2017 Motegi MotoGP Preview
Only four rounds remain in the 2017 MotoGP Championship, and the hectic stretch of three back-to-back rounds begins this weekend in Japan.
The Twin Ring Motegi circuit, which joined the MotoGP calendar in 1999, is the first of three fly-away rounds, and is followed immediately by the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, and the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.
Heading into Japan, five riders have a mathematical chance of claiming the 2017 MotoGP title:
- Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda, 224 points)
- Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team, 208)
- Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, 196)
- Dani Pedrsoa (Repsol Honda, 170)
- Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, 168)
As you can see, Marquez leads the way by 16 points ahead of Dovizioso. A positive result can help Marquez as he chases his fourth premier-class title, but his MotoGP performance is not the best at Motegi.
Though he has victories there in the former 125cc class and Moto2, he has only one premier-class victory that arrived last season. That win helped Marquez clench the 2016 MotoGP title four rounds early, and though he can’t mathematically clinch the title this season at Motegi, a win will help drop some pressure from his fellow challengers.
“There are four GPs to go in the season, and we must give 100% at every one, starting with the three flyaway rounds,” Marc Marquez says. “These races are always demanding due to the different time zones and conditions, and this year with the Championship so close, they’ll be even more of a challenge.
“The most important thing for us is that since Montmeló, we’ve been on the podium in every race but Silverstone. We’ve done a good job of managing different conditions and different circuits, which gives us confidence and shows that we’re at a good level everywhere. We have some great memories in Japan, because we won last year and got the title there twice, but every season is a new story and we must remain focused and ready to handle every situation.
“Track conditions in Motegi can vary dramatically, and we’ll have to work hard on the setup to find a good compromise for the hard acceleration and braking. We’ll give our best effort and push hard to get another good result in front of Honda’s home fans.”
The Motegi layout has always been kind to Ducati machinery, including from 2005 through 2007 when Loris Capirossi took three consecutive wins there, and in 2010 with the retired Casey Stoner.
As Dovizioso chases Ducati’s second MotoGP title, and his first. the Italian only has two podium finishes in the premier class at Motegi, including second last season. Though he has no premier-class wins, Dovizioso has a 125cc race win (2004), and has claimed the pole twice at Motegi.
“Motegi is a special circuit, one of my favorites, because you have to brake very hard and I feel sure that we can be up among the frontrunners once again on this track,” Andrea Dovizioso says.
“I’m pretty confident because I’ve always scored good results here in MotoGP, twice taking pole and finishing second last year. The next four races will be vitally important in the battle for the title and we’re ready to fight things out right until the very end.”
In third, 28 points behind Marquez, is Vinales. The factory Yamaha YZR-M1 pilot finished third at Motegi last season, and will need to achieve that or better if he hopes to truly challenge for the title. Also, he’ll have to watch out for fourth-place Pedrosa, who has five wins at Motegi.
As for Rossi, he returned to racing two weeks ago at Motorland Aragon only 25 days after breaking his leg. The nine-time World Champion finished fifth, just behind Vinales.
Rossi is only two points behind Pedrosa, but he’s still fresh from breaking his right leg, and three back-to-back rounds can cause some issues. Regardless, the “Doctor” has much confidence heading into Motegi.
“After my return to MotoGP in Aragón, the work and my recovery have continued,” Valentino Rossi says. “It was good to have two more weeks after the last race to work on my rehabilitation, because now we will have three races in a row and it will be important to be in a good physical condition.
“I did everything possible to get pretty fit for the round at the Motegi track, because this is always a very important GP for Yamaha. I like this circuit very much and I’m glad to be here. We will do everything we can to get the best result possible.”
The other rider to watch at Motegi is Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo, who has three premier-class wins at Motegi. The five-time World Champion is also coming off his second podium of the season; Lorenzo finished third at Aragon.
Four rounds and 100 points remain. With five riders having a mathematical chance of claiming the 2017 MotoGP title, every point will count. Round 14 begins Friday with free practice, and ends Sunday with the race; lights go out at 2 p.m. local time for the 24-lap Grand Prix.
Click page two below for current MotoGP Point Standings