Honda's Marc Marquez won the race and an improbable 2016 World Championship at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit in Japan Sunday when both title challengers, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo separately crashed out of the race.
Marquez's win, his fifth of the year, put him at 273 championship points, the mathematical winner with three races remaining. The 23-year-old Spaniard was the leading contender for the championship prior to the Japanese round, but it was going to take a rare double-poor finish by both Yamaha factory riders to seal the deal at this point in the season.
And in the end, that is exactly what Marquez got. Rossi crashed out of second place at Turn 10 with 18 laps to go. And 13 laps later at Turn 9, Lorenzo followed suit with a similar front-end washout while in second place.
The Yamaha crashes put Andrea Dovizioso (2nd) and Maverick Vinales (3rd) on the podium along with a surprised and jubiliant Marquez who has won five world championships in the past seven years. A disappointed Aleix Espargaro came home in fourth after losing a late-race battle with his Suzuki teammate Vinales. Pol Espargaro ended the race in sixth as the top-finishing Yamaha.
Alvaro Bautista, taking advantage of a greatly improved Aprilia, arrived in seventh. With teammate Stefan Bradl bringing his factory Aprilia home in 10th, it marks the second race in a row with double top-10 finishes for the Italian team.
Ducati riders Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding finished eighth and ninth respectively, giving the Italian company more top-10 finishers in the race -- three -- than any other manufacturer.
The race began with the top-three starters, Lorenzo, Rossi and Marquez, all taking turns at front within half of a lap. By the end of the first lap, it was Lorenzo, Marquez then Rossi. The three almost immediately opened a small gap on the rest of th field. Rossi and Marquez swapped positions back and forth for second place while following Lorenzo. With 21 laps to go, Marquez passed Lorenzo to take the lead and immediately opened a lead.
Two laps later, Rossi passed Lorenzo and began to push as he tried to chase down Marquez. But Marquez maintained a gap of nine-tenths of the second. At the rear of the pack, Jack Miller crashed out, his fourth crash of the weekend.
Then at Turn 10, a corner that has caught riders out all weekend, Rossi lost the front and went down and into the gravel while leading Lorenzo. This left Marquez with nearly a two-second gap at the front. With 10 laps remaining, the race settled into a rythm with Marquez leading Lorenzo who led Dovizioso and the rest of the pack.
But then, Dovizioso began closing in on Lorenzo. And behind Dovizioso, Vinales began narrowing the gap to Aleix Espargaro. With four laps to go, and with Dovizioso now on his tail, Lorenzo crashed at Turn 9 in a similar fashion to Rossi's low-side crash when the front end suddenly lost grip. Soon after, Vinales sliced through on his teammate to secure the final podium spot.
Rossi with 196 points remains second in the championship with Lorenzo in third place at 182 points.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Bike||Time / Diff.|
|18||7||Mike JONES||Ducati||1 Lap|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Yamaha||5 Laps|
|46||Valentino ROSSI||Yamaha||18 Laps|
|43||Jack MILLER||Honda||18 Laps|
|50||Eugene LAVERTY||Ducati||22 Laps|