2014 Motegi MotoGP Preview

The most grueling stretch of the 2014 MotoGP Championship begins this weekend with the Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi.

How grueling? Try three back-to-back weekends that take riders from Japan to Australia to Sepang.

The Honda-built Twin Ring Motegi – added to Grand Prix racing in 1999 – challenges riders with its unique 2.983-mile layout that features four-long straights combined with heavy braking zones and the hairpin corners.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez – the reigning MotoGP Champion – may clinch the 2014 MotoGP title at before Honda’s home crowd at Motegi if three things occur – he finishes ahead of his teammate Dani Pedrosa; he loses no more than three points to Valentino Rossi; and he loses no more than 15 points to Jorge Lorenzo.

So essentially, Marquez has to either win the race, or finish second or third ahead of Pedrosa and Rossi.

In 14 or 18 rounds, Marquez has only lost three races. But the last two at Aragon and Misano were the worse finishes of his premier-class career, the 21-year-old Spaniard finishing 13th and 15th, respectively.

At Aragon, the race began dry and ended wet. As other riders pitted to get their wet-setup bikes, Marquez remained out. And while on the wet track on slicks, he crashed. He was able to restart his bike and finally pit, but started from the back of the pack, allowing Lorenzo to take the win unchallenged. Pedrosa made the same mistake at Aragon, finishing 14th, a spot behind Marquez

Marquez holds a 75-point lead over Pedrosa heading into Motegi, and can use a repeat performance of last season to clinch the title three rounds early. Last year, Marquez finished second at Motegi behind winner Lorenzo.

If Marquez completes the feat, he will become the only Honda rider to ever clinch a title at Motegi. The other riders to do so in the modern age of MotoGP are Casey Stoner (2007, Ducati) and Rossi (2008, Yamaha).

Marquez’s largest threats will arrive from Pedrosa and the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo of Rossi and Lorenzo. Pedrosa has the most GP wins at Motegi – two in the premier class, and two in sub classes – along with the Circuit Record of 1:45.589 set in 2012. Pedrosa is also hungry for his first-ever premier-class title.

Rossi has finished on the podium at Motegi an incredible nine times, which includes two wins. As for Lorenzo, he dominated last season in Japan, becoming the first rider to win from the pole at Motegi since Loris Capirossi in 2006. Plus, Lorenzo has extra incentive due to taking his first win of the season arriving at Aragon two weeks ago.

Behind the title contenders, Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso is in a solid fifth place with 142 points, 30 ahead of NGM Forward Racing Yamaha’s Aleix Espargaro. Dovizioso also crashed at Aragon due to slick conditions, but he was not injured. He has confidence in the Ducati GP14.2 with the updated chassis, and earned his only MotoGP pole there in 2010.

As for his teammate Cal Crutchlow, who departs with Ducati at the end of 2015, he earned his first podium of the season at Aragon with third. He will chase better results before he joins the LCR Honda squad in 2015.

Another rider that achieved his first podium of the year at Aragon was Aleix Espargaro. He has been the top Open-class rider all season, and will ride in 2015 for the returning Suzuki aboard the Team Suzuki MotoGP GSX-RR.

After 14 rounds, Aleix Espargaro is in sixth place with 112 points, four ahead of his brother Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech). Rounding out the top 10 in points are Pramac Racing Ducati’s Andrea Iannone (92), LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl (87) and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith.

As for the sole American in all of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden is 16th in points. He returned at Aragon following a four-race hiatus, and finished ninth.

2014 Motegi MotoGP on TV

Fox Sports 1 will broadcast 2014 Motegi MotoGP live at 12 a.m. Sunday. The coverage includes a rerun of Aragon MotoGP, so expect the live racing at Motegi to begin around 1 a.m.

2014 MotoGP Point Standings (after 14 of 18 rounds):

Pos. Rider Bike Nation Points
1 Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 292
2 Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 217
3 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 214
4 Jorge LORENZO Yamaha SPA 202
5 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 142
6 Aleix ESPARGARO Forward Yamaha SPA 112
7 Pol ESPARGARO Yamaha SPA 108
8 Andrea IANNONE Ducati ITA 92
9 Stefan BRADL Honda GER 87
10 Bradley SMITH Yamaha GBR 85
11 Alvaro BAUTISTA Honda SPA 73
12 Cal CRUTCHLOW Ducati GBR 63
13 Scott REDDING Honda GBR 60
14 Hiroshi AOYAMA Honda JPN 51
15 Yonny HERNANDEZ Ducati COL 39
16 Nicky HAYDEN Honda USA 36
17 Karel ABRAHAM Honda CZE 33
18 Colin EDWARDS Forward Yamaha USA 11
19 Michele PIRRO Ducati ITA 11
20 Danilo PETRUCCI ART ITA 9
21 Broc PARKES PBM AUS 7
22 Alex DE ANGELIS Forward Yamaha RSM 7
23 Mike DI MEGLIO Avintia FRA 4
24 Michael LAVERTY PBM GBR 2
25 Hector BARBERA Avintia SPA 2
26 Leon CAMIER Honda GBR 1