MotoGP – Japan, Motegi – Sun Sep 28

Japan was the first chance of the season for Valentino Rossi to clinch a record sixth MotoGP championship: he’s not the type of rider to need a second invitation.

For once, Rossi had a fairly decent start – it was his team mate Jorge Lorenzo who had a shocker, falling from pole to 5th just behind his team mate, regaining 4th from Rossi on the first lap but then running wide – or acting under team orders – to hand the place back again on the next.

By contrast, Lorenzo’s compatriot Dani Pedrosa has a brilliant start, leaping from the second row into second place and then overtaking Casey Stoner for the lead. The two of them started to stretch out their lead over the first half dozen laps, and Rossi – sensing that the leaders were breaking away – quickly put Nicky Hayden to the sword for third place so that he could set off after them.

Technically, third place (a podium slot) was all Rossi needed to secure the championship. He could rest up and take the rest of the race as a stroll if he wanted. But that wouldn’t be Valentino Rossi: if he was to win the title here, he wanted to do it in style. He was out for the win, and Pedrosa and Stoner stood in the way. Clearly, they had to be dispatched.

By lap 5, Stoner was feeling the approaching presence of his arch rival and was piling on the pressure on Pedrosa for the lead. After one brief success (quickly overturned), Stoner managed it properly – albeit slightly by accident. A slightly unintended and uncontrolled lunge put him in front, but it was a rather artless move and Stoner waved an apology to Pedrosa in the process.

Of course, Rossi – ever the arch opportunist – followed through in Stoner’s wake and from then on it became about the two of them, as they quickly dropped Pedrosa off the pace. Stoner seemed on the edge, but Rossi was sailing along serenely and apparently effortlessly behind him and you senses it was only a matter of time.

It came on lap 13, with one of Rossi’s trademark late breaking moves. He slid past Stoner, who had no response – and once past, Rossi showed he clearly had the better pace all alone, ultimately opening up a near-two second winning margin over the resigned Aussie.

With the victory – his fifth in a row and his eighth in total this season – Rossi becomes the first rider to win six titles (eight world championships in total if you go back to the junior series as well). He also secured Yamaha’s constructors’ title (and on home ground for the manufacturer, too) and Fiat Yamaha’s team title to make it a perfect hat trick. You had to forgive the self-indulgent helmet signing ceremony Rossi’s people staged on the cool down lap, especially as Rossi donned a “sorry for the delay” T-shirt in the process!

Behind the leading duo, Dani Pedrosa managed to retain third, but Lorenzo – having got the best of Dani’s team mate Nicky Hayden mid race – edged his way ever-closer to the back of the Honda. He ran out of laps before he could get close enough to mount a realistic bid to overtake, but he tried one lunge on the final lap that saw the bitter enemies clash wheels at the hairpin – fortunately without any disastrous outcome, but emphatically ending the conflict between the two in Pedrosa’s favour as Lorenzo fell back.

Loris Capirossi retained the sixth place he qualified with, but never threatened to improve. However he was definitely the best of the three Suzuki runners, with wild card entry Kousuke Akiyoshi washing out into the gravel on the opening lap, and regular team mate Chris Vermeulen suffering a technical failure with his brakes mid-race.

Turn 11 proved to be the most interesting place to be a spectator, with several drivers – including Marco Melandri, Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis all having moments into the difficult right-hander and running off into the gravel by various degrees.

Britain’s James Toseland, after gaining a couple of places at the start, found himself overtaken by Shinya Nakano early on, Andrea Dovizioso mid-race, and finally John Hopkins in the closing lap after a long hard duel, to end up a net one place down on his starting position.

Pos  Rider             Bike            Time
 1.  Valentino Rossi   Yamaha    (B)   43:09.599
 2.  Casey Stoner      Ducati    (B)   +   1.943
 3.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda     (B)   +   4.866
 4.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha    (M)   +   6.165
 5.  Nicky Hayden      Honda     (M)   +  24.593
 6.  Loris Capirossi   Suzuki    (B)   +  25.685
 7.  Colin Edwards     Yamaha    (M)   +  25.918
 8.  Shinya Nakano     Honda     (B)   +  26.003
 9.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda     (M)   +  26.219
10.  John Hopkins      Kawasaki  (B)   +  37.131
11.  James Toseland    Yamaha    (M)   +  37.574
12.  Randy de Puniet   Honda     (M)   +  38.020
13.  Marco Melandri    Ducati    (B)   +  39.768
14.  Sylvain Guintoli  Ducati    (B)   +  45.846
15.  Anthony West      Kawasaki  (B)   +  55.748
16.  Toni Elias        Ducati    (B)   +  59.320
17.  Alex de Angelis   Honda     (B)   +1:12.398
Rider             Bike           Laps
Chris Vermeulen   Suzuki    (B)  16
Kousuke Akiyoshi  Suzuki    (B)  0

World rider’s championship:

Pos Rider               Nation  Team                 Points
1   Valentino ROSSI     ITA     Fiat Yamaha Team        312
2   Casey STONER        AUS     Ducati Marlboro Team    220
3   Dani PEDROSA        SPA     Repsol Honda Team       209
4   Jorge LORENZO       SPA     Fiat Yamaha Team        169
5   Andrea DOVIZIOSO    ITA     JiR Team Scot MotoGP    136
6   Colin EDWARDS       USA     Tech 3 Yamaha           118
7   Chris VERMEULEN     AUS     Rizla Suzuki MotoGP     117
8   Nicky HAYDEN        USA     Repsol Honda Team       115
9   Loris CAPIROSSI     ITA     Rizla Suzuki MotoGP      96
10  Shinya NAKANO       JPN     San Carlo Honda Gresini  95
11  James TOSELAND      GBR     Tech 3 Yamaha            90
12  Toni ELIAS          SPA     Alice Team               86
13  Sylvain GUINTOLI    FRA     Alice Team               58
14  Alex DE ANGELIS     RSM     San Carlo Honda Gresini  55
15  Marco MELANDRI      ITA     Ducati Marlboro Team     51
16  John HOPKINS        USA     Kawasaki Racing Team     47
17  Randy DE PUNIET     FRA     LCR Honda MotoGP         47
18  Anthony WEST        AUS     Kawasaki Racing Team     42
19  Ben SPIES           USA     Rizla Suzuki MotoGP      20
20  Jamie HACKING       USA     Kawasaki Racing Team      5
21  Tadayuki OKADA      JPN     Repsol Honda Team         2

Contructor’s Championship:

Pos Constructor Points
1   Yamaha      341
2   Ducati      261
3   Honda       259
4   Suzuki      159
5   Kawasaki     77

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