MotoGP // STONER'S WIN ONE-UPPED BY BATTLE FOR THIRDMotoGP finally got around to running the Japanese GP this weekend. The race originally was to run back in April but an uncooperative volcano in Iceland killed most air travel out of Europe. Sunday’s rescheduled race slots in nicely with the next two rounds (Malaysia and Australia). All three are now on consecutive weekends, meaning less jet lag and presumably easier movement of cargo. Hopefully... [read more]

The biggest news of the weekend was Dani Pedrosa crashing on only the third lap of the first practice session. The bizarre accident was only captured by his onboard camera, so Honda and Dorna have just one angle from which to investigate. Honda’s conclusion so far is that Pedrosa’s fly-by-wire throttle stuck open. His bike got severe wobbles and dumped him hard on his left side. Dani got up and walked to the track edge, giving some hope that maybe he was unhurt. Unfortunately, he was then stretchered away. X-rays showed he had broken his collarbone in three places. He was immediately flown back to Barcelona to undergo surgery (imagine flying that far with such an injury). There is as yet no verdict on whether he will take part in the race in Malaysia next week. Pre-race tabulations concluded that if Jorge finished first or second at Motegi, and Pedrosa didn’t show up for Malaysia, the title would be Lorenzo’s.

Qualifying saw Andrea Dovizioso channel his absent teammate with menacingly fast and consistent laps. He would take his first MotoGP pole position with six minutes left in the session. The Fiat Yamahas were back on form after their less than stellar showing two weeks ago. Lorenzo stayed near the top of all sessions and Valentino Rossi’s lingering shoulder injury was a much smaller factor than he and his team had anticipated. Rossi clinched second position on his very last lap, just a few hundredths behind Dovizioso. More importantly, Rossi knocked Lorenzo off the front row for the first time this season. Even though the title is out of the question for Rossi, he is keen to hold his own against the man taking it from him. Casey Stoner snatched third after uneven results across all sessions. He seemingly ironed out whatever was upsetting his rhythm. The starting grid was as follows: Dovizioso, Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo, Edwards, Spies, DePuniet, Simoncelli, Bautista, Capirossi, Hayden, Melandri, Espargaro, Aoyama, Barbera and Kallio.

MotoGP // STONER'S WIN ONE-UPPED BY BATTLE FOR THIRDDovizioso had a great start, leading into turn one, but Casey Stoner quickly snatched the lead into turn two. Dovizioso refused to be dropped and would periodically chip away at Stoner’s lead. Unfortunately for him, Stoner would respond by upping his own pace. As close as Dovizioso was getting, he could never get close enough to really challenge Stoner. Stoner wouldn’t really break away until near the end, eventually winning by a comfortable margin of just under four seconds. While Stoner was cruising to victory, the TV audience was distracted by the battle for third place. Rossi had passed Lorenzo with 19 laps to go but had never dropped his teammate/ rival. With about 7 laps left, Lorenzo passed Rossi under brakes at turn 5 and Rossi immediately passed him back and pulled a slight gap. With 2 laps to go Jorge was right on Rossi’s tail again. Going into turn 5, Lorenzo tried the same move as before with Rossi countering again, just more forcefully. They banged fairings going under the tunnel and Rossi retained 3rd place. Going into the S curves, Lorenzo tried to grab the inside line, forcing Rossi wide. Rossi countered by forcing Lorenzo wide in to the second half of the turn complex. Lorenzo regrouped for a last lap push on Rossi but found himself too far back to mount a pass at his favorite overtaking spot (turn 5). This time though, he made a pass stick on Rossi going into the S curves. Rossi then took Lorenzo at the V corner (these corners are so literally named) and barely kept 3rd place, wheelieing up to the hairpin. Rossi barely managed to keep Jorge at bay and eked out the final podium spot. It was a fantastic battle the likes of which we have not seen this year. Jerez, where Lorenzo charged to victory in the final laps from a distant 3rd place, would be the closest such battle this season.

It would be an understatement to say the Rossi/ Lorenzo battle stole the show but there were some other notable performances. Dovizioso’s strength over the whole weekend added real ammunition to his bid for a 3rd factory Honda ride next year. Colin Edwards took a strong 5th place while his teammate, Ben Spies, came back fighting from an early bobble that sent him and Hayden off track into 15th and 16th. He eventually managed to claw his way back to 8th. The Suzukis also had a strong showing, they would have finished 7th and 8th had Capirossi not run off track with 3 laps to go, stalling his bike and failing to finish. Hopefully such results will persuade Suzuki to stick with their 2-man team and pour more resources into their MotoGP effort.

The Rossi/ Lorenzo scrap brought out all the expected recriminations. Lin Jarvis felt Rossi should have been more helpful to Lorenzo’s championship effort. Lorenzo himself complained that some of Rossi’s moves were “a bit too much.” On Rossi’s side, Masao Furusawa, who was instrumental in Rossi’s Yamaha success, was caught on camera smirking at the amazing battle going down and Rossi could be heard on camera in parc ferme saying “it was fun!” From my perspective, Lorenzo got as hard as he gave. The racing was definitely rough but Jorge put some similarly hard moves on Pedrosa in Jerez earlier in the year.

Malaysia is looking to be where the 2010 championship will most likely be decided. Lorenzo is 69 points ahead of Dani Pedrosa, the only other rider with any mathematical chance of taking the title. The odds of Dani making it to Sepang seem slim right now. If he skips the race, Jorge has only to finish 10th to be champion. If Pedrosa makes it, Jorge needs to come out 7 points ahead of him. Valentino Rossi faced similar odds of taking the title at Sepang last season. A bad start on a rain-soaked track and a determined Jorge Lorenzo threatened to spoil everything. Rossi prevailed in the end but Jorge never made it easy for him.

2010 Japanese Grand Prix // Complete Results:

1. Casey Stoner
2. Andrea Dovizioso
3. Valentino Rossi
4. Jorge Lorenzo
5. Colin Edwards
6. Marco Simoncelli
7. Alvaro Bautista
8. Ben Spies
9. Randy De Puniet
10. Hiroshi Aoyama
11. Marco Melandri
12. Nicky Hayden
13. Hector Barbera
14. Aleix Espargaro
15. Mika Kallio

Images: MotoGP
Editorial: Jeff Winterberg


  1. Best battle all season! That was racing!