It was a rain-hit Motegi twin ring that was guaranteed to have incidents, especially with the number of crashes that played out in the free practice sessions. The Japanese MotoGP race started off with championship leader Marc Marquez on third, while challenger Andrea Dovizioso on his factory Ducati began in ninth. The two unlikely colours of Johann Zarco on his Tech3 Yamaha and Danilo Petrucci on his Pramac Ducati were at the lead at the start, with Petrucci managing to keep the challenge alive as Marquez sprinted off on a brilliant start.
The first third of the race was Petrucci’s who had declared that he had nothing to lose – he managed to keep a stiff pace for first Jorge Lorenzo (who began on sixth spot) and then Marquez to try to challenge. Lorenzo was unable to keep up the pace, falling back while team mate Dovizioso moved up the lead till there was a three-way battle between Petrucci, ahead of Marquez and the charging Ducati.
Behind them Zarco was trying hard to keep the challenge alive, battling for position with Lorenzo and even bumping him on an overtaking manoeuvre. The wet surface also played foul, taking out Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow actually managed to crash twice, the first time around he was able to push his bike into pitlane and he got the replacement mount, only to fall again in the closing laps of the race.
In the meantime Marquez managed to make his challenge on Petrucci with 11 laps to go and then built in a good 2 second lead, while it took Dovizioso only another couple of laps to move ahead of Petrucci and then move in on Marquez. For a time it still looked like a three-way battle, until the Pramac Ducati fell back to a safe third position. The last three laps then gave us the best racing of the season with Dovizioso making his challenge on the lead Repsol Honda, moving into the lead and then having Marquez refusing to give up, managing to get the lead back. The last lap, saw the red Ducati get ahead again and Marquez tried to grab the lead back on Victory corner leading into the home straight, but he ran wide and the Ducati sprang across the line a length ahead of him.
This win takes Andrea Dovizioso up to 233 points, just 11 points off the leaders Marc Marquez, while Maverick Viñales keeps his third spot with his seven points off his ninth place finish. This also marks the 100th podium presence for Marc Marquez, making him the youngest person to reach that landmark. Petrucci was of course celebrating his much deserved third spot podium presence, his second of the season.
Andrea Dovizioso said at the end of the race, “It was a difficult race because at the start there wasn’t much grip and I didn’t have a good feeling with the bike but I never gave up, not even when I was losing ground, and this made all the difference. Marc was really quick and he tried right until the end, but there were some places where I could attack and he also made a small mistake on the last lap which gave me a chance to catch him again and try and pass him at Turn 11. I knew that he was going to attack me in the final two corners but I was prepared for this, I closed the door on him and he had to go a bit wide to pass me. It was absolutely vital to win here and I’m really so pleased for the whole team and for the championship.”