Moto GP

Pedrosa wins an incident packed Japanese Grand Prix


Dani Pedrosa has won the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi, Honda's home course, to win his third race of the year in the most action-packed race of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship.

Factory Yamaha Racing's Jorge Lorenzo was a distant second with Casey Stoner recovering from an early off-track excursion to finish an important third.

Marco Simoncelli, Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso were three riders swept up in the excitement. All three jumped the start and had to serve ride through penalties, both Dovizioso and Simoncelli made miraculous comebacks as they got back on track. They engaged in a fierce battle over the final third of the race with Simoncelli passing his fellow Italian on the penultimate lap to take fourth.

There was more action in the opening lap with Valentino Rossi crashing of the track taking Ben Spies into the gravel and bouncing off Lorenzo in the process.

The victory was an important one for Pedrosa and Honda, as well as the Japanese people, who were immensely grateful that the entire MotoGP field had supported their home race nearly seven months after the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the region northeast of Motegi, and forced the postponement of the race from its original April date. The Japanese fans showed their appreciation with signs, flags, and t-shirts thanking those who attended the race.

It was also Pedrosa's first MotoGP win at Motegi, to go along with victories in the 250cc and 125cc class.

Stoner was in the lead and controlling the pace until he hit a bump at high speed over the crest on the back straight on the fifth lap, sending the front end into a violent wobble. The shaking of the front end knocked the brake pads out of place, which isn't uncommon. When the championship leader went to brake at the end of the fastest straightaway, he had to grab the lever twice and still ran off the track and into the gravel, calling on his vast dirt track experience to stay upright. He rejoined the race in seventh place and began an impressive resurgence.

Dovizioso was in the lead at the end of the lap from Pedrosa and Lorenzo, and Simoncelli, but by now the riders had been informed that they had to serve their penalties, which they did ending the sixth lap.

Ending the seventh lap, the first flying lap after the penalties, Pedrosa was in front of Lorenzo, who was putting him under pressure, but not for long.

Pedrosa set a new circuit record of 1:46.090 mins. on the 11th lap and, two laps later, Stoner moved into third with a pass of Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) on the brakes into turn 11, the same corner where Stoner had earlier run off. Now Stoner was in a podium position, but ten seconds behind Lorenzo and not entirely confident in his front brakes.

Bautista crashed soon afterwards, handing fourth to Dovizioso and fifth to Simoncelli. The rivals battled to the finish, with Simoncelli making his pass by sliding up the inside of Dovi at the end of the back straight on lap 23 of 24.
Dani Pedrosa took his first win at Motegi
"I'm super happy with this victory, for the team that has been working so well, for HRC, because this is the first win in Motegi with the Repsol Honda Team, and for myself, because it is the first time I've won here in MotoGP after doing so in 125cc and 250cc," Pedrosa said.

"The race was strange at the beginning. With Stoner and Dovi really fast on the first few laps, they pulled away and then Casey had some problem and Andrea had a ride-through due to his jump start. I was alone in front with Lorenzo very close, but I tried to put my head down and push every lap to pull away. I'm really happy because at this track I've had a mix of good and bad results and some bad injuries, so come back one year later and win in MotoGP is fantastic."

Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo was shuffled back in the opening lap when an out of control Valentino Rossi side swiped him on his way to the gravel, once settled the Spaniard delivered a solid ride whilst others faulted to to take second. After Dovizioso completed his ride through and Stoner headed bush Lorenzo tucked in behind new leader Dani Pedrosa, maintaining second to the flag. The result reduces his gap to Stoner to 40 points with three races remaining of the season.

"I didn't expect such a strange race, Casey going wide and Dovi having a ride through," Lorenzo mused.

