Casey Stoner has won his second MotoGP on the trot, after a commanding ride in Motegi, Japan. The Australian grabbed a blistering start from 3rd on the grid, and by the end of Lap 1 he had squeezed past pole sitter, Repsol Honda youngster, Andrea Dovizioso and began to slowly edge out a gap.
But it was the battle for 3rd that was the highlight of today’s proceedings. From the start, FIAT Yamaha duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were fighting from the start. Lorenzo, who has all but wrapped up the championship due to Dani Pedrosa’s absence, got the jump on his elder counterpart at the start, held on for half the race, before Rossi put in a more down the outside of him.
Lorenzo then set about sticking to Rossi’s rear tyre, and did the job well. In the latter stages of the race the championship leader made a daring move on the inside of Rossi, but the Italian held his nerve, and there were signs that there is no love lost between the riders, as the 2 had a big coming together. As Rossi held his line into turn 7, Lorenzo drifted into the side of him, and luckily for them both, they managed to keep it going. As the pair continued to fight to the line, it was Rossi who came out on top, beating his young Spanish team-mate to the final podium position.
To be a fly on the wall of the Yamaha bus to Tokyo…
Behind the scrapping Yamaha’s there were many riders putting in spectacular rides for points paying finishes. Most notable of these was that of San Carlo Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli. From 8th on the grid, the rookie initially benefited from Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Ben Spies’ mistake at Turn 5 on Lap 2, and then went on to defend 5th from veterans Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Colin Edwards and Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi. As the latter retired in the closing stages of the race, Edwards made a move on the Italian to bag a season best finish of 5th, with Simoncelli home in 6th.
As Edwards was trying to stay with Simoncelli, as Capirossi was catching, so was his Rizla Suzuki teammate Ãlvaro Bautista. The Spaniard put in some quick laps to get onto Capirossi’s tail, but with only a few laps remaining, the veteran Italian was forced to retire with an electrical issue which caused a fail-safe device to trigger in the engine and he was unable to continue.
Bautista held on for 7th, and behind him was rookie American Ben Spies, who put in one of the best rides today, after getting it all wrong on Lap 2, running wide at Turn 5 due to out-braking himself put in a sterling effort to cruise through the field to come home in 8th. Spies with a feeling of what might have been, as the Tech3 Yamaha looked strong this weekend.
A solid 9th place finish was a deserved reward for LCR Honda’s Randy De Puniet who held on after running wide midway through the race, a trend that marked every session for him this weekend. It was left to Hiroshi Aoyama to round out the top 10 on the Interwetten Honda.
Marco Melandri finished in 11th, just ahead of Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, who went wide alongside Spies, but just couldn’t get it together in the same way to make a break through the field, and the American came home an extremely disappointing 12th with Hector Barbera just behind in 13th on the Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati.
It was left to the Pramac Ducati pair of Aleix Espargaro and Mika Kallio to cross the line at the back of the pack in 14th and 15th respectivly.
Providing Dani Pedrosa is not fit for the next MotoGP at Malaysia next week, all Jorge Lorenzo needs to do is finish, and the Championship is all his, as he now leads Pedrosa by 69 points. If Pedrosa doesn’t come back, his 2nd place in the championship is in danger, as Stoner has closed the gap to just 48 points.