AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan: Race round-up, MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Jorge Lorenzo has triumphed for the seventh time in 2013, winning Sunday’s AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider fought off a stiff challenge from Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to ensure that the MotoGP™ title battle goes down to the wire for the first time since 2006.
Providing a truly unpredictable end to the late-season triple-header, the Motegi weekend was very much shaken up by inclement weather conditions; this led to the cancellation of all track action on Friday as well as heavy modifications to the Saturday agenda. Ironically, Sunday’s race took place under clear blue skies in Japan.
From his fourth pole position of the year, it would be a lights-to-flag victory for Lorenzo to move one win ahead of Marquez in the 2013 season. Teammate Valentino Rossi looked to be providing a buffer between the current titleholder and the pair of factory Hondas, but suffered braking issues at Turn 11 twice, and fell back down the order.
Lorenzo would come under severe pressure from Marquez at the mid-way point of the race, with Pedrosa in hot pursuit. However, the Mallorcan was spared some breathing space as Marquez made mistakes at both Turn 11 and Turn 1. The 20-year-old would never be as close to Lorenzo again, eventually ending the day 3.1 seconds in arrears.
Pedrosa’s third place marked his 12th podium finish of the season, but the Sabadell rider was unable to complete a hat trick of Motegi victories, as his chances for the 2013 world title officially evaporated. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top five, with the GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider having slipstreamed his way past the LCR Honda MotoGP bike at the start of the eighth lap. Rossi fought back to sixth place after running as low as 11th, while Cal Crutchlow, who suffered from overheating brakes, got the better of impressive Monster Yamaha Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith in seventh and eighth spots.
Ducati Team completed the top ten with Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, while 11th place was taken by wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga for the Yamaha YSP Racing Team. In 12th was lead CRT rider Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing), with Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro having become the third of three retirements courtesy of a high-speed accident due to loss of braking power – he escaped with a left hip contusion. Lukas Pesek (Came IodaRacing Project) was first to retire, while Cardion AB Motoracing’s Luca Scassa pulled into the pit lane with a loose right foot peg.
Sunday’s result – marking the 200th premier class race victory for Yamaha – sees Lorenzo move to within 13 points of Marquez with just the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana remaining. This signals the first final-race MotoGP™ title-decider for seven years; in 2006 it was also a duel between the Honda and Yamaha factory teams, with the crown won by Nicky Hayden as the American picked up a maiden title from then reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi.
Pol Espargaro has become Moto2™ World Champion of 2013, winning Sunday’s AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in fine style. The Spaniard’s task was aided when chief rivals Scott Redding and Tito Rabat were both removed from the action in a multiple collision on the first lap. Mika Kallio and Tom Luthi completed the podium.
Under clear skies and with ambient temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius, it was a clean start to proceedings until a crash occurred on the exit of the second corner; Redding, Rabat (Tuenti HP 40) and Alex Mariñelarena (Blusens Avintia) were involved, and none of the trio would restart. Mariñelarena unfortunately suffered a broken left wrist. At Turn 3, Dominique Aegerter suffered a separate incident but the Technomag carXpert rider was able to re-join the grid following a red flag stoppage.
On the first of 15 laps for the restarted race, Espargaro took the lead from Marc VDS’ Kallio and would not be headed for the rest of the afternoon. This left the Finn second from a pole position start, with Interwetten Paddock Moto2’s Tom Luthi on the podium for the third race in a row and the sixth time this season.
Xavier Simeon (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team) and Julian Simon (Italtrans Racing Team) completed the top five from Aspar Team Moto2’s Nico Terol, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Alex de Angelis and Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami – the leading Japanese rider in his home event. It was a race of high attrition, with no less than nine riders failing to make the finish, although the aforementioned Aegerter impressively fought back to eighth position after running last at the restart.
With the title wrapped up in favour of Espargaro, a single race remains on the 2013 Moto2™ calendar. The Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana will take place at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit on 10 November.
Alex Marquez has claimed his first ever World Championship race victory in the Moto3™ AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan. In a race full of surprises, title contenders Luis Salom and Alex Rins both suffered crashes before Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Marquez beat Maverick Viñales by just two hundredths of a second.
The events of Sunday could not have been scripted at Twin Ring Motegi. Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) started from his seventh pole position of the season, whereas championship leader Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was fourth on the grid and would claim the title if he won with Rins 11th or lower. However, the destiny of the championship would be shaken up on various occasions throughout the race.
It was a shocking opening lap for Red Bull KTM Ajo. Just seconds after Zulfahmi Khairuddin was taken out in a Turn 1 incident with Ambrogio Racing’s Brad Binder, Salom was collected in V Corner by Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales. The Mallorcan re-joined the race and proceeded to post lap records as he began a charge back up the order, only to highside out of contention at Turn 4 on Lap 8.
Knowing the championship leader was out, Rins was set to top the points table as he ran third behind Viñales (Team Calvo) and teammate Marquez on the 14th lap, following an entertaining scrap with both of the riders in front of him. Unbelievably, a mistake from Rins saw him lose control to throw the championship fight wide open once again. He re-joined the race but recovered only to 24th position, out of the points.
It was Viñales who led into the final tour, but an error at the Turn 10 hairpin was more than the invitation Marquez needed. The younger brother of MotoGP™ World Championship leader Marc would hold on for his first victory by the slim margin of 27 thousandths of a second. Viñales shot back up into title contention with second place, with the podium completed by Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger.
A somewhat quiet place for Mahindra Racing’s Miguel Oliveira ended with fourth position, while a dramatic fight for fifth saw San Carlo Team Italia’s Romano Fenati beating Caretta Technology – RTG duo Jack Miller and John McPhee. The top ten was rounded out by Niklas Ajo (Avant Tecno), Niccolo Antonelli (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3) and the aforementioned Binder. There was also contentment for Japan’s Hyuga Watanabe, who scored for La Fonte Tascaracing. Nine riders failed to make the finish, including Ongetta-Rivacold’s Alexis Masbou who crashed on the final lap.
The remarkable events of Motegi leave Moto3™ with a triangular final round shootout for the title. Salom will head into the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana with a two-point lead over Viñales, with Rins only a further three in arrears.