The 2018 Japanese GP was all about one man – Marc Marquez. The reigning champion had the opportunity to rack up his fifth premiere class title in Honda’s backyard and for that, he had to finish ahead of his nemesis Andrea Dovizioso. Qualifying didn’t go according to plan and Marquez managed to start from sixth place. However, Marquez had plans to rewrite history and not delve in the past. He made a brilliant start that saw him catapult from sixth place to second by the end of the first lap, behind race leader Dovizioso.
Further down the grid, another rider who was making swift progress was ‘Sunday rider’ Valentino Rossi who was up in fifth place and also clocked the fastest lap of the race. While Marquez was sitting patiently behind the Ducati rider and gauging his lines, Cal Crutchlow pulled a surprise move on the reigning champion that made the HRC bosses a bit nervous. Crutchlow could hold on to second place for just two laps as Marquez muscled his way past the British rider, while Rossi was up in fourth.
By the halfway mark, Rossi’s Yamaha M1 started struggling for grip and he was passed by the Suzuki pair of Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins. Also, the leading trio had checked out from the trailing pack of riders. With 11 laps more to go, Marquez made a block-pass on Dovi to grab the race lead. As he exited the final corner on to the main straight, the Repsol rider ran off the track on the grass. A big puff of dust meant he lost drive and Dovizioso utilised the straight-line grunt oh his Ducati to regain the lead.
As the final phase of the race began, both Marquez and Dovizioso upped the ante and it was a two-way battle for the win, which has been the hallmark of the 2018 season. Marquez overtook the Ducati rider with few laps remaining and tried his best to put some breathing space between Dovi and himself. However, the Italian managed to shadow the Honda rider and the scuffle was going down to the wire. But fate had other plans; Dovi lost the front of his Ducati in his pursuit and crashed out of the race. Marquez just had to finish the race, which he did and pulled a wheelie across the finish line to clinch his fifth premiere class championship. With five titles, Marquez now equals Aussie legend Mick Doohan’s record. In the all-time list Marquez is now behind Giacomo Agostini (8 titles) and Valentino Rossi (7 titles). Marquez is just 25 years old and given his current form, pace and fitness, he looks all-set to rewrite the record books.
It was the third time that Marquez won the championship title at Motegi, a track built and owned by Honda, which will have delighted the HRC bosses. The key to his success can be credited to his consistency as he has finished on podium, whenever he has finished in points in the 2018 season. Despite retaining his crown, rest assured that Marquez wouldn’t relax and will try to win the remaining three races of the season at Australia, Malaysia and Spain.