Results and summary of the MotoGP race at Motegi:
Dani Pedrosa has taken victory in an incident-packed MotoGP race at Motegi, which saw five of the top seven finishers either run off or subjected to a ride-through penalty. With Jorge Lorenzo taking 2nd ahead of Casey Stoner, the race saw Stoner's championship lead cut to 40 points.
The chaos commenced even before the race started, with Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Simoncelli and Cal Crutchlow all moving before the lights went out and committing a jump start. Casey Stoner got off the line cleanly and led into Turn 1, ahead of Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Dovizioso, but the carnage returned on the way into Turn 3. Having drifted wide through Turns 1 and 2, Jorge Lorenzo found himself on the inside of that track on the straight towards Turn 3, while Valentino Rossi was on the opposite side of the track looking to make a move on Ben Spies. The former teammates aimed for precisely the same piece of tarmac, arriving at the same time. Lorenzo, being on the inside, got the better of the contact, heading off to chase Stoner and Pedrosa, but Rossi bounced off Lorenzo and into Spies, catching his front brake at the same time. The front locked and down Rossi went, forcing Spies off into the gravel along with him.
In front of the first-lap chaos, Casey Stoner was starting to pull a gap, his teammate Pedrosa unable to match the Australian's pace. Andrea Dovizioso did appear to have the measure of Stoner, but the Italian found himself stuck behind Pedrosa while Stoner escaped. A pass going into the S Corner saw Dovizioso get by his Spanish teammate and start to chase Stoner down.
The gap came down fractionally, but by this time, Race Direction had issued a ride-through penalty to the three men who got a jump start. Dovizioso pushed on to limit the damage from the ride-through, and by a stroke of bitter irony, found himself leading the race. There had always been bumps down the back straight at Motegi, but the earthquake had made them worse. As he crested the hill on the approach to his braking marker, Stoner hit one of the bumps and the front of his Honda suffered a gigantic headshake, knocking the brake pads back into the calipers and leaving the Australian temporarily with no brakes. Stoner grabbed a handful of front brake to seat the pads correctly once again, then braked hard for the right angle corner at the end of the straight, but the extra time needed saw him miss his braking point and run on into the deep gravel at the end of the back straight. Stoner lost 10 seconds in the incident, handing the lead to Dovizioso, and rejoining the race down in 7th. The Italian would enjoy his advantage for just a single lap, heading in for his ride through on the next lap, in the company of Simoncelli and Crutchlow.
With first Stoner and then Dovizioso out of the equation, the lead landed in the lap of Dani Pedrosa, the Spaniard having kept up a fast-but-steady pace. On his tail sat Jorge Lorenzo, but though he looked like challenging early on, Pedrosa slowly started to pull a gap. By the end of the race, that gap had grown to over 7 seconds, Pedrosa winning this race comfortably, a triumphant return to the Japanese circuit where he had broken his collarbone a year earlier, setting him on a six-month rollercoaster of injuries, operations and recovery. Though he could not stay with Pedrosa, the margin Lorenzo had over the chasing field was large enough to see him home comfortably in 2nd as well.
Behind the leaders, the incidents just kept on coming. The crashes and ride throughs had left Alvaro Bautista and Nicky Hayden in 3rd and 4th, but Casey Stoner put on a charge once he rejoined after his off-track excursion. Stoner quickly caught the Suzuki and the Ducati, though taking four laps before managing to pass both Hayden and Bautista, going on to leave them behind. By then, it was too late to do anything about Pedrosa and Lorenzo, a frustrated Stoner forced to settle for 3rd and limiting the damage in the championship to just 4 points.
Both Bautista and Hayden would suffer further misfortune, Hayden running off on lap 12, and rejoining down in 10th, while Alvaro Bautista crashed out of 4th while pushing to hold on to the position as Andrea Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli closed, Bautista on for his best result of the year before the crash. The battle for 4th would go down to the penultimate lap, Simoncelli catching his Italian compatriot with three laps to go, then passing Dovizioso at the end of the back straight, after Dovizioso ran a fraction wide and off into the dirt at the exit of the hairpin, losing drive and giving Simoncelli an opening. The Italian seized the opportunity with both hands, firing past and into 4th, holding off Dovizioso's desperate challenges to the line. This is the second time in three races that Dovizioso has been beaten by Simoncelli, though the rivalry score remains a convincing 12-3 in favor of the Repsol rider.
After being pushed off in the first-lap clash with Rossi and Lorenzo, Ben Spies fought his way through the field to come home in 6th, ending just ahead of Nicky Hayden, who had also made progress after running off earlier in the race. Colin Edwards made it a trio of Americans, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider crossing the line in 8th, ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama and Randy de Puniet.
There were more dramatic moments among the non-finishers. Hector Barbera crashed early on, fracturing a collarbone in the incident, while Damian Cudlin - the Australian drafted in to replace the injured Loris Capirossi - was on his way to scoring points in his first MotoGP appearance, before losing the front and crashing out of the race. The most unfortunate crash of all came from Toni Elias, the Spaniard running in 6th place for a good part of the race, and holding off challenges from Colin Edwards, Aoyama and Randy de Puniet. But Elias lost the front once again, denying him the chance of his best finish of the season.
Stoner's trip into the gravel may have put paid to his ambition to wrap up the 2011 title at his home race, the day after his 26th birthday. Handing 4 points to Lorenzo, Stoner now leads the championship by 40 points with 3 races to go. Stoner will have to beat Lorenzo by 10 points to take the title at Phillip Island, and though he is odds on favorite to take victory in Australia, you wouldn't bet against Lorenzo getting on the podium there. The inevitable may be delayed until Sepang.
|10||14||Randy DE PUNIET||DUCATI||43'46.503||59.022|
|24||Toni ELIAS||HONDA||30'50.565||7 laps|
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SUZUKI||23'26.728||11 laps|
|6||Damian CUDLIN||DUCATI||23'53.901||11 laps|
|8||Hector BARBERA||DUCATI||1'57.120||23 laps|