Upgrade to BT Sport

To view this content you need to upgrade your subscription from BT Sport Lite to BT Sport Pack.

Click here to get BT Sport now

Grand Prix Of Japan preview and predictions: ‘I can’t emphasise enough how important what happens at the end of this year is for the start of 2020’

Neil Hodgson expects Marc Marquez to continue where he left off but insists there is plenty to play for despite the Spaniard having the championship sewn up.

The first championship of the season has gone to Marc Marquez but the BTSport.com versus MotoGP team head-to-head is still finely poised and the responsibility falls on Neil Hodgson's shoulders this week.

Join now to watch MotoGP Brno exclusively live on BT Sport

The scoring system works like this, it's 10 points for correctly predicting a rider’s position on the podium or five if they finish elsewhere in the top three.

As ever you can watch each session from all three classes across the race weekend on TV or via live stream on the BT Sport app and BTSport.com.

Here are the overall standings after 15 rounds:

Round MotoGP team BTSport.com
Qatar 10 10
Argentina 15 10
Americas 0 0
Jerez 15 10
Le Mans 10 20
Mugello 10 20
Catalunya 10 10
Assen 15 5
Germany 20 10
Czech Republic 10 15
Austria 10 20
Great Britain 15 10
San Marino 5 15
Aragon 20 10
Thailand 10 20
Total: 175 185

We're expecting the newly-crowned eight-time world champion Marc Marquez to continue his fine form, with Maverick Vinales securing another podium and Alex Rins in third. What about you?

“Marquez first and I don’t need to say any more do I? He’s clearly the favourite to win.

“Dovi is riding really well and the Ducati works well around that track so I feel like he’s going to be strong.

“Maverick is also riding very well and I know he was beaten by [Fabio] Quartararo in the last round but I just think in front of all the Yamaha bosses he’ll find a little something extra.”

Predictions Round 16: Grand Prix of Japan

Podium position MotoGP team (Hodgson) BTSport.com
1st Marc Marquez Marc Marquez
2nd Andrea Dovizioso Maverick Vinales
3rd Maverick Vinales
Alex Rins

The MotoGP championship may be done and dusted but the predictor league is going down to the wire. With BTSport.com leading by 10 points, are you feeling confident?

“It’s just not acceptable is it?! The so-called experts hey, we’re bloody useless!

“I like that it’s so close but I am feeling confident because these last four rounds are the tricky ones where you get some unexpected results.

“But that’s all I’m going to say, I’m not giving anything away.”

So who is to blame for it being this close?

“Quite clearly the weak link is always Gavin Emmett.

“He doesn’t know enough about the sport and in my opinion he concentrates too much on rugby.

“When I see him in Japan he’s getting some ear flogging!”

Even with the championship sewn up you’re not expecting any let up from Marquez then?

“He’s addicted to winning and is going to need his regular fix of success.

“There’s a bit of talk in the background that he might be a lot more experimental in terms of set-up to help find a direction for next year’s bike.

“So I think they might be a bit more radical and he may sacrifice a session or two, trying things he wouldn’t normally on a race weekend because he can do that now.”

There are several records he can surpass, will breaking as many as possible be his aim now?

“Definitely, because I know he cares about the records.

“I wouldn’t know, but what motivates you after you’ve won so much?

“To be national champion is a dream, then to be world champion is incredible, but then to be a multiple world champion is off the scale. So imagine the position he’s in now where he could become the greatest of all time.

“Obviously it’s going to take a few more years but he has got that opportunity and I think he will do it and smash every record.”

Dovi is one of the few riders without home pressure from his manufacturer here, does that take any pressure off him?

“He’s experienced now so I don’t think he’ll feel less pressure because he’s not on a Japanese manufacturer but he’s just a class act.

“Weirdly the track was designed by Honda but to be honest it’s quite boring because it’s real stop-start, slow corner long straight, and that drag-strip style circuit works for Ducati.

“If you think of Austria, where they’ve won every time they’ve been there, that’s drag-strip style circuit and that’s why I think Dovi will be right up there.”

On the rounds where the track suits the Ducati, does Dovi have to finish second as a bare minimum?

“Definitely, definitely. Ducati have lost their way a little bit this season and for a period you could see that Dovi had lost a bit of confidence.

“So it’s important for him and Ducati that in the next four rounds, on four very different tracks, they get a bit of stability back and for Dovi finishing second [in the championship] is job done.

“Nobody would ever admit it but if you finish second to Marquez in the championship, it’s almost like a win! You’re just aiming to be best of the rest against the total phenomenon that is Marc Marquez.

“Finishing second has a lot of credibility in the paddock even though nobody would ever admit that.”

On a similar note, will finishing third in the championship or as the top Yamaha be more important for Vinales?

“Top Yamaha. That’s all you can do for your own confidence and bragging rights.

“We’ll see some contracts handed out early on next year and if he finishes as top Yamaha that puts him in a really strong position.

“Even though the championship has gone, there is a lot to play for and I can’t emphasise enough how important what happens at the end of this year is for the start of 2020.

“It really does work that way and you need to end strongly.”

Is that impact more significant in terms of contracts and long-term futures or bike development?

“It’s about riders’ confidence and mentality but also team managers because it’s a long winter and when people are sat in the boardroom picking who they want on their bike you want to be top of that list.

“Imagine if Maverick wins the last four races, his stock value will go from around £2million – which is roughly what he’s worth now – to potentially £8million and every manufacturer wanting you.

“So he’s picked a good time to find some form and he just needs to sort his major weakness which is that he gets a bit flustered when he’s around people at the start of a race.

“But once he’s say five laps in and has settled down he’s as fast as anybody but by then he’s usually three seconds behind where he needs to be and he’s working hard to reduce that gap but it’s too little, too late.”