Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa came from sixth on the grid to take his 27th MotoGP win and first since Brno in 2014 on a drying track at the Twin Ring Motegi. Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi (+8.573s) crossed the line in second to record his 14th podium of the season as he extended his lead over his teammate Jorge Lorenzo to 18 points in the World Championship standings. Lorenzo (+12.127s) completed the podium after struggling with front-tire wear later in the race to record his 94th premier class podium appearance.
The race started on time before 50,000 fans despite a two-hour rain delay to the morning’s warm-up session, but the track remained damp meaning all riders went for wets. At the start of the race the outcome looked very different as Rossi got the holeshot into turn 1 only for Lorenzo to take him through turns 3 and 4 for the lead. At this point things looked ominous for Rossi as Lorenzo broke away at the front in his usual fashion and opened up a two-second lead by the end of lap three.
Rossi appeared to have no answer to his teammates pace and had to fight off the advances of the Ducati Team GP15 of Andrea Dovizioso during the early stages of the race. In a sign of things to come though, Dovizioso started to experience front tire issues as a dry line appeared on track and began to drop back rapidly by lap 10. At this point Pedrosa had made his way up into fourth and was by far the fastest man on the track. On lap 11 the Spaniard passed Dovizioso who ran wide and started to chase down Rossi in second, who had a 2.7s advantage.
Lapping 1.5s faster that the two Yamaha’s in front of him, Pedrosa caught Rossi with nine laps to go and suddenly Lorenzo was struggling as his front tire started to rip itself to pieces. Rossi went with Pedrosa and they both began to hunt down Lorenzo, who had a 2.7s advantage with the two-time MotoGP world champion appearing to be going backwards at this point. As they completed lap 17, Pedrosa blasted past him on the straight to take the lead and never looked back. He went on to take a commanding victory and continue his record of winning at least one race per season in MotoGP.
It then became a game of risk versus reward between the two Yamaha teammates as Rossi closed in on his title rival, but both were tiptoeing around on their shredded front tires. Rossi appeared to have looked after his slightly better though and Lorenzo ran wide at turn 3 with 5 laps to go to gift the Doctor second. Pedrosa rode superbly in the final laps to take the race win by over 8.5s from Rossi, with Lorenzo completing the podium a further 3 seconds back.
Although it was clearly Pedrosa’s day after a sensational ride in the wet, Rossi was delighted with extending his lead in the standings as he hopes to secure his 10th World Championship title in 2015.
Pedrosa’s teammate Marc Marquez (+27.841s) crossed the line in a lonely fourth nursing the broken bone in his left hand ahead of the Dovizioso, who despite his tire issues, held on for fifth.
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow came out on top by just 0.404s in an excellent battle for sixth against his compatriot Bradley Smith on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 to finish as the leading Satellite rider. Crutchlow passed Smith on the last lap to secure sixth, his best result since he also finished sixth at Assen. Smith crossed the line in seventh to make it 21 point-scoring finishes in a row, but dropped down to sixth in the standings behind Dovizioso.
Wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha Factory Team) rode brilliantly to finish in eighth ahead of Hector Barbera on the Avintia Racing Ducati. Barbera took the Open class win and also recorded his first top 10 finish of the season to re-take the lead in the Open standings by two points from Loris Baz (Forward Racing), who was forced to retire from the race.
Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top 10 ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in 11th, with the second wildcard Takumi Takahashi (Team HRC with Nissin) 12th.
Nicky Hayden was the leading Open class Honda in 13th, with his Irish teammate Eugene Laverty crossing the line in 17th.
Jack Miller (LCR Honda) led the Open class battle at one point but crashed twice during the race and was forced to retire. There were also DNF’s for Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team).
Rossi (283pts) now has an 18-point lead over Lorenzo (265pts) with just three races remaining, while Marc Marquez remains in third with 197 points.
2015 Grand Prix of Japan Race Results
1. Dani PEDROSA (26) Repsol Honda Team HONDA
2. Valentino ROSSI (46) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA
3. Jorge LORENZO (99) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YAMAHA
4. Marc MARQUEZ (93), Repsol Honda Team HONDA
5. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (4) Ducati Team DUCATI
6. Cal CRUTCHLOW (35) CWM LCR Honda HONDA
7. Bradley SMITH (38) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA
8. Katsuyuki NAKASUGA (21) Yamaha Factory Racing Team YAMAHA
9. Hector BARBERA (8) Avintia Racing DUCATI
10. Scott REDDING (45) EG 0,0 Marc VDS HONDA
11. Aleix ESPARGARO (41) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI
12. Takumi TAKAHASHI (72) Team HRC with Nissin HONDA
13. Nicky HAYDEN (69) Aspar MotoGP Team HONDA
14. Yonny HERNANDEZ (68) Pramac Racing DUCATI
15. Mike DI MEGLIO (63) Avintia Racing DUCATI
16. Alvaro BAUTISTA (19) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA
17. Eugene LAVERTY (50) Aspar MotoGP Team HONDA
18. Stefan BRADL (6) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini APRILIA
19. Kousuke AKIYOSHI (64) AB Motoracing HONDA
20. Toni ELIAS (24) Athinà Forward Racing YAMAHA
Pol ESPARGARO (44) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA
Jack MILLER (43) CWM LCR Honda HONDA
Maverick VIÑALES (25) Team Suzuki Ecstar SUZUKI
Loris BAZ (76) Athinà Forward Racing YAMAHA
Andrea IANNONE (29) Ducati Team DUCATI
Danilo PETRUCCI (9) Pramac Racing DUCATI