MOTEGI, JAPAN (AFP) - Honda's Marc Marquez stormed to a nail-biting victory in Japan on Sunday (Oct 21) to capture his third straight MotoGP world championship as Ducati rival Andrea Dovizioso crashed out.
The Spanish sensation has now won five championships in motorcycling's premier class, putting him level with Australian legend Mick Doohan.
Marquez, still just 25, trails only the Italian pair of Valentino Rossi, who won the last of his seven championships in 2009, and Giacomo Agostini, whose record eighth came in 1975, in the all-time list.
"I feel really, really good," whooped Marquez after Dovizioso's late spill confirmed his eighth victory of the season.
"I already imagined that it will be (decided) here but the important thing is that when you have the first chance, you do it.
"It wasn't the best circuit to do it but I worked hard all weekend," added Marquez.
"I was able to follow Andrea and decided to attack before the last lap. I was pushing really hard, so he made a mistake - I'm disappointed because he deserves to be on the podium with us." Marquez started from sixth on the grid at Motegi but quickly knifed through the field and was third by the end of the first lap.
He flirted with disaster on lap 14, however, after overtaking Dovizioso at turn nine before running wide at the next corner and spitting up dirt and dust as he battled to control a violent wobble.
That heart-in-mouth moment allowed Dovizioso to retake the lead, but Marquez continued to swarm all over the Italian, finally slashing past him with a daredevil move on lap 21 of 24.
Dovizioso, who needed to complete a pole to flag victory to keep alive his fading championship hopes, crashed out on the penultimate lap in a desperate last push, ending this year's title race.
Marquez was mobbed by his team mechanics after crossing the line to seal his coronation with three races left.
"The big boss will enjoy this," smiled Marquez after wrapping up the title at Honda's home race, before rejoining the party at his team garage which he revealed afterwards had left him nursing a sore shoulder.
"The shoulder just popped out. Luckily with the adrenaline it doesn't hurt, but I'll need to be careful not to overdo it on the dance floor tonight!" Fellow Honda rider Cal Crutchlow finished runner-up after Dovizioso's fall with Alex Rins (Suzuki) edging out Rossi (Yamaha) to round out the podium.
Marquez has now won seven world titles in total after also winning the 125cc championship in 2010 and the Moto2 crown in 2012.
Meanwhile, three-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo will miss next weekend's Australian race after sitting out the Japanese round with injury.
Ducati said the Spaniard, who fractured his wrist at the previous race in Thailand, will aim to return at the penultimate weekend in Malaysia at the start of November.
Lorenzo paid tribute to Marquez, who he will join at Honda next year.
"Sometimes we don't agree on the way to compete," he tweeted. "But I recognise talent and excellence and there's no doubt about (his). Congratulations, you've been the best again."