After it looked at one point on race-day as if the Grand Prix of Japan would be a complete washout, the sun broke through the dark clouds and streamed onto the Motegi circuit as the Fiat Yamaha team enjoyed a clean sweep of the top two spots. With qualifying having been cancelled yesterday due to the heavy rain, both riders started the race from the front row of the grid according to their times from Friday’s free practice. Following a stunning race, Jorge Lorenzo took the glory of standing on the top step of the podium, after coming through a brilliant scrap with his team-mate Valentino Rossi, who finished a close second.
Starting from third on the grid Lorenzo briefly lost a position on the first lap, but was soon back up to his starting spot as they crossed the line for the first time. With a superior pace to his compatriot Pedrosa it seemed as though the Mallorcan was being held up, and sure enough on lap three the Spaniard edged into second place. Once there he had the unenviable task of closing a two-second gap to his team-mate Rossi, but gradually edged nearer his colleague. The two enjoyed a good head-to-head fight, swapping positions at the V-corner before Lorenzo finally found a way past Rossi. From that point there was no looking back, and as Rossi was entangled in the battle with Pedrosa behind, Lorenzo sealed a glorious second victory in MotoGP.
Leading from the first corner, Rossi had opened up the gap on the Spaniards in the early stages, but once Lorenzo had found a way past, it was Pedrosa who caused the champion most problems. With Pedrosa attacking on several occasions, the Italian was forced to keep his wits about him, but always seemed to have enough edge to keep ahead. The killer move come heading into the tunnel at turn five, and the race was decided as Rossi pulled away from Pedrosa in the latter stages.
With Lorenzo leading the championship on 40 points, one ahead of Rossi, the MotoGP World Championship moves on to his home race at Jerez in just a week’s time.
Jorge Lorenzo – Position: 1stTime: 43’47.238
"First of all I just want to thank my team, my Mum, Dad and whole family, my friends and all the team workers. Also Yamaha, as it is their home race, it was a difficult race because I didn’t really get a very good start, I think I even finished the first lap in third or fourth. After that I began to catch up the pace. I passed Valentino and opened up a little gap, about a second and a half, and he was following me very hard. I had to ride the best I can to get the victory."
Rossi – Lorenzo
Valentino Rossi – Position: 2ndTime: + 1.304
"It was a great race, long, very difficult and also physical. I got a really good start from the front row, but there was a part of the race that I wasn’t quite able to ride like I wanted, there was some kind of problem and I wasn’t fast enough to pull away. I lost time from Jorge and then was involved in a battle with Dani and then in the last part of the race I was able to step up my pace and pick my lines, setting some good lap times. I tried to come back but unfortunately Lorenzo was too far away. It’s a good race, second place is not a victory but it’s still twenty points for the championship. I think the championship will become very interesting now because we have four riders ready to battle for wins at the end."
Daniele Romagnoli – Team Manager
"I’m really happy about today’s result, we didn’t expect a victory, maybe we were just thinking about the podium, so I’m extremely happy. We did a great job on Friday and I think that was the key because we worked a lot around the harder tyre and in the end that was the good one. With the information and the data we collected, today we just had to do some fine-tuning to the bike and it has brought us this special victory, and we are able to show the world how strong Yamaha is. Jerez will be a great battle, like today it will be a big show and so i am looking forward to that event."
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
"First of all, congratulations to Jorge, who rode very well, and congratulations to Yamaha, because this result confirms the great job we have done in the last months. We are always very fast and for the second time this year we have two riders on the podium. Night or day, we are always there! Valentino took a very important second place, because our target is to be always there. Now we are looking forward to going back to Europe for a very important phase of the championship and it is crucial to start this time on top".
Top ten for Toseland, Edwards fights back into points in Japan
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team duo James Toseland and Colin Edwards secured hard fought points-scoring finishes in Yamaha’s home race at the Twin Ring Motegi today.
British rider Toseland gave himself a welcome confidence boost with a determined ride to ninth place in the 24-lap encounter, which took place in windy but dry conditions after another weekend dominated by rain. Opting to run the softer compound Bridgestone tyre, Toseland made a storming start from the fourth row of the grid, crossing the line at the end of the first lap in seventh place. The 28-year-old secured his first top ten finish of the campaign with a superb attacking display in the final stages, holding off the persistent challenge of Chris Vermeulen and Randy de Puniet. American Edwards encountered a small problem in the early stages of the race but once he was able to demonstrate his true potential, the 35-year-old reeled off some blistering lap times. At times he ran the same pace as the top five as he fought his way through the field to a highly commendable 12th, setting the sixth fastest time in the race to miss out on a top ten finish by three seconds.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team now heads to Jerez next weekend for the start of the European leg of the MotoGP world championship.
James Toseland – Position: 9th Time:
"I needed to be back in the top ten, so today was the step I’ve been looking for. We made a big step with the front-end setting on Friday in just the 45 minutes of dry track time we had this weekend and it helped me a lot. The comfort on the braking was much better and I was able to pass a couple of guys on the brakes today, which was good. I went for the soft rear tyre just because that’s what I’d run most on Friday. We knew the soft one would go the distance, but it wouldn’t be as strong in the latter stages of the race with the temperature being hotter today. But I didn’t want to take any risks by running the harder compound, particularly as we knew it would take a couple of laps to get to temperature. In the early part of the race I had quite a bit more grip than some of the guys and I might have been able to pass (Casey) Stoner and (Loris) Capirossi) if I was more comfortable with the bike on a full fuel load. That would have pushed me a bit further up earlier in the race when I had an advantage with the softer tyre. It was a good battle on the last lap with Vermeulen. He passed me briefly at the end of the back straight, but I managed to keep him at bay. I’m happy for my team because they’ve stood behind me and everybody has kept their morale up, and now we’ve got a result we can build on."
Colin Edwards – Position: 12th Time:
"That was not at all what I expected but I can’t turn the clock back. I wish I could because I believe I could have fought for the podium. We had a small issue at the start of the race and I simply couldn’t ride how I wanted to. I kept my head down and persevered throughout and perhaps a few more laps I could have chased down the guys in front for a top ten. I couldn’t have ridden any harder today and I did my absolute best for Yamaha. I was really confident going into the race because I was one of the few guys who had done a lot of laps on the harder compound tyre in the dry on Friday. So with the track temperature coming up a lot compared to how cool it was on Friday, I felt that experience we gained would really help. When I got going in the race my lap times were as quick as the top five, so it’s a case of wondering what might have been today. We’ll look to bounce back in Jerez next weekend because I feel like I’m riding really well."
Herve Poncharal – Team Manager
"We obviously had higher expectations but I’m pleased that both James and Colin showed their determination throughout the race. It was good to see James fighting strongly in the top ten and this result will have given his confidence a big boost. He has had a difficult winter and first race, but he’s remained incredibly focused and this is a good platform for him to build on for the rest of the season. I’d also like to thank Colin for his efforts today in difficult circumstances. He had a problem before the start and we are still investigating the cause with Yamaha. But his pace in the second half of the race was very impressive, so we know that Colin is in very good form heading into Europe. I’d like to say big congratulations to Yamaha for its one-two in front of the Japanese fans. It shows the YZR-M1 is a very strong package and that Yamaha is the brand to beat again in 2009."