Japanese GP: Honda race report

Dovizioso on The Podium in Home Race Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) fought for the victory to the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan, but ultimately finished second to Casey Stoner ...

Dovizioso on The Podium in Home Race

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) fought for the victory to the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan, but ultimately finished second to Casey Stoner (Ducati).

Dovizioso was away quickly into the lead until Stoner passed him early on the first of 24 laps of the 4.801m Honda-owned circuit about 100k north of Tokyo.

Then began an epic battle, with Stoner trying to pull away and Dovizioso drawing him back in. Dovizioso saw that Stoner had a few strong points, but the Italian was strong in other areas. Their strengths canceled each other out.

The gap from first to second was under a second until the 17th lap, when Stoner just managed to open it up. And when Dovizioso had a moment a few laps from the end he had to abandon the victory chase.

Still, it was a strong showing and gave him encouragement as the series enters its most concentrated stretch, and, for one race, at least, without Dani Pedrosa.

Pedrosa was home in Spain after surgery to repair the left collarbone he fractured in a Friday practice crash. The surgery was deemed a success, but no date has been set for his return. With the Malaysian Grand Prix next weekend and the Australian Grand Prix a week after, the Spaniard has little time to recover from the physical trauma of the crash.

Even though he was half a world away, because of his strong season, which includes four wins, Pedrosa maintained second in the MotoGP World Championship to Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). Dovizioso moved into fourth in the championship today with his fifth podium of the year.

Lorenzo finished fourth today after an epic battle, especially over the final two laps, with team-mate Valentino Rossi, who finished third.

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) equaled his career best sixth place MotoGP finish. The tall Italian was set to earn an unprecedented fifth when he was passed in the final quarter of the race by veteran Colin Edwards (Yamaha) after suffering fatigue in his forearms. The Motegi circuit has a number of hard braking, downhill corners, more than any other track on the calendar and the constant stress finally took its toll.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was running in eighth place when he missed a downshift due to weakness in his still mending leg and he ran off track. The mistake only cost him two places, but it put him in a no-man's land and he rode a lonely race to finish ninth. The finish didn't hurt his championship placing as he still holds eighth with four races remaining.

In his home race, Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP) equaled his best finish. Racing in front of friends and family, Aoyama spent the first few laps getting his tyres up to temperature, after which he began moving to the front. From 15th on the first lap, Aoyama passed five others to finish tenth, equaling his best of the year from the season-opener in Qatar.

The race wasn't one of the best for Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini). He started well and got as high as eighth place before traction issues began to crop up. Melandri was never able to get any heat into his tyres and also had brake problems. Eventually he finished a dispirited 11th.

In the Moto2 class, Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki) continued to strengthen his championship position with his seventh win of the season, and fifth in the last six races.

The veteran led from the start, with Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter) the only rider capable of matching his pace. The Spaniards quickly separated from the 40-rider field to make the race their own. There was little between them.

Simon kept the lead of Elias under half a second for almost the entire race. On the 17th lap it went to .596s, but came down on the next lap. And for the final six laps Simon pressured, but Elias never put a wheel wrong and sped across the line with a winning margin of .315s.

The race for third was equally spirited, with Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing, FTR) passing Alex de Angelis (JIR Moto2, Motobi) on the final lap to take his first ever grand prix podium.

Elias stretched his championship lead over Simon to 71 points, 249 to 168, with four races to run. Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up, Speed Up) had an off day finishing 13th after running off the track. He remains third in points with 147.

There was no rest for the teams, as they had to quickly pack for next weekend's race in Sepang, Malaysia, followed a week later by the Australian Grand Prix at Philip Island.


Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V): 2nd
"I pushed at 100 percent for the whole race and the lap times of Casey (Stoner) and me were pretty impressive and very consistent. At the beginning, Casey was really fast when the tyres weren't fully up to temperature and at that moment I knew it was going to be a hard fight with him. I don't know what Casey did to up his pace today but his speed was amazing. There were two or three places on that lap where he was faster than me every time, but I saw that he was also on the limit and so I kept pushing. It was hard to maintain the pace on the tyre in the last few laps and I nearly had a big highside three laps from the end - at that moment I knew I couldn't win the race. It was a little bit disappointing because I wanted the win and I thought it was possible today, but I'm really happy to be back on the podium again. Following Casey I learned a lot about the strategy for tuning the electronics settings for the final part of the race when the tyre performance is dropping off, so this is really positive for the future. I want to say thank you to the team because I'm in this position thanks to their hard work. And also thanks to HRC - I'm really glad to have a good result at Honda's home race."

