Dani Pedrosa came from sixth on the grid to take his 27th MotoGP win and first since Brno in 2014 on a drying track at the Twin Ring Motegi. Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi (+8.573s) crossed the line in second to record his 14th podium of the season as he extended his lead over his teammate Jorge Lorenzo to 18 points in the World Championship standings. Lorenzo (+12.127s) completed the podium after struggling with front-tyre wear late on in the race to record his 94th premier class rostrum.
There were only really three riders in with a chance to win the race in tricky conditions at Motegi that saw 50,000 fans packed into the grandstands despite the rain. The race started on time despite a two-hour delay to the morning’s Warm Up Session, but the track remained damp meaning all riders went for wets. At the start of the race the outcome looked very different, as Rossi got the holeshot into turn 1 only for Lorenzo to take him through turns 3 & 4 for the lead. At this point things looked ominous for Rossi as Lorenzo broke away at the front in his usual fashion and opened up a 2 second lead by the end of lap 3.
Rossi appeared to have no answer to his teammates pace and had to fight off the advances of the Ducati Team GP15 of Andrea Dovizioso during the early stages of the race. In a sign of things to come though, Dovizioso started to experience front tyre issues as a dry line appeared on track and began to drop back rapidly by lap ten. At this point Pedrosa had made his way up into fourth and was by far the fastest man on the track. On lap 11 the Spaniard passed Dovizioso as the Italian ran wide and started to chase down Rossi in second, who had a 2.7s advantage.
Lapping 1.5-secs faster that the two Yamaha’s in front of him, Pedrosa caught Rossi with 9 laps to go and suddenly Lorenzo was struggling as his front tyre started to rip itself to pieces. Rossi went with Pedrosa and they both began to hunt down Lorenzo, who had a 2.7s advantage with the two-time MotoGP world champion appearing to be going backwards at this point. Pedrosa blasted past him on the straight as they completed lap 17 to take the lead, and never looked back as he went on to take a commanding victory and continue his record of winning at least one race in every season he has competed in MotoGP.
It then became a game of risk versus reward between the two Yamaha teammates as Rossi closed in on his title rival, but both were tiptoeing around on their shredded front tyres. Rossi appeared to have looked after his slightly better though and Lorenzo ran wide at turn 3 with 5 laps to go to gift the ‘Doctor’ second. Pedrosa rode superbly in the final laps to take the race win by over 8.5s from Rossi, with Lorenzo completing the podium a further 3 seconds back.
Although it was clearly Pedrosa’s day after a sensational ride in the wet, Rossi was delighted with extending his lead in the standings as he hopes to secure his tenth World Championship title in 2015.
Dani Pedrosa – P1 – “I’m so happy with this win! It has been a long time since my last one and I’m really pleased. It was a fun race, because at first I took things calmly and lost too much time, but the strategy worked out because afterwards I recovered ground gradually. I had a special feeling at that point in the race and I’m happy to take this victory for Honda at their home track, for the team, the sponsors, my friends and family, because it has been a difficult season. It’s not been an easy weekend here in Japan, I’d also like to wish Alex De Angelis all the best and hope he recovers soon.”
Valentino Rossi – P2 – “Physically it wasn’t so bad, but mentally it was very hard to always keep the concentration, because it’s very easy to make a mistake. At the beginning we had a good pace, but Jorge was stronger than me and was able to create a small advantage. After that my pace was good, I stayed with him and tried not to lose more time and used it as a motivation to keep my concentration, but when the track started to dry everything became more difficult. The tyre gave up and started spinning a lot on the straight and Dani arrived. It was a difficult situation, because if Dani beat me and not Jorge I would have lost another nine points after Aragón. I was able to do three or four very strong laps behind Dani and catch Jorge, who then made a mistake. I took an additional four-point advantage, which was our target, so we are very happy. The track was a lot better when it was fully wet, because the tyres worked well. When it starts to dry up it feels like you are in a boat at sea, the bike moves everywhere. Three or four times when I touched the throttle I felt the front go and said “no, no, no!”, so it was difficult, lots of stress.”
Jorge Lorenzo – P3 – “It was a pity because I think that on the dry I was the fastest and the more consistent rider. Also in the rain I was very fast, but unfortunately the track dried up and my push at the beginning of the race probably made my tyre a bit worse than Valentino’s and Dani’s. When the track was almost dry, my front tyre was destroyed and I couldn’t ride like before. For this race it was important to finish in front of Valentino, but the championship is not over, because I remember in 2013 I was even further from Marquez in the standings and I lost the championship by just four points. Eighteen points is a lot, but if I win all races and another rider finishes between me and Valentino, I can still win the championship.”
