually cost him the podium finish as he ended the race in the 13th spot (one place ahead of team mate Dani Pedrosa).

This time though, circumstances were different but still quite special. The Motegi is a circuit owned by Honda and though having earned many rider championships, the Japanese giant has never seen any of its riders to win the MotoGP championship on this particular track. But given Marquez’s record breaking performances this year, hopes were high though the competition has upped its game in the last few races. So could this really be the day when Marc Marquez would gift Honda their first rider championship on its own circuit? It did, as it turned out…

Qualifying wasn’t really an easy affair for the 21 years old Spaniard as he occupied the 4th spot on the grid (starting of row 2). He was joined by Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo in 5th and satellite Ducati’s Andrea Iannone in 6th. However, one factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso had his best qualifying in 4 years (since 2010) as he displayed fantastic pace to achieve the pole position on the starting grid. Valentine Rossi also had a very good qualifying as he ended up on the front row in the 2nd spot. Finishing off the first row was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa in 3rd. The boys in blue and the other Repsol Honda rider were determined to delay the championship celebration for Marquez.

Weather conditions were dry but it was a bit cloudy. However, there wasn’t really any threat of rain. Valentine Rossi capitalized on his starting position and did a perfect launch as the 24 laps race began. The Italian was quick from the start and took the lead as he charged past Dovizioso. Jorge Lorenzo started quite brilliantly from 5th as he arrived in the 3rd spot followed by Andrea Iannone as the riders entered into turn 1. Pedrosa and Marquez both had a pretty disappointing start as they were in 5th and 7th respectively. Soon enough Lorenzo overtook Dovizioso for the 2nd spot to arrive behind his team mate Rossi. Marquez, also, was quick enough to start dismissing riders to arrive near the front runners in the following laps. The pit boards were continuously showing who was running where and as Lorenzo noticed that Marquez had got past Iannone for 4th and was making progress fast, the Yamaha rider upped his pace and started challenging for the lead.

In lap 7, Lorenzo made a successful pass on Rossi at the end of the back straight and took the lead. From this point on, the number 99 bearer went on to win the race. During this time, Marc Marquez had bested Pedrosa and Iannone to challenge Dovizioso for the final podium finish. The Ducati rider isn’t very easy to pass and held on to his position for the next couple of laps. However, Marquez made a clean pass on Dovizioso around mid way of the race and was now set to chase Valentino Rossi. The factory Yamaha and Honda riders were all running more or less similar pace in 1:45s, but Marquez seemed to be running a tenth faster than Rossi as he inched closer to the Italian lap after lap. With 10 laps remaining, Marquez had come close enough to launch an attack. He made his first pass in one of the corners but was unsuccessful as Rossi fought back immediately and retook the 2nd spot after Marquez ran a bit wide at the next turn. In the next lap, Marquez passed Rossi again in the same corner and this time he held his line not allowing Rossi any space to overtake. The young Spaniard was eventually able to develop a slight gap between himself and Rossi of at least half a second and maintained it for the remainder of the race. But the gap to Lorenzo, at over 2 seconds, was a bit too much of a risk and hard work that Marquez chose not to indulge in and only concentrated to be ahead of Rossi as that was enough to earn him his second consecutive title.

Meanwhile, Dani Pedrosa had dismissed Iannone and Dovizioso to arrive behind Rossi but could never really pose any challenge for the 3rd place finish. Eventually, Lorenzo finished ahead of everyone and won for the second time this season with an advantage of around 1.6 seconds over Marc Marquez who finished in 2nd and secured his championship title for the second year running. Valentine Rossi finished in 3rd at around 2.6 seconds behind his team mate. Pedrosa finished in 4th at further 3.1 seconds down. Andrea Dovizioso finished in a distant 5th with a gap of over 14 seconds on the race winner.

In his post race interview, Rossi said “From one side I’m very satisfied because the race had a high level. We had a high race pace and were braking the lap record. We rode like this from the beginning to the end and I felt good with the bike. From the other side it’s a shame that I was unable to keep the championship open for another week. I tried to get back on Marc, but unfortunately he had something more than me, so he arrived in front of me. I have to say that he deserves this championship. He worked well and was the stronger man this year. Congratulations to him.” Lorenzo also gave his insight on the race and congratulated Marquez on his overall victory by saying “I’m very happy to win the race for the second time in a row. We are happy for Marc that he won the title. This year he was the best in general, so we want to say congratulations. The good thing about this year was that the four top riders were very similar. We had very strong races that were consistent and equal, so for the next races I expect a lot of fights. We are very close to the second position and that’s our goal. We are going to try.”

Team mate Dani Pedrosa congratulated Marquez by saying “I have to congratulate Marc and his team today, because they have done a really good job this season and deserve the title.”

Statistically, only Rossi and Pedrosa could have restricted Marquez from getting the title at Motegi had either of them finished ahead of him. But as hard as they tried, none could delay the celebrations any further for Marc Marquez and Honda. It was a controlled race overall with no unnecessary risks by anyone especially Marquez. He rode carefully and just made sure of getting the title whether or not he won the race.

In a way, Honda and Yamaha both got what they wanted. A Yamaha rider winning the race and another making it to the podium while Honda got the best result they would be hoping for – a first MotoGP title at their own Motegi race track. This is a fantastic result for Marc Marquez and is quite clearly the best season in his entire career so far. He has been dominant and rewritten history books in his second year in MotoGP. The way he takes risks combined with his aggressive riding style has made the season far from boring.

Marc Marquez has won the championship but there are three races still remaining and while the top spot has been taken, things have gotten quite hot for the second place.

With 312 total points so far and the 2014 title in the bag, Marquez can now actually take it easy and enjoy the remaining races without any pressure. But for Rossi, Pedrosa and Lorenzo things are far from over as they have their own battle to fight. At 230 points, both Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are now tied for the second spot. And Jorge Lorenzo, with some excellent results lately, is now only 3 points behind at 227 points. The fight for the runner up position is open and could be anyone’s.

Below are the race results and championship standing after the Motegi race in Japan:

MotoGP Motegi Results 2014
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
2. Marc Marquez (Honda)
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
6. Andrea Iannone (Ducati)
7. Stefan Bradl (Honda)
8. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha)
9. Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
10. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
11. Aleix Espargaro (Forward Yamaha)
12. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha)
13. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
14. Nicky Hayden (Honda)
15. Hector Barbera (Ducati)
16. Scott Redding (Honda)
17. Alex De Angelis (Forward Yamaha)
18. Michael Laverty (PBM)
19. Mike Di Meglio (Avintia)
20. Broc Parkes (PBM)

MotoGP Championship Points 2014
1. Marc Marquez, 312
2. Valentino Rossi, 230
3. Dani Pedrosa, 230
4. Jorge Lorenzo, 227
5. Andrea Dovizioso, 153
6. Aleix Espargaro, 117
7. Pol Espargaro, 116
8. Andrea Iannone, 102
9. Stefan Bradl, 96
10. Bradley Smith, 92


Text by: Sachin Sen
Image courtesy: www.motogp.com
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Item Reviewed: MotoGP 2014 – Motegi: Round Up Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sachin Sen
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