Dani Pedrosa rode a brilliant and perfectly controlled race at Motegi in Japan to win his third grand prix of the season ahead of Jorge Lorenzo after Casey Stoner ran off the track while in the lead. Here is a full report...
It was a dramatic race from start to finish this morning with Valentino Rossi crashing at the second corner and taking Ben Spies off the track. Casey Stoner did have the lead but he was chased hard by Andrea Dovizioso and Pedrosa.
Unfortunately for Dovizioso, however, the Italian rider had rolled forward at the start, meaning he faced a penalty for jumping the start. It was a cruel slap in the face after qualifying in third. He was also the fastest man in the race, closing fast on leader Stoner.
Before Dovizioso took his penalty, he was gifted the lead as Stoner ran off the track. The Australian rider hit a bump on the back straight and the wobble and shake it caused in his bike's front forks knocked the pistons back in the front brake calipers. It delayed his braking into the next corner and caused Stoner to ride into the gravel trap.
He rejoined the circuit in seventh, ahead of Toni Elias. At the end of lap five, Dovizioso called in for his ride-through penatly, as did Marco Simoncelli and Cal Crutchlow. That put Stoner back up to fifth but he was over ten seconds behind championship rival Jorge Lorenzo, who was less than a second behind Pedrosa.
Lorenzo was unable to make good on his threat to Pedrosa. His pace faded while Pedrosa remained quick and consistent. Stoner had little trouble working his way back up to third but couldn't close the gap on Lorenzo.
The battle for fourth place came down to a struggle between Dovizioso and Simoncelli, who had both fought back from their ride-through delays. The race finally went the way of a determined Simoncelli – a major frustration for Dovizioso who, earlier on, had been both the fastest man on the track and the race leader.
Pedrosa was thrilled with victory after a string of three second-place finishes. Said Pedrosa: 'It was a bit weird at the start. I saw Dovizioso move and I tried to push hard in the first laps, but Casey and Dovi were faster. Then Casey ran off and Dovi had to have his ride-through. So I had the lead. I concentrated on doing my best and the bike was good. I am very happy with my first MotoGP win here in Japan and the first win at Motegi for Honda HRC.' The Spaniard had already won at Motegi in the 125 and 250cc classes.
Stoner – who still has a 40-point championshiop lead over Lorenzo with three races to go – was philosophical about finishing third. 'This whole weekend felt pretty good. I felt confident going into the race and it was going pretty well. Then the front started moving over one of the bumps. As it went over the second bump, it pretty much shook my hands off the bars and knocked the brakes back. I pumped them a couple of times and the second pump brought the back end off the road so I just made sure I kept upright and could get back on the track. It is disappointing not to get the result we might have,' said Stoner, who had set off from his tenth pole of the year.
Marquez takes the lead in Moto2 with his second-place
Marc Marquez, who started off in pole, had a thrilling race-long battle with Andrea Iannone that briefly involved season-long points leader Stefan Bradl. The German eventually dropped back to finish fourth behind Thomas Luthi and ahead of Simone Corsi after a great fight between the three of them.
It was Iannone's third win of the year, but second-place for Red Bull rider Marquez means he now heads the championship by a single point from Bradl with three races remaining.
'It was a difficult race,' said Marquez. 'I was riding all the way to the limit. I saw that Iannone was faster and In the last laps I thought a bit more about the championship and saw on the board, ten laps before the end, that they said P2 OK. It was a tough race for us today, but to finish in second when we don't have a perfect set-up is a very good result.'
Rookies Cup champ takes first 125cc GP win
Johann Zarco, winner of the Red Bull MotoGP Cup in 2007, won his first grand prix after being denied several times this season. It was a thrilling struggle as the Frenchman set off from pole chasing championship leader Nico Terol, who had made a lightning-quick getaway that took fellow Spaniard Hector Faubel with him.
The trio had a fantastic battle before Faubel fell back, leaving the duo to fight on. The 21-year-old Frenchman made his big move on Terol on lap 14 of the 20. The Spaniard fought back but was too deep on the brakes and ran wide, allowing Zarco to cross the line over five seconds ahead of Terol, with Faubel a further 13 seconds back in third.
Jonas Folger was sixth on the Red Bull Ajo Motorsport machine, with team mate Dani Kent finishing ninth. Zarco's win closes the points lead on Terol to 31.