In an enthralling MotoGP race at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi on Sunday Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa closed the gap in the title fight further with a strong win ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Álvaro Bautista.
“It was a hard race because the pace was very fast from the beginning,” Pedrosa said. “I tried to understand the bike, as yesterday we had a lot of chatter so I didn’t know how it would be today. In the beginning it wasn’t too bad but then it got a little worse during the race. I managed it as best I could and I stayed with Jorge, I was able to get a better line out of the corner and pass him and then I put in some good laps and controlled the gap. Jorge tried to stay with me, but then decided to settle for the second place.”
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo got away best, yet had to be bold in turn one to hold off Pedrosa. Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet crashed on the first lap but re-joined, while Yamaha’s Ben Spies crashed out going into lap two.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner had made a good start running fourth behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow in third. Yet three laps in Stoner was taken by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl was stalking Stoner closely, whilst fending off Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso in seventh.
With 17 laps remaining Lorenzo and Pedrosa had pulled out a lead at the front with Crutchlow running a lonely third. Stoner was desperately looking for a way past Bautista, yet the Spaniard was battling hard to keep the Australian at bay. Meanwhile Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi was in eighth struggling to keep up with Dovizioso’s pace in front. Two laps later Dovizioso forced his way past Bradl to hunt down Stoner in fifth.
With 13 laps remaining Pedrosa got better drive out of turn four and made his way past Lorenzo on the straight into the lead, looking instantly quicker on the Honda. As Lorenzo tried to keep up, Bautista was slowly closing in on Crutchlow, who did well to save a near fall.
Five laps on, De Puniet was forced to retire, as was Hernandez’s teammate Iván Silva. The same lap also saw Dovizioso make his way past Stoner into fifth.
With six laps left Pedrosa had built up a commanding lead over Lorenzo, while a lap later Bautista muscled his way past Crutchlow into the final podium spot, and the pair provided a thrilling battle on track. The Brit fought almost straight back with a move up the inside, yet Bautista retook him in the next turn where the two touched. And it was heartbreak for Crutchlow on the last lap as he pulled over having run out of fuel.
It was ultimately Pedrosa who kept his nerve to take the chequered flag, with Lorenzo and Bautista completing the rostrum, making it the second ever premier-class podium for the San Carlo rider. This now cuts Pedrosa’s deficit to Lorenzo to 28 points with three races remaining.
“We did what we needed to do and it’s just a pity that there is no one else who can stay with us because every race I win, he’s been second,” Pedrosa said. “But anyway, it’s a great feeling to win races and we are doing it now.”
Lorenzo took his eighth second place finish of the season to take 20 valuable Championship points. The result brings his total to 310.
“I was completely at the maximum trying to stay with Dani but today we had such different performance on the straights and he was also riding really well,” Lorenzo admitted. “I tried to stay with him but it was impossible, maybe next time it will be different. For sure the Championship is closer now, but we are still very competitive and have the chance to win.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Bautista celebrated his contract extension with the team by recording his second ever premier-class podium in Motegi.
“I knew I could fight for the podium because yesterday [Saturday] we proved we had a good race pace – so I tried and succeeded,” Bautista said. “I didn’t start very well and I lost some positions, but I recovered quickly. Later, when I caught up with Crutchlow, I saw that we were the same speed and I tried to keep a safe distance not to overheat the brakes. With five laps left I pushed more and I attacked. It was a good fight and I had fun.”
The first non-podium finisher in fourth was Dovizioso followed by Stoner, Bradl, Rossi, Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, Yamaha YSP Racing Team’s wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá.
Top CRT spot went to De Puniet’s teammate Aleix Espargaró, whilst Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci had to retire on the last lap.
Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez stormed to a stunning win in an eventful and thrilling Moto2 race at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in front of Pol Espargaró and Esteve Rabat.
This now puts Márquez 53 points clear at the top of the championship standings, making him the clear favourite for the title.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Danny Kent took his maiden victory in an extremely dramatic Moto3 race ahead of Maverick Viñales and Alessandro Tonucci. This now moves Viñales into second in the championship, 56 points behind Sandro Cortese.