MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 14 – Rarely do circumstances line up as perfectly as they did for Dani Pedrosa at the Japanese Grand Prix.
The Repsol Honda MotoGP rider was on the RC213V, the strongest MotoGP machine in acceleration, the single most important area at Twin Ring Motegi, a collection of drag strips with a few hairpins and assorted other bends thrown in. Getting the bike stopped, turned, picked up and onto the fat part of the rear Bridgestone will guarantee success. And that’s what Pedrosa did today on the Honda-owned track and in front of the president of Honda Motor Company.
Pedrosa stalked Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo for the first 11 of 24 laps at Motegi before pulling the pin and making the pass on lap 12 of the MotoGP race. Lorenzo thought he could keep up with his fellow Spaniard, but he could see on the exit of every corner, the Honda powered away. Still, Lorenzo kept the gap in a range that gave him hope until the 20th lap when it nearly went to two seconds. Then it was just a matter of the final margin of victory: it was 4.275 seconds.
Dani Pedrosa won his fourth...
Dani Pedrosa won his fourth MotoGP race in a row to keep the pressure on Jorge Lorenzo for the title.
The win was Pedrosa’s fifth of the year, a career single season best in the MotoGP class, and his second in a row at Motegi. It also kept alive his flagging championship hopes. He now trails Lorenzo by 28 points with three races remaining. Considering that Lorenzo hasn’t been off the podium in any race, other than when he was knocked down by Alvaro Bautista in Assen, it’s unlikely he’s going to fold. But by winning at Motegi—Pedrosa has four wins in the last five races, his best ever stretch in MotoGP—he can keep the pressure on.
“Yes, for sure, but I'm riding well now so I just want to keep focused and riding well,” he said. “It’s good fun also to win races and it’s all I can do now to just try to do well every practice, every lap and that's it.”
The race wasn’t without its problems, Pedrosa admitted, but none were debilitating. There was chatter on corner exit that had just cropped up in Saturday qualifying, though he could control it.
“In the end I could more or less manage the gap and control the gap and get a win here,” he said of his Motegi MotoGP race. “It’s good, because it’s Honda race track, also for the team. It was an intense weekend. Every practice was dry. It’s a hard track for riding because heavy braking. Yeah, its great to get a win here.”
Lorenzo tried to hold off...
Lorenzo tried to hold off Pedrosa, but finally succumbed to the Honda's superior acceleration on the 12th lap at Motegi.
Lorenzo admitted to being disappointed after finishing second in the Motegi MotoGP race, but admitted that his Yamaha couldn't match the Honda on the straights. “I couldn't recover everything on the corners,” Lorenzo said. “So disappointed, but at the same point happy because we are still leading the championship with a lot of points, so we must try to stay in the same, in the same condition for all these three races and try not to get bad luck.”
Bautista finished third at Motegi to give Spain their first MotoGP podium sweep ever. (The first for the U.S. came at Monza in 1983 when Freddie Spencer beat Randy Mamola and Eddie Lawson.) His second career MotoGP podium came a day after it was announced he was staying with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team in 2013. And it didn't come easily.
Bautista came from a long way back to track down Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow. He caught him on lap 14 and passed him on lap 20, a clean move that Crutchlow tried to neutralize in the next corner but without success.
Alvaro Bautista celebrated...
Alvaro Bautista celebrated his re-signing with the San Carlo Honda Gresini team with another podium finish at Motegi.
Crutchlow might have had a move on the final lap at Motegi, but he never got to make it. Instead he ran out of gas in Turn 3, coasting to a stop and wasting what might have been his second MotoGP podium. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso ran out of gas on the cooldown lap.
“Today I didn’t start so well, so I have to recover some position and when I did I was behind Cal and, you know, I saw that our rhythm was more or less the same,” said Bautista. “And I keep some distance behind, because this morning we had some brake problems for the temperature and it lost some effectivity, so I prefer to keep the risk down and try to cover the brakes maximum possible. And when was five laps to go I attack him and we fight for a couple of laps and at the end I can get my second podium in MotoGP and I'm so happy.” The opposite of Crutchlow at Motegi, who was gutted.
“I am not very happy, as you can imagine, but I have to take a lot of positives away from that,” Crutchlow said, namely that he was strong at what was his worst track. A day earlier he’d voiced some concern about fuel consumption, though none of the factory MotoGP riders found it to be an issue at Motegi.
“It is difficult to accept, but I know I didn’t anything wrong. I did my best to save as much fuel as possible at the start of the race and I rode as hard as I could. It is hard to take because last year I was shit here and on Friday morning I was so far away yet I got on the front row and had a really strong race.”
