Although he knew there was a possibility he could become the 2016 MotoGP champion this weekend at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez was reluctant to even talk about it. At the press conference before things got underway at the Twin Ring Motegi, he changed the subject after mentioning it briefly.
Winning the championship in Japan was a long shot
A lot of contributing factors had to fall into place. The Japanese circuit was built by Japanese manufacturer Honda who Marquez rides for. Despite spending a lot of time here in the past, it remained a circuit that the Spaniard never won at. To achieve the championship title, Marquez would have had to win, Movistar Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi would have had to finish 14th or lower and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo would have had to finish above third.
Marquez set out with the target of collecting points, and would have been happy with a podium and even happier with the win… surely he didn’t think the ‘impossible’ was going to happen for him.
Strong solid performance from Marquez throughout the weekend
He was fast all weekend; he went out early on in the sessions and completed flying laps. He remained sharp and focused and was on target for pole before Rossi stole it from him in the final stages of Qualifying 2. The Spaniard was quickest in the warm-up and just had to continue this form into the race.
He got a fantastic start surging forward from the middle of the front row into the lead briefly before undergoing a battle with Lorenzo and Rossi who were both hungry for the lead, the win and the points. They weren’t the only ones as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR) threw themselves into the mix.
By lap four, Marquez had passed Lorenzo and was in the front for the second tim during the race. This is where he remained right up until the end. In fact, he had absolutely nothing to do with everything that went on behind him that led to him winning the championship. He did his part which was to win the race.
Rossi crashed out, it was down to Lorenzo’s result
Rossi crashed out on lap seven of the race. The Italian was not feeling 100% physically fit prior to the race but it wasn’t stopping him. He came off at turn 10, a corner that has caught many out throughout the weekend. The Marshals rushed to help him, they got his bike started but he had no choice but to return to the pits on his battered M1 and he retired from the race.
The championship run could still be kept alive though, if Lorenzo could just stay in second as he was on the lap when Rossi came off. It was working, he was doing it! Despite suffering a huge high-side from Free Practice 3 that left him visiting the hospital via helicopter for a CT scan, and carrying injuries from the incident, he was in second. But then with just four laps remaining he too crashed out when the front of his M1 tucked underneath him.
Already battered and bruised he retired immediately, returning to the pits where he went straight to his hospitality area. The only contributing factor left was for Marquez to claim his first ever win in Motegi, which he did!
Marquez just needed to finish the race
Marquez, claimed his first Japanese GP win, on Honda at the manufacturer’s home circuit, and claimed the 2016 MotoGP Championship title. Even Crutchlow finished the race in fifth as the top independent rider which meant it was triple success for the Japanese manufacturer. Who would have thought that they could have pulled it off as chances seemed so slim before-hand?
Triple celebration for the Honda team on home turf
As you can imagine he was absolutely delighted. He was greeted trackside by his brother Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who crashed out of the Moto2 race earlier on. After celebrating with the fans he put on a special t-shirt and a golden helmet and paraded back to the pits where he met an even more delighted Repsol Honda team and bosses who all just screamed as he entered the pits and did a burnout in parc-ferme, before being thrown up in the air by his team.
Marquez makes his first mistake of the weekend
He was so excited on the podium that he dropped his bottle of champagne, the first mistake he had made all weekend. He quickly picked it up and continued to spray it with the Honda boss himself. It is going to be fun in Motegi after the race. This 2016 title is Marquez’s fifth world championship title, his third ever in the MotoGP class; this makes him the youngest rider to have won five world championships.
Marquez revealed he made more mistakes when he learnt of Rossi’s crash
Discussing the race Marquez said that when he “saw Rossi out” he thought to himself, “The old style can come back and I’ll go for the victory!” He then noticed that “Lorenzo crashed” and revealed that when he “realized what it meant” it resulted in him “losing a lot of gears”; he described how he “went through one corner in third when it was meant to be first” and on another occasion “in third instead of fifth”.
When he crossed the line to claim the victory he was surprised saying he “didn’t expect any t-shirts or anything” however it confirmed to him that his team “believed” in him and so “it was ready” should he do it in Japan. Prior to the race “on the start line” he spoke of how Santi begged, “please don’t push for the victory”, however he said, “I felt good so I did!” The Spaniard said, “The best party is the one you don’t expect, so we’ll start in the box and see where we end up.”
The 2016 MotoGP champion reflects on the season
Reminiscing over the 2016 season Marquez remembered how the “start of the season was the most difficult”, describing it as “maybe the most difficult in [his] career”. He spoke of how “after the first two wins” that he found it “difficult” as he explained when you are “leading the championship you can afford to finish second or third.” He felt it was a “big price” that he paid when he remembered losing the 2015 title which helped him to “learn” what he knows now.
Marquez revealed how he “felt more pressure this year and it was hard to manage throughout the season.” The Spaniard feels he and the team have “made a lot of progress” and now as a result they “have a competitive bike”. He spoke of how he “learnt a lot following Valentino in Montmelo” as he complimented the Italian saying he “knows the Michelin tyres very well”. He said that that occasion was the “first time [he’d] followed him for many laps and [he] saw a few things.”
Nerves set in after the summer break
When they returned from the summer break, upon their return to Germany he admitted he “started to become more nervous” however his team told him, “Please, stay calm, stay calm, because Aragon is soon!” He admitted the confidence he felt saying, “When we got there we knew that was the weekend to win again,” describing it as “a key point in the season”. He said, “When the team keep the same mentality as you, everything is easier.”
Marquez reflects on his first win in Motegi that secured him his fifth title
Discussing race-day in Japan, he said “Today everything was normal” He talked about how he followed his usual routine and was “very relaxed”. Jose, from his team, had explained to him what it would take for him to win the championship and Marquez said to him, “Forget that, we’ll concentrate on Australia.”
During the race when battling with Rossi he revealed how he decided, “OK, I don’t want this battle, I have to go!” Which is what he did, at the same time he was “trying to manage the gap back to Jorge”. When he learnt of Lorenzo’s crash he made the mistakes mentioned earlier and then when he “saw Dovizioso was coming” and again said to himself, “We have to go!”
Marquez said, “Every year you give your best – but the pressure was really high especially at the start of the year.” He admitted he found the end of last year “really hard” and from that he “felt more pressure” however he also felt “extra motivation”. He said, “From Thursday to Sunday, I was just focused on the bike… that was the key!”