Australian Jack Miller celebrates on the podium
Motegi (Japan) (AFP) – Australia’s Jack Miller beat Motegi on Sunday in his first Japanese MotoGP race since 2019, a day in which the title contenders will be forgotten.
The Ducati rider stormed from seventh on the grid to take his fourth moto win, taking the checkered flag by more than three seconds from South African Brad Bender. Spain’s Jorge Martin came third.
World champion and current leader Fabio Quartararo on a Yamaha jet was first among the three title winners when he came in eighth, extending his lead to 18 points four races ahead.
But his main rival Francesco Bagnaia had a nightmare, crashing on the last lap as he tried to overtake the Frenchman.
Alex Espargaro also fell behind in the title chase after suffering a mechanical problem before the race started.
“I can ride the bike sometimes,” Miller, who is fifth in the standings but not in the title race, joked.
“I feel great to be racing on this side of the world again and the Japanese fans have been amazing all weekend, sitting there through the miserable rain yesterday.
“Thank you to them and the team, what a great day, it’s great. We have the Grand Prix at home soon, the wedding is coming in two weeks, it’s amazing for me.”
After heavy rain and storms on Saturday, the first Japanese motorcycle race in three years due to the pandemic unfolded under hot and sunny skies.
Spaniard Espargaro, who qualified for sixth on the grid, frantically threw his Aprilia car into the pit lane and jumped on his spare bike after a problem at the start of the warm-up lap.
He had his head in his hands and found himself fighting from the last place after coming out of the pits some distance from the field.
He finished 16th in a blow to his title chances, while leaving Bagnaia to regret a costly mistake on Ducati.
“Maybe I was too ambitious on the last lap,” Bagnaia, who is still second behind Quartararo in the standings, told Sky Sport Italia about his attempts to beat his rival.
“In these situations I realized that I still had room for improvement.
“I should know how to keep you calm in these situations,” the 25-year-old added.
“The only good thing is that I didn’t touch Fabio, that would have been unfair.”
– fire exit –
Six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez took advantage of rainy conditions on Saturday to take pole position in his Honda for the first time in three years, but quickly swallowed it up at the start and finished fourth.
Bender, also in the front row, passed the Spaniard to take the lead in the first corner before Martin took charge up front.
He was quickly lured by Miller, who rushed across the field to the lead on the third lap.
Then the 27-year-old Miller set a series of fastest laps as he opened an irreparable gap in the front.
Japanese rider Takuya Tsuda suffered a fiery exit when he quickly jumped out of his Suzuki with flames under the engine, causing the yellow flags to appear momentarily.
The next race will be in Thailand in a week, followed by Australia and Malaysia, with the final in Valencia, Spain.
In Moto2 earlier, Ai Ogura closed the gap to two points at the top of the world championship after becoming the first Japanese rider to win at home since 2006.
Spaniard Izan Guevara won the Moto3 race to take his lead in the standings.