Moto Media
James Stewart

Pedrosa wins dramatic Japan MotoGP

japan motegi race motogp pedrosa

Pedrosa crossed the line to take the win at a dramatic Grand Prix of Japan, where the only two of the top seven riders did not either run off track or incur a ride through penalty.

The GP began with pole setter Stoner launching into turn one ahead of the field, while team mate Dovizioso jumped the start from the front row, with Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) both following suit.

Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi crashed out of the first lap, forcing Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) off track, dropping the American down the order. Meanwhile Stoner appeared set to take another victory, leading clear and free until running off the track on lap five. Shortly thereafter Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) went down, while Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) ran off track after lapping in fourth position.

Lorenzo made his way across the line in second, while Stoner rose to third. Simoncelli and Dovizioso took their ride through penalties and then engaged in a battle to the finish, with the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider holding off Dovizioso to take fourth.

Three Americans followed next, with Spies sixth in front of Hayden and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) avoided any drama to finish ninth as did Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) who finished tenth. Crutchlow was 11th despite a runoff in addition to his ride through penalty.

That left Kousuke Akiyoshi (LCR Honda) to take 12th, as his team mate Toni Elías crashed out after lapping in sixth position. Shinichi Ito (Honda Racing Team) was the final finisher of the race in 13th, while Damian Cudlin who rode in place of an injured

Capirossi on the Pramac Racing team crashed near the end of the race, and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) went down while running in fourth position.

Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) did not participate in the race after taking the decision not to ride. The Czech rider was still feeling the after-effects of a light head concussion sustained in a crash in the opening lap of the Aragón race.

Stoner’s lead at the top of the Championship over Lorenzo now stands at 40 points with three rounds of the 2011 season remaining.

Dani Pedrosa: "I'm super happy with this victory, for the team that has been working so well, for HRC because this is the first win in Motegi with the Repsol Honda Team and for myself because it is the first time I've won here in MotoGP after doing so in 125cc and 250cc. The race was strange at the beginning with Stoner and Dovi really fast on the first few laps, they pulled away and then Casey had some problem and Andrea had a ride through for his jump start. I was alone in front with Lorenzo close, but I tried to put my head down and push every lap to pull away. I'm happy because at this track I've had a mix of good and bad results and some bad injuries, so to come back one year later and win in MotoGP is fantastic."

Casey Stoner: "The whole weekend had gone so well for us and we got a great start and I was able to pull a small advantage. Andrea was riding very well on the soft tyre compound and we knew ours would work well towards the end of the race, so the pace we had at that stage I was very comfortable with. As I came out of the back straight I got a wobble on the bike, we hit the big bump and as the front came down it practically shook the bars out of my hands. I went for the brakes and there was nothing there so I had to pump them up a couple of times, when I pumped it the second time if flicked me up over the front and I was lucky to stay on the bike. Thankfully I avoided hitting the wall at the end of the gravel trap but it's really disappointing as we had the bike to win here to day, but in the end I guess I should be thankful that we were able to climb back up to a podium spot after other people’s misfortunes and mistakes on track. I'm looking forward to going to Phillip Island now and to see what we can achieve there, I've got a Championship lead to protect but I also want to win races."

Andrea Dovizioso: "I cannot believe it. I have never had a false start in my career and it happened today, in a race where I felt that I could fight for the win! I don’t know why the bike moved a little before the green light but I realised it immediately and expected the ride through. In the first laps I had a good feeling and I was pushing hard because I knew I was the only rider up there with soft tyres, in my opinion this was the right choice today and I was catching Casey. Then Casey went wide and I found myself leading the race, but unfortunately it didn’t last long. When I rejoined after the ride through I pushed hard but it’s not the same as when you are fighting for victory. In the last five laps the rear tyre started to drop off and I was no longer able to be fast in the middle of the corner. Meanwhile, Simoncelli recovered and was behind me, I did all I could to defend my position but I wasn't able to. I’m really disappointed as I’m sure today I could have fought for the win, we can see the final gap to Dani is similar to the time it took to do the ride through. I’m sorry for the team, we did a great job and I felt competitive. It’s also a shame for the Championship points, anyway I look forward to Phillip Island because once again I showed to be fast.”

Repsol Honda press release.

Jorge Lorenzo:
"I didn’t expect such a strange race, Casey going wide and Dovi having a ride through. I thought it was possible to fight with Dani but he came better and better, I think he was inspired today and at a very high level of riding. He decided the victory and I couldn’t follow him. To win now is almost impossible, just maybe some small possibilities! A big thank you to my team who worked so hard this weekend to make a very competitive bike and thank you to all the Japanese fans who came out to support us.”

