Miller dominates, Bagnaia crashes on the last lap

Miller hasn’t had a win since last year’s French Grand Prix, snatched the lead on lap three and walked away to his first win of the season.

It was an intimidating race for the three main contenders for the championship, with Fabio Quartararo and Bagnaia both struggling for the level while Alex Espargaro had to switch to Aprilia’s second in the warm-up due to a mechanical issue.

An accident to try to overtake Quartararo on the last lap led to Bagnaia’s fifth DNF of the season, giving Quartararo an 18-point lead in the standings heading into next week’s Thailand GP.

That was the limited amount of dry time the grid had this weekend in Motegi as several tire changes took place before the lights went out.

Pullman Marc Marquez went to the net on a hard rear tire, but switched to soft at first.

But he couldn’t use the early fist advantage that would have given him any effect. Although Marquez switched his first pole in three years to the holeshot, he was overtaken by KTM’s Brad Bender in the first turn.

Pramac Ducati’s rider, Jorge Martin, jumped to second, before overtaking Binder for the lead to Turn 7 where Marquez returned to fifth.

At the back, all of the title challengers were facing their own suffering.

Drama struck at the end of the warm-up when Espargaro sprinted from Aprilia into the curb lane for his second bike, dropping his first broken RS-GP while making the switch.

Espargaro exited the lane at the back of the group behind the safety car, while Quartararo and Bagnaia failed to make up the ground on the opening lap from their ninth and twelfth starting points.

Miller’s charge of seventh on the grid saw him in podium places starting on the opening lap, with the factory Ducati rider passing a bender on the brakes into Turn 11 on the second round.

The Australian, who ran the solid rear tire, tried the same maneuver on Martin next time.

Miller ran too far on exit from Turn 11, allowing Martin to slip along with the next left at Turn 12 – although Miller held firm to finish the third lap in the lead.

The Ducati factory rider repeatedly set off one of the best laps of the race as he quickly opened his lead to over a second on lap nine of 24.

Martin would foul a lap later giving Miller a more than three second lead, which he would continue to extend by more than five seconds in the later stages.

As drama struck behind him on the last lap of his Ducati teammate, Miller eased to take the checkered flag 3.4 seconds off the field.

He went second to the Bender after outpacing the KTM rider Martin on the last lap, marking his first podium since the season-opening night in Qatar at the beginning of March.

Pullman Marquez completed his first race since the Italian Grand Prix in May in fourth place after snatching the position from Miguel Oliveira’s second KTM race with a tricky move inside Turn 8 three laps from the finish.

VR46 Ducati rider Luca Marini continued his record 100% finish in his MotoGP career with a solid ride to sixth place ahead of Aprilia of Maverick Vinales.

Vinales came under pressure of late from former Yamaha teammate Quartararo, but the Frenchman’s attention caught a charge from nearest title contender Bagnaya in the closing stages.

Bagnaia got involved in an early duel with Gresini Ducati’s Enea Bastianini as Aragon’s winner recovered from 15th on the grid, but reclaimed 9th from his future teammate with a valiant pass to the last two corners on lap 20.

The factory Ducati rider chased Quartararo, but when he went for a pass inside Yamaha to Turn 3 Bagnaia he folded the GP22 front and crashed – narrowly avoiding taking the championship leader with him.

Scoring for the fifth time in the 2022 DNF, Bagnaia allowed Quartararo to reach the checkered flag at eighth damage reduction to drop from 10 points in the standings after Aragon to 18 with only four rounds left.

Bastianini was ninth, and his title hopes remain distant as he sits behind Quartararo by 49 points.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team Crash

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team Crash

Photo by: Gold and Goose / motorsports pictures

Alex Espargaro couldn’t save any points at the end, the 16th-placed Spaniard to go to Thailand, 25 points behind Quartararo in the standings.

VR46’s Marco Pesicchi rounded out the top ten as Pramac’s Johan Zarco faded from second on the grid to 11th in the checkered flag ahead of Honda’s Paul Espargaro, LCR’s Alex Marquez, Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli and Team RNF Racing’s Cal Crutchlow.

Alex Espargaro passed Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gressini) of late, to drop the Italian to 17th, ahead of Tech3KTM duo Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner, and injured Takaaki Nakagami.

Technical problems spoiled Suzuki’s last home race, with Alex Rins forced to retire on lap 16 due to problems.

His teammate Takuya Tsuda – who will replace the injured Joan Mir – was knocked out of Motegi’s race in stunning fashion after his GSX-RR caught fire on lap 12.

Tsuda left the bike burning against the bulkhead outside of Turn 5, unscathed as the guards quickly dealt with the fire.

RNF’s Darren Bender and RNF’s Tesota Nagashima also failed to finish the race after separate incidents.

Japanese GP – Race results:

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