Pedrosa’s teammate Marc Marquez (+27.841s) crossed the line in a lonely 4th nursing the broken bone in his left hand ahead of the Dovizioso, who despite his tyre issues, held on for fifth.
Marc Marquez – P4 – “It was a difficult Sunday. In the wet, right from the warm up it was difficult to find the ideal setup and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable. We made some small changes for the race, so as not to take too many risks, but I never felt good and in the end we finished fourth. My hand didn’t give me too many problems in the wet, in the dry it would have been more difficult. Now we have to take away information from this Sunday and I look forward to going to Phillip Island, which is a circuit that should be better for us and is one of my favourites. I’d also like to send my best wishes to Alex De Angelis – we are all thinking of him.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P5 – “Today we didn’t have such a bad race pace, but after a few laps the front tyre started to deteriorate, and I was no longer able to brake well. It was a bit of a strange situation, because although everyone else probably had the same tyre wear, in my case at the start, when the track was still wet, the front was closing in all the time and I couldn’t push hard. It was a real pity because we had good pace and I think that we could have fought for the podium. In any case we took home a fifth place in difficult conditions because it was not easy to get to the chequered flag. It was a real pity because we had a lot more potential today.”
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow came out on top by just 0.404s in an excellent battle for sixth against his compatriot Bradley Smith on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 to finish as the leading Satellite rider. Crutchlow passed Smith on the last lap to secure sixth, his best result since he also finished sixth at Assen. Smith crossed the line in seventh to make it 21 point scoring finishes in a row, but dropped down to sixth in the standings, 2 points behind Dovizioso.
Cal Crutchlow – P6 – “We are pleased with he result to finish in the top six today. I am a little disappointed as I thought again I was one of the strongest guys in the rain today, but I had a bad first couple of laps because the rear tyre failed to heat. After that I came on strong and felt really good and made up some places. By the time I had pushed, the front tyre was completely destroyed and I finished the race with a tyre that looked like a slick! I tried my best and we did a good job as a team today, we made sure we finished and got some good points heading into the next race in Australia.”
Bradley Smith – P7 – “I am pleased with today’s result after the difficult start that we had in warm up this morning as we finally managed to turn it around and perform well even in the wet conditions. When the morning session began, we ran with the base setting that we used at Silverstone, which I wasn’t overly happy with but it was the only wet setting that we had. To be honest, it didn’t work and we were down the order so I expected the race to be even more difficult. I crossed my fingers for dry weather as I knew that if that occurred, I could attack and do a good job, yet it wasn’t to be. However, the team adjusted the bike and shortened the wheelbase in order to find some more grip for me and it worked really well. At the beginning of the race, I needed to get used to the new setting and adjust myself, but the feeling came quickly and then I started working my way through the field. It was a shame that Crutchlow passed me on the final lap but my front tyre was really worn and I think that the Honda had a little bit more towards the end. Also, I was a little bit lucky because I was leading Cal until turn 11 and there I tucked the front but saved it with my elbow, so as a result he powered past me. Anyway, I am not too disappointed because I was in the leading satellite battle and we really improved a lot from the warm up. I may have lost 5th in the championship but it was to the rider who won the race, so I can’t be too upset. Next up is Phillip Island, which I am looking forward to. Last year I had a good feeling there and the Yamaha is known for running well at that track. Therefore, bearing in mind all of the improvements that we have made to the bike, the feeling and my riding style, it should be a good weekend. I can’t promise a repeat of last year’s podium but I’ll try my very best!”
Wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha Factory Team) rode brilliantly to finish in eighth ahead of Hector Barbera on the Avintia Racing Ducati.
Katsuyuki Nakasuga – P8 – “My goal this time was to hold my position in the top 15 and then move up as far as I could. I can’t say that I am satisfied with my 8th-place finish today but I do accept that this result shows where I stand at present. During the race, I truly enjoyed competing with my two teammates from the recent Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race; I was able to pass Bradley Smith and close in on Pol Espargaró to the point where he saw me and picked up the pace. Although it was a difficult race, both from the standpoint of the tires and the machine, the fact that the results of this round have effectively brought the championship title race down to a contest between Rossi and Lorenzo makes me very happy, considering my role as the M1’s development rider. I feel satisfied with the job I have done in that respect. The conditions out on the track today were difficult, and having been able to hold my own out there against the MotoGP riders has given me a real confidence boost. Also, because we were able to get some good wet-condition race data today, I feel it was a very meaningful race weekend.”