"I thought it was possible to fight with Dani but he came better and better, I think he was inspired today and at a very high level of riding. He decided the victory and I couldn't follow him. To win now is almost impossible, just maybe some small possibilities! A big thank you to my team who worked so hard this weekend to make a very competitive bike and thank you to all the Japanese fans who came out to support us."
Jorge Lorenzo finished second, one spot ahead of Stoner and reduced his gap to the Australian to 40 points. Credit: Yamaha Racing
Pole sitter Casey Stoner got off to a flying start but as mentioned a problem with his brakes saw him make a trip through the gravel trap and have to fight just to make the podium.

"The whole weekend had gone so well for us and even the start of the race we got a great start and everything felt good in the first laps and I was able to pull a small advantage," Stoner explained.

"Andrea was riding very well on the soft tyre compound and we knew ours would work well towards the end of the race, so the pace we had at that stage I was very comfortable with. As I came out of the back straight I got a wobble on the bike, we hit the big bump and as the front came down it practically shook the bars out of my hands; I was lucky to hold on.

"I went for the brakes and there was nothing there, so I had to pump them up a couple of times, when I pumped it the second time if flicked me up over the front and I was lucky to stay on the bike. Thankfully I avoided hitting the wall at the end of the gravel trap but this pretty much ended our race.

"It's really disappointing as we had the bike to win here to day, but in the end I guess I should be thankful that we were able to climb back up to a podium spot after other peoples misfortunes and mistakes on track. I'm looking forward to going to Phillip Island now and to see what we can achieve there. I've got a Championship lead to protect, but I also want to win races which is why I'm disappointed here today," Stoner concluded.

Marco Simoncelli was ruing his jumped start and was not happy with his day as a result.

"I made a stupid mistake on the start line. The red light was slow to go out and out of the corner of my eye I saw Dovizioso move and let the clutch out just a tiny bit, but enough to be given a ride-through penalty," Simoncelli lamented.

"You can't afford to make this kind of error. I am angry with myself and kicking myself especially after the race I put together following the penalty. Today could have been a great day for us, the podium was there for the taking and maybe even more than that. I had great fun on the last few laps with Dovizioso though ‰ÛÒ yet another battle between us ‰ÛÒ and I am happy to have beaten him. It was great!"
Casey Stoner survived a high speed brake failure to salvage a podium.
It was definitely the one that got away for Dovizioso. The Itlaian was on the pace and was closing in on early race leader Casey Stoner before he had to serve his ride through penalty.

"I cannot believe it. I have never had a false start in my career and it happened today, in a race where I felt that I could fight for the win. I don't know why the bike moved a little before the green light, but I realised it immediately and expected the ride-through," Dovizioso said.

"In the first laps I had a good feeling and I was pushing hard because I knew I was the only rider up there with soft tyres; in my opinion this was the right choice today and I was catching Casey. Then Casey went wide and I found myself leading the race, but unfortunately it didn't last long.

"I'm sorry for the team, we did a great job and I felt competitive. It's also a shame for the championship points. Anyway, I look forward to Phillip Island because once again I showed to be fast," he concluded
Marco Simoncelli won a last lap scrap with Andrea Dovizioso to take fourth after both riders had to serve a ride through for jumping the start.
Having battled with food poisoning the entire weekend Ben Spies had recovered physically and started today's race in excellent form. Quick off the line he was tucked in behind team mate Jorge Lorenzo going into turn three on the first lap when he was also hit from behind by Rossi. The Texan ran off but was able to rejoin the race in last place. Japanese fans were then treated to the famous Spies comeback routine as the American carved his way back through the field to sixth place, consistently delivering 1'46 second lap times, equivalent to the two front runners.

"It was a bitter sweet race for sure, we had a great start and the bike was feeling really good. I was in a perfect position coming out of turn three, right behind Dovi when I was hit from the back. I lost one hand off the handlebar and didn't have much control going into the gravel trap. I tried to slow the bike as much as I could before tipping over," Spies explained.

