MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2013
Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez rode to a strategic second place at today's Japanese Grand Prix, preferring not to risk his world championship lead in pitched battle, with just one round remaining for a tense final decider.
Second Repsol Honda RC213V rider Dani Pedrosa was third, making it a double rostrum for Honda – with two more Hondas taking the next two places to make four out of the top five.
The double podium secured the Teams Championship for Repsol Honda, with one race to spare. Honda also leads the Constructors Championship by 13 points from Yamaha, with a maximum of 25 available.
Today's race was won by Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) adding momentum to his late-season challenge to regain the title lead at the final race. The Spanish defending champion's chances were revived last weekend in Australia, where Marquez was disqualified for an error in interpreting special one-race pit-stop rules.
It means the World Championship battle will be decided at the final race for the first time since Repsol Honda rider Nicky Hayden defeated Valentino Rossi at Valencia in 2006.
A separate battle for fourth was won by Alvaro Bautista (GO & FUN Gresini Honda RC213V) from Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda); while CRT-category competitor Bryan Staring (GO & FUN Honda Gresini FTR Honda) finished 22nd on his first visit to the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.
The penultimate round of the World Championship was dogged by bad weather – the legacy of fading Typhoon Francisco – with no practice possible all Friday and on Saturday morning. Each class ran one extended session to determine qualifying positions, and then extended race-day morning sessions – by when the weather had cleared and the track was dry for the first time.
It posed an extra challenge for former 125 and Moto2 World Champion Marquez, whose blazing rookie season in the premier class has brought him tantalisingly close to a maiden MotoGP World Championship. With no previous experience of the class-leading Honda RC213V at the Honda-owned circuit, the severe lack of dry practice cost him vital set-up time.
Even so he challenged for the lead mid-race, before deciding that a safe 20 points would be the wiser choice. His lead now stands at 13 points: should Lorenzo win at the final round in two weeks, Marquez must be no lower than third if he is to win the crown at his first attempt.
The 20-year-old from Catalunya in Spain has made a blazing impact on the top class. Aside from the Australian mishap, he has been on the rostrum at every race bar one, and amassed a total of six race wins, including four in a row. All year he has been breaking “youngest-ever" records … but even if it all goes wrong at Valencia and he has to wait one more year, he will still be in line to be youngest-ever premier-class world champion, provided he ties it up before the end of October. The previous youngest champion was Honda rider Freddie Spencer, in 1983.
Pedrosa has also had a season of consistent strength, but for a mid-year interruption with an injury that ultimately cost him his own championship chances. Aside from that two-race spell, the former 125 and double 250 champion has won three races and stood on the podium 12 times altogether.
The experienced 28-year-old's third victory came three races ago in Malaysia, as his improving physical condition was matched by an important step in finding machine settings more suited to his style.
Third in today's race was a disappointment after winning the previous two events at the circuit in the hills to the north of Tokyo, and meant an end to his hopes of finishing higher than third overall in the final standings.
Fourth place for Bautista equalled his best results of the year and continued a strong late-season run for the former 125 World Champion. The Spanish rider has an extra role for Honda: the only rider race-developing Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by Japanese associates of Honda. This position further improved his chances of retaining sixth overall.
His nearest rival is LCR Honda RC213V rider Stefan Bradl, for him this was a comeback ride after missing the last two races with a fractured ankle. The race was just over two weeks after surgery in Malaysia, and to finish fifth proved the determination of the German former Moto2 champion.
While the title stays alive in the premier class, a new champion was crowned in the all-Honda powered Moto2 class, as Pol Espargaro (Tuenti HP 40 Pons Kalex) gained an unassailable advantage with his sixth victory of the season.
His last rival, Englishman Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) was absent from a race cut from 23 to 15 laps – one of the victims of a first-corner crash that brought out the red flags at the first attempt. Redding had led on points from round four until last weekend in Australia, when he broke his wrist and missed the race. His return a week later in Japan was a brave but ultimately unsuccessful last-ditch effort.
The organiser supply identical sealed race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines to all competitors to guarantee reliable and usually close racing, but Espargaro's pace in the second shortened race in a row stretched out the pursuit.
First-time pole qualifier Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) was second after a race-long chase, three seconds down at the flag. Swiss former 125 World Champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter) a slightly lesser distance behind for third. It was Brno winner Kallio's third visit to the rostrum; and a sixth for Luthi.