Barbera took the Open class win and also recorded his first top ten finish of the season to re-take the lead in the Open standings by two points from Loris Baz (Forward Racing), who was forced to retire from the race.
Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top ten ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in 11th, with the second wildcard Takumi Takahashi (Team HRC with Nissin) 12th.
Scott Redding – P10 – “I’m happy with the second half of the race, but disappointed with the first half. I decided to go with the harder option rear on the grid, but struggled to get the tyre to work until a few laps into the race. I lost a lot of time in the opening laps, as my pace wasn’t there and people were passing me, which slowed me further. Then, once I’d got some heat into the rear and the front started to come in it was much better and I was able to settle into a good rhythm. We don’t get these conditions often, so it was a learning experience for me and I think today I learnt more than in a normal race. Overall I’m pretty happy we hit our target of a top ten finish here. Now we head to Australia for the next race. It will be different on the factory bike compared to the open bike I rode last year, so we’ll have to see how it goes, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Phillip Island.”
Aleix Espargaro – P11 – “I’m disappointed for the final result because I have the feeling we could have got a position closer to our real potential today. This morning in the warm-up I had a very good pace and I was positive for the race, in fact my start was very good and I was immediately fighting with the factory riders. Unfortunately the front tyre’s performance dropped off a lot, I didn’t have a proper feeling from it and I did some hard braking, that pushed me in the gravel. Luckily I didn’t crash and could re-join the race, but I lost many positions. From there I could recover many places but then the rear tyre performance dropped, so-much-so that at the end of the race it was almost a slick, so we need to improve a lot our electronic management on wet tyres. We had the same issues in Misano and Silverstone, so that’s an area where we must improve. It is positive that in all the last races we made many improvements. In the dry we are pretty competitive and also in the wet we are getting better and better, even if the final result of this race is not what I was expecting or wishing for.”
Takumi Takahashi – P12 – “It has been a great experience riding my first MotoGP race! All weekend we have had dry weather and I’ve been able to steadily improve. However, today has been wet all day and I wasn’t able to deliver the result I had hoped. In the first part of the race I lost a lot of time as I was trying to find a good feeling. Anyway, I learned a lot about the tyres and racing alongside these riders and it was a great experience with HRC and Nissin, so I’d like to thank them for this opportunity.”
Nicky Hayden was the leading Open Class Honda in 13th, with his Irish teammate Eugene Laverty crossing the line in 17th.
Nicky Hayden – P13 – “Always in the wet I hope for a little bit more than thirteenth. I got a really good start and moved up a couple of positions on the first lap but it was difficult to stay there because I was losing so much time to a few guys on the straights. I wasn’t too happy with that but I just settled into my rhythm. I wasn’t able to do anything special and the last eight or ten laps when the tyres went off were really difficult. The rear was spinning but it was more the front tyre, it was moving around so much. The lap times actually held up pretty good, I was able to pass Hernandez late on and we picked up a couple of points. We’ll keep going, try to do better next time but I want to say thanks to the fans here, the crowd was amazing.”
Eugene Laverty – P17 – “It was a difficult race. At the start we were really strong in comparison to the wet race at Silverstone, where I didn’t have a good feeling in the early laps. I could stay with the guys but then when the spinning began and the tyre started to move around we got slower and slower and by the end the tyre was almost like a slick. We are still improving and we know the direction but we need to improve much, much more in the wet if we want to finish in the points. Maybe that’s the last wet race of the year, we don’t know. The positive thing from the weekend is the lap we set in the dry yesterday. I am in one piece and we move on to Phillip island now.”
Aprilia riders Bautista and Bradl were 16th and 18th respectively.
Alvaro Bautista – P16 – “The day before the race I was pleased with our preparation and even with the morning warm up session on a soft tyre didn’t go badly. But for the race the track was different, not entirely wet and in these conditions we chose to mount the harder tyre. In the first laps I couldn’t find the right feeling and then things improved a bit, but I never really felt comfortable like I had in the morning. So I had to find a pace and keep it, but in the last ten laps, when the tarmac seemed to be less wet, the situation worsened even more. I lost the front end a few times and there was a lot of spin at the rear when I would open up the gas. It wasn’t the race I had expected after a good weekend like this one.”
