Twin Ring Motegi: Grand Prix of Japan

If Misano was Marquez showing he would walk whatever tightrope was necessary, Motegi was Dovizioso’s reply. Has there ever been anything quite like that with a title on the line?

Of course, in season finales, there is no “but the risk…” because the maths end at the flag. But beyond Motegi lie 75 points up for grabs, and yet we raced in the rain like it was the last laps of Valencia under sunny skies. Well, two people did. And what a race.

Dovizioso said, once again, that there really is no big secret to his form this year. It’s just all the little things coming together and a good bike. The secret, however, to winning this race? That’s something concrete that he understands perfectly. The thing about Andrea Dovizioso is that he understands a lot of things perfectly, and that’s why he’s now 11 points off the lead in the championship with three rounds to go.

- Andrea Dovizioso #04 - Ducati Corse - MotoGP - Grand Prix of Japan - 2017 -

“I think about a lot of things when I’m riding,” nodded the Italian. “When I overtook him at Turn 11 I’d already thought about Austria, about the strategy in the last corner…your brain is going so fast at that moment and it’s so easy to think about many things. For me, it’s easy to think like that in a focused way. That’s why I took that line, prepared that corner perfectly the way I want. But that’s my characteristic.”

That ‘characteristic’ is what has now seen the Italian beat Marc Marquez in a last lap duel twice, and twice in one season. Has anybody ever done that before? It’s something that sounds so simple, but it’s never simple when you’re doing 300 kilometers an hour in the pouring rain. It is Dovizioso’s ace: he can’t throw the best punch, but to be effective, the best punch has to land. Knowing where it will hit you makes you much more likely to avoid it. That’s another incredible asset to this championship, as it is now, of two halves: Dovizioso vs Marquez, Ducati vs Honda, experience vs youth…brain vs brawn. That’s not to say Marquez is not an unbelievably intelligent rider as well as being the master of aggression, that’s to say that Dovizioso is his intellectual equal at least – and that’s a hard thing to outwit.

- Marc Marquez #93 - Repsol Honda - MotoGP - Grand Prix of Japan - 2017 -

Besides the show-stealers at the front, the crash for Valentino Rossi was certainly a headline, although more because the Italian luckily escaped unharmed from two highsides this weekend. The other key thing of note was Maverick Viñales, who is now over 40 points behind and seemingly out of the title fight. The 2017 Yamaha has struggled in the rain and it doesn’t look like an easy fix, but that should be why you take a chance at Silverstone, and you stay on in Texas. He said himself now he’s not thinking about it, and that it would need some extra special circumstances for it to go his way - and he’s right.

- Alex Marquez #73 - Team E.G 0,0 MarcVDS - Moto2 - Grand Prix of Japan - 2017 -

Moto2 also saw a few headlines made. One, Alex Marquez took his first Moto2 win outside Spain and provided a tactical masterclass, shadowing Nakagami until confident he could go past and disappear – which he duly did. Two, Tom Lüthi had some problems with his visor and suffered more in the wet than expected – with Franco Morbidelli staying cool under pressure to gain a few more points on the Swiss rider. The gap became 24 at the top – but did it? Not for long, as Dominique Aegerter was disqualified from his victory at Misano – meaning Lüthi now has that win to his name. The extra five points make it 19 between the two, with everything to play for.

So both Championships remain incredibly open as we head Down Under, with MotoGP – somehow - the closest at the top once again. And the Island could prove tough for Dovizioso as one of his less favoured tracks, but Sepang should be earmarked for a good fight back. So maybe that gap will go up again soon, but it could be only briefly – and Dovizioso, after all, rarely hits first.

Unless he’s thought it through, and he knows it’s going to land exactly where he wants it to.

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