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GP Week : Issue 136
theYsaythatanythingcanhappen in racing. At Motegi it did. the consequence was Repsol rider dani Pedrosa’s third win of the season ... and honda’s first 800cc win at the track they own. Pedrosa had been fast all weekend, but his win was much eased by a series of incidents that began even before the start. Only fractionally before, when front-row qualifier Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) anticipated the start. So too did Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda) just behind him, and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha) a couple more rows back. All were called in for a ride-through penalty. The next significant event came on the second corner. Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati) had at last found some progress from his recalcitrant machine, and was optimistic. Instead he found himself trapped in a closing gap between the two factory Yamahas, Jorge Lorenzo ahead and Ben Spies alongside. As Lorenzo braked and moved across Rossi hit him from behind and bounced off into Spies. “Unfortunately it caught my front brake and locked the front wheel,” he explained. “Lorenzo didn’t know I was there; he didn’t want to do it. But I was in the wrong place.” He fell mid-pack, lucky not to get hit; while Spies was sent off into the gravel, recovering to rejoin right at the back. The drama wasn’t over. Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) had taken off in the lead, pulling over second on Pedrosa in the first lap. But Dovi passed Dani on lap two, not yet aware of his penalty, and had closed to within less than a second by the end of lap four. “I didn’t want to push too hard early on, but I knew Andrea had the softer tyre,” said Stoner. It was the earthquake bumps left on the back straight – one of a few places not resurfaced – that did for him. “It’s not one bump, there’s a lot. As I came over there I had the slightest movement before the bigger bump, got some air on that one, and when the front came down it just shook – I almost lost hold of the handlebars.” The straight ends in hard downhill braking, but the shaking had spread the pads and he had to pump the brake. On the second pump it grabbed and almost locked. He had to pick the bike up and ran into the gravel, dropping from first to seventh in the process. Stoner was promoted two places when Dovi and Simoncelli pitted for their penalties; and then pushed past Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) to regain third. But Dani had also been promoted when Dovi pulled in. He stayed there to the end. “I was lucky, but it feels great to take Honda’s first 800cc win here,” he said. He still had to fight, because Lorenzo was on blazing form, overcoming his Yamaha’s speed and acceleration disadvantages to qualify second, and now hounding Pedrosa. He even attempted a pass on lap 10, but it didn’t work, and now he started to lose touch, preferring a safe second to further superhuman effort. “Dani was inspired today,” he said. There was plenty of to and fro as the penalised riders moved back through, culminating in a fierce battle for fourth as Simoncelli caught Dovizioso. He got ahead on the penultimate lap, and managed to stay there in spite of Dovi’s determined efforts. Spies came steadily through to sixth, almost 15 seconds down but getting the better of Hayden with two laps left to finish just a second ahead. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha) was a lone eighth; followed by a well-spaced Hiro Aoyama (San Carlo Honda), Randy de Puniet (Pramac Ducati), Crutchlow and Japanese wild cards Kousuki Akiyoshi (LCR Honda) and Shinichi Ito (Honda). Bautista crashed out after managing to fend off a pressing Hayden for 13 laps: he was lying fourth at the time. Capirossi’s replacement Damian Cudlin also fell, after shadowing Akiyoshi for 13 laps, as well as Toni Elias (LCR Honda). Hector Barbera (Mapfre Ducati) crashed on lap two, and was stretchered off with a broken collarbone. Stoner’s lead shrunk to 40 points, 300 to 260. Dovizioso’s third is under threat, 196 points to Pedrosa’s 195. Spies has 156, Rossi 139. MOTOGP JAPAN >> 31