Fabio Quartararo’s lead cut to ten points with five races remaining.
Francesco Bagnaia of Italy leads from Aleix Espargaro and Enea Bastianini.
Eugenio Espargaro says he wants more weekends in Japan after finishing third in Aragon.
After world champion Fabio Quartararo wrecked in Aragon and threw the championship race wide open with five races remaining, the enthralling MotoGP season heads to Japan this weekend.
The Frenchman still leads the standings, but his advantage has been cut to ten points by Francesco Bagnaia of Italy and Aleix Espargaro of Spain.
Bagnaia had increased the pressure on Yamaha’s Quartararo by winning four consecutive races before last weekend’s event in Aragon, Spain when Quartararo suffered a stunning and devastating first-lap departure after colliding with the Honda of six-time world champion Marc Marquez.
Enea Bastianini denied Bagnaia a fifth consecutive victory on the final lap of a tense race, but his second-place finish was sufficient to put pressure on the rattled Quartararo, and the Italian now has all the momentum.
The 25-year-old Bagnaia, who is vying for his maiden MotoGP world championship, stated, “I gave my best and I would like to have another fight in Japan.”
The Italian stated that he was content with the 20 points awarded for placing second rather than risking going all out in chase of 25 points for the win.
Only 17 points separate the top three riders in the championship standings as they head to Motegi for the first MotoGP in Japan since the epidemic.
Bastianini is not eliminated from the title race despite being 48 points behind Quartararo.
However, Bagnaia is uncomfortable with any championship discussion.
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“For sure now we are more close and now we can speak more about the championship, but I don’t want to,” he said.
“I want to do more weekends in Japan like we are doing this second part of the championship and see what happens.
“I know that our potential is so high but it’s three years since we went there so it will be tough at the start.”
While Bagnaia was cautious, Espargaro is thrilled to be in contention for his maiden MotoGP world championship with Aprilia Racing.
“The championship is getting super hot,” the 33-year-old said after finishing third in Aragon behind the combination of Bastianini and Bagnaia from Ducati.
He believes that Bagnaia is the man to defeat and that he is currently “cycling better than us.”
“He has the best bike and is riding at a really, really high level so it’s not going to be easy for Fabio and me,” said Espargaro.
“But this is MotoGP, you never know what can happen.
“Now we are going to very strange circuits, far from Europe with different temperatures, with different (tire) grip so anything can happen.”
‘Our strong point’
Following Sunday’s race in Japan, the season will continue in Thailand, Australia, and Malaysia before concluding in Valencia, Spain.
Quartararo must resume his world championship defense at Motegi after being left “sore” by his crash and suffering friction burns from sliding across the Aragon circuit.
The 23-year-old was shown with numerous large bandages covering his chest, but he did not appear to be seriously injured, since he was still laughing.
“Japan is a track I love,” he told reporters.
“I feel Japan can be a good track for us because even if there is a lot of acceleration, there is also a lot of braking.
“That is our strong point.”
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