Stoner picked up his first win of the year at Aragon and moved up to third in points. Can he keep the momentum going and pick up a second win for Ducati?
The MotoGP paddock will finally arrive on Japanese soil for Round 14 of the 2010 Championship. The Twin Ring Motegi circuit was originally scheduled to be the second race of the season, but Mother Nature interrupted when Iceland’s volcanic eruption grounded air traffic in Europe. Finally, five months later and with five races remaining in the series, riders will descend upon Motegi with a different perspective than when the season began. The paddock has a grueling triple header to look forward to – traveling to Japan, Malaysia and Australia in a span of only three weeks.
Although Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo has decimated the competition so far with seven wins, the last three rounds have served as a reality check for the Spaniard. Ducati’s Casey Stoner snared his first victory of the season at the most recent round at Aragon and prior to that Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa posted two victories. Perhaps most disappointing to Lorenzo was having his perfect record of rostrum finishes in 2010 brought to an end at Aragon. Get ready because the season is far from over and things are beginning to heat up.
Championship leader Lorenzo will face a lot of pressure as he attempts to rebound from losses in the past three rounds. For most of the season he has looked in strong form, however, and Lorenzo is still in prime condition to take a win this year at Motegi. Last year he had a memorable victory against his teammate, Valentino Rossi. The 23-year-old likes the track and coupled with his resolve to stand on top of the podium again, Lorenzo remains the top competitor to beat.
“Motegi is Yamaha’s home and I always feel proud to ride there,” said Lorenzo. “Last year I got my first victory at this track in MotoGP and it was one of the best moments of the season. I like Motegi and I think it can be great for us also this season. The main goal is to get back on the podium and continue getting as many points as possible. We will try to be fast from Friday and start this run of three races as well as we can.”
One of the riders standing in Lorenzo’s way of the title will be Pedrosa, who arrives at his team’s home circuit having won two of the last three races. Pedrosa’s recent results have chopped Lorenzo’s lead down and the Honda rider is putting in the best season of his career with four race wins and numerous podium finishes. Despite all the progress that Pedrosa and his Repsol Honda crew have made, they still face an uphill battle.
Pedrosa continues to make strides to close the points gap. The difference now is 56 with five races left.
“We start the most intense period of the season this weekend, with five races in six weeks, and my goal is to make the best possible finish to the championship,” Pedrosa said. “I think we’re very strong at the moment and we must take full advantage of it.”
After winning the most recent round at Aragon, Stoner will look to duplicate the result at the Japanese circuit on Sunday. Stoner has been contributing much of his recent success to his bike setup – namely improvements in grip levels. In the past two years Stoner has taken top-five finishes aboard his Ducati machine at the Motegi circuit. The Aussie is third in the standings.
“Motegi is a circuit with a lot of stop and go sections, not much of it flows together and it’s not one of my favorite layouts,” Stoner said. “On the positive side the surface is smooth, with not too many bumps, which have really made us suffer at a lot of tracks this year. You need a bike that is stable under braking and efficient under acceleration so I am hopeful that the setting we found at Aragon can be useful here again.”
After an amazing recovery following a serious leg injury, Rossi is once again struggling with an earlier shoulder injury.
Nine-time champion Rossi will be arriving in Japan after having difficulties at Aragon. The Yamaha rider has been increasingly having trouble with his shoulder and his ability to threaten the top riders has been seriously jeopardized. The Italian finished sixth at Aragon and now faces a circuit with numerous right-handers that are taxing on his injured body.
“Aragon was a hard weekend, both because we couldn’t find the right setting for our M1 and because I had a lot of trouble with my shoulder,” said Rossi. “The leg is now almost back to normal again – I have even started running – but the shoulder is a problem and we know now that this is not going to change until we have time to treat it properly. I have some great memories from Motegi, especially winning the championship in 2008, but I am expecting this weekend to be quite difficult on my body.”
Pedrosa’s teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, is currently fifth in the championship but has struggled in recent rounds. At Aragon he suffered extreme disappointment after crashing out on the final lap while battling with Yamaha’s Ben Spies for fifth. The Italian hopes to return to Motegi with more success after winning the 125 GP at the circuit. Last year, Dovizioso finished fifth and was less than 10 seconds off the pace of the winner. Currently only one point behind Rossi in the championship, Dovizioso has an excellent shot of finishing in the top-four if he plays his cards right.
“We have another chance to get a strong result this weekend and I’m very motivated going into this race,” Dovizioso said. “It is Honda’s home GP and it’s really important to do well here for Honda as well as for the team and myself. Last year, qualifying was canceled because of rain and we didn’t have a lot of set-up time, but still I had a good race and my pace was strong, so I’m confident we can fight at the front again.”
Spies is another rider to watch as he finishes the last five races of an amazing rookie season. At Aragon the American pushed hard for a fifth-place finish ahead of Dovizioso and the 2009 World Superbike champ has consistently finished inside the top-10 all year long during his debut MotoGP season. Currently running sixth in the series, Spies needs to make up just eight points to break into the top-five and only nine points to finish in the top-four.
Hayden is looking good after
getting his first podium of the
season. The battle is on between
the two Americans aiming for the
In the last round at Aragon Ducati’s Nicky Hayden earned his first podium finish of the ’10 season. The American now hopes to continue his strong form at Motegi, where he earned the first MotoGP podium of his career.
“This is the first of three races in a row in three different countries with very different climates,” said Hayden. “It is not an easy grind but I always enjoy it. We have to try and build on the good form we showed at Aragon and stay at the same level if we can. It won’t be easy but that has to be our objective.”
In the Moto 2 World Championship Gresini Racing’s Toni Elias recently improved his win total – raising it to six so far. With 2010 being the debut year for the Moto 2 class, Elias is eager to take a win at his chassis maker’s home country and extend his point lead over Mapfre Aspar’s Julian Simon.
“I would have liked to win at Aragon but we ran into a few difficulties after the crash in practice,” said Elias. “Now we go to a circuit I love and I would be delighted to win the race for Moriwaki at their home Grand Prix. We know it
With Elias already wrapping up the Moto 2 title, the battle is on with Simon and Iannone battling it out for second with only four points separating them.
won’t be easy because Moto2 is a very unpredictable class and we have to hope that we get the luck where we need it to be amongst the frontrunners again.”
Meanwhile, Simon is involved in an extremely tight battle with Fimmco Speed Up’s Andrea Iannone for second. The two remain separated by only four points, with Simon currently leading.
“It is very positive that we are going into the flyaway races lying second in the championship,” Simon said. “Little by little we are picking up experience and getting a better feel for the bike. I have been on the podium a couple of times at Motegi, I finished second last year and I love the track. I also think the Suter chassis will adapt well to it, especially the hard braking zones, which I love.”