Xavier Simeon (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team Kalex) eventually escaped from a race-long battle with Julian Simon (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex) for fifth; double race winner Nico Terol (Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) closed to within a second of his Spanish compatriot by the finish.
Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) was eighth. Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans Racing Team Kalex) had a strong ride through from 22nd on the grid to ninth, finally outpacing Mattia Pasini (NGM Mobile Racing Speed Up). Ten seconds away, Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team Speed Up) forced his way to the front of a quartet disputing 11th, taking the place narrowly from Marcel Schrotter (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team Kalex), Axel Pons (Tuenti HP 40 Pons Kalex), Gino Rea (Arginano & Gines Racing Speed Up) and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex). Eleventh to 15th and last point were covered by just over one second.
The costly first-corner crash was triggered when three-race winner Esteve Rabat (Tuenti HP 40 Pons Kalex) fell near the front of the pack. Redding, who had qualified 15th, was unable to avoid his bike, and also fell heavily, while Blusens Avintia Kalex replacement rider Alex Marinelarena also crashed and was stretchered away. None made the restart.
Espargaro now the new World Champion with hi unassailable lead on points, but Rabat still has the chance to claim second from Redding, who is 20 points clear.
An exciting Moto3 race threw the championship wide open and yielded a best result of the year for the Honda riders, with the top trio in a close fight to the end over fifth place, and a fourth in ninth place. Until the last corner there had been five Hondas in the top ten … but Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold FTR Honda) crashed out of a potential fifth almost within sight of the chequered flag.
While Alex Marquez won his first grand prix after title leaders Luis Salom and Alex Rins crashed out (all KTM), four Honda riders were in the big battle not far behind the remaining leading quartet. Masbou, Romano Fenati (San Carlo Team Italian FTR Honda), John McPhee (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda) had caught fast-starting Jack Miller (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda). The quartet changed places repeatedly, then crossed the line Fenati, Miller and McPhee after Masbou went missing, all over the line within 0.12 seconds.
Isaac Vinales (Ongetta-Centro Seta FTR Honda) had been with the leaders when he crashed on the first lap, taking down points leader Alex Salom. Later in the race fellow KTM rider Alex Rins also crashed, handing a slender points lead to Maverick Vinales (KTM), a narrow second in today's race.
|1||Jorge LORENZO (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|2||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)|
|3||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)|
|4||Alvaro BAUTISTA (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)|
|5||Stefan BRADL (LCR Honda MotoGP)|
|6||Valentino ROSSI (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|7||Cal CRUTCHLOW (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|8||Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|9||Nicky HAYDEN (Ducati Team)|
|10||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)|
|11||Katsuyuki NAKASUGA (Yamaha YSP Racing Team)|
|12||Colin EDWARDS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|13||Randy DE PUNIET (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|14||Andrea IANNONE (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)|
|15||Yonny HERNANDEZ (Ignite Pramac Racing)|
|1||Pol ESPARGARO (Tuenti HP 40)|
|2||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|3||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Racing)|
|4||Xavier SIMEON (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team)|
|5||Julian SIMON (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|6||Nicolas TEROL (Aspar Team Moto2)|
|7||Alex DE ANGELIS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|8||Dominique AEGERTER (Technomag carXpert)|
|9||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|10||Mattia PASINI (NGM Mobile Racing)|
|11||Anthony WEST (QMMF Racing Team)|
|12||Marcel SCHROTTER (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team)|
|13||Axel PONS (Tuenti HP 40)|
|14||Gino REA (Argiñano & Gines Racing)|
|15||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|1||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|2||Maverick VIÑALES (Team Calvo)|
|3||Jonas FOLGER (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|4||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Mahindra Racing)|
|5||Romano FENATI (San Carlo Team Italia)|
|6||Jack MILLER (Caretta Technology - RTG)|
|7||John MCPHEE (Caretta Technology - RTG)|
|8||Niklas AJO (Avant Tecno)|
|9||Niccolò ANTONELLI (GO & FUN Gresini Moto3)|
|10||Brad BINDER (Ambrogio Racing)|
|11||Jakub KORNFEIL (Redox RW Racing GP)|
|12||Livio LOI (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|13||Philipp OETTL (Interwetten Moto3 Racing)|
|14||Alan TECHER (CIP Moto3)|
|15||Hyuga WATANABE (TASCA RACING)|