Pedrosa Keeps Title Hopes Alive

AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan, Twin Ring Motegi, October 12-14, 2012

story and photos courtesy of MotoGP

Dani Pedrosa leads points leader Jorge Lorenzo to the checkers

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.

Marky Marc Márquez leads #1 qualifier Pol Espargaró in the Moto2 race

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.

Danny Kent leads Maverick Viñales to the checkers

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.


Lorenzo’s takes 50th pole amidst Carnage

Jorge Lorenzo makin’ it happen at Twin Ring Motegi

It was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo who romped to his 50th ever Grand Prix pole position for the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan tomorrow in a hard-fought and incident-packed qualifying session at the Twin Ring Motegi ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow.

Setting a new track record with the only time in the 1.44s, Lorenzo pushed Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa into second on the grid, after the Spaniard had looked to be taking pole shortly before the end. Whilst Lorenzo expressed surprise at the high pace of the field, Pedrosa cited some chattering problems as the cause he could not push any harder. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow completes the row in third, with the Brit doing very well to save a near crash after scoring his seventh front row start this season. He stated afterwards that an unusual vibration within the bike was the cause of the incident, and he and the team will work to resolve it before tomorrow.

Heading row two is Yamaha’s Ben Spies, who suffered an awkward crash in the dying seconds of the session, yet did not obstruct anyone on their hot lap. Lining up next to him in fifth is San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, after his and the team’s suspension set-up work looked to be yielding the positive results they were looking for. He will also be boosted for tomorrow’s race, after his future was confirmed with the team for next season. Six spot is occupied by Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who appeared to be on-course for a higher grid spot, but could not squeeze out those extra tenths needed, after an overheating brake caused him to pit for a lengthy spell.

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner heads the third row in seventh, with the Australian still struggling slightly with the bike on his return from injury. Stoner commented that the immobility in his foot is reducing his usual lean angle to one side, as he cannot move it far enough out of the way. Alongside him in eighth is LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who’s session got off to a bad start with a crash, although the German managed to head back out for the latter part of qualifying. He said they did not improve on the braking issues they encountered yesterday.

Ninth position went to Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi, with the Italian not finding the one-off pace that helped him jump up the ranks in yesterday’s timesheets. His teammate Nicky Hayden completes the top ten, with the American still suffering significant discomfort from his fractured right radius. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró took top CRT spot in 13th, consolidating the form he has shown all weekend.

There were numerous other crashes throughout the session as San Carlo’s Michele Pirro dropped his bike early on, with Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham also following suit at the end of the session. Fortunately none of the riders were seriously hurt in the crashes.

Pol Espargaró

It was Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró who stormed to pole position in a frantic Moto2 qualifying session at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi in front of Marc Márquez and Esteve Rabat.

In a session that saw riders scrapping it out until the very end for the top grid spots, it was Espargaró who once again produced the goods at the end with a lap of 1.50’886, which Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez was unable to beat on his final go. Making it an all-Spanish front row in Espargaró’s teammate Esteve Rabat, who has displayed good pace all weekend, and could be a serious threat in the race.

Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding was just over a tenth shy of the front row, with the Brit looking in ominous form this weekend as he heads row two in fourth. Lining up next to him in fifth on the grid is Interwetten-Paddock’s Tom Lüthi, who has continually been progressing up the ranks throughout the weekend. Surprise inclusion in the top six is JiR Moto2’s Johann Zarco, who was largely off the radar in morning practice.

Tech 3 Racing’s Bradley Smith had looked as if he could challenge for a front row start based on his pace in the preceding practices, yet the Brit looked to be struggling with his bike somewhat during qualifying. Italtrans Racing Team’s Toni Elías made a grand re-entry into the Moto2 fold as he put the Kalex in eighth on the grid, ahead of old teammate Nico Terol on the Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2 Suter machine. Elías’ teammate Takaaki Nakagami was the highest placed local rider in tenth.

With positions being fought for with typical Moto2 ferocity, some riders found themselves running off into the gravel throughout the session. One of the fallers was Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone, who continued to look out of sorts this weekend, ultimately ending up in 18th. Other riders that crashed out were Kiefer Racing’s Mike Di Meglio, QMMF Racing’s Elena Rosell and Espargaró’s teammate Axel Pons.

Danny Kent

In a typically exciting Moto3 qualifying session at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi it was Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Danny Kent who charged to his maiden pole position ahead of Maverick Viñales and Sandro Cortese.

Kent looked in threatening form throughout the session, yet left it until the dying seconds to get his head down and take a dominant first-ever Grand Prix pole position with a time of 1.58’371, beating Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales by over two tenths. The Spaniard also looked strong out on track, as he seemed to be benefiting from his recent engine upgrade. Kent’s championship leading teammate Cortese could not improve on his time in his final lap, yet maintained a front row start.

Heading the second row is AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin, who will be disappointed at missing out on the front row, after having shown top-three form in the preceding sessions. Team Italia FMI’s Alessandro Tonucci put in one of his best qualifying performances of the season in fifth, while RW Racing GP’s Luis Salom looked far from happy as he ended up in sixth.

Seventh spot on the grid went to Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger, who twice had to stop with a mechanical fault, the first being attributed to a problem with the bike’s fuel tank breather hose. This grid position is particularly impressive, considering the lack of track time the German had throughout the session. Racing Team Germany’s Louis Rossi lines up next to him in eighth, while JHK t-shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vázquez rounds out the third row.

Another rider who suffered bike problems was Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati, who had to wait in the pits a while for his clutch to be changed. And despite not looking entirely comfortable out on track, the young Italian managed to fight his way into tenth spot. There was only one crasher in the session in the form of TT Motion Events Racing’s Niklas Ajo, who walked away unhurt and was able to re-join the session.