"When I got back on track I knew there were a couple of slower guys out there so we could probably get some points. I got my head down and pushed and thought a top ten was possible. The groups kept coming back to me and the lap times were good so we got a good result considering. It's unfortunate because I really think if we had clear track and started well we could have been in 46s all race long and battled for the podium. That's racing, it sucks but there you go. I'm not going to blame anybody it's just a shame, we'll move on," the Texan concluded.

Ducati's Nicky Hayden was also involved in the Rossi crash also later on had an off track excursion but managed to bring it home in 7th.

"I got touched by Vale on the exit of Turn 1 and went off the track and lost a lot of time. We were all racing, and it was normal for the first lap. I got into a pretty good rhythm, and when Casey came past me, I wanted to try to follow him past Bautista, but I came in way too hot and went off the track. It's a shame, because with everybody making mistakes, I had a chance to get us a good result. It was my mistake, and I'm sorry to Ducati and everybody, because they worked so hard. Phillip Island is a track I like, so hopefully there we can do a decent race there," Hayden said.

Colin Edwards, Hiroshi Aoyama and Randy De Puniet rounded out the top ten.

The next round takes place at Phillip Island in two weeks.

Main Photo: Dani Pedrosa
Credit: HRC

Motegi Results - Round 15
1 Dani Pedrosa 42m47.481s SPA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
2 Jorge Lorenzo +7.299s SPA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
3 Casey Stoner +18.380s AUS HONDA Repsol Honda Team
4 Marco Simoncelli +23.550s ITA HONDA Honda Gresini
5 Andrea Dovizioso +23.691s ITA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
6 Ben Spies +37.604s USA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
7 Nicky Hayden +39.167s USA DUCATI Ducati Team
8 Colin Edwards +45.023s USA YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
9 Hiroshi Aoyama +49.074s JPN HONDA Honda Gresini
10 Randy De Puniet +59.022s FRA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
11 Cal Crutchlow +1m13.964s GBR YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
12 Kousuke Akiyoshi +1m21.709s JPN HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
13 Shinichi Ito +1m26.381s JPN HONDA Team HRC
14 Toni Elias DNF - 7 Laps SPA HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
15 Alvaro Bautista DNF - 11 Laps SPA SUZUKI Suzuki MotoGP
16 Damian Cudlin DNF - 11 Laps DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
17 Hector Barbera DNF - 23 Laps SPA DUCATI Aspar Ducati
18 Valentino Rossi DNF ITA DUCATI Ducati Team

Championship standings
1 Casey Stoner 300 pts AUS HONDA Repsol Honda Team
2 Jorge Lorenzo 260 pts SPA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
3 Andrea Dovizioso 196 pts ITA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
4 Dani Pedrosa 195 pts SPA HONDA Repsol Honda Team
5 Ben Spies 156 pts USA YAMAHA Yamaha Factory Racing
6 Valentino Rossi 139 pts ITA DUCATI Ducati Team
7 Nicky Hayden 123 pts USA DUCATI Ducati Team
8 Marco Simoncelli 119 pts ITA HONDA Honda Gresini
9 Colin Edwards 98 pts USA YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
10 Hiroshi Aoyama 94 pts JPN HONDA Honda Gresini
11 Hector Barbera 77 pts SPA DUCATI Aspar Ducati
12 Alvaro Bautista 67 pts SPA SUZUKI Suzuki MotoGP
13 Cal Crutchlow 57 pts GBR YAMAHA Monster Yamaha Tech 3
14 Karel Abraham 50 pts CZE DUCATI Cardion AB Ducati
15 Toni Elias 47 pts SPA HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
16 Randy De Puniet 39 pts FRA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
17 Loris Capirossi 29 pts ITA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team
18 Kousuke Akiyoshi 7 pts JPN HONDA LCR Honda MotoGP
19 John Hopkins 6 pts USA SUZUKI Suzuki MotoGP
20 Shinichi Ito 3 pts JPN HONDA Team HRC
21 Sylvain Guintoli 0 pts FRA DUCATI Pramac Racing Team

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