Author: Myanna Wedes

The return of Marc Marquez to the premiere class grid has occurred and what a joy it was to see him return ready to fight! The Spanish rider made the decision to come back and felt ready to conquer his fears of what could be and put his mind, physicality, and fitness to the test. The eagerness of Marquez and Honda was nice to see, the practice times promising and his qualifying an ideal position considering his return after such a long break. The race start was impressive by Marquez, however, the next few minutes proved to be challenging with Marquez accelerating out of the corner, losing rear traction, shutting the gas and Fabio Quartararo so close behind that he collected Marquez and instead of taking them both down, ended up slamming himself into the asphalt. It was quite an aggressive landing for Quartararo due to speed carried out of the corner and a similar incident also occurred with Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami who was a passenger after Marquez’s bike locked and careered into the LCR Honda Idemitsu in what we see as purely bad luck. A wing from Quartararo’s Yamaha YZR-M1 managed to get stuck underneath MM93’s rear wheel which ended up causing chaos for more than one and resulted in a double DNF for Honda as a manufacturer. It appears that Nakagami is in doubt to race due to wounds on his fourth and fifth fingers. The Japanese rider could miss his home Grand Prix and will undergo a medical examination to determine if he is clear to race or not. Luckily for Quartararo, he did not have any major injuries and is ready to put the race behind him whilst re-focusing even with burn abrasions across his chest. Quartararo is tough and knows that every race from hereon is vital to staying ahead with Bagnaia and Bastianini in fine form. The French rider’s DNF spices up the World Championship battle as it is very close! 

Fabio QuartararoMonster Energy Yamaha MotoGP211
Pecco BagnaiaDucati Lenovo Team201
Aleix EspargaroAprilia Racing194
Enea BastianiniGresini Racing163
Jack MillerDucati Lenovo Team134

For those wondering, apparently there are no team orders at Ducati. However, with the way Bastianini raced, there is every chance he could catch up and put immense pressure on Bagnaia. So, will team orders be introduced at the next race since there are multiple flyaway races where points are up for grabs and certain riders questioning their overall performance. The look on Davide Tardozzi was not one of immense happiness with Bastianini winning, though rightly so, “The Beast” put the work in and deserved the glory.  In this sport, we want to see genuine contenders fight it out, not be told how to race. Fingers crossed, the remaining races are classified as “ride free” and not orchestrated by Ducati with their riders. If anything, “The Beast” has a genuine chance even if he has a 48-point gap to Quartararo. As we know in MotoGP, the craziest of changes in a title can occur, so let them race and let us fans find out how that story is written as the race unfolds in live time.

Check out below the feelings of Marquez returning to the grid. He really does make the sport something else when he steps out and jumps onto his machine. The crowd becomes electric, the rivalries re-ignite and MM93 pushes others to the limit just by being who he is as a racer: extremely competitive. Marquez is an icon of the sport, and we really look forward to a full race distance with the Repsol Honda rider now that he is back full time. The work to get the Honda machine to a point of positivity is on and MM93 is there to overcome the challenges no matter what arrives in their box. If anything, Honda need his insight to progress forward. What we can say watching the team in action is that the mechanics, engineers, and other team personnel have a positive feeling about their teamwork and listening to the words of Marquez as he delivers feedback. The energy is great amongst the Honda crew which will shine through as they work through the problems with the bike. The Kalex chassis even made its way to the track with Marc Marquez utilising the aluminium swingarm made by Kalex over the course of the weekend. This is a major shift considering Honda are now looking to an external third party for their chassis. It is a similar theme with Yamaha because without Quartararo, their chances of winning are significantly reduced. Credit is due to Cal Crutchlow who had a great race and outperformed Franco Morbidelli who is on a factory bike and Darryn Binder, although he is a rookie that jumped from Moto3. Crutchlow performed, grabbed some points on his return and looks good back on the bike. We look forward to seeing Crutchlow shake things up with those around him.

Marc Marquez #93:

“I got a really good start to the race and found myself fighting for the top five, instincts took over when the lights went out. But then in Turn 3, I lost the rear a little bit so I closed the gas and the problem was then that Fabio was super close to me. This is normal, it’s racing to be close in the first laps and to try a move in the change of direction, we were just unlucky to have this contact with Fabio. Then everything started, in Turn 5 I felt something strange, and I didn’t really know what was going on fully. In Turn 7 Nakagami overtook me and went wide but when I went to engage the rear device, I felt like the rear was locking. Then everything happened at once as the bike was moving to the left with this locking and I found myself touching with Taka. After this I retired. I went to apologies to Taka and his team because his race was ended by the situation we had. My apologies to him and Fabio.”

Fabio Quartararo #20:

“I have no serious injuries. I have abrasions on my chest, and other than that I’m quite disappointed. I felt that we had the pace to fight for a great result, but unfortunately I crashed on the first lap. Some riders lost the rear, while others cut the line a little bit, and I just hit Marc from the back. It’s a big shame. I’ll try to sleep on my back the next few days, but I will for sure be racing in Japan!”

Cal Crutchlow #35:

“First of all, it’s nice to get back into racing and finish the race. I was not expecting much, I knew I was confident in my pace and I could do a good job this weekend. The team are happy and overall I’m happy. I try my best, we know it’s not a great track for Yamaha, I never really had the ammunition to be able to fight but I try to fight. Over the weekend, you change your mindset to be able to see people in front of you and you want to pass them. Overall, we’re happy to come away from this first one after a year of not racing.”

