Dani Pedrosa charged from fourth place to take the win at the Motegi circuit in drying conditions Sunday and, in the process, helped Valentino Rossi extend his lead in the MotoGP championship.
Rossi, taking advantage of a slight tow and a slowing Jorge Lorenzo, grabbed second place to extend his lead over his Yamaha teammate to 18 points. And Lorenzo, who at one point led the race by nearly four seconds, settled into third as his wet-weather front tire deteriorated in the final laps as the track dried.
Pedrosa's teammate and current world champion Marc Marquez passed Andrea Dovizioso late in the race for fourth. Dovizioso, who was as high as third on the contest early on, held on for fifth. Cal Crutchlow (6th) came out on top of a late-race battle with Bradley Smith (7th). Katsuyuki Nakasuga rode a satellite Yamaha to a surprising eighth. Hector Barbara and Scott Redding rounded out the top 10.
The track, which had a partly dry racing line at the end, hardly started that way. It was Rossi who got the rare holeshot at Turn 1 of the Twin Ring on the soaked track. But by Turn 2, Lorenzo began showing his speed in the wet when he grabbed the lead from Rossi and began to pull away almost immediately. By the second lap, Lorenzo had a 1.2-second lead. Two laps later, the lead grew to two seconds.
With 18 laps remaining, it was Lorenzo with a full three seconds on Rossi who, in turn, had Dovizioso close. But back in the pack, things began to change. Behind Dovizioso, Pedrosa picked up his pace and began to put a bit of distance to his teammate, Marc Marquez. As the next several laps ticked away, Rossi managed to pull a gap on Dovizioso but could not do much about Lorenzo's pace at the front.
At this point, Pedrosa began setting the fastest laps of the race of any rider. He made quick work of a slowing Dovizioso and closed on Rossi. With nine laps to go, he passed Rossi for second place at Turn 9. Rossi managed to jump in behind Pedrosa and picked up his pace slightly. For the next three laps, Pedrosa -- who was three seconds behind Lorenzo when he passed Rossi -- was running more than a second a lap faster than the race leader.
With slighly less than seven laps to go, Pedrosa slipped by a slowing Lorenzo to take the lead. A lap later, Rossi closed within a second of Lorenzo. While Pedrosa opened a large gap at the front, Rossi closed on Lorenzo's tail. With four and half laps remaining and under pressure from Rossi, Lorenzo ran wide at Turn 3 and Rossi slipped into second place. Lorenzo's pace continued to falter and soon, Rossi had a three-second gap on his teammate and title rival.
Pedrosa finished with an eight-second gap over Rossi in second place to take his first win of the season.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Bike||Time / Diff.|
|15||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||Ducati||+1'15.421|
|20||24||Toni ELIAS||Yamaha Forward||1 Lap|