2014 Motegi Sunday Round Up: On Lorenzo's Revival, Marquez Getting It Done, And Moto3 Hotting Up

Marc Marquez had come to Motegi to give Honda the world championship at their home circuit for the first time ever. The Movistar Yamaha team had come to Japan to score a win in front of their home fans, and factory bosses. In the end, the Battle of the Bosses can be declared a draw: Jorge Lorenzo was just about unstoppable on his way to victory, winning in front of Yamaha's top brass. And Marc Marquez nudged his way past Valentino Rossi to take second, finishing ahead of the two men who could prevent him from wrapping up the 2014 MotoGP title. Marquez brought Honda a championship at the circuit they own, in front of the company's CEO, Takanobu Ito. Both Lorenzo and Marquez came to Motegi with a job to do, and they both got the job done.

The win capped a weekend of near perfection at Motegi for Jorge Lorenzo. Qualifying had been the only minor bump on the road to victory, the Movistar Yamaha man forced to start from the second row. He made up for that with raw aggression off the line, sitting Marc Marquez up into the first corner, then picking of the men ahead of him until he sat on the tail of his teammate, Valentino Rossi. Rossi had capitalized on his front row start, leading off the line and into the first corner, shuffling pole sitter Andrea Dovizioso back to second, Lorenzo demoting the Ducati man to third the next corner.

Rossi pushed hard from the off, and Lorenzo was happy to sit quietly on his tail and follow. But once Marc Marquez had gathered his composure again, passed Andrea Iannone, and closed down Andrea Dovizioso, Lorenzo decided he could wait no longer. A hard but clean pass on Rossi at the end of the back straight put Lorenzo in the lead, and though Rossi thought about attacking straight back, he found himself off line and with Dovizioso ready to pounce behind him.

From that point on, the race was Lorenzo's. The pace he set left everyone gasping for breath, even Lorenzo himself. Both the Yamaha men described the race the most intense of the year. All four riders at the front – the same four who have dominated the 2014 season – raced with the utmost intensity, Lorenzo said.

That intensity, the ability to ride at maximum pace without making a single mistake, with a ferocious focus, that was what Lorenzo had been missing in the first part of the season. The reasons are well known: a lack of fitness after surgery over the winter; the new Bridgestone rear tire which has a fraction less edge grip than last year; the problems Yamaha had creating smooth throttle response with a liter less fuel than last year. Lorenzo worked hard on his fitness, and says he is fitter than he has ever been before. Yamaha did what both Lorenzo and Rossi described as 'an incredible job' to turn the M1 around and make it rideable again – proof of how perfectly they now have the balance was visible when both factory bikes had to be pushed into parc fermé after running out of fuel on the cool down lap.

Above all, what changed was in Jorge Lorenzo's mind. He gave up on complaining about the rear tire – even though he still doesn't like it, and can't use it as well as the 2013 Bridgestone – and worked on adapting his mindset. The improvement was immediately visible after the summer break. He scored a string of second places when MotoGP resumed at Indianapolis, finally scoring the win he had desired so badly at Aragon. That, he admitted, had been unexpected, and down more to circumstances and the rain, though Lorenzo had been competitive in the first part of the race when it was dry.

The win at Motegi was the Jorge Lorenzo of old. Imperious, his rivals dispatched at will, his M1 harried round the Japanese circuit like a Roman general leading a chariot charge. Though Lorenzo's close friend Max Biaggi was given the soubriquet The Roman Emperor, it is Lorenzo who deserves it much more. Lorenzo has the aquiline nose, the commanding look, the imperious and proud manner, the sweeping way of harrying his M1 around a circuit, as if driving the Seleucid hordes before him. It is, quite honestly, a spectacle best enjoyed from track side, where you get a sense of just how powerful a figure Lorenzo is aboard a motorcycle. On TV it looks effortless. From the side of the track, you see how Lorenzo steers the bike more by the force of his will than anything else.

If this Jorge Lorenzo had turned up at Qatar, Marc Marquez would have had a great deal more trouble defending his MotoGP title, but that Lorenzo had gone AWOL in the first part of the season. His return means Marquez will face a much tougher challenge in the last three races, with the prospect of 2015 being a much closer contest.

Lorenzo owes a large part of his revival to the improvement of the Yamaha M1. Lorenzo's two victories come on top of Valentino Rossi's victory at Misano, making it three in a row for Yamaha. The bike is now competitive, and with the winter to work on a seamless gearbox that downshifts, and more power and a still smoother engine, Yamaha should be competitive right from the start. Lorenzo has rediscovered his form from his championship years, and Valentino Rossi is arguably riding better than he ever has before, driven by the exceptional level of competition he now faces. Marc Marquez will find defending his title for the second time a good deal harder than his first title defense.