In terms of the two riders finishing first and second, it was a mind game battle with Bagnaia riding to perfection. However, the Italian rider chasing for Ducati glory managed to leave the door open and Bastianini gave it a good crack after showing his bike to Bagnaia earlier in the race and executing the move to perfection. Riders who are impatient may have tried to overtake the Lenovo Ducati rider early though Bastianini tested the limits, found where he could control the outcome and took a chance that paid off whilst Bagnaia decided to retreat for points out of fear of crashing, losing the title constructors and of course the pressure from his Ducati bosses. Regardless of the first and second place rivalry battle, the Ducati manufacturer celebrated their successive constructors title and Gresini Racing were smiling from ear to ear with the top stop glory. The turn 7 right-hander will be remembered as the battle between the Ducati riders and is an indication of what to expect in 2023 with both riders under the same brand and teammates. We look forward to seeing how that relationship plays out. Regardless of the fact, Bagnaia was not entirely happy, and you could feel that in his energy because it could have been a five-point gap and instead is a ten-point gap to Quartararo. The gamble from “The Beast” was all in because he is racing for points, the crown and to prove why he is the number one rider for Gresini let alone his future career as a primary factory rider. Think about this, the total of the gaps between the two Italian riders at the chequered flag is a mere 0.076 seconds, which demonstrates how good both are on board the Ducati machine. The sport is developing all the time and if you get left behind, the struggle is real and hard to overcome. Right now, Ducati are the ones shining!

Enea Bastianini #23:

“Great victory and it was not easy at all because Pecco made no mistakes here as well as in misano. I decided to go for it at the same time. I was close, I had a margin, and I succeeded. I have to stay on track in these last 5 GPs, in Japan I have never raced with a MotoGP, but I want to do well and try to always be on the podium”.

Pecco Bagnaia #63:

“I’m thrilled with today’s result. Enea and I had a great race! I knew he would be very fast in the final laps, and when he passed me, I preferred not to make any move on him. I tried to win and waited for a safe opportunity to pass him, which in the end wasn’t there. I knew these 20 points were important, and I preferred not to risk it. Now we must stay focused and think about the next race in Japan next week.”

Third place finisher Aleix Espargaro was stoked with his podium achievement and no doubt knew how vital the points were in the hunt for the top spot. A Espargaro appeared to be more of himself racing and did not look as frustrated in comparison to other races. Pressure, stress, and expectation can have a major impact on your mental strength and A Espargaro did have some doubt plus a finger injury that added to the overall emotional rollercoaster as he leads an entire team, brand, and company, that being Aprilia. In terms of the race, A Espargaro felt that Bagnaia and Bastianini were on another level, hard to compete with and there was no chance of being able to chase for the first-place finish. He complimented Brad Binder, emphasising that he was impressed with his ride and fourth-place finish considering how non-competitive the KTM bike is at the moment. Binder is putting his KTM in places that demonstrate his ability to ride fast even with a tough machine. The South African rider will watch back the race and pinpoint where he can improve to stay head rather than fall behind. The next upcoming race is Japan, where a typhoon may cause delays for the race event although it can be a chance to win, fight for the podium or bag points when others are not so confident or questioning the weather systems.

Aleix Espargaro #41:

“What a race! It was not a simple weekend. Pressure was high before we even arrived here and maybe that had an influence on me. I had to rebuild my confidence lap after lap but in the end, in the race, despite not having the pace to win, I achieved the best possible result. In the early laps, I decided not to push too hard and that allowed me to still have something left in the finale to overtake Binder. After what happened to Fabio, the championship is clearly more wide open than ever. There are riders who are faster than me right now but they are in a position where they have to win, whereas for us a good result is already a great satisfaction, so we’ll try our best and have fun all the way to the end!”

Brad Binder #33:

“All-in-all I’m happy to walk away with 4th today. I gave everything I had in the race and the bike was working the best it had been all weekend again, so hats-off to the team for a fantastic job. I think we had a pretty good weekend here. Unfortunately, the crash in FP3 set me back a bit with my ankle but I was able to put it aside today and fight my way forward. I had an amazing start and was in the top three the whole race, so it was a bit disappointing to lose the podium with two laps to go but it wasn’t to be today. We have a little bit of work to do to make that last step and fight for podiums again.”

Finally, the two riders who we thought would have fought at the front did find form and then hold off pushing due to several issues including the front tyre overheating, poor performance during Friday/Saturday and not being able to go flat out as they would have anticipated after qualifying. Both Jack Miller and Maverick Vinales could have been at the front though worked their race confidence levels to the best of their ability and Miller felt it was a great result considering his history with Aragon as a circuit. Further down the pit boxes, Vinales felt like his lack of performance early in the weekend made the pay the price. What is clear from Vinales is that he will be there to help A Espargaro for the title if he needs it. Game on we say!

Jack Miller #43:

“Aragon has never been a favourable track for me, so I’m quite satisfied with fifth place. After I got passed by Binder and Aleix Espargaro, I continued to have a pretty consistent pace, but it didn’t allow me to get close enough to try and pass them, and towards the end, I also started to suffer with the front. In any case, I am happy, and I can’t wait to get back on track next week at Motegi.”

Maverick Vinales #12:

“To be honest, we had the pace to battle in the top spots today. Unfortunately, we didn’t work well on Friday and Saturday and we paid the price for that. It’s a pity. We need to think about what happened and get back to the level we know we can maintain. On the other hand, we are back in the battle for the title with Aleix and that is the most important thing. In the upcoming races, being fast will also mean being able to help my teammate.”