MotoGP: Time Marches on at the Japanese GP

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One of the three “flyaway” races before the season finale in Valencia, the Japanese GP is race that is not only important to the two remaining Japanese manufacturers in the premier class, but it begins the dénouement of the MotoGP Championship.

Finding renewed vigor in his Championship hunt, Dani Pedrosa has only a handful of races left to catch Jorge Lorenzo, and win his first premier-class title. Truthfully needing Lorenzo to make a critical mistake or suffer a mechanical failure, Pedrosa also has to keep the pressure on his rival, and try to minimize the gap to his fellow Spaniard.

With each place separating the two riders likely to play a pivotal role at the end of the season, the drama unfolding in Motegi was palpable, though the action itself was a slow grind of a multi-campaign war.

Sitting on the pole-position, Jorge Lorenzo seemed to be in a commanding position on his Yamaha, though Pedrosa showed an uncanny pace on his Honda as well. Leading into the first turns, Lorenzo would take charge of the race, or so it seemed. A replay of the last race at Aragon, Pedrosa stalked and studied his pray, before finally making his move on Lorenzo with 13 laps remaining.

Putting down the hammer, Pedrosa ensured that Lorenzo had no response to his charge, leaving the Yamaha man to settle for second place. While definitively losing the battle, Lorenzo is clearly winning the war, and even a string of third place finishes in the next three races would assure the factory Yamaha rider of regaining his reigning World Champion status. Though, if Lorenzo is racing with his head, Pedrosa is racing with his heart — and winning over critics in the process.

Marginally more entertaining than the battle at the front, the battle for third was full of intrigue in the final laps, though it ended with a whimper. Early in the race, Cal Crutchlow seemed to have a lonely, but assured podium in the bag, but Alvaro Bautista made a charge, and caught the satellite Yamaha rider mid-race. Swapping corners, and nearly swapping paint, the re-signed Bautista put on a good show for his renewed team, though the battle was cut short as Crutchlow’s M1 ran out of fuel in Turn 3 of the final lap.

Handing Bautista his second podium of the year, Cal’s race retirement also handed his teammate Andrea Dovizioso a fourth place finish. Noticeably absent from the mix was Ben Spies, who crashed in the second lap of the race, doing so while in third place and close to the leading riders — again teasing Yamaha with a result that could have been.

Casey Stoner easily takes the “Hero of the Day” award, as the Australian powered through the pain in his right ankle, and finished a solid fifth place for his hard work. Citing a supreme package from the team, Stoner attributed his finish to his personal fitness not being up to the task to ride around the foot injury. For the Australian, we imagine the only race that truly matters in the season is his home round at Phillip Island in two weeks’ time.

Race Results from the Japanese GP at Motegi, Japan:

Pos. Rider Nation Team Bike Time
1 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 42’31.569
2 Jorge LORENZO SPA Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha +4.275
3 Alvaro BAUTISTA SPA San Carlo Honda Gresini Honda +6.752
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha +16.397
5 Casey STONER AUS Repsol Honda Team Honda +20.566
6 Stefan BRADL GER LCR Honda MotoGP Honda +24.567
7 Valentino ROSSI ITA Ducati Team Ducati +26.072
8 Nicky HAYDEN USA Ducati Team Ducati +36.724
9 Katsuyuki NAKASUGA JPN Yamaha YSP Racing Team Yamaha +36.794
10 Hector BARBERA SPA Pramac Racing Team Ducati +1’10.729
11 Karel ABRAHAM CZE Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati +1’15.658
12 Aleix ESPARGARO SPA Power Electronics Aspar ART +1’22.769
13 Colin EDWARDS USA NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter +1’24.968
14 James ELLISON GBR Paul Bird Motorsport ART +1’29.388
15 Michele PIRRO ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini FTR +1’34.612
16 Roberto ROLFO ITA Speed Master ART +1’50.853
Not Classified
Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1 Lap
Danilo PETRUCCI ITA Came IodaRacing Project Ioda-Suter 1 Lap
Ivan SILVA SPA Avintia Blusens BQR 10 Laps
Randy DE PUNIET FRA Power Electronics Aspar ART 10 Laps
Ben SPIES USA Yamaha Factory Racing Yamaha 23 Laps
Yonny HERNANDEZ COL Avintia Blusens BQR 23 Laps

Source: MotoGP; Photo: Yamaha Racing