Jorge Lorenzo will head into the final Grand Prix at Valencia thirteen points behind Marc Marquez after beating his title rival in a straight fight at Motegi. Lorenzo led from start to finish although it was far from straightforward as the Yamaha came under intense pressure throughout.
Race day, the only dry day of running through the entire weekend, began in dramatic fashion as Marquez suffered a high speed crash at turn twelve in the extended free practice session, barrelling through the gravel trap. After looking sore as he walked away, Marc was fit to take his place on the front row of the grid but he could do nothing about Lorenzo on the run to turn one as the reigning champion made another blistering start. For once though, Jorge wasn’t the quickest Yamaha off the line as Valentino Rossi stormed past the Repsol Hondas to take second.
Yamaha’s dream scenario would have been for Rossi to back up the Hondas and allow his teammate to escape but on lap two, that plan fell apart as Valentino outbraked himself into turn eleven, falling back to fourth. Worse was to come on the next lap though as Rossi struggled to stop his YZR-M1 for a second time, skating off onto the gravel on this occasion and dropping all the way out of the top ten.
The front three were inseparable early on but as the race moved into the latter stages, Marquez cranked up the pressure on his compatriot in the lead. Instead though, it was Marc’s riding that became a little ragged and two quick fire mistakes under braking on lap eighteen transformed a gap that could be measured in hundredths to 1.2 seconds. The tow was lost and all realistic hope of victory, forcing Marquez to bank the twenty points and face the prospect of a nail-biting decider in Valencia.
Dani Pedrosa’s slim hopes of the title were extinguished as he could only follow his teammate home in third while Alvaro Bautista won an all-Honda fight for fourth, beating LCR’s Stefan Bradl by three seconds. Valentino Rossi recovered from his untidy second lap to snatch sixth ahead of the two Tech 3 Yamahas with Cal Crutchlow leading home Bradley Smith but Rossi’s role for the final Grand Prix will surely be to help Lorenzo in his pursuit of the title.
Nicky Hayden couldn’t capitalise on his front row grid slot and faded to a familiar ninth place, although he did edge out Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Yamaha wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga, while Colin Edwards took the CRT honours, largely down to a terrifying accident for Aleix Espargaro at the end of the back straight where the Aspar ART refused to slow down.