Crutchlow’s departure put teammate Dovi up to fourth in what was a dull, processional MotoGP race from second through eighth. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner was alone in fifth in his return to Motegi. Stoner suffered physical exhaustion, which left him unable to attack. Instead he found himself in a no-man’s land.
Casey Stoner finished fifth...
Casey Stoner finished fifth in his return to MotoGP at Motegi after missing several rounds due to the ankle injury suffered at Indianapolis in August.
“To be honest, a little disappointed,” he said. “Especially at the start of the race I felt I had the pace to go with Dani and Jorge. The bike was feeling pretty good. But as we started getting through the race I started getting a whole heap of sore parts of my body that didn’t really realize were there and physically didn't have it. We had the pace to run a lot higher, we had the pace to be on the podium. Unfortunately I couldn't physically manage the situation. I'm a little bit disappointed. We slowly improved over the weekend. Got the bike to a point we were pretty happy in warm-up. But yeah it was just disappointing to slip back so far.”
LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl was by himself in sixth, partly because of a Saturday crash. Bradl had fallen early in MotoGP qualifying leaving him with a motorcycle that was hard to steer at Motegi. Then he suffered arm pump.
“At the beginning I could easily follow the group in the front of me with Stoner and Dovizioso but the problem with my braking hand got worse and worse lap by lap and I could not go any faster,” he said after the finish at Motegi. “I had to slow down and managed to finish the race sixth.”
Valentino Rossi was once again...
Valentino Rossi was once again in no-man's land in seventh, unable to make any ground on the riders in front.
Also frustrated was Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi in seventh. Rossi got the most out of his motorcycle, but it wasn’t enough at Motegi.
“For me in this track, with these conditions and with this grip, everybody gave the maximum and our maximum is this,” he said after finishing the MotoGP race 26 seconds behind Pedrosa. "I am constant all the race and the new chassis and swingarm improve the consistency of my speed in all the race like in Misano and Aragon. Today I did 46.9 before the last lap and it is not so bad but unfortunately the other guys are going faster. For me braking and entry we are not fantastic but in acceleration we lose a lot. The other manufacturers are able to put more horsepower on the ground without spinning and I spin a lot and I have three or four acceleration points where I lose so much.”
Riding with an injured wrist,...
Riding with an injured wrist, Nicky Hayden was barely able to hold off wild card rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga for eighth spot.
The only race in the top ten was between Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden and Yamaha MotoGP test rider and wild card Katsuyuki Nakasuga. Hayden was riding with an injured right wrist and motorcycle that wasn’t perfect or as fast as the Yamaha. Still he managed to hold off the Japanese rider at Motegi by .070 seconds.
“We knew it wouldn't be easy,” Hayden said after finishing the Motegi MotoGP race in eighth. “It’s always been a difficult place for me and with the hand injury hasn't made it any easier.
“But this morning for the first time all weekend I was able to find a decent rhythm and was able to string a couple decent laps together and at least thought I could put up a better fight than that. At the start of the race I couldn't stop the bike at all and was running wide everywhere. Lost a bunch of time and got behind the wild card and finally got back past him and was just did my race, but not very fast.
“So like I say, it’s not been an easy weekend. It hadn’t been much fun, but glad it’s over, really, and hopefully Malaysia will be a lot better.”
The season just continues...
The season just continues to get worse for Ben Spies, as he suffered brake problems and ran off the track on the third lap, crashing into the trackside barriers and out of the race.
Hayden wasn’t the only American to have a bad day. Yamaha’s Ben Spies made it to the second lap at Motegi before running off the track in the first turn and tipping over at the back of the gravel trap. Spies had also run off the track in morning warm-up. The MotoGP race mishap was caused by brake fade, he said.
“We’ve known all weekend that the brakes could be an issue due to the tough nature of the track, but I did not expect to have trouble on the second lap,” he said. “The team has worked really hard all weekend and we’ve delivered podium pace with the bike so it’s not the result we deserve. We’ll go to Sepang now and try to put this behind us and hopefully have a trouble-free weekend."
MotoGP Motegi race results:
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha
3. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda
4. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Yamaha
5. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda
6. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda
7. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati
8. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati
9. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (JPN) Yamaha
10. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati
11. Karel Abraham (CZE) Ducati
12. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia
13. Colin Edwards (USA) Suter/BMW
14. James Ellison (GBR) ART/Aprilia
15. Michele Pirro (ITA) FTR/Honda
16. Roberto Rolfo (ITA) ART/Aprilia
DNF Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha
DNF Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda-Suter/BMW
DNF Ivan Silva (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki
DNF Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia
DNF Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha
DNF Yonny Hernandez (COL) FTR/Kawasaki