Japan GP 2022 Preview: Quartararo’s lead in danger at Motegi  

With hardly any time to recover from last week’s emotions in Aragon, the Premier Class World Championship starts its Asia Pacific leg this weekend (September 23-25).

After a three-year absence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the first round in the Eastern continent, and the sixteenth in the season’s calendar, will be the Japan MotoGP 2022. The battle for the title arrives at the Motegi Circuit extremely tight, with the top three classified separated by just seventeen points.

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) is under a lot of pressure after crashing out at MotorLand and losing a good chunk of his advantage in the standings. He now has only ten points in hand at the top of the table ahead of Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati), second at Aragon after four straight wins), and three points more over Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

The throne of the reigning champion is in jeopardy before the push of the Italian, who has had four wins in a row (Holland, Great Britain, Austria & San Marino) and a second place in the last five races, and also by the ‘reborn’ Spaniard rider. 

Together with the “Magnificent Three”, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing), winner in Spain last week, will fight for his fifth triumph of the season (Qatar, United States, France & Aragon) in Tochigi.

Meanwhile, Marc Marquez (Honda), triple winner in Motegi, will seek redemption after his eventful return to the competition in Teruel, where he was involved in two separate accidents with Quartararo and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR). The latter had to go under the knife for his right hand as a result. 

Besides the merely competitive predictions, there is another piece of forecasting which might be most relevant in the end. A tropical monsoon, which has already devastated various areas of the country, could approach the circuit on Friday, forcing the cancellation of the race. 

Continuing with the weather, if the rain forecasts are met, the chaos and unpredictability would add even more excitement to the eastern clash. Anything can happen.

 

Quartararo: Maximum pressure  

“El Diablo” cannot waste any more time and must react now. After his second zero of the year after Holland, he no longer has any margin for error. If he slips again, he could lose his lead of the standings, his since the start of the season.

In just five Sundays, since the Sachsenring, the Frenchman has lost 81 of his 91-point advantage over Bagnaia. He must put a stop to this bleeding of points. 

His poor balance since Germany consists of a solitary podium in the last five races, two of which he finished out of the points. To make matters worse, his drop in performance has coincided with the fitness peak of his Italian rival. 

In any case, Quartararo’s poor results, with the exception of his mistake in Assen, are not his own fault but that of his machine. The obvious inferiority of his M1 compared to the Ducati is boycotting his title chances.

Under the circumstances, he will have to watch out for both his Milanese and his Spaniard rival at the Japan MotoGP 2022. In great spirits after breaking a podium-drought lasting six rounds in Aragon, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), will be his other main enemy this Sunday. 

To complicate things further for the current champion for the Japan MotoGP 2022, Quartararo might still be recovering from the physical consequences of his crash in Teruel, where he suffered various burns to his torso.

On top of this, Motegi has never been one of Yamaha’s favourite tracks, with only two wins over the last ten editions (2013 and 2014, Jorge Lorenzo). The French pilot, however, has good memories of his last visit to the Japanese racetrack, when, coinciding with his 2019 MotoGP debut, he took second place. 

 

Bagnaia, out to dethrone Quartararo  

Bagnaia’s situation, on the other hand, is the opposite of Quartararo’s. The Italian left Aragon with a bittersweet taste in his mouth despite finishing second, after losing the victory to his compatriot and Ducati teammate for 2023, Andrea Bastianini, in the last lap by 0,042s.

With the title in his mind, the Milanese rider decided not to take that battle to its ultimate consequences and give up five points, instead of taking any unnecessary risks. 

In the big scheme of things, however, he has cut 81 points with Quartararo over the last five races, although he still has to culminate his comeback. Next Sunday will be his chance to dethrone him from first place in the standings. 

Images of Japan MotoGP 2022: Yamaha MotoGP.

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