Yet Marquez still has something to spare when he needs it, as he showed at Motegi. After a cautious start – Marquez said afterwards that he had been scared, worried by the crashes at the last two races at Misano and Aragon – he quickly found his feet and made his forward. He dispensed with Andrea Dovizioso with relative ease, exploiting the reluctance of the Ducati to turn by sliding underneath it through the S Curve. Valentino Rossi proved a tougher obstacle, but one he was determined to get past anyway. His first attempt at the V Corner was thwarted when he ran wide at the next corner, the Hairpin. He was through on the next lap, and sure of the championship as long as he prevented either Rossi or the approaching Dani Pedrosa from coming through.

After the race, he explained that he had given up on Lorenzo as soon as he saw the Spaniard get past Rossi. From that point on, the race was between Rossi and himself, he said. He pushed to hold on to second, collapsing in pure relief at the end of the race as he crossed the line ahead of Rossi and Pedrosa to win his second successive MotoGP title. The relief he displayed was a sign of just how hard the last few races had been on the 21-year-old Spaniard. The pressure may not have been visible to the outside world, but it had been there. His first championship had come without any expectations, he said. "Last year I didn't have pressure and if I made some mistakes it was okay, because I was a rookie." The perfect start to 2014 had made it look easier than it was for Marquez, and perhaps made him a little over-confident, he admitted. "Maybe with the advantage I had in the second part I had the chance to take more risks at Misano and Aragon." Those risks had not worked out well, Marquez losing the chance to tie up the title at Aragon, in front of his home crowd. It had been a painful but useful lesson.

The key to this title was experience, the experience gained from last year, and how to handle situations he found himself in, Marquez told the press conference after the race. He now had a reference at each circuit he rode at, instead of having to learn his way around on a MotoGP bike first. But learning how to handle setbacks had been key. He had arrived at Qatar after not riding for six weeks, the layoff a result of breaking his leg in training. He had ignored the criticism which had rained down on him for riding dirt track and pushing hard enough to crash and injure himself. "People said I was stupid because I trained on the dirt track, but in the end if you want to improve, if you want to be faster, you need to train, you need to take risks."

Some of the lessons on handling setbacks had been learned in his first year in Moto2, when a crash at Sepang nearly ended his career. He damaged his vision in the crash, suffering double vision afterwards. With his family and his manager, Emilio Alzamora, he visited five or six doctors to try to gain an understanding of his injury, Marquez told the press conference. He was told ahead of surgery to fix the problem that there was no guarantee of success, no guarantee that he would be able to race a motorcycle again. He had tried to stay positive throughout the five months – "but it was five really long months," he added – and once he realized the operation had been a success, he felt he had learned perhaps the most important lesson of his career: "You have to enjoy the moment, because you never know what will happen."

The MotoGP race may have seen the championship settled, the two support races brought the title races closer to a conclusion. Despite the fact that Tito Rabat had utterly dominated Moto2 practice, the Spaniard could not find that same form during the race. Instead, it was Tom Luthi who took control of the race, leading almost from the start and managing the gap all the way to the line. Maverick Viñales got close, but Luthi responded, holding the Spanish rookie off quite comfortably.

Despite Rabat's failure to show the form he had during practice, his main rival for the title, Marc VDS Racing teammate Mika Kallio, failed to capitalize. The Finn crossed the line in fifth, two places behind Rabat. That was another five points Kallio ceded to Rabat in the title chase, Rabat's advantage now up to 38 points. Kallio's chances of wrenching the Moto2 title from Rabat's grasp are getting slimmer and slimmer. At this rate, the Moto2 title chase looks likely to be over at Sepang.

The Moto3 race was the best of the weekend, as ever, but here, too, the title chase took a decisive turn. Alex Marquez had already capitalized on the collision with Jack Miller at Aragon, which saw him take over the leadership in the title chase from the Australian. Miller's gritty determination to make amends at Motegi ended up costing him dearly. After a gripping five-way battle (it had been a six-way battle, until Miguel Oliveira crashed out), victory came down to who would be bravest on the final lap. That, in turn, meant jockeying for position on the penultimate lap, no one really wanting to lead onto the back straight, as it meant that the riders behind were certain to slipstream you, then swamp you into Turn 11. Miller, Danny Kent and Marquez all came onto the back straight together, but Marquez had the smartest line. Miller tried to outbrake the other two, but in his haste to downshift, hit neutral and missed the corner. Kent found himself on the wrong line, after having been forced briefly onto the dirt, and missed the final corner as well. That handed an almost simple victory to Alex Marquez, as well as allowing him to extend his lead from 11 to 25 points. Marquez was helped further by the fact that Jakub Kornfeil pushed Alex Rins wide at the start of the race, leaving him stuck in midfield. Luck – or perhaps events is a better word – is pushing the title Marquez' way.

