A big downpour on Sunday morning in Motegi caused everything to be delayed and shortened. Warmup was shortened, the support races were shortened, and BT Sport had to spend an hour filling air time at 3am.
Moto3 was reduced to a 13 lap race, due to the late start and the still very wet race.
|Moto3 Front Five Rows|
|1||Romano Fenati||2||Niccolo Antonelli||3||Enea Bastianini|
|4||Danny Kent||5||Miguel Oliveira||6||Jorge Navarro|
|7||Isaac Viñales||8||Livio Loi||9||Brad Binder|
|10||Francesco Bagnaia||11||Jakub Kornfeil||12||Hiroki Ono|
|13||Philipp Oettl||14||Juanfran Guevara||15||Zulfahmi Khairuddin|
Fenati made a good start from pole, but Antonelli made a better one and took the lead. Kent fell backwards from the start, down to 10th, with Livio Loi being the most profitable from the start, going from eighth to third in three corners. Three corners later, he moved up to second past Oliveira. Fenati had dropped down to tenth himself, while Kent had fallen as low as 16th. His lesser-spotted team mate Ono was riding third on his home circuit. Antonelli was well away at the front though.
Loi and Ono spent the next lap swapping second, before Ono and Fenati crashed at the same point of lap three, just after Alexis Masbou had crashed out under the bridge at turn 11. Oliveira jumped Loi to second, as Viñales looked interested behind Loi in fourth. Kent moved up to 14th as a result of the crashes, a whole seven points behind his championship rival Bastianini.
Loi lost the bike under acceleration on lap four, as he crashed out of third. Kent finally joined the top ten after turning the bike on, with John McPhee impressively one place ahead of him. Brad Binder came to play, having a bit of a barge with Viñales. Efren Vasquez became slightly relevant, squeezing out Lorenzo Dalla Porta and forcing him to crash.
With five laps left, Kent finally came to play. Sitting 11th, he made a lunge up the inside of Tatsuki Suzuki for tenth before being elbowed out of the way by Karel Hanika while trying to find a way past Khairuddin. Binder and Viñales had a good battle running for third, with Oliveira running three seconds behind Antonelli in second. Kent finally despatched Hanika, then took advantage of a McPhee mistake to take eighth, as Binder crashed out of third, high siding and nearly taking Viñales with him.
With two laps to go, the lead at the front was down to 2.4 seconds, but the bigger battle was the battle for sixth. Kent had taken a huge chunk out of the gap to Bastianini, and was on the back of him with a lap and a half to go. Viñales crashed from third, but only lost a place, dropping to fourth behind Navarro. On the last lap, Kent took sixth from Bastianini, mugging him with only half of the lap left. Antonelli took the flag, though, comfortably gapping Oliveira. Big kudos to Antonelli for a very mature ride, and to McPhee for finishing ninth having started 24th.
Doing the recap a bit later, I can throw in the race highlights, courtesy of the wonderful people at BT Sport.
Note the gap in the following table. Axel Pons qualified eighth, but due to an infraction on his sighting lap, he was demoted to the back of the grid.
|Moto2 Front Five Rows|
|1||Johann Zarco||2||Thomas Luthi||3||Jonas Folger|
|4||Sam Lowes||5||Alex Rins||6||Hafizh Syahrin|
|7||Takaaki Nakagami||8||9||Sandro Cortese|
|10||Lorenzo Baldassarri||11||Xavier Simeon||12||Azlan Shah|
|13||Luis Salom||14||Julian Simon||15||Alex Marquez|
Zarco made a good start from pole, but not as good as his row mates, with Folger taking the lead from the champion. Nakagami made an early move on Lowes, moving up to fourth. Julian Simon made a good start, up to eighth from 14th. Everyone else seemed fairly uniform in the drying conditions. Nakagami took third from Luthi, looking impressive on the Idemitsu. Rins went past Lowes to take fifth. Louis Rossi was judged to have jumped the start, but running 26th it was fairly inconsequential.
The first bit of drama saw Tom Luthi crash from fourth at turn five on lap three. Soon after, Zarco had closed up to Folger and was keeping him very honest at the front. Lowes had fallen as far as eighth at this point. Azlan Shah, who excelled in Indy with the wet conditions, was also making hay while the sun didn't shine, getting up to fifth. Xavi Vierge had a big off, crashing from a non-points place. Nakagami also crashed out, spoiling what was a good race from him after touching the wet paint at a big angle. At the same time, Zarco took the lead.
Mistakes all across the field. Rins ran wide, allowing Shah into third and dropping to sixth. Behind him was Syahrin, who had a big queue behind him, headed by Alex Marquez and tailed by Ricard Cardus. Shah ran wide but managed to hold position. Rins just wasn't at the races, losing place after place. Marquez had a run wide at the same time as Luthi retired from the race. Warokorn had a big off with six laps remaining.
At the front, Zarco was being Zarco, a long way ahead of Folger, who in turn was 14 seconds ahead of Shah in third, who was 1.7 seconds ahead of Syahrin. Lowes finally found the bike, moving up to ninth, behind Marcel Schrotter. Sandro Cortese took fourth from Syahrin, around the same time as Salom crashed out. Not much on-track actually happened, much more of a race of attrition. Cortese closed in on Shah, taking third on the penultimate lap. Zarco couldn't have looked more comfortable at the front, though.