Ben Spies: "It was a bitter sweet race for sure, we had a great start and the bike was feeling really good. I was in a perfect position coming out of turn three, right behind Dovi when I was hit from the back. I lost one hand off the handlebar and didn’t have much control going into the gravel trap. I tried to slow the bike as much as I could before tipping over. When I got back on track I knew there were a couple of slower guys out there so we could probably get some points. I got my head down and pushed and thought a top ten was possible. The groups kept coming back to me and the lap times were good so we got a good result considering. It’s unfortunate because I really think if we had clear track and started well we could have been in 46s all race long and battled for the podium. That’s racing, it sucks but there you go. I’m not going to blame anybody it’s just a shame, we’ll move on.”

Yamaha Factory Racing press release.

Héctor Barberá: Early crashes, run-offs, ride-throughs and jump starts. The Japanese GP at Motegi had it all in the headline attraction. Héctor Barberá was looking to continue his strong run of form from previous races, and was able to repeat his best qualifying performance of sixth (taken at Jerez) for the Japanese GP. Motegi has never been a favourite track for the MAPFRE Aspar rider, as in 2008 he suffered a big crash that ruled him out of action for a short period of the season. Three years later, Japan was once again the scene of misfortune for Barberá.

Starting well, he completed lap one in ninth position. It was a position upon which to build, but on his twelfth turn of the circuit he lost the front end of his bike and hit the ground hard. Having lost consciousness, Barberá was taken to the circuit hospital, where the doctors decided to airlift him to the Dokkyo hospital in Mibu (near Utsunomiya). Barberá had suffered a hard blow to the neck, and a CAT scan revealed that he had also fractured his right collarbone. Currently in recovery, the initial signs are that he will require a stay in the hospital for between 24 and 48 hours.

MAPFRE Aspar press release.

Álvaro Bautista: "This was for sure not the result we expected today! I chose the softer rear tyre for the race because the conditions today were colder than yesterday and because for the first laps I needed to be as fast as possible. I didn’t get a good start because some riders jump-started and I was a bit confused by them and when the red light went off I was little bit late. There was a crash on the second corner and I then found myself in a good position. A few laps later some riders entered the pits because they did a jump start and I was then in third, but I knew it was not my real position! When Casey went past me and I saw what the distance was between me and Andrea – who was the next rider – and how many laps were left, I tried to follow Casey and keep the gap to Andrea. Near the last corner I lost the front and crashed and that was the end of the race for me. We worked very hard this weekend and improved in all the sessions, and in the race we were in a good position. Today the luck was just not with us!"

"I am sorry for the whole team because this result would have meant so much to them, and I’m sorry for Suzuki at its home Grand Prix because we wanted to make a good race and a positive result. I have to keep the good things from this weekend in my mind and in the next race we have to keep doing the same things we have done here and keep our heads up!”

Rizla Suzuki press release.

Marco Simoncelli: "I made a stupid mistake on the start line. The red light was slow to go out and out of the corner of my eye I saw Dovizioso move and let the clutch out just a tiny bit but enough to be given a ride-through penalty. You can't afford to make this kind of error. I am angry with myself and kicking myself especially after the race I put together following the penalty. Today could have been a great day for us, the podium was there for the taking and maybe even more than that. I had great fun on the last few laps with Dovizioso though – yet another battle between us – and I am happy to have beaten him. It was great!"

Hiroshi Aoyama: "It was a difficult race. Unfortunately I didn't have the grip to push as I wanted. Yesterday was much better and I am struggling to explain why it didn't happen today. It is very strange but the change in track temperature definitely didn't help because I am struggling for confidence in the front as it is. We will make up for it in the next race.”

San Carlo Honda Gresini press release.

Nicky Hayden: "Our bike was pretty good this weekend. Even though I was only eighth fastest this morning, I was pretty consistent, and this weekend is really the first time I’ve been kind of competitive here. On the start, everybody flinched, and I almost got baited into jumping. Then I got touched by Vale on the exit of Turn 1 and went off the track and lost a lot of time. We were all racing, and it was normal for the first lap. I got into a pretty good rhythm, and when Casey came past me, I wanted to try to follow him past Bautista, but I came in way too hot and went off the track. It’s a shame, because with everybody making mistakes, I had a chance to get us a good result. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry to Ducati and everybody, because they worked so hard. Phillip Island is a track I like, so hopefully there we can do a decent race there.” .

Valentino Rossi: "It’s really a shame to be out of the race after two corners, especially after the progress that we made this weekend, and with the knowledge that we’d worked on the bike well. I was fourth in the morning warm-up, and it would have been possible to have a pace in the high 1:46 range. I also think our choice of tyres for the race—hard on the back and soft on the front—was correct. When you also consider the troubles that Stoner, Simoncelli and Dovizioso had, we could have fought for the podium, which would have been really nice for us. We were a little unlucky. Unfortunately, Lorenzo went onto the grass slightly in Turn 1, and in the next turn he moved suddenly to get his trajectory right. He didn’t see me because I was slightly behind. When he touched me, it pushed me into Spies, who touched my front brake lever. It was normal racing contact, but I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anyway, we did a good job this weekend, and we were more competitive than usual. It’s a challenging time for us, but we hope we’re on the right path.”

Ducati Team press release