By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – Spain’s Marc Marquez wrapped up his third straight MotoGP championship with victory at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday after title rival Andrea Dovizioso fell on the penultimate lap while trying to find a way past the Honda rider.
The 25-year-old is now tied with Australian Mick Doohan on five premier class world titles, with only Italian’s Valentino Rossi (seven) and Giacomo Agostini (eight) having won more.
Marquez, who had sealed two of his previous titles at Motegi, moved 102 points clear of Ducati’s Dovizioso with three races remaining.
Dovizioso started on pole and led for most of the race before Marquez, who had started sixth on the grid, made his move with four laps left.
Marquez had been on the Italian’s tail for much of the race and the pressure eventually told on the Ducati rider as he relinquished the lead.
Dovizioso attempted to move back past Marquez on the penultimate lap but pushed it too far and came off his bike. He recovered but eventually finished 18th.
That left Marquez knowing he was going to secure his fifth title as he completed his final lap, shaking his head in disbelief at the achievement.
“I feel really, really good,” said Marquez after celebrating with the Honda team, who were joined by the company’s CEO Takahiro Hachigo at the manufacturer’s home race.
“After Aragon I already felt, I already imagined that it will be here, but the good thing is when you have the first chance (to win the title), then you do it.”
Marquez pipped Dovizioso on the final lap of the Thailand Grand Prix last time out and while he did leave it quite as late at Motegi the result was the same.
“I was able to follow Andrea, then I say okay, I will try to use the same strategy as Thailand, attack before the last lap because I felt like they had something,” he said.
“I was pushing really hard and he did a mistake.”
“I disappointed because he deserves to be here on the podium with us, but okay, the big boss will enjoy it.”
Dovizioso, who was the championship runner-up to Marquez in 2017, will have to wait another year for a shot at his first MotoGP premier class title.
“The battle (with Dovizioso) has been great all year,” said an exuberant Marquez.
“Dovi had been a great opponent throughout the year and coming into this he was very, very fast.”
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was second after a brilliant performance that saw the Briton hang with Marquez and Dovizioso until the final stages.
Another Spaniard, Alex Rins, was third for Suzuki.
The next stop is the Australian Grand Prix next weekend.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)