#JapaneseGP Motegi, Saturday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
If Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) wins the Grand Prix race at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) doesn’t follow him home, we’ll have a new Championship leader in MotoGP™ – such is the momentum carried by the number 89, who won the Tissot Sprint at Motegi in style. Brad Binder(Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was off like a shot to make a good run of it in the early stages, ultimately taking second for some more silverware, with Bagnaia completing the podium after going toe-to-toe in a spectacular duel against former teammate Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
The best start on the front row came from polesitter Martin as he shot forward for the holeshot, with Miller out-dragging Pecco for second as Binder then also managed to slot up the inside of the reigning Champion into third. As ever, the KTMs made it game on early doors.
Binder wasn’t for sitting behind teammate Miller for long though, taking over in second after a brutal but fair move and then tagging onto the rear wheel of Martin. Almost immediately, the two were creating a small but real gap, leaving Miller between that lead duo and another comprising Bagnaia and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
By third race distance, Martin and Binder were starting to pull the pin. Miller was then left looking over his shoulder as Bagnaia homed in, with Marquez also losing ground to the duo ahead of him – making it two duels at the front followed by what was becoming an increasingly close fight for fifth headed by an eight-time World Champion.
On Lap 6, there was a first real move in that fight as Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) attacked and passed Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), the young Italian then able to lock on to Marquez almost immediately. Bezzecchi feinted a couple of moves before committing to a lunge, but ultimately overcooked it and sent both of them wide, letting a fast-starting Zarco back through and allowing Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) to split the duo too.
Up ahead, Martin was on the march by the final few laps, with Binder in a secure second and Bagnaia still wrapped up behind Miller, keenly looking for a way past. He saw one and took it on Lap 9, but the Australian wasn’t having it. And so began a poetic and epic scrap to complete the Sprint podium, with both sideways, squiggly, and absolutely on the limit until a final and decisive move on the penultimate lap saw Miller forced to cede.
The Australian then watched the Ducati just edge out of reach, forced to settle for fourth and forced to keep it pinned thereafter too as a late charge from Zarco started to reel him in.
Just up the road, Martin managed to hold on to just over a second of breathing space ahead of Binder, with the two taking the top two steps on Saturday as Bagnaia came home third to complete the Sprint rostrum. Behind, Miller did manage to hold off Zarco’s late threat, with the Australian taking fourth by a tenth.
After his earlier ambition outweighed track limits when attacking Marquez, Bezzecchi had to get the hammer down get back past and stay ahead, with the eight-time World Champion right back on his rear wheel on the last two laps. A quality final tour ensured the Italian was just able to stay ahead, coming come P6 as Marquez took seventh.
Behind that battle but not by much, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) took his first Sprint points in P8, within a second of Marquez by the flag as his impressive Japanese GP continues. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) took the final Sprint point in P9. Teammate Aleix Espargaro, after fighting for fifth in the early stages, was forced to pull into pitlane and retire.
Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) has dominated Moto2™ at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan so far and Qualifying was no exception. Not content with simply claiming pole position, the Thai rider also broke the seven-year-old lap record previously set by two-time Moto2™ Champion Johann Zarco with a lap time of 1:49.898.
Just a shade slower, he was followed by teammate Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) to complete a dream start on home soil in the intermediate class at Mobility Resort Motegi for the team. Completing the front row is Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team), who bounced back from Q1 to only just miss out on second.
Two tenths of a second behind the polesitter, Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) found himself pushed to the second row, taking fourth. The Spaniard will however be relieved to sit above his closest rival, Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) who will start Sunday’s race from 13th on the grid after a tougher Japanese GP so far. Filip Salač (QJMOTOR Gresini Moto2™) and Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools SpeedUp) join Acosta on Row 2.
Momentum continues to swing the way of Jaume Masia after the Leopard Racing rider secured his third consecutive pole, pulling two tenths clear in Moto3™ qualifying at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. The Spaniard will be joined on the front row by Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Matteo Bertelle (Rivacold Snipers Team).
David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports) and Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) were the early pacesetters, but all eyes were on the in form Masia, and for good reason too. Receiving a tow from teammate Tatsuki Suzuki down the back straight, he moved the goalposts. Öncü, who following the Honda home, joined him in the top two. The Turk also improved on the next lap, but so did Masia and that was how P1 and P2 on the grid was decided.
With two minutes remaining, Bertelle launched himself onto the front row of the grid at the expense of Muñoz, while Stefano Nepa (Angeluss MTA Team) then went fourth as he took the chequered flag, equalling his best-ever qualifying result.
The Italian’s teammate Ivan Ortola joins him on the second row. Championship leader Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) also qualified well as he prepares to defend that position from Masia, taking sixth.
Collin Veijer recorded the seventh best time of the session, but a three place grid penalty is coming his way, which promotes Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP teammate Sasaki and Muñoz up a place, and puts David Alonso (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) onto the third row. Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) also has a grid penalty, as does Q1 graduate Joel Kelso (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP), meaning home riders Kaito Toba (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Ryusei Yamanaka (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) join Veijer on the fourth row instead.