Reigning MotoGP World Champion cruised to a comfortable victory at Motegi today and equalled Mick Doohan’s tally of 54 premier-class wins.
After a brief scrap with Fabio Quartararo on the opening lap, Marquez opened a one-second gap which he maintained over race distance, only dropped to 0.870 as he celebrated across the line.
Quartararo, who chose the soft rear Michelin instead of the medium of Marquez, had nothing for the Repsol Honda man but plenty for the rest of the field as he bagged second while Andrea Dovizioso claimed the final podium place after a fight with Maverick Vinales.
It was enough for the Frenchman to pick up the Rookie of the Year gong and he will be celebrating with his Petronas Yamaha team this evening.
It wasn’t the perfect getaway for polesitter Marquez but he held his advantage into Turn 1, with Quartararo braking late to get underneath his teammate Franco Morbidelli as the duo went slightly wide, allowing the fast-starting Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) to grab P3 on the exit of Turn 2.
A frantic opening lap then unfolded as Quartararo passed Marquez for the lead at Turn 7, only for the number 93 to pounce back at the tight Turn 10. It was a late lunge from the Honda man as the duo ran slightly wide. Quartararo looked for the cutback but almost lost the front of his YZR-M1, with third place Miller sniffing an opportunity to grab P2. That door quickly closed though as Miller almost ran into the back of Quartararo.
Suddenly though, Marquez had pulled the pin. Eight tenths were his advantage over Quartararo as the two in-form men started to break clear of the chasing pack. Hovering around the second mark, Quartararo couldn’t quite latch himself onto the back of the leading RC213V as the gap kept swinging from 0.9 to 1.2 seconds each lap.
Further behind, the battle for the final podium spot was intense. Miller was holding P3 but it wasn’t long before the Australian was suffering with tyre issues. Morbidelli, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Dovizioso were ready to pounce.
On Lap 10, Morbidelli passed Miller, with Viñales and Dovizioso also getting the better of the Pramac Ducati in quick succession. This group was over three seconds off Quartararo at the midpoint of the race, with ‘El Diablo’ now dropping to over 1.5 back of the relentless Marquez. For P3, it was two Yamahas vs one Desmosedici.
With 11 laps remaining, the number 04 surpassed the number 21 and soon after, the blue number 12 machine was also through. Morbidelli was seemingly starting to struggle as it soon became Dovizioso vs Viñales for the final rostrum place. It was a real insight into how two different motorcycles work around different areas of the track, Viñales constantly threatening in the second and third sectors, with Dovi using the Ducati grunt to defend on the stop-and-go parts of Motegi.
Now over two seconds back, Quartararo had given up chasing Marquez. But, the Frenchman would need to be careful. Dovi had fended off the swarming wasp that was Viñales and the Ducati man was setting personal best laps, which saw him rapidly reel in Quartararo.
With two laps to go, Dovi had a Petronas Yamaha SRT machine within touching distance, closing Quartararo down by 0.8 on the previous lap. Would it be enough though? On the last lap, the podium fight concertinaed up as Marquez cruised round for the win. Dovizioso couldn’t quite get close enough to make a final lap lunge on Quartararo and it would end Marquez, Quartararo and Dovizioso on the podium – and three reasons to celebrate.
Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Valentino Rossi (Monster Yamaha) crashed unhurt.