MOTEGI, Japan – On October 12 Jorge Lorenzo won the battle for Yamaha from fifth on the grid, but Marc Marquez – as expected – won the Moto GP war for Honda. With three races left to run in the 2014 series, the Spanish wonder-kid sealed his second consecutive Moto GP title in only his second year in the class.
Just to stamp even more authority on his ability, it’s Marquez’ fourth world title in five years, counting class wins in 125 cc and Moto 2 competition – not a bad record for a 21-year-old happy-face kid, who had already joined legends Mike Hailwood, Phil Read, and Valentino Rossi as the only other riders to have won titles in three different classes. The fight in the next three races is now for second place with Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo all on just about the same amount of points.
In a weird and obviously well-rehearsed victory lap scene, Marquez stopped on the circuit to meet a samurai warrior and two geisha girls, all wreathed in pink smoke. The samurai presented him with a sword, with which Marquez cut the tether on a large white balloon with the number 1 on it. Then he returned the sword, swapped helmets, trading his usual one for a duplicate done in black and what looked like gold leaf, and finally rode back to the pits. It was all pretty weird, to say the least, and definitely very Japanese.
At this “Honda track” – long straights, hard braking, short corners, and hard acceleration, and actually built and owned by Honda – only Yamahas led the race. Valentino Rossi made a fantastic start and led the first third of the contest before his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo muscled past and did what he did best, metronomically putting in perfect laps and edging away, finally winning by 1.6 sec and looking comfortable doing it.
“It’s unbelievable!”, said the Majorcan. “It has been a very difficult year but Yamaha has been improving the bike little by little and we’re getting better every race … I’m very happy to win the race for the second [year] 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.”
Marquez had a bit of a rough start, later saying he was nervous about making an error in his chase for the title, but eventually muscled past his rivals from seventh, including the fast-starting pole-position holder Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati. It was Ducati’s first pole in years, and only Dovi’s second in his career, and when he proved able to stay close to the Yamahas in the first half of the race it boded well for the changes that new racing manager Gigi Dall’Igna is putting in place.
Marquez took some time to get past Rossi, as the two pushed and shoved each other aggressively for a couple of laps, but he finally made it and while he closed the gap to Lorenzo by a second, he never looked like threatening for the win.
The repeat champion said, “I am very happy to have sealed this second consecutive world championship, because although it is difficult to maintain this level, in the end we succeeded! … In the race I had a very clear objective, which was to finish ahead of Valentino and Dani – the other riders did not matter to me so much today.”
Marquez’ team-mate Dani Pedrosa, now tied for second in the championship with Rossi, had his usual poor start. In past seasons Pedrosa has been the best starter of all, but tended to fade toward the end of races. This season the team made a deliberate set-up change to make the bike faster in the latter stages, but have clearly sacrificed Pedrosa’s former lightning starts. He fought back to fourth, but was never really in contention for a podium.
Dovizioso was happy enough with fifth – on camera after the race he was making “step by step” motions with his hands, and was followed by fellow Ducati rider Andrea Ianonne. He was ahead of Stefan Bradl and Pol Espargaro, while Bradley Smith and Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top 10.
Swiss rider Thomas Luthi collected an unexpectedly comfortable victory at Motegi, the 28-year-old racer giving his peers a lesson in how to ride at the front and control a race. He had a fantastic start aboard his unloved Suter chassis, he and Johann Zarco beating pole-sitter and series leader Tito Rabat into turn one. Mika Kallio and Maverick Vinales were quick to follow them through as Rabat was left floundering.
From there the racing was hard for second through sixth, but Luthi edged away with metronomic consistency, much as Lorenzo did in the Moto GP race. Eventually, Vinales and Rabat were left to scrap it out over second place, having left Zarco and Mika Kallio behind.
Luthi controlled the race brilliantly despite a late charge from Vinales, who’s leaving the series to join Suzuki’s new Moto GP effort in 2015. Rabat managed third, safely ahead of his team-mate Mika Kallio in fifth, Kallio being his only challenger for this year’s title.
Moto 3 as usual provided the most dramatic action of the day, as no fewer than six riders dived into the final corners chasing victory. Alex Marquez came out on top, Moto GP champ Marc’s younger brother surviving a barrage of tough overtaking throughout the race from the likes of Jack Miller, Danny Kent and Brad Binder.
On the final lap, early series leader Jack Miller (who led most of the race) and Briton Danny Kent tripped over each other at the second-last corner, both running wide, then into each other – they were both lucky not to crash. That let Marquez through to the win, with Efren Vazquez uncharacteristically managing to also avoid the mayhem to take second ahead of the canny South African Brad Binder aboard his Mahindra.
The results give Alex Marquez an increased lead in the championship to 25 points over Miller. Miller, already headed directly to Moto GP next year, will look to rebound at his home race next week, but it’s certainly hard to bet against Marquez with three races remaining. Don’t bet against two Marquez’s winning world titles this year.
Next race October 19, Philip Island, Australia.
Moto GP standings after 15 of 18 races
- Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 312 points (clinches 2014 World Championship)
- TIE, Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing / Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 230
- Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 227
- Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 153
- Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM/Forward Yamaha, 117
- Pol Espargaro, Spain, Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 116
- Andrea Iannone, Italy, Pramac Racing Ducati, 102
- Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 96
- Bradley Smith, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 92
Moto 2 standings after 15 of 18 races
- Esteve Rabat, Spain, Marc VDS Racing Kalex, 294 points
- Mika Kallio, Finland, Marc VDS Racing Kalex, 256
- Maverick Vinales, Spain, Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex, 224
- Dominque Aegerter, Switzerland, Technomag carXpert Suter, 143
- Thomas, Luthi, Switzerland, Interwetten Sitag Suter, 141
Moto 3 standings
- Alex Marquez, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, 231 points
- Jack Miller, Australia, Red Bull KTM Ajo, 206
- Alex Rins, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, 194
- TIE, Romano Fenati, Italy, SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM / Efren Vazquez, Spain, SaxoPrint-RTG Honda, 174