The two Marquez brothers are close, and both played key roles in helping the other celebrate their triumphs at Motegi. When Marc was asked once again if he would be racing in Moto2 at Valencia, now that he had the title wrapped up, the elder Marquez denied it, but seized the opportunity for a quick jest. Maybe Moto3, he said, if he needed to help his brother win the Moto3 title. That would be better, after all, Honda have an entry, right? It was a joke, but still, with Marc Marquez, you always suspect there is a slim chance he might actually do it. After all, when did Marc Marquez ever turn down the chance to race a motorbike?

Back to top

Comments

It was good to see Lorenzo back to being Lorenzo. Wish he could have gotten past his mental block earlier. It would have definitely given the championship more tension. Rossi seems as determined as I have ever seen him. Even after getting his bell rung not too long ago, he is still pushing like a younger man. I expect next year to see him be a thorn in the side of whoever is ahead in the championship. He is back to looking like a man that can win more than just one race a year.

Marquez. Criticize the man if you want. His training, on the edge riding, but two World Championships in two years at the top level, this one being won by pure domination, and both of them making Aliens look like the rookies instead of him. He is truly an anomaly. Hope Lorenzo and others take away wins before the end of the season. If they do, you can bet it will not be because Marquez gave up. Looking forward to next week.

It really was great to JL back to doing what he can do. And he really was quite happy after the victory. He knows what he is capable of and having that re-affirmation must feel great. One thing I noticed that has been commented on earlier in the season was the improvement of the M1. It seems to be pulling out of the corners a bit stronger than the Hondas at the moment. Seamless helps there but Yamaha truly have done great work getting the bike sorted this year. Power seems to be nearly level with the Honda on the straights and from the onboard video of Marc chasing Vale- he seemed to pull away out of each corner as Marc closed in sideways on the brakes at corner entry. Now if they can just get the downshift/engine braking going with the seamless the theory would be that they can brake later into the corners and then we would have a real fight on our hands!

Can you imagine the moral in Crutchlow's head.
He jumps from the Ducati factory team, and now week in week out the 2 "factory" bikes are thrashing the two satellite Hondas.
That's before Gigi comes up with GP15.
You gotta laugh

Ducati's recent success is happening because a foolish secretary at Honda HQ misplaced a decimal point when she transcribed MotoGP's 2014 rulebook before sending it to DORNA. It's totally not fair - but she was fired and is now working for TEPCO at Fukushima. It won't happen again.

There has been much comment about how Rossi has changed his riding style over the last two years, mainly because his pace has improved much from a relatively low base after Ducati. What nobody mentions is how much Lorenzo has changed his style. If you watch videos of him riding now vs two years ago pre-Marquez, you will see absolutely no elbow sliding. In fact, he actually used to tuck his left elbow inside his knee on left hand turns to avoid touching his elbow, and he accentuated his shoulder lean. Now he is elbows out and hanging off the bike just like his main rival, albeit still with his own buttery smooth style. Lorenzo is a beauty to watch now as you barely tell how fast he is going by just watching him.

Interestingly, Bradl was the first rider I can recall in MotoGP with this elbow-dragging style the year before Marquez came. Spies was nick-named Elbowz but he didn't actually drag his elbows. Elias was some sort of abomination when it came to riding style and his butt was closer to touching the ground than his elbows, and he was never so fast as to merit emulation.

Now Redding and Pol are taking it to a whole new level, and Smith to a lesser-talented degree. Lets see how these new era guys progress next year in their second campaign. If Rossi, Ducati and Ianonne all continue their improvement trajectory, next year could be absolutely cracking in a "new" era that has been defined by Marquez and his "new" style (the new norm).

To be fair, he had his days.
Several MotoGP podiums, Moto2 WC, and winner of (IMO) one of the most exciting races of the 990cc era, back in 2006.

Yep, I wasn't saying Elias wasn't a great rider because he was. Winning a MotoGP race, several MotoGP podiums and a Moto2 championship by definition makes you exceptional. You might even argue that his beating Rossi to that victory by .01 secs cost Rossi the championship that year. But he wasn't a game changer like Marquez where everybody wanted to copy him, not that 95% of riders could actually contort themselves into that ridiculous position anyway!! LOL.

