Wow, where do I start?! I mean, I rode out of my skin today. Maybe I can ride a motorcycle sometimes... to be honest, I didn't know I had THAT in me.
I never thought that I'd be able to win a Grand Prix like that, just pulling away from everybody and dominating… it was a pretty incredible feeling. When you're riding like that, the biggest opponent you have is the little man inside your head trying to put doubts in your mind, so I just tried not to listen to him too much! It was a case of hitting my marks and not making any mistakes. It all felt under control.
I got asked afterwards whether that was the race of my life, and I'd have to say 100 per cent yes. Ever since we kicked things off here in Japan on Friday afternoon, I felt incredible on the bike. Everything felt like it was coming relatively easy. The bike was working fantastic and every little thing we tried was getting better. The only time things went a bit wrong was in qualifying in the wet, which was strange for me because generally in wet conditions I feel I can challenge right at the front, more so than even in the dry. But for whatever reason I was struggling, having moments and whatnot and ended up back in seventh, my worst Saturday for a while. Maybe that's the secret, have a not-so good Saturday and save all of the good stuff for Sunday...
Seventh on the grid – especially here at Motegi where there's a lot of places things can go wrong on the first laps because of the track layout – had the potential to trip me up a bit, but I got a good start and then was able to pick the boys off ahead of me fairly easily... maybe not easy, it was more that I felt really confident immediately. I hit the front pretty early, just three laps in, and lap by lap I was able to eke out the gap. I thought I'd be safe if I could get it out to four seconds or so. So when it got to five seconds... I could calm things down a bit but even then, I still felt incredible. It's the best I've ever ridden a motorcycle in my entire life, and the whole time I had a smile on my face. I got a bit emotional on the in-lap and I was crying like a baby – yeah, I know, what's new right?! – but honestly, it was magic.
The shoey on the podium... these boots absorb a fair bit of the champagne, more than I probably remembered they did, so that wasn't the best shoey of all time... but no, it was amazing to be able do that again though, and the fans got a kick out of it. My boots went in the crowd, my knee sliders… I would have probably thrown my race suit as well but it might not have cleared the fence.
It's easy to say after a win like that – any win, really – but it just feels so good to be back on these flyaway races again after the last few years. We've definitely missed them, us riders from this side of the world more than anyone. It was just so nice to be back in Japan, and even from Friday we had an amazing crowd here. They're great fans here, they cheer for and respect all the riders, they sit through the bad weather like we had on Saturday… there's nowhere like it.
Doing the flyaways again just felt… normal, and that was the best part of it, how familiar it felt. We've not really been able to say that for the past couple of years, so it feels unreal to be heading away and looking forward to what for me is the best part of the season. You have a lot of races end on end, and I get to be back on this side of the world. Race by race, I'm getting a little closer to racing at home again, which I've missed so much for the last couple of years. Being on the factory Ducati team pretty much since covid started, I've not had the chance to ride the red bike at home yet so that'll be awesome in a few weeks.
Anyway, the road show rolls on to Thailand next weekend, and that one will be packed to the rafters… definitely looking forward to that, but there's some celebrating to do first, that's for sure.