It's not bad when you can have a broken hand and qualify third, but that is Marc Marquez all over. His second big injury of the season doesn't look like it's stopped him much. Look out for wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga, the Suzuka 8 Hours winner starting in 15th on a Yamaha painted in the classic yellow and white livery.
|MotoGP Front Five Rows|
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||2||Valentino Rossi||3||Marc Marquez|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||5||Andrea Iannone||6||Dani Pedrosa|
|7||Aleix Espargaro||8||Cal Crutchlow||9||Bradley Smith|
|10||Maverick Viñales||11||Pol Espargaro||12||Scott Redding|
|13||Stefan Bradl||14||Yonny Hernandez||15||Katsuyuki Nakasuga|
Rossi made a good start, beating Lorenzo out of turn one, but the Spaniard was having none of it, taking the lead back by turn two. Pedrosa made a great start, taking third at one point before Dovizioso took it back from him. Marquez dropped to sixth by halfway through the lap. The champion reclaimed fifth briefly, chopping and changing with Iannone. Lorenzo had a 1.1 second lead though, with Rossi falling into the clutches of Dovi.
Danilo Petrucci had a great opening section of the race, climbing to eighth ahead of Crutchlow, the Tech 3s and the wildcard Nakasuga. Aleix and Iannone then started to have a good fight for sixth, with the Suzuki's impressive corner speed seeing off the Ducati. Petrucci started to close on Iannone as well, the Pramac bike working well. Lorenzo was already a good way ahead at the front though, over 2.5 seconds ahead. Crutchlow had towed on the back of Petrucci, taking eighth from him. Loris Baz decided after four laps to switch bikes, after an off while running around at the back. Aleix had a run into the gravel, losing sixth after starting well.
Lorenzo continued to open the gap - up to 3.4 seconds at one point. Stefan Bradl ran wide going into turn five, using the gravel trap and grass verge going under the bridge. Jack Miller was 12th, the open class bike before losing the front end at turn 10. Petrucci crashed a couple of laps later at turn two under heavy braking. At the front, Lorenzo was still three seconds ahead of Rossi, but Pedrosa was closing on Dovi in third. Iannone retired with a mechanical failure - the first time the Ducati has broken down this year. Shortly afterwards Pedrosa took third, instantly gapping him and setting off after Rossi.
Not only was he after Rossi, he was catching him. The gap was closing to Rossi - a second dropped in two laps. Speaking of dropping, down went Maverick Viñales at turn 11, dropping under braking again. 11 was proving treacherous in all the classes. Back to Pedrosa, he was on him, he was fast, and he was past him. Vale had no answer. Dani was so quick, and with Lorenzo only three seconds ahead, with seven tenths dropping a lap, he was looking deadly. It didn't take him long to get up to Lorenzo, who seemed to be slowing as well, with Vale coming up too. Dani went past and into the lead, and was well away. Lorenzo's tyres were shot to pieces and had to go into corners much slower than the rest.
With five laps left, Lorenzo's front finally let him down, running so far wide he was nearly on a different circuit. Rossi took second, and Jorge had no answer at all. Further back, Marquez was looking quick behind Dovi, the Ducati holding the Honda up in corners but having superior straight speed. Marquez took fourth from Dovi though, using a bit of a tow to get past. Scott Redding took tenth from Aleix. Bradley Smith and Crutchlow were having a decent battle for sixth, the Tech 3 just ahead of the LCR Honda. Pol became another turn 11 victim on the second-last lap.
Dani took the flag, comfortably ahead of Rossi, with Lorenzo looking a lonely third after leading much of the race. Crutchlow took sixth on the last lap away from Smith. Shoutout to the two wildcards in the points.
Danny Kent's lead is now 56 points, meaning he can drop five points to Bastianini on Phillip Island - say, finishing second to a Bastianini win. Miguel Oliveira can still mathematically win the title, but it would take three races of disaster from the top two.
|Moto3 Championship Top 5|
|#||Rider||Team||Ov. Pts||Pts Today|
|1||Danny Kent||Leopard Honda||244||10|
|2||Enea Bastianini||Gresini Honda||188||9|
|3||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM||179||20|
|4||Niccolo Antonelli||Ongetta Rivacold||161||25|
|5||Romano Fenati||Sky VR46 KTM||155||0|
Zarco won the title without even racing this weekend, with Tito Rabat missing due to a broken radius in his left arm. The win was just a punctuation mark. Rins missed a big opportunity to close up on Rabat, still 17 points behind the second placed former world champion.
|Moto2 Championship Top 5|
|#||Rider||Team||Ov. Pts||Pts Today|
|2||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS||206||0|
|3||Alex Rins||Paginas Amarillas HP40||189||5|
Another four points in Valentino Rossi's favour. He now leads by 18 points from Lorenzo, but there's still 75 to play for. His remit is simply finish ahead of his team mate for the last three races - although he could finish second in every race with Lorenzo winning, and still end up as champion for the 10th time. Dani hits the top five for the first time this year. After missing 1/6 of the season through injury, he's done a great recovery job.
|MotoGP Championship Top 5|
|#||Rider||Team||Ov. Pts||Pts Today|
|1||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||283||20|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||265||16|
|3||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||197||13|
|5||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||154||25|
Ride Of The Day
No question about it. Dani Pedrosa was the rider we know he can be, and it was beautiful to watch.
Next Time Out
No rest for the wicked, and next week is race two of three in three weeks. It's the beautiful madness of Phillip Island, and the Australian Grand Prix. It's always a classic, and you won't want to miss it. Our recap will be a bit later, as real life gets in the way, but we'll have you covered.