I was simply pointing out that certain riders had noticeably different hanging-off styles before Marquez, and that Bradl was the first real elbow dragger in MotoGP. One could argue that Colin Edwards started it with his elbow save at Jerez in 2008, although that was far from intentional. But it's funny that he applauded himself for that miraculous save where now, Marquez probably makes that same save a couple times every weekend...if he's not using his shoulder! ;)

It was interesting watching the leading 4 approach the corner and only Lorenzo keeps the inner foot on the footpeg. I wonder how much is that him refusing to follow the pack and how much is due to his high effort style requiring 4 points of leverage on the bike?

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

I had noticed that as well. In fact, I have never seen Lorenzo stick his leg out. Perhaps only in extremis, but I can't recall a single occasion.

I think you are on the right track with the 4 points theory. Lorenzo hates the bike to move around too much, he wants everything neatly in line. If you remove your foot from the footpeg, you have one less point of contact with which to keep the bike under control. It may start to move, which would slow Lorenzo down, shake his confidence on corner entry. 

So I think he keeps his foot on the pegs because he wants to keep total control over the bike. The act of keeping control requires a lot of physical effort, of course, but I think it is less about the effort than the control.

Eye test suggests JLo uses it (cautiously)to minimize weight transfer as soon as he take the brakes, it's unusal to see his rear whee off the ground. So maybe it's another reason he needs to keep his foot on the footpeg.

Is it conceivable for Marquez to compete in both championships in one year? Marquez has broken most other records. Freddies 1983 dual championship wins is about the most impressive one still unbroken.

I don't think it is physically or mentally possible to do that today. The level is so high and demands so great, you'd have to be a superhuman. Would love to see him try, but not at the risk of hurting himself or burning out. Would rather see him achieve super greatness in MotoGP.

Im sure it was plenty hard back in the day for Freddie also. Still did it in fine style though.
(Also, I said it was 83 when it was in fact 85, had to check)

MM really is an alien among aliens, just think how different the championship would be without him. It would be Rossi/JL/Ped all even on points with three races left, very exciting indeed! The battle between them will be intense but fighting for 2nd place does remove most of the glamour....

Four or five months ago, after DE had posted a fine in-depth article about Honda's technical breakthroughs in fuel conservation, braking stability and gearbox sensors rarer than rubies, I ventured that MM was benefiting from riding the best bike on the grid, considering that it also accelerated the fastest. For this heresy, I was tried, condemned and burned at stake in the virtual public square of Motomatters.
Now I find myself reading about major improvements to the Yamaha over the last few months, and have noticed #93 is not bossing everybody else around as he'd previously done. Needless to say, this is all coincidence, right?

Hmmm, that doesn't sound like MM. Are you sure you aren't confusing this site with crash.net?? :-)
Post a link to the original discussion, so we can review for ourselves.......

Did anybody happen to see what went down between Yonny and Aleix? Just read an article on Speedweek that said Aleix got a penalty point for their incident.

Aleix got a penalty point amongst a host of big deals on the day. Marc is the world champ within the tier of GP1 he is competing in. The 4 bike, 2 manufacturer series. So there you have it. Marc, a deserved MGP1 World Champion, Dovi, a deserved something class within a class GP1 world champion and Aleix another something within an open class GP1 world champion. Dunno what happened to GP1. Actually I don't care. I watched young Marc back in Red Bull as I did George Lorenzo and the blokes in M3 right now. The GPC commission strive to F* it all up year in and year out. If it works, don't fix it.
Back to the round up. Kudo's to Marc, George, Yamaha and Honda. Spetacalo!!
Marc to race M3,M2 and GP1 in one day? Forget it. I saw what it took out of Freddie Spencer in 1983 I think it was at one event back then. Yeah, he did win both races at altitude that day and took both titles that year, I believe.
Hey, on a lighter note. Crikey, the top class of GP is spectacular to watch.
That is Moto3. PLEASE DORNA GPC, DON'T f* it up. Keep the class and the rules cast in stone for the next 10 years. It is the event of the day that will have me setting my alarm clock for 3am next Sunday. Another 2 years of 'stet' rules could see a plethora of Eastern manufactures entering the fray.
Factory Chinese bikes, the existing Indian Mahindra's, Korean bikes, Ducati can build a 250 Desmo for sure. Maybe Putin can borrow some FI technology from Ecclestone's F1 connections, its not like the 2 are unacquainted. Rosneft M3.

