MOTEGI, Japan – official series release — Repsol Honda photo —
Dani Pedrosa came from sixth on the starting grid to score his 27th career MotoGP triumph on Sunday in the Motul Grand Prix of Japan.
The Repsol Honda rider scored his first MotoGP victory since Brno in 2014 on a drying track at Twin Ring Motegi. Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi crossed the line in second to record his 14th podium of the season as he extended his championship lead over his teammate Jorge Lorenzo to 18 points. Lorenzo completed the podium after struggling with front-tire wear late in the race.
“I’m so happy with this win. It has been a long time since my last one and I’m really pleased,” said Pedrosa. “It was a fun race, because at first I took things calmly and lost too much time, but the strategy worked out because afterwards I recovered ground gradually. I had a special feeling at that point in the race and I’m happy to take this victory for Honda at their home track, for the team, the sponsors, my friends and family, because it has been a difficult season.”
There were only really three riders with a chance to win the race in tricky conditions at Motegi that saw 50,000 fans packed into the grandstands despite the rain. The race started on time despite a two-hour delay to the morning’s warm up session, but the track remained damp meaning all riders started the race on wet tires.
At the start of the race the outcome looked very different, as Rossi got the holeshot into turn one only for Lorenzo to pass him through turns three and four 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 as the Italian ran wide and started to chase down Rossi in second, who had a 2.7 second advantage.
Lapping 1.5 seconds 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. Pedrosa blasted past Lorenzo as they completed lap 17 to take the lead, and never looked back as he went on to take a commanding victory and continue his record of winning at least one race in every season he has competed 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 three with five laps to go to gift Rossi second.
Pedrosa’s teammate Marc Marquez crossed the line in a lonely fourth while nursing the broken bone in his left hand ahead of the Dovizioso, who despite his tire issues, held on for fifth.
CREDIT: MotoGP Communications