Motegi Review: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3 – All-Spanish MotoGP podium
In an enthralling MotoGP™ race at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi it was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa who closed the gap in the title fight further with a strong win ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Álvaro Bautista.
It was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo who got away best, yet had to be bold in turn one to hold off Pedrosa. Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet crashed on the first lap but re-joined, while Yamaha’s Ben Spies crashed out going into lap two, citing afterwards that he suffered a brake failure. It was a crash-laden early stage as Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez also dropped his bike in the gravel, suffering a left top-shoulder-joint dislocation and a contusion to the left foot.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner had made a good start running fourth behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow in third. Yet three laps in Stoner was taken by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl was stalking Stoner closely, whilst fending off Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso in seventh.
With 17 laps remaining Lorenzo and Pedrosa had pulled out a lead at the front with Crutchlow running a lonely third. Stoner was desperately looking for a way past Bautista, yet the Spaniard was battling hard to keep the Australian at bay. Meanwhile Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi was in eighth struggling to keep up with Dovizioso’s pace in front. It was then two laps later that Dovizioso forced his way past Bradl, who was suffering with arm-pump, to hunt down Stoner in fifth.
With 13 laps remaining Pedrosa got better drive out of turn four and made his way past Lorenzo on the straight into the lead, looking instantly quicker on the Honda. As Lorenzo tried to keep up, it was Bautista who was slowly closing in on Crutchlow, who did well to save a near fall. Five laps on, De Puniet was forced to retire, as was Hernandez’s teammate Iván Silva. The same lap also saw Dovizioso make his way past Stoner into fifth.
With six laps left Pedrosa had built up a commanding lead over Lorenzo, whilst as a lap later Bautista muscled his way past Crutchlow into the final podium spot, and the pair provided a thrilling battle on track. The Brit fought almost straight back with a move up the inside, yet Bautista retook him in the next turn where the two touched. And it was heartbreak for Crutchlow on the last lap as he pulled over having run out of fuel, whilst looking to fight to the line.
It was ultimately Pedrosa who kept his nerve to take the chequered flag, with Lorenzo and Bautista completing the rostrum, making it the second ever premier-class podium for the San Carlo rider. This now cuts Pedrosa’s deficit to Lorenzo to 28 points with three races remaining. The first non-podium finisher in fourth was Dovizioso followed by Stoner, Bradl, Rossi, Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, Yamaha YSP Racing Team’s wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá. Top CRT spot went to De Puniet’s teammate Aleix Espargaró, whilst Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci had to retire on the last lap.
It was Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez who staged a stunning comeback to win in an eventful and thrilling Moto2™ race at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi in front of Pol Espargaró and Esteve Rabat.
The start proved eventful, as Márquez’s bike wasn’t in gear, causing him to head into the first corner almost last, as much of the grid passed him whilst he put it in gear. Yet as Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding led the early stages ahead of Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró, Márquez impressively fought his way up to 7th within two laps. In frantic opening laps, the lead soon went to Espargaró’s teammate Esteve Rabat, whilst Italtrans Racing Team’s Toni Elías made his way into third.
With 19 laps to go Márquez had fought his way into fifth, while it was disappointing news for Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith, who had to retire with a mechanical issue after looking strong all weekend. Two laps on it was almost over for Espargaró as he nearly lost control of his bike at full lean, yet put in an incredible save. Márquez also did well to avoid him as he nipped into second. It was then up to Rabat to hold off the change from the championship leader, who was all over his rear wheel with 14 laps left.
A lap later Márquez made use of the slipstream to go into the lead, whilst Espargaró had closed up in third. In the meantime, SAG Team’s wildcard Kohta Nozane was black-flagged after returning to the track after having previously retired. Redding’s teammate Mika Kallio ran wide with 11 laps to go, dropping him back down the order, whilst Espargaró went past Rabat to chase down Márquez. A few laps later, Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2’s Nico Terol copied Kallio and also ran wide at turn one on to the gravel. As the pack settled down, Espargaró caught up to Márquez with six laps to go as the pair rode a lonely race at the front. Three laps on and it was over for Elías as he crashed out of fifth place.
Espargaró tried to make his move half way through the penultimate lap, but nearly went into the back of Márquez. Rabat was holding strong in third, whilst Redding was trying to hold of Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi. Espargaró kept pushing, though it was to no avail, as Márquez crossed the finish line first, with Rabat recording his first podium this season. This now puts Márquez 53 points clear at the top of the championship standings making him the clear favourite for the title. Redding held on for fourth, ahead of Lüthi, Came IodaRacing Project’s Simone Corsi, Elías teammate Takaaki Nakagami, JiR Moto2’s Johann Zarco, Espargaró’s teammate Axel Pons and Technomag-CIP’s Dominique Aegerter.
At the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi it was Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Danny Kent who took his maiden victory in an extremely dramatic Moto3™ race ahead of Maverick Viñales and Alessandro Tonucci.
Whilst Kent got away from the line best, it was RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom who got past to lead the first few corners. Technomag-CIP’s Alan Techer was given a ride through penalty because of a jump-start, as the leading group with Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger, Salom, Kent and AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin started to pull out a gap. Meanwhile, Mahindra Racing’s Alessandro Moretti was forced to retire with a mechanical issue, while Racing Team Germany’s Toni Finsterbusch also had a problem with his bike on the home straight.
With 13 laps remaining the top four were being closed down by a pursuing group of three led by Team Italia FMI’s Alessandro Tonucci, with Cortese and Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales in tow. Cortese, who had looked to be cruising, moved past his teammate Kent into third with six laps remaining, as Viñales also started to gather momentum. Three laps before the end Salom’s teammate Brad Binder was forced to retire, as the battle at the front truly commenced with the top six going fairing to fairing.
The last lap could not have been any more dramatic, as Salom pushed for the lead into turn one and took out leader Folger and himself. With Cortese in the lead and Viñales in fourth, the title was set to be the German’s, however Kent and Tonucci pushed their way past Cortese, with the German touching Tonucci’s wheels and dropping his bike, lucky to escape injury as the Italian hit him. Cortese was able to remount, yet could only cross the line in sixth.
In the end it was Kent who came out best to take the chequered flag to record his first ever win, ahead of Viñales and Tonucci, who recorded his first ever podium. This now moves Viñales into second in the championship, 56 points behind Cortese. Behind the trio in fourth was Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins, followed by Khairuddin, Cortese, Rins’ teammate Miguel Oliveira, Racing Team Germany’s Louis Rossi, JHK t-shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vázquez and Tonucci’s teammate Romano Fenati.
Salom was subsequently penalised for the incident with Folger, with the Spaniard deemed as “riding in an irresponsible manner during the Moto3 race, causing danger to rider Jonas Folger, which is an infringement to the article 1.21.2 of the 2012 FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix regulations”, meaning he has a five place grid penalty in Sepang next weekend. No appeal was lodged by his team.