Felice Monteleone – FMPhotoSport MotoGP News
Motul Grand Prix of Japan, October 6th 2015
MotoGP starts overseas odyssey with Lorenzo looking to hunt down Rossi at Motegi
The countdown to the Championship is annually ignited with the MotoGP family packing its cargo and heading to the triple-header with 3 back to back races, a nonstop tour through Japan, Australia and Malaysia with no time to rest nor to recover from injuries. Jorge Lorenzo heads to the Motul Grand Prix of Japan trailing Valentino Rossi by just 14 points in the 2015 MotoGP™ World Championship.
The #AragonGP saw Jorge Lorenzo make it six wins for the season and reduce Rossi’s lead by nine points as he returned to the top step of the podium for the first time since Brno. Dani Pedrosa won an excellent battle with Valentino Rossi for the final two spots on the podium, while Marc Marquez dramatically crashed out on just the second lap.
The 2015 MotoGP World Championship now moves onto round 15, the Motul Grand Prix of Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi. Motegi was introduced onto the World Championship calendar in 1999 and this will be the 17th year in a row it has hosted a GP event. In the past it has played host to many a title deciding battle – including seeing Marc Marquez lift the title last year after finishing in second – but few as dramatic as the 2015 MotoGP™ World Championship.
Movistar Yamaha’s Rossi, having seen his lead in the standings cut to just 14 points after his third place at Aragon, knows he needs to bounce back at Motegi. The Italian has stood on the podium ten times in total at the circuit and has two premier class victories to his name but the last came back in 2008. Last year the ‘Doctor’ crossed the line in third.
Lorenzo is riding the crest of a wave after his dominant performance at Aragon and will be the man to beat having won back-to-back races at Motegi over the last two seasons. However, he was flying to Japan with his arm in a sling as he sustained a minor ligament injury on his left shoulder during a training session. The Spaniard has been on the podium five times in the MotoGP™ class at the circuit including winning the MotoGP™ race in 2009 and will be looking to reduce the gap to Rossi even more.
Repsol Honda’s Marquez trails Rossi by 79 points after his fifth DNF of the season at Aragon but comes into the Japanese GP having broken his left hand in a cycling accident. Marquez immediately underwent surgery and his fitness will be assessed over the course of the weekend. The Spaniard lifted the MotoGP™ title at Motegi last year after crossing the line in second, repeating his race result from his rookie season. The reigning MotoGP™ World Champion has finished in either first or second at Motegi over the last five years across all classes, but has never won a MotoGP™ race at the circuit.
Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa has recorded four victories across all classes at Motegi, making him the most successful rider in terms of wins in the track’s history (2x MotoGP™, 1x250cc, 1x125cc). Pedrosa’s two MotoGP™ wins came in successive years in 2011 & 2012. In last year’s race the Spaniard crossed the line in 4th.
Ducati have won four MotoGP™ races at Motegi, the last of which came with Casey Stoner in 2010. Last year Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso qualified on pole and crossed the line in fifth to record the team’s best finish at the track since Stoner’s victory. His teammate Andrea Iannone finished last year’s race in sixth on the Pramac Ducati, but has won twice at the circuit before in the smaller classes (125cc – 2009, Moto2™ – 2011).
Suzuki won the first two GP’s at Motegi in 1999 and 2000, but since the inception of the MotoGP™ era their best result was John Hopkins’ fifth place in 2002. Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro‘s