Stefan Bradl – P18 – “At the beginning of the race I felt at ease on the bike and everything was going well. After a few laps I felt like I could manage more power, so I turned down the traction control. After a few more laps, however, the rear tyre began to wear and I had to turn it back up. As I was trying to press the button my thumb accidentally touched the pit lane speed limiter button. In a braking section with no engine brake I was forced to run on and in that off-track excursion I lost a lot of time. When I realised what had happened I pushed the button again and restarted, but at that point my race was compromised.”
Jack Miller (LCR Honda) crashed twice during the race, after at one point leading the Open class battle, and was forced to retire.
Jack Miller – DNF – “It was a disappointing end to the weekend. I tried hard to be a little bit calmer this time with the wet conditions, I didn’t look to overtake so many people and got in a nice groove and got settled. But then I had small loss of the front and I’m not really sure why. After that I tried to work my way back into a points position but it was not quite possible. I caught up to Laverty, but when I was right behind him I locked the brake up on the white line and that was the end of my race. It was a real shame, I’m not very happy but we also gained a lot of experience out of this.”
There were also DNF’s for Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team).
Andrea Iannone – DNF – “It wasn’t an easy race because already at the start my GP15’s engine didn’t seem to have much drive. I realized that there was a problem, but I hoped that it wasn’t the case. However when I saw that all of my rivals were passing me easily coming out of the corners and on the straight, I knew that my bike didn’t have its usual performance. I tried to do the best I could, and I was trying to hold on but unfortunately I couldn’t finish the race.”
Maverick Viñales – DNF – “I’m sad with this result because I felt I could do much better. We have no experience in the wet and for this reason I was pretty happy on how the warm-up went. I felt pretty competitive and confident. In fact my start in the race was not bad, even though I needed the early laps to find confidence, so I lost some positions. Then I managed to find a confident race pace, that allowed me to improve and get very close to the top 10, but unfortunately I then crashed. I had some issues with the gearbox: I couldn’t make the proper gear-changes, so in turn 11, I was braking hard and suddenly lost the front. It was such a fast crash that I didn’t even realise what had happened, now we are investigating the possible causes so we can learn for the future. For sure we have much room for improvement in wet conditions, both for the machine set-up and electronics but also myself in the riding style and tyre and grip management.”
Pol Espargaro – DNF – “It has been a tough event here in Japan this weekend and we were not at our best in the practice sessions. Therefore, the wet conditions this morning certainly didn’t help to make things any easier. However, I began the race confidently and with quite a good start. In the first few laps, the bike was working really well and I found a solid rhythm, but shortly after that I began to struggle with the front tyre moving a lot which made it really complicated to turn the bike. I kept on pushing yet when I tried to pass Iannone, I ran wide and lost several positions, so I had to commence my recovery from 15th position with 13 laps remaining. While I was trying to make up some time to the guys ahead of me, I was continuously battling with my M1 as the front tyre was dropping more and more. Then, three laps before the end, I had closed in on my brother and would have loved to pass him but unfortunately, the front tyre locked and I fell whilst braking into turn 11 with only one and a half laps to go, which is a big pity as I definitely didn’t want to end my weekend in this way. I hit my head on the barrier during this incident, but I’ve undertaken a medical check and luckily I walked away unhurt. Another positive is that we are now flying to Australia, which is my favourite track and we were strong there last year, so I’m looking forward to next week and getting back on my Yamaha YZR-M1.”
Loris Baz – DNF – “I’m not happy with this race weekend. I suffered in the free practices and today I was not able to find the right feeling. With both bikes I lost the grip with the front tyre and I preferred to come back to the garage. It is a pity, I lost the leadership of the Open class, but in a week we will be in Phillip Island for the next race”.
Rossi (283pts) now has an 18-point lead over Lorenzo (265pts) with just three races remaining, while Marc Marquez remains in third with 197 points.
MotoGP Race Classification
1 – Dani Pedrosa (SPA)HONDA46’50.767
2 – Valentino Rossi(ITA)YAMAHA+ 8.573
3 – Jorge Lorenzo(SPA)YAMAHA +12.127
Moto2 champion Zarco takes 7th win of the season
Ajo Motorsport’s Zarco was crowned the Moto2 champion on Friday after the only man who could stop him lifting the title at Motegi, Tito Rabat, had to withdraw from the Motul Grand Prix of Japan due to injury. The Frenchman responded by riding brilliantly on a wet, but drying track, to take the race win from AGR Team’s Jonas Folger by 4.505s. Dynavolt Intact GP’s Sandro Cortese completed the podium a further 10.928s back, as a number of riders were caught out by front tyres issues in the tricky conditions.
