MotoGP Motegi: Miller dominates in Japan as Bagnaia crashes

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Delight and anguish for Ducati Lenovo saw Jack Miller victorious in MotoGP at Motegi while Pecco Bagnaia crashed on the final lap.

Having dominated the Japanese Grand Prix by over five seconds, Miller met the flag three and a half clear of Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder for his first win of the 2022 season with Prima Pramac’s Jorge Martin completing the podium celebrations after a dramatic race at Mobility Resort Motegi. Opposing fourtunes saw Bagnaia crash out of the action on the final lap after an unsuccessful move on title-rival Fabio Quartararo with the Frenchman lucky to escape the collision from eighth.

The premier class action prepared with Repsol Honda’s returning Marc Marquez in control of the grid for the first time in three years - since his last visit to the Motegi in 2019 - on his 150th MotoGP start. Prima Pramac’s Johann Zarco and Binder sat alongside on the front row while Quartararo and Bagnaia started the 24-lap race from ninth and twelfth respectively with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro ahead in sixth. The entirety of the pack lined up on hard front medium tyres with the rear a mix across soft, medium and hard, Marquez changing his mind twice on the grid as he went from hard to soft.

Unexpected early drama saw Espargaro into pitlane with an electronics issue as the warm up lap completed, Binder taking the holeshot as the lights went out.

The KTM was quickly dispatched as Jorge Martin took charge on the opening lap, Marquez maintaining his position in third as Miguel Oliveira and Miller bickered for fourth before the Ducati claimed the position, from seventh on the grid, and the pair dispatched Marquez on the edge of the podium.

Maverick Viñales ran sixth on the second Aprilia as Quartararo leaned on Mooney VR46’s Luca Marini in the battle for eighth, Honda’s Pol Espargaro bettering the Italian for ninth in the aftermath with Bagnaia and Gresini’s Enea Bastianini narrowly behind.

Out front Miller was up to second as Binder dipped into the path of his teammate before the Australian took charge overall as lap four got up to speed. Bagnaia defending hard from Aragon victor Bastianini in the battle for 11th as the gap to Espargaro extended.

Marini was back through on Quartararo for eighth as Oliveira took third from Binder. Aleix Espargaro on track aboard the second RS-GP but running 24th ahead of Suzuki Ecstar’s replacement Takuya Tsuda with HRC wildcard Tetsuta Nagashima ahead. A mistake for Zarco dropped the Frenchman to 10th before the Pramac continued to fade, regrouping in 13th as his 100th premier class race proved more challenging than he had hoped.

Miller’s lead was over a second as lap eighth concluded. Martin double the distance clear of Binder after the South African recovered the podium from his teammate. Bastianini bettering Bagnaia on the edge of the top ten as Marini continued his rise to seventh.

A 1’45.198 fastest lap for the Australian stretched the gap to 1.7s as Nagashima’s debut ended at turn one. Bagnaia coming under further pressure as VR46 colleague Marco Bezzecchi began to hassle while Bastianini’s progress continued, over Espargaro, ahead.

Suzuki’s Alex Rins fell to the back of the pack at the halfway stage as Bagnaia took advantage of a mistake from the Repsol rider. Tsuda’s GSX-RR on fire as lap 12 completed in a disastrous minute for the Hamamatsu factory.

A dominant four seconds separated Miller from his closest challenge as the mid-race continued. WithU Yamaha’s Darryn Binder the next to succumb at turn nine while Marini continued his rise, to sixth. Espargaro’s comeback climb finding the Aprilia in 18th with 10 to go as he set his sights on the points.

Six to go and Miller’s advantage was up to five seconds as Marquez held fast in the top five. Quartararo unable to find a way through on Viñales for seventh as Ducati’s title hopefuls rounded out the top ten.

Binder began to reel in Martin in the battle for second as Bagnaia struck back at Bastianini. The reigning champion the next in his sights as the final four laps counted down.

Espargaro sat five seconds adrift of Cal Crutchlow with three to go as a pair of Yamaha’s stood between him and the last available point. Monster Energy’s Franky Morbidelli holding the position as the duo enjoyed a late-race fight on the M1’s.

Marquez dispatched Oliveira for fourth as the lap wound down, while Binder took a look at Martin out front. Bagnaia on the wheels of Quartararo next time around as the action intensified in the closing stages.

Binder took second as the final lap began, Bagnaia crashing out after a move on Quartararo halfway round before Miller met the flag unchallenged.

Martin completed the podium almost four seconds ahead of Marquez with Oliveira heading Marini, Viñales, Quartararo Bastianini and Bezzecchi in the top ten. Zarco, Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez, Morbidelli and Crutchlow collected the final points with Aprilia’s charger missing out in 16th.

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