MOTEGI, TOCHIGI PREF. – Honda’s Marc Marquez won the Japanese Grand Prix and MotoGP riders’ championship on Sunday as both his Yamaha-riding world title rivals Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo crashed out, handing the Spaniard his third crown in the premier class.
The win at Motegi Twin Ring is Marquez’s first top-class race win in Japan, but the bigger story is Marquez winning his fifth Grand Prix title — adding his three MotoGP class wins to one in Moto2 and one in 125cc — and all on a Honda bike that is regarded as both difficult to ride and underpowered.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales finished second and third, respectively.
“Honestly, it is an amazing feeling because I didn’t expect before the race to win here, it would have been impossible, but then when Rossi went out I say okay, I push 100 percent and go for the victory,” said Marquez, who adds the title to his 2013 and 2014 MotoGP championships.
“I was pushing, pushing but after some laps I see on the pit board that Lorenzo is out and that lap, honestly, I made mistakes in maybe four or five corners . . . because it was so difficult to concentrate.
“But now I’m really happy, it is really special after last year’s season to come back to the top, in Motegi.”
After falling to second from the start, Marquez was quickly able to work his way to the front on the second lap, overtaking the fast-starting Lorenzo and building a gap.
Nine-time world champion Rossi followed Marquez past his teammate Lorenzo but almost immediately threw his bike down the road and into the gravel, leaving both his race and riders’ championship challenge in the dust.
After Rossi’s fall, Marquez was able to build a large lead over Lorenzo, who was struggling badly with the aftermath of a huge crash on Saturday. Lorenzo had to switch his focus to staying in the top-three — had he dropped to fourth or lower it would have handed the championship to Marquez.
However, Lorenzo had a similar crash to his teammate, losing the front end and ending in the gravel to hand Marquez the title.
The highlight on the day for Japan was the effort of Hiroki Ono, who converted his first career pole position into a career-best race result when he finished third in Moto3.
The rider from Nara Prefecture crossed the line on his Honda just 2.654 seconds behind race winner and fellow Honda rider Enea Bastianini, who beat recently crowned world champion KTM rider Brad Binder by half a bike-length.
For Ono, the result is by far his best in Grand Prix racing, improving on his previous top result, which was sixth, but it almost did not happen when he touched Andrea Migno on the final lap, sending the Italian crashing out of the race.
In Moto2 Swiss Thomas Luthi pipped France’s Johann Zarco at the line with Italy’s Franco Morbidelli in third just leading home local boy Takaaki Nakagami.