The Moto2 race was reduced to 15 laps after a two-hour delay to the morning’s Warm Up sessions due to track conditions. Zarco, starting from pole, found himself chasing down Folger in the early stages of the race after the German got the holeshot into turn 1. The newly crowned champion made his move on Folger for the lead on lap 7 and set off into to the distance to take his eighth career GP victory.
Folger finished in a lonely second as he returned to the podium for the first time since his win at the Catalan GP, his third rostrum of the season. Cortese, starting from 9th on the grid bided his time perfectly to move through the field and claim third from Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Azlan Shah by 1.915s. Cortese passed Shah on the penultimate lap to record his first podium of the season and first since Brno in 2014.
Shah crossed the line in fourth to record his career best Moto2 result and first ever top ten finish. Petronas Raceline Malaysia’s Hafizh Syahrin claimed his best result of the season in fifth ahead of Ricky Cardus on the JP Moto Malaysia Suter in Sixth. It was also Cardus’ career best finish.
Simone Corsi (Forward Racing), Sam Lowes (Speed Up Racing), Marcel Schrotter (Tech 3) and Randy Krummenacher (JIR Racing Team) completed the top ten. Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP40) had been competing for the podium, but was one of the riders to suffer from excessive front tyre wear as the track dried and had to settle for 11th after running wide a number of times in the latter stages of the race.
There were crashes for Luis Salom, Thitipong Warokorn, Thomas Luthi, Xavier Simeon, Xavi Vierge, Axel Pons and Joshua Hook who was substituting for the injured Dominique Aegerter.
Moto2 Race Classification
1 – Johann Zarco (FRA) KALEX 31’17.900
2 – Jonas Folger (GER) KALEX + 4.505
3 – Sandro Cortese (GER) KALEX + 15.433
Antonelli puts on a master class in the wet to win
Ongetta-Rivacold’s Antonelli put on a brilliant display of riding in the wet at the Motul Grand Prix of Japan to take just his second career Moto3 victory by over a second from Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira (+1.053s) with Jorge Navarro (+8.529s) completing the podium on the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda.
Championship leader Danny Kent saw his chances of lifting the title at Motegi fade after a bad start, but recovered to finish in sixth ahead of his main title rival Enea Bastianini on the Gresini Racing Team Moto3 Honda. This sees the title battle continue to the Australian GP with Kent extending his lead to 56 points over the Italian.
Track conditions in the morning saw Warm Up for all three classes delayed by two hours and therefore the Moto3™ race was reduced to a 13-lap sprint in the wet.
Antonelli shot off at the start and established a 4 second lead at the front of the field, while Kent found himself down in 16th at the end of the first lap, while his main title rival Bastianini was running in sixth.
Kent managed to re-group and after 4 laps started to charge his way through the field and with 3 laps to go, he had made his way up to 7th and was chasing down Bastianini. Oliveira in second was now gradually reducing all the while Antonelli’s gap at the front and with two laps to go the Italian’s lead was down to 2.1s.
On the last lap this gap was down to 1 second, and Kent had closed up on Bastianini. The Brit timed it perfectly to take Bastianini at turn 7 and move into sixth at the expense of the ‘Beast’.
Antonelli kept his cool to keep Oliveira at bay and take the race win with Oliveira claiming his sixth podium of the season in second. Jorge Navarro made it back-to-back podiums as he crossed the line in third.
RBA Racing’s Isaac Viñales (+11.074s) crashed on the penultimate lap at turn 10 but incredibly remounted to finish in fourth ahead of Drive M7 SIC’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin (+13.043s) who claimed his best result of the season in fifth.
Kent’s (+15.224s) last lap move saw him finish half a second ahead of Bastianini, while Karel Hanika (Red Bull KTM Ajo), John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Efren Vazquez (Leopard Racing) completed the top ten.
There were crashes in the tricky conditions for Remy Gardner, Livio Loi, Hiroki Ono, Alexis Masbou, Alessandro Tonucci and wildcard Ryo Mizuno.
Remy Gardner (DNF) – “A wet and shortened race added to a back starting grid position is not the best combination to get a good result and we knew it from the beginning. I’ve been trying to do my best and recover the maximum positions during the race but at the end in the turn number three I’ve loosed the front of my bike and crashed”.
Fabio Quartararo (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was forced to pull out of the weekend after Friday’s practice due to the pain he was suffering from the broken ankle he sustained at Mugello.
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