NOT the MotoGP News – Japanese Grand Prix review
Welcome to NOT The MotoGP News – our blog by Guy Anderson. Oh – and when you’re done, make sure to go follow Guy on Twitter – @SirGuyGuisborne
We can’t do it. We won’t do it. The editor will shoot us and consign us to the pages of Reddit. We won’t make up a headline with Marti Pellow or Wet Wet Wet in it. There – we’ve made our stand. And it feels good.
Motegi eh? That was wet wasn’t it? It made Silverstone and Sachsenring look positively balmy. The trite and boring will remind you and inform you that this was the first all wet weekend since Noah’s Ark sailed. We just loved the whole she-bang….. get that co-efficient of friction lowered!
One hour north of Tokyo, Motegi is owned by Honda. Nowhere else do they race at a circuit owned by a racing factory. Especially one not known as The Evil Empire. Does this mean anything? You bet it does. Souls are sold, fires are burnt, and young children sacrificed to the greater power that is Honda, all just to get wins in each class. Cleverly Honda have Moto2 sewn up tighter than a one horse race. But Moto3 and MotoGP have to provide the behemoth – a win, or suffer the consequences.
Moto3 was as mixed up as Michael Barrymore at a swimming pool party with only ladies as company. The grid was all over the shop. But who cares? It just means more chaos in the race. And verily, it was proven. Race Direction decreed it would be a shortened race; 13 laps. Who was going to be the unlucky one?
Romanov Fanny-ati, AntonDec and Bulega started well giving the wet a contemptuous metaphorical shrug of the shoulders and getting their heads down at the front of the pack. Down the pack and the old order became the new order; Mir was basically nowhere. Was this just the rain, an off-weekend or a replication of Danny Kent? Those Leo-pards can be touchy…… a veritable Mir ‘mare.
Somehow Bulega went from pole to 15th in 2 laps. How cool is that? Not very apparently. Next lap Fenati passed AntonDec for the lead with a desultory Can-it in third and feeling lonely. More importantly Bez was in fourth after giving up on the Happy Mondays’ tribute band opportunities. And Suzuki was doing his best for the home ground. Actually he was doing really well from the land of the rising sun. Indeed. All the time Bez and ‘Zooki were catching Can-it to the point of passing him. And the more experienced hooligans were getting into their stride – McPhee was up to 10th with 5 to go, Migno and Che Guevara had an altercation with 4 to go that ended with Guevara not finishing.
And all the time Bez was catching AntonDec hoping to twist his melon for third. But not enough laps meant it wasn’t to be. Fenati took the win by the proverbial country mile – well nearly 5 seconds with AntonDec second from Bez in third. The Rising Sun (that only just rose) was fourth!
Not the best Moto3 race by miles. This was worrying as Moto2 was next. But happily it was too shortened to 15 laps. Hurrah! If only they did that every week, eh kids?
Taka Naka-origami was on pole for Moto2 and the good and the great in The Empire couldn’t have been happier. Guaranteed a winning engine, now they just needed a winning Japanese rider! And either they were holding his family hostage or he was on a promise of endless supplies of sake, but Origami set off like a stabbed mongoose! More surprising for the rest of us was Vierge; third on the grid, and into second when the lights were washed away – yep it was still hissing it down. Zipping into third was fans all time favourite Matt Pasini. Yippeee we all said in the flooded bunker. The two championship contenders weren’t even in the top 6; Toblerone Tim was seventh and Frankly Morbi-deli was down in 12th.
Being a shortened race like Moto3 meant a flat out sprint, but with lots of wet tarmac. Genuinely we were surprised more riders didn’t fall off, or even just stay in bed. Grim conditions though don’t make for grim races. With thirteen laps to go Marini slid off at Turn 14, Luthi rn wide 2 laps later, and on the same lap Navarro fell at Turn 11.
And still Origami was obeying The Empire’s orders and holding the lead; but the faster of the Marquez boys (yeah right) was stalking Pasini and slipped past neatly into second. Blimey Char;ie we thought, this looks good. Vierge was still in fourth and lo we were even more cheered. To be honest, Vierge shouldn’t have been there, but as he was he and Pasini had a couple of corners ding dong. This kinda let Syrahin close up. No we hadn’t mentioned Syrahin yet, because we weren’t sure it wasn’t just a figment of our imagination. But, yep there he was. At last – shining on a wet day. In fifth all alone was Oliveira, and that was to be a lonely race poor mite.
Then it all went a bit wrong for Origami – Alex M got past, then The Empire’s orders seemed to have been forgotten as the Chosen One slipped down to finish 6th eventually.
Meanwhile totally out of the blue Bagnaia was confusing us all by making progress up the field from 12th on the grid. This wet weather malarkey was making Moto2 better than we could imagine. And then Vierge slipped into 2nd and we really were impressed; that anchor of a Mistral has long been ignored by everyone including Tech-3. Now it too shone like a lighthouse in the storm (sorry – carried away there). Last lap shenanigans meant Pasini got past Origami into 5th with Baggy in4th and a really weird Malaysian, Spanish, Spanish podium – Syrahin, Vierge and Marquez. Actually good stuff to watch.
Unlike the previous 2 races, MotoGP got selfish and stayed at the full length of 24 laps. Just because they could and they’re the big boys in the playground. So there.
From pole Zarco hurted backwards, and Marcy Marquez hurtled forwards from second on the grid. As did J-Lo; he’s still like a virgin in a brothel shooting off so quickly but failing to last the night. At the moment anyway. We’re sure it’ll come. It was a dreadful grid for Honda with only Marquez flying the flag. Dani was freezing cold and suffering from wrinkled fingers in all the rain. And Yamaha had it no better. Rossi even tried slicks in practice. Why? Just to see if Marquez would we guess (he did). Viñales too was in a right pickle. But Suzuki weren’t. Iannone and Rins were having great fun even if being so far up the race they were in danger of getting nosebleeds. Indeed the Tilbury Dock decorator zipped past Vinñales and Rossi like they weren’t even there. From leading in the early laps J-Lo had slipped back to mid-table mediocrity after losing confidence in his tyres and his ability. More on J-Lo later. Cal Low Crutch did the best he could and slid off twice. The masters at The Empire won’t have been happy. Neither was Cal no doubt.
And then on lap 6 Rossi jacked in his challenge for the World Championship. Turn 8 and he was off. Nine titles. Bugger. How much longer? Well he’s still having fun despite twanging his leg badly, so hopefully a bit longer.
By now the 2 best looking riders on the track were Dovi and Marky. Petrucci’s lead was shagged by using extra soft tyres that just wouldn’t last and Marquez slipped into the lead. And slithered into the lead too. Bloody hell it was still wetter than Donald Trump’s handshake.
A quick reflection on further back; Lowes went past Dani. Blimey. J-Lo past Viñales. Double Blimey. Actually J-Lo had recovered his cool and his confidence was setting lap times similar to the front. How much longer before a win?? God knows.
The last 6 laps were sublime. A show for the fans of proper full-on, full-phat racing between 2 of the most contrasting style out there. Tally-ho – Dovi won if you didn’t know. That was a battle the like of which we haven’t seen for ages.