Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo put on a brilliant show for the Japanese fans at Motegi today, fighting it out for the final podium position in a battle that went down to the wire. Rossi just prevailed over his team-mate to take third, his sixth podium of the season, while Lorenzo's fourth place sets up his first Championship match-point at Sepang next weekend.
The excitement between the pair started at turn one, when Lorenzo pulled an audacious move on Rossi, passing him around the outside and exiting the second corner in third place, with the Italian in fourth. As the eventual-winner and runner-up Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso moved clear in front, Rossi was determined not to let his team-mate escape and stuck close behind, looking for every occasion to pass him. He tried a few times before he was able to make it stick and the reigning World Champion eventually passed the current championship-leader on the sixth lap of 24, going on to set the fastest lap of the race on the next lap.
Rossi and Lorenzo then settled into a rhythm with a gap of a few tenths between them, although they were unable to make much headway on the leaders, who were nearly two seconds ahead of them by that point. As the race sped towards its climax Rossi's tyres began to slide a little and Lorenzo took the fight to him, making his first move on lap 18 but unable to stay in front. On the penultimate lap an incredible passing sequence led to the pair touching fairings on more than one occasion and the excitement did not end there, as they swapped positions several more times before Rossi just gained the advantage in the final few corners and crossed the line half a second in front.
Lorenzo is now 69 points ahead of the injured Dani Pedrosa and needs to be at least 75 ahead of his fellow Spaniard after the Sepang race to seal the win there. Rossi has slipped back to fifth in the championship but he is only three points off Dovizioso and has fourth firmly in his sights. The MotoGP paddock now packs up and moves straight to Malaysia for the next round in one week's time at Sepang.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 3rdTime: +5.707
"What a great race! Of course I would have preferred to be battling for the win but anyway it was a great feeling, a real show and I want to congratulate Jorge because he was very strong and didn't give up! Unfortunately I lost time at the start when he passed me so Stoner and Dovizioso got away, and by the time I passed him again they were too far ahead. At the end I was tired and my tyre was sliding a lot, it was a bit softer than I would have liked, so I knew I was going to be in trouble but I wanted the podium so much. Jorge came back at me and we had a great battle, proper racing - I think everyone watching enjoyed it. It's been a great weekend because we expected it to be difficult but in fact we've been strong in every session and worked very well on our bike. The shoulder is okay at the moment so let's go to Malaysia and see if we can continue like this, or better!"
Jorge Lorenzo - Position: 4thTime: +6.221
"This was a big battle between Valentino and I, two warriors with the killer instinct. I have to say that at some points I do not think he was completely fair, we were both on the limit but some of his moves were maybe a bit too much and he touched me and pushed me wide when I don't think it was right. We are team-mates, I am fighting for the Riders' Championship but we are both fighting for the Teams' and Manufacturers' Championship as well and we have to remember this. I am disappointed to miss the podium of course because I wanted one at Yamaha's home, but this is racing. We chose to ride with the old engine to be safe and then I wasn't getting the best feeling from the front tyre, so things weren't perfect for me, but anyway we took some good points. We are very close to getting our dream and I really hope we can do it next weekend in Sepang."
Davide Brivio - Team Manager
"The podium was our main target and it's been a very good weekend. Valentino was fast since Friday afternoon and I think the team did a great job today. We had to change our tyre choice after warm-up and make some small adjustments to make it work properly, but he made the fastest lap and had a very good pace throughout. Then we had this exciting battle in the last laps, which was thrilling. When two strong riders have the chance to fight like this it is always going to create a lot of enjoyment and Jorge didn't give up, but it was better for Valentino this time! We hope to see more of this for the fans and everyone watching."
Wilco Zeeelenberg - Team Manager
"We just need a few more points! This wasn't a perfect race for us and we struggled a bit when the track changed after Moto2, especially at the hard braking in turn one, but our target was to play it safe and take points so we are happy. Of course the end of the race was exciting, but Jorge is a winner and even with the situation with the championship he was never going to give up on the final podium spot easily. It was a great battle between the two strongest riders in the world but they are team-mates and Valentino took too many risks and touched Jorge a couple of times, which should not have happened when Jorge is fighting for the championship. Anyway, considering the front-end issues and the fact that we chose not to run the new engine, we have to be very happy with these points and now we are all just focused on Sepang and the possible championship victory there."
