#JapaneseGP Motegi, Michelin MotoGP review
Michelin’s first part of the three-week MotoGP™ fly-away tour saw Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) take a commanding victory in the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi today and Frenchman Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) score enough points to secure the Rookie of the Year title.
Marquez chose to go with a medium pairing of MICHELIN Power Slick tyres for today’s 24-lap race, despite set-up time being at a premium this weekend due to weather conditions, making tyre choice for all riders a complicated affair. Cold temperatures and overcast skies met the riders on Friday and with heavy rain forecast on Saturday – which did materialise – the riders had to use the Free Practice sessions carefully to get as much tyre knowledge as possible and to set a time to try to get through to Qualifying 2 the following day. With Free Practice 3 on Saturday morning very wet, the MICHELIN Power Rain tyres were used to the full extent, giving the riders the grip they needed from the sodden 4,801m long track and as the asphalt began to dry in the afternoon the riders switched from rain tyres to slicks, which, despite some very damp patches, produced some fast times as Marquez took pole – a feat which means he has now had pole position at every one of the 19-tracks on the current calendar at some point in his MotoGP career.
As the lights went out to signal the start of the race, Marquez got the holeshot and stated to build up a commanding lead, one that was never threatened and he crossed the line to take his 10th victory of the season and the 30th on Michelin tyres. Following the 2019 World Champion home was a man who took his own title today, as Quartararo secured second place and the honour of winning the Rookie of the Year title, as well as capturing the position of First Independent Rider and strengthening his position in those standings. His pairing of a medium front and soft rear MICHELIN Power Slick meant that three assorted combinations of tyres were used by the three men on the podium with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) coming home in third – scoring his 100th podium in the process – with a soft front and rear medium configuration, a result which also meant three different manufacturers were represented on the podium.
Today’s race was held in overcast conditions with an ambient temperature of just 21°C and a track temperature of 27°C. A typically colourful and enthusiastic crowd of just over 51,000 at trackside were treated to some exciting battles throughout out the field. Dovizioso made an impressive late run to take the final podium place, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) following him home after the pair had exchanged places in a thrilling duel, using the grip of their respective Michelin tyres to make some impressive overtaking manoeuvres. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) took fifth on the line by just 0.047 seconds from Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), with Alex Rins (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) finishing in seventh after starting from eleventh on the grid. Joan Mir (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) was eighth, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) ninth and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) rounded out the top-ten.
Michelin will now head to Phillip Island in Australia for round 17 of the 2019 season, where not only will Michelin have the usual race weekend ahead of it, but will also have – for the first time ever – an extra test session included in the programme on Friday – weather permitting. This is to evaluate a new rear tyre for the 2020 season, but this session is a stand-alone period and will not count towards the Australian Grand Prix time sheets.
Marc Marquez – Repsol Honda Team:
“It has been a tricky weekend with the weather, especially on Friday as it was very cold and it looked like the soft compound was working better than the others, but then we had the heavy rain on Saturday and the grip changed and we had a very strange qualifying practice, so we didn’t really have enough information to be precise with the compound options and everyone had to adapt to make the best choice and for that reason, we saw two different compounds on the podium, the medium and the soft. In the end the pace from both was more-or-less similar, but we went for the medium because the temperature increased slightly and this made our decision a bit easier. I managed the tyres in a good way in the race and now it’s time to enjoy the victory, because we only have today, as tomorrow we start to think about Phillip Island.”
Piero Taramasso – Michelin Motorsport Two-Wheel Manager:
“We came here with very high hopes of setting some fast times and breaking some records, but the weather intervened and didn’t make that possible. We are not disappointed though because the different conditions gave us plenty of opportunities to see how the tyres performed as the asphalt changed. It was cold on Friday, so the choice was really to go with the soft and medium slicks only, then we had heavy rain on Saturday morning, which meant we were able to use the full wet tyres. Then as it dried all the riders started to switch to slicks, this showed the amount of grip our tyres supply in those conditions as the best times were just outside race lap-record pace and no-one crashed in such difficult circumstances. Today for the race the track was not in a good condition, as it was slightly warmer, but the humidity increased, making tyre choice complicated. In the end just the front and rear soft and medium slicks were chosen, but it showed they all worked as each one was on the podium, in three different configurations and on three varying manufacturers. Overall it has been a positive weekend despite the weather and now we must focus on Australia and the added challenge of a test within the race weekend.”