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V): 6th
"That was a really nice race for me and to be honest after the warm-up I thought I could have done even better and been a little closer to the front guys. I got a bad start though and couldn't manage it. Anyway, I had a positive race, setting a good pace until the end, when I had a few problems with my forearms and had to back off, losing touch with Colin Edwards. I would have liked to attack him again at the end of the race but I am happy and now the objective is to improve again in the next race."

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V): 9th
"Honestly, I did not take a superb start but I was quite aggressive in the first part of the race. Then on lap ten at Turn 5 I missed the downshift because of my injured leg, which still hurts, and went wide in the gravel losing few places. After that it was not easy for me as I was alone in the race, but I am quite satisfied about this result as we still hold the 8th position in the championship. We have been waiting a long time for a good race and I think we made a good jog this weekend, especially on race trim. This top ten finish is mentally positive for me after the bad period I had after the injury. I want to thank the guys for their good job and their support in the last races. I am looking forward to racing again in Malaysia."

Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V): 10th
"The conditions in the race was a bit cooler today and that was not so good for the tyres. I had to wait a couple of laps to warm the tyres up and then I could start to overtake the other riders in front of me. On this track you don't have so many possibilities to pass them. This race was not ideal for me, but at least I could repeat my best result of the season so far. This week I started to understand my bike a bit better and especially as I know this track so well I could learn more about the bike and we improved the set up. Now I am looking forward to Malaysia, which is my favourite track."

Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V): 11th
"That was terrible -- another race just like all the rest. I got a good start but didn't have any grip. The tyres were cold from the first lap and I had a lot less traction than the guys around me. Even when I thought they were up to temperature there was no change and they felt like they were spent. The usual problems with the bike continue and I just can't get it stopped. When (Ben) Spies passed me I tried to push and stay with him but I just ran wide. It is a depressing situation and we have been completely forgotten about. Honda aren't helping and I can't understand why."


Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki): 1st
"I am really happy with this win, which moves us closer to the title. We have worked well all weekend and it was an important victory for me because I wanted to dedicate it to Tomizawa. I would have liked to have done it at Aragon but maybe winning Shoya's home race for him is an even bigger tribute. I took control of the race pretty early but Simon didn't make life easy for me. In the end I managed to hold him off and I'm really pleased. I am also happy to have won for Moriwaki at their home circuit. It has been a great day."

Julian Simon (Mapfre Aspar Team, Suter): 2nd
"I think that we worked very well all weekend in practice and today in the race. We have learnt a lot about the bike and have found out what we need to go a bit faster. I'm happy, because we are progressing well, have four consecutive podiums under our belts and have been close to a win. I tried to stop Toni (Elias) escaping, keeping close to his tail, but there was no clear chance to overtake him. Let's say that we were riding very similarly in a lot of sections, but that the equality of the engines made it too tough to overtake. On the last lap I was pushing more in order to sneak past, but I made a mistake and he got just far enough ahead. I am happy with the result and with our work, as this result spurs me on for Malaysia."

Karel Abraham (Cardian AB Motoracing, FTR): 3rd
"Thank you. It definitely feels great to be here, to be third, to be finally on the podium. Even on the last lap I wasn't sure if I could make it. I tried and it worked."


Marcel Schrotter (Interwetten Honda 125 Team): 14th
"The race was good, not optimal, but after the bad qualifying result the weekend finished better than expected. I could stick with the group in front of me, but I could not overtake (Johann) Zarco. I was stronger in braking and that was my advantage to the group. Then Kent, who was in front of me had a problem and I lost my drive. Then I had problems with gear changing on the start and finish line and he was gone. At the end I rode a good race against (Jasper) Iwema and was able to succeed with it and I am happy about that."

-source: honda

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Colin Edwards , Randy de Puniet , Marco Melandri , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Marco Simoncelli , Toni Elias , Alex de Angelis , Casey Stoner , Julian Simon , Hiroshi Aoyama , Dani Pedrosa , Karel Abraham , Andrea Iannone , Marcel Schrötter
Teams AB Motoracing