Motegi Preview: Can Quartararo ruin Honda’s celebrations?

by Joshua Close
Can Quartararo beat Marquez at Motegi

Marc Marquez may have secured his eighth championship in Thailand but there are still many battles to be won at Motegi this weekend.

MotoGP returns to Japan, the home of Honda and several other manufacturers. With the rider’s championship wrapped up, the Honda now shift their focus to the teams and constructors championships.

Will Marquez bring yet more success to Honda, or can he finally be stopped by Fabio Quartararo?

Marquez and Honda Celebrate

Marquez has dominated the 2019 season, winning the title with four races to spare. He’s only finished outside the top two once, breaking several records along the way.

With the title wrapped up the Spaniard’s attention now switches to the team awards. Motegi presents Honda with their first opportunity to secure the constructors championship. Honda must leave Japan with an advantage of 75 points over Ducati and Yamaha. Doing so would secure their 25th title in the premier class.

Marquez has two victories at Motegi in the premier class. The eight-time champion has also won in Moto2 and the 125cc Championship.

A win this weekend will move Marquez level with Mick Doohan on 54 victories. This would make him the joint most successful Honda rider in premier class.

Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo will also become the youngest rider to reach 200 premier class race starts. At 32 years and 169 days old, he takes the record away from Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo will be hoping to make some serious improvements this weekend.

Third-Time Lucky for Quartararo?

A new rival is emerging for Marquez and that’s Quartararo. The rookie pushed Marquez all the way in Thailand, losing out once again on the final lap.

Quartararo was visibly frustrated to have come second yet again, however his time is coming. He now has five podiums and four pole positions in his maiden year.

The Petronas Yamaha rider is currently 85 points clear of Joan Mir in the standings. If he leaves Motegi with a 75-point advantage, he’ll be crowned Rookie of the Year. He is also only two points behind Valentino Rossi with four races remaining.

Quartararo won the Moto2 race last season, but was disqualified for a technical infringement.

Battle for Third

The battle for third in the championship is hotting up. Just four points separate Alex Rins, Maverick Viñales and Danilo Petrucci.

Viñales is in fine form, securing three podiums in the last four races. The Spaniard is riding with confidence and the Monster Yamaha machine is seemingly improving race by race. His record at Motegi isn’t the greatest, however. He only has one podium in the premier class, in 2016, and finished outside of the top six in 2017 and 2018.

Rins’ form has dipped since his victory at Silverstone, however he did finish fifth in Thailand two weeks ago. The Suzuki rider finished third at Motegi last year, securing his third podium of the 2018 season.

Perhaps the rider under the most pressure is Petrucci. The Italian’s best result in the last six races was seventh at Silverstone. In Thailand, the Ducati rider finished ninth.

He did finish third in 2017, after leading the early stages. However, Petrucci could only manage ninth in last year’s race.

This is a battle that may well go down to the final race at Valencia. Andrea Dovizioso isn’t completely safe in second place either.

Motegi Schedule – UK Time

The weekend’s action begins on Friday (18 October 2019) with Free Practice 1 at 02:50. This will be followed by Free Practice 2 at 07:05.

Saturday’s (19 October 2019) action begins at 02:50 with Free Practice 3, with Free Practice 4 at 06:25. Qualifying 1 begins at 07:05, with Qualifying 2 at 07:30.

Sunday’s warm-up (20 October 2019) will begin at 01:40. The race begins at 07:00.

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