Dani Pedrosa (26) got ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (99) mid-race and went on to build a gap and take the win at Motegi.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa took his fifth win of the season at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan, beating out current championship points leader Jorge Lorenzo by over four seconds. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista finished the day with his second career premier-class podium in third.
Lorenzo and Pedrosa started from first and second on the grid and both were off like a shot as the contest got underway. Lorenzo gained the early lead, but Pedrosa held steady to the Mallorcan’s rear tire and by mid-race had found a passing line to the front.
“It was a hard race because the pace was very fast from the beginning,” said Pedrosa. “I tried to understand the bike, as yesterday we had a lot of chatter so I didn’t know how it would be today. In the beginning it wasn’t too bad but then it got a little worse during the race. I managed it as best I could and I stayed with Jorge [Lorenzo], I was able to get a better line out of the corner and pass him and then I put in some good laps and controlled the gap. Jorge tried to stay with me, but then decided to settle for the second place.”
Though Lorenzo’s pace was unreachable by most other riders on the grid, he struggled to keep up with Pedrosa as the race wore on. He continues to hold the championship points lead by 28 ahead of Pedrosa, giving up just five to the Repsol rider with his second-place finish.
“I was completely at the maximum trying to stay with Dani but today we had such different performance on the straights and he was also riding really well,” said Lorenzo. “I tried to stay with him but it was impossible, maybe next time it will be different. For sure the Championship is closer now, but we are still very competitive and have the chance to win.”
Alvaro Bautista (19) and Cal Crutchlow (35) battled for third with Bautista claiming the final spot on the rostrum at Motegi after Crutchlow ran out of gas in the last lap.
Bautista had a hard fought battle with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow for much of the latter half of the race, each trading positions a number of times through the final laps. Entering the final lap, the two riders were neck-and-neck until Crutchlow unexpectedly started to slow owing to the fact that he had run out of fuel. He pulled off track with less than a lap remaining and notched a DNF. With the pressure off, Bautista cruised into third-place over 16 seconds ahead of fourth-place finisher Andrea Dovizioso, Crutchlow’s teammate.
“It was a great weekend, also signing the contract for next season with Gresini Racing,” said Bautista. “I knew I could fight for the podium because yesterday [Saturday] we proved we had a good race pace – so I tried and succeeded. I didn’t start very well and I lost some positions, but I recovered quickly. Later, when I caught up with Crutchlow, I saw that we were the same speed and I tried to keep a safe distance not to overheat the brakes. With five laps left I pushed more and I attacked. It was a good fight and I had fun.”
Pedrosa’s teammate Casey Stoner followed Dovizioso in fifth. The Australian was unhappy with his performance, feeling that he had the set-up and ability to keep pace with the front-runners but pain from his injuries earlier in the season made it difficult for him to push hard for the entire race distance.
“I’m a little disappointed to be honest. We slowly improved over the weekend and got the bike to a point we were pretty happy with in warm up,” said Stoner. “At the start of the race I felt had the pace to stay with Dani [Pedrosa] and Jorge [Lorenzo] and the bike was feeling pretty good. Then as the race progressed my body started to suffer and ache in ways I didn’t expect. We had the pace to run a lot higher and be on the podium but unfortunately I couldn’t manage it physically today.”
Motegi podium with Dani Pedrosa (center) in first, Jorge Lorenzo (left) in second and Alvaro Bautista (right) in third.
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl finished the day in sixth, followed by Ducati’s Valentino Rossi in seventh. Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden came in right behind The Doctor while wild card Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga of Yamaha YSP Racing trailed in ninth. Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera rounded out the top-10.
Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro once again led the CRT effort, taking 12th, followed by American rider Colin Edwards of NGM Mobile Forward Racing in 13th.
A number of riders ran into trouble early on in the proceedings including Espargaro’s teammate Randy de Puniet, who crashed out on the first lap. On the following lap, Yamaha’s Ben Spies found that his brakes had overheated going into Turn 1 and was forced to run off track, hitting a wall at reduced speed and pulling out of the contest. Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez had one of the worst incidents of the day, crashing his CRT machine and breaking his collarbone, effectively ending his season.
Lorenzo remains the points leader and Pedrosa continues to hold in second. Stoner earned enough points on his return to remain in third, but Dovizioso is still close behind, just five points back in fourth. Crutchlow dropped from fifth to seventh overall, while Bautista went the opposite direction, moving from seventh to fifth.
MotoGP Motegi Results 2012:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
3. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha)
5. Casey Stoner (Honda)
6. Stefan Bradl (Honda)
7. Valentino Rossi (Ducati)
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
9. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha)
10. Hector Barbera (Ducati)
11. Karel Abraham (Ducati)
12. Aleix Espargaro (ART)
13. Colin Edwards (Suter)
14. James Ellison (ART)
15. Michele Pirro (FTR)
16. Roberto Rolfo (ART)
MotoGP Championship Points 2012:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, 310
2. Dani Pedrosa, 282
3. Casey Stoner, 197
4. Andrea Dovizioso, 192
5. Alvaro Bautista, 144
6. Valentino Rossi, 137
7. Cal Crutchlow, 135
8. Stefan Bradl, 125
9. Nicky Hayden, 101
10. Ben Spies, 88