With the main European portion of the World Championship now concluded, MotoGP heads to the far east for the next three rounds of racing. To add to the intensity which always accompanies these races, the three events are scheduled for consecutive weekends. It also is almost a certainty that, series leader, Marc Marquez will secure his third title at one of the following venues…
Japan – Motegi Twin-Ring Circuit
Built by Honda as their ‘ultimate test track’in the mid 1990s, Motegi has been an ever present fixture on the MotoGP calendar since 2000. As its ‘twin-ring’ nickname suggests, the complex incorporates two distinct layouts. First being the 1.5 mile oval circuit which was built with the intention of bringing series such as IndyCar to Japan. The second layout being a 2.9 mile road course, upon which the Japanese Grand-Prix is raced.
Although it has been the scene of several riders clinching the world title – who could forget Casey Stoner (upon sealing his maiden championship) in 2007 celebrating at the end of the race by pulling wheelies around the entire lap – it is unlikely that this year we’ll see another world champion crowned in Japan. Even should Marquez claim victory, he’d still be relying on Valentino Rossi to score only 1 point or none at all.
The course comprising of numerous slow speed corners linking onto long straights As such, Ducati fans have every reason to expect their team to repeat the dominant performance earlier in the season at Austria, with the bike being able to fully exploit its straight line speed advantage.
MotoGP Raceday: Sunday October 16th
Australia – Phillip Island
Quite possibly the most stunning location in the world for a race circuit. The Phillip Island circuit lays claim to being the ‘home’ of Australian motorsport – the circuit being the oldest in the country, and being the first permanent track, having been built in 1956. Aside from a brief period in the early 1980s, when the circuit underwent wholesale redevelopment, the MotoGP circus has been ever present.
The racing is often as unpredictable as the weather, with the island having its own micro-climate. The phrase ‘four seasons in a day’ could not be more appropriate to describe the island. Frequent rain flash storms used to play havoc with the running of the grand-prix, until the organisers took the brave decision in 2013 to allow bike changes mid-race. This proved a major hit with spectators and TV audiences alike, as the racing was frantic from first lap to last, and the race ran continuously flag-to-flag.
It is perhaps here on the the undulating 4.4 kilometre loop, that Marquez will seal his championship victory. The circuit should suit both himself and the Honda bikes, with a lack of long straights masking the weakness of their machine, and an abundance of gently angled, medium-speed corners will provide little strain on the particularly volatile engine.
MotoGP Raceday: Sunday 23rd October
Malaysia – Sepang
The Sepang International Circuit has become one of the most iconic race circuits, not just in the far east, but in the world too. One of the few circuits on the calendar which hosts a round each year of the MotoGP and Formula 1 world championships. Boasting tremendous vantage points for the spectators, whether in the grandstands along the back and main straights, or on any of the grass banks which the tarmac snakes around.
The circuit was the scene of the infamous crash between Rossi and Marquez last year. Convinced that Marquez was helping fellow Spaniard (and Rossi’s team-mate) Jorge Lorenzo in the championship battle, Rossi attempted a series of ever more desperate overtakes, trying to run Marquez out wide on the exit of turn 13, but making enough contact with his bike to force his opponent to the ground and out of the race.
This year, to use the cliche, the boot is on the other foot. If the championship has not been decided by this point, we could see a repeat of the fierce racing between the pair. The circuit may well favour the Yamaha bike more though here, due to the long straights and multiple slow speed corners. In contrast to recent years, it is the Yamaha which excels with straight line speed and hard applications of throttle.
MotoGP Raceday: Sunday 30th October