He is the man of poles. But he resists a scenario. With 78 pole position In his letter of introduction, more than anyone else, Marc Márquez holds a record – and a few sports BMWs, the gift given each year to the fastest man in the World – for which, curiously, does not add to the Motegi circuit. It is the home of Honda, its test bench, and also the only track of the entire calendar in which the Spanish driver has not managed to lead the timesheet on a Saturday since he made his debut in MotoGP. Neither did it this weekend, in which he finished Q2 in sixth place, his worst result this year, as the sixth in Argentina and the sixth in Mugello, the last two races of the year in which he has not scored.
And this is not just any weekend. This Sunday, in Japanese lands, he has the opportunity to proclaim himself world champion. For the fifth time in the queen category. Only Andrea Dovizioso is authorized to stop him and lengthen the wait. And it seems ready to do it from the pole, prepared to stay ahead of Honda and spoil the party.
From the outset, the Italian was responsible for running faster than anyone this weekend: he signed a lap in 1m, 44'590s. And he secured the first position on the grid this Sunday. Dovizioso is a different type of pilot we knew. Now he knows how to be positive, to trust his team, he works better, step by step, without haste, without fear, in a progression that does not require sending in the time table in each session. He knows that the bike can be evolving little by little. And on that road he is perfecting the perfect lap, the perfect race. That did this Saturday. It had been the fastest on Friday, but still continued testing on Saturday at noon, until finding a bike that fits perfectly with this tracing of braking to the limit and abrupt accelerations, an ideal scenario for this Ducati, so stable, so powerful in low. "The circuit, in addition, goes very well with my style, so, in addition, the mix is good," he conceded at the end of the qualifying session.
Dovizioso, to 77 points of Márquez in the general, fulfilled his part. And he signed the best time in the last minutes, in his last attempt. And that he is not a man of poles, not in vain this is only the second of the season. Because he is a pilot who defends better in the strategy of a competition to more than 20 laps. And there he will try this Sunday to complicate things to Marquez, so that, as well as it seems that he has everything done after seven victories, he has to earn the crown on the track.
The Italian does not seem the only rival of 93 this Sunday. Not only because there will be up to five other riders on the grid – among them, the first will be Zarco and Miller, Yamaha and Ducati satellite pilots, but because the track does not present the best profile for the champion's Honda. Despite the improvement experienced in recent years, the Japanese motorcycle continues to suffer in acceleration. And he has to earn the tenths of a second he loses when he leaves the corners, at the moment when he opens the gas, with braking to the limit, very forced, to gain meters and time. And there he does not always win. He must risk to be as fast as his rival. And on some occasion it has ended up on the ground. As it happened this Saturday at noon, in the last free session, shortly before Q2, when he lost control of his motorcycle at the entrance of turn seven and left that bike unusable. For the classification, I would only have one bike available. And with that bike and recent mistakes he could not help but be sixth.
Márquez will start from the second row of the grid to aim for his seventh world championship. And despite the fast lap on Saturday, less spectacular than usual, presents a good pace to fight for victory with Dovi. "We will see a beautiful battle," predicts the Italian, who a year ago won the race with an overtaking in the last corner of the last lap.