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GP Week : Issue 171
D ani Pedrosa kept his dwindling championship chances from dying at Motegi, claiming his fourth win in the last five races in almost clinical style. Even so, the missing race – Misano, where he was knocked off – is looking increasingly likely to cost him the crown. Points leader Jorge Lorenzo was on pole with a record lap, one of only a few riders not to complain about braking worries on the severely stop- and-go Motegi. The Yamaha rider took a flying start to lead second-qualifier Pedrosa and Yamaha team-mate Ben Spies into the first corner. Crutchlow, Stoner, Bautista, Dovizioso and Rossi were in a pack behind, and they finished the first lap in the same order. Spies would not get much further, blaming a continuation of his brake problems for running on into the gravel at the first corner, hitting the barrier at slow speed, and stomping off in high dudgeon, another promising race ruined for the luckless American. This left Crutchlow in third and the leading pair ahead by more than two seconds on lap three, a gap that would slowly but steadily grow as their austere but intriguing battle continued. Dani had to win; Jorge need only come second. Each was fully aware, and Pedrosa’s intent fully clear as he stalked patiently. On lap 12 he pounced with a clean outbraking move before the underpass, and that was the end of that. Each rider continued to do his duty, and Dani won by better than four seconds, having also set a new record while in pursuit. “We did what we needed to do,” said Pedrosa (Lorenzo might have used exactly the same words). “It’s just a pity there is no-one else who can stay with us, because every race I win, he’s been second.” Crutchlow’s group provided the action. Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda) had displaced Stoner on lap three, and thereupon lost ground on the third-placed Yamaha steadily, more than 1.5 seconds on lap ten. Behind him Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) pushed past Dovi on the same lap; by when they were more than a second adrift of the slowly fading Stoner. Now Bautista started to close again, on Crutchlow’s tail with ten laps to go, pushing hard, and finally seizing his chance on lap 20. They battled almost all the way, changing places more than once, and Crutchlow promising himself success in the inevitable closing skirmish. Instead he ended up coasting to a stop on the last lap, out of fuel. The third rostrum spot went to the Honda. Stoner had no defence when Dovi closed and outbraked him into the first corner with seven laps left, and was five seconds down, though still four ahead of Bradl. Rossi was closing on the German at the end, not fast enough to threaten but enough for him to comment favourably on progress, though still hampered by wheelspin out of the corner. “It was a good weekend for us,” he said, adding with a laugh: “The only problem is the other guys are faster than us.” Marlboro Ducati team-mate, injury- hampered Hayden was well down, engaged all race long (and once even behind) wild card Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Yamaha factory tester. In the end, he beat him by less than a tenth. Hector Barbera (Pramac Ducati) was a lone tenth; Karel Abraham (AB Cardion Ducati) next, after outpacing Aleix Espargaro, who’s Power Electronics ART was top CRT bike ... his team-mate Randy de Puniet crashed out on the first lap. Colin Edwards was barely two seconds adrift, his Suter BMW progress at last achieving some direction; Ellison (ART) in turn saw off Pirro (FTR Honda) for the final points. Lorenzo’s damage control shrank his lead but improved his position: from now third in the remaining three races will be enough, if Pedrosa were to win all three. He has 310 points, Pedrosa 282. Stoner has 197 with Dovi closing on 192; Crutchlow’s non-finish dropped him to seventh on 135, behind Bautista (144) and Rossi (137). 38 GPWEEK.com // 38 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> MOTEGI