Edwards romps to season best finish in Yamaha's home race
Colin Edwards made a stunning return to the top six in MotoGP this afternoon, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider producing his best performance of 2010 to finish in a richly deserved fifth position.
With predicted rain never materialising, the 24-lap race was run in mild conditions and Edwards made a fast getaway from fifth place on the grid. He held fifth for the opening two laps, the American engaged in an exciting early fight with Italian duo Marco Simoncelli and Loris Capirossi.
Simoncelli took fifth on lap three but having comfortably pulled away from Capirossi, Edwards used all of his experience to exert intense pressure on Simoncelli. Knowing he was capable of running a much faster pace, Edwards was content to stalk Simoncelli until he made his decisive attack on lap 18.
Edwards then clearly demonstrated his superior speed, the 36-year-old opening up a three second gap on Simoncelli in the last seven laps to secure his best finish since the final round of 2009 in Valencia.
A sixth successive start from the second row of the grid had raised expectations that Ben Spies could continue his outstanding recent form. But a mistake under braking at turn five forced him into the gravel trap on lap two. Spies lost eight seconds with the off-track excursion and dropped down to 15th before he embarked on an enthralling recovery.
The Texan showcased his overtaking skills with a series of breathtaking moves that delighted a large contingent of Yamaha supporters in the 40,113-strong crowd . Lapping close to the pace of the leading group in the final stages after gambling with a radically revised front and rear suspension set-up, Spies clawed his way back into the top ten on lap 12 and eventually finished in eighth.
Colin Edwards - Position: 5thTime: +27.092
"In terms of the result I'm really happy because it is my first top six finish of the year and I think it was deserved after all the hard work the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team and me have been putting in to improve our results. And it is always good to get a result in Japan with the race being so important for Yamaha and the Tech 3 Team. I rode good all weekend and was only four-tenths off pole, but what I'm a little disappointed about is that I'm 27 seconds behind the winner. That's a big chunk of time and I'm riding as hard as I can. I feel comfortable and I feel good on the bike now we improved the setting but I guess we just have to shoot for being top non-factory rider. It was hard in the first few laps because I didn't have a lot of feel in the left-side of the rear tyre. But once I got confident, Simoncelli passed me but I was happy just to sit behind him and study him, check where I was faster while making sure I wasn't going to leave the door open for Capirossi. I think my rear tyre had good grip for a little bit longer than Simoncelli's and I managed to pass him, put my head down for a couple of laps and managed to pull a gap."
Ben Spies - Position: 8thTime: +35.572
"Considering everything that happened this weekend with me not being totally happy with the bike and then running off early on, I'm extremely happy to finish eighth, especially coming from 15th. We made a big change to the bike before the race with the geometry in the front and I ran a rear shock that we hadn't run all weekend and i t was a big step. It was a big gamble but it paid off. The front was a bit better in the turns and we definitely had better traction and it made the bike a bit easier to ride and more confidence inspiring. Going into turn five I think Loris was in front of me and it seemed like he braked really, really early. To avoid hitting him I had to move over and get on the kerb and run off track. After my pace in the warm-up I was wondering how I would be able to fight with anybody but I made some passes and I never gave up. I rode as hard as I could and while it wasn't my best result it was still a really good race. Even coming through the field I was still turning some really fast laps that without the mistake would have given me a chance of running in the top five."
Herve Poncharal - Team Manager
"I am very happy with today's race and I think Colin and Ben performed at their maximum in the home race for Yamaha. We were determined to do well for Yamaha and I don't think we disappointed with both of them performing incredibly well. I think everybody at Yamaha and the Japanese fans really enjoyed the way both of them performed. Colin had by far his best result of the season and this weekend he has been back to the outstanding form he showed all last season. He's been working hard with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew for several races now to improve and this weekend that effort paid off. He had a good battle with Simoncelli that Colin won comfortably and I think we saw he used his experience today. It was unfortunate that Ben ran off the track so early because his potential was much higher than eighth. His fighting spirit was unbelievable and he never gave up and his lap times at the end would have easily put him in the top five. He demonstrated his determination today and after a positive winter test at Sepang, I'm confident he can be challenging back at the front again in Malaysia next weekend."