As a fan of fifteen years, this season is just making me sick as it goes on! Love the close racing and how the old aliens are getting shown a new thing or two. But all these different classes within motoGP is just BS. If they what to give the guys at the back a chance, just do a reverse grid, giving some bikes different rules.... makes a joke of it. BRING ON 2016. David can you please run a poll somewhere, cos I would love to know if others are feeling this way too. Really enjoy your input to the sport. Jaycee

Mahindra is not even a proper manufacturer of motorcycles. They are the smallest of motorcycle manufacturers in India and the ones in Moto3 are basically Suters, including the engine. Chinese factory Loncin raced a couple of years in the 125cc class and those motorcycles belonged to Engines Engineering. Korean bikes such Hyosung and Daelim are not even a match for Indian motorcycles. In India there are three manufacturers who dominate the local racing scene. In the motocross events Indian manufacturer TVS runs its machines and despite doing so for about a quarter of century neither their race bikes or their street bikes are match for the other two companies; Honda and Yamaha. So much for racing improves the breed and such mumbo jumbo.And funnily on the same day, on the same track Honda and Yamaha run one make races. They are doing their best to not compete with each other.

I resisted replying to this, but don't bust on them. They now as of few days ago the majority stake holder in Peugeot Motorcycles.

http://www.mahindratwowheelers.com/pdf/MTWL%20Press%20Release-Final.pdf

As for partnership with suter there is nothing wrong with that. And mahnidra came to 125cc before even moto3 and did respectably, and in moto3 also have exceeded expectations,

http://m.mahindra.com/Who-We-Are/News/1345812550

Also their moto3 engine has some unique features, different bore stroke than others, drum barrel throttle bodies, etc. read about it here. Click on show more next to tech specs.

http://mahindraracing.com/our-bikes-mgp30.aspx

I've also seen them publish papers alongside the other big jpn four at SAE conferences.

I'm quite happy they are in gp racing, as they seem to have a passion for motorcycles and racing and are growing at both. Don't knock em.

Thanks for not giving in to the urge to not reply. Your reply is greatly appreciated. Thanks again.

I read something on MotoGP.com last month that scared the hell out of me. Never heard anything else about it, so i kind of forgot about it, but I think the gist was that Moto3 was going to start using a single engine manufacturer--Honda, I think. I don't remember the particulars. Just that, if the plan were implemented, Moto3 was going to change substantially.

My first reaction was, "No, no, no, don't mess with it. You're just going to wreck it."

Lorenzo is winning races now that the pressure of winning a championship is over, sounds an awful lot like last year. Meh

...But Lorenzo was chasing a Championship all the way to Valencia where he LOST the championship by 1 point. And if I recall correctly he was controlling and slowing down that race in hopes people could get into the podium fight demoting MM to 5th so he could WIN the championship.

Watched the race last night, since I was out of town over the weekend. It 'appeared' to me, that #93 was doing what he needed to do to win the WC: sit behind Rossi until he deemed it time to 'go' and then just hold the position. He wasnt straining himself and if he needed to catch Jorge, he'd have put the hammer down and try to run him down. Jorge's fast lap was .038 secs faster then Marc's....nothing there (I didnt see the rest of the times). What all this means to me is that the last 3 races might be epic: Jorge wants to prove he's still 'got it' and Marc will want to prove he's still the fastest man on 2 wheels.

Should be great racing.

That is absolutely true.

How could one not be positive around a rider that not only performs so well, but has a permanent smile stuck on his face?

Marquez seems to be not only charismatic, but incredibly sincere.

I cannot believe the lack of comments regarding the fantastic Moto3 race.

I am very pleased by Alex Marquez's cool head. Unfortunately he has been prone to mistakes such as the one in COTA, where he lost valuable points, but nevertheless, I think he is a fantastic rider and hope he wins the championship.

While I doubt older brother Marquez's words, claiming Alex is the better rider of the two, it certainly shows something other than brotherly love, and the incredibly down to earth character of the now 4 time world champion.

If Alex wins the championship this year, and I hope he does, in terms of outright time spent at the GP level, he will outperform his brother.

I have to say, Miller's recent performance raises doubts about his MotoGP move. I know not everyone will agree, but if he does not win the Moto3 championship this year, it will be a hard blow. Yes I know the Moto3 category is incredibly tough, and that little slip ups are heavily punished, as the Motegi race displayed, but I was against the bold move in the first place. But I just may be a little bit too skeptical.

But the biggest mystery for me of all, by far, is Romano Fenati. The lad simply cannot qualify well, is highly erratic, and at times astonishingly fast with an unrelenting will to win.

I think if he could have gotten together this year, Marquez and Miller would have had quite a tougher job in front of them, but lucky for them, Romano seems to be a bit of a flake in racing terms.

My point is , is that if Lorenzo expects to win another championship he needs to start at the beginning of the season , not the middle or end.