MOTEGI, Japan (AFP) –
Dani Pedrosa battled from behind to beat championship leader Jorge Lorenzo at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, closing up on the fellow Spaniard in his pursuit of a first MotoGP title.
The Honda rider overtook front-running Yamaha ace Lorenzo with 13 laps to go in the 24-lap race. He never looked back to win in 42 min 31.569 sec at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit under cloudy skies.
Lorenzo followed home 4.275 seconds behind, with another Spaniard Alvaro Bautista third on a Honda 2.477 seconds farther back.
With his four wins in the last five races, Pedrosa’s points gap with Lorenzo narrowed to 28 from 33, with three races remaining in the season.
“It was a hard race because from the beginning the pace was very fast,” said the 27-year-old Pedrosa. “At the beginning, I tried to understand the bike because yesterday it had some chatter (vibration after braking).”
Lorenzo, starting from his sixth pole position of the season, was first around the bend with Pedrosa trailing in his slipstream.
They were followed by Britain’s Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow, Bautista and Australia’s factory Honda rider Casey Stoner, back from an ankle injury which has sidelined him in the last three races.
On the 12th lap, Pedrosa got a better line out of a right-hand corner and overtook Lorenzo on the straight.
“Then I put in some good laps and controlled the gap,” Pedrosa said after his 20th career win in the premier class.
“I suffered quite a lot of chattering during the race but I could manage,” said Pedrosa, who also beat Lorenzo into second spot here last year.
“I am very happy to win again here for myself and my team.”
Lorenzo said: “I was completely at the maximum trying to stay with Dani but today we had such different performances on the straights and he was also riding really well.
“I tried to stay with him but it was impossible,” he said.
“Maybe next time it will be different. For sure the championship is closer now, but we are still very competitive and have the chance to win.”
The Grand Prix tour will stop in Malaysia and Australia in the next two weeks with its finale set for Valencia in Spain on November 11.
The two Spaniards and Stoner have won the season’s 15 races so far among themselves. Lorenzo finished top or runner-up in all of them except for the Dutch Grand Prix, in which he crashed out.
Lorenzo has won six races against five for Pedrosa and four for Stoner.
It was Stoner’s first race after injuring his right ankle in a qualifying accident at the Indianapolis GP in August.
There was heartbreak for Crutchlow on the last lap as he pulled over after running out of fuel when he was trailing in fourth.
Stoner, the 2007 and 2011 world champion, finished fifth and is third in the standings with 197 points.
He cannot retain his title in his last season in Grand Prix racing as the gap with Lorenzo is insurmountable at 113. The winner of each race collects 25 points.
“I’m a little disappointed, to be honest,” said Stoner, 27 next Tuesday.
“At the start of the race I felt I had the pace to stay with Dani and Jorge and the bike was feeling pretty good,” he said.
“Then as the race progressed my body started to suffer and ache in ways I didn’t expect. We had the pace to run a lot higher and be on the podium but unfortunately I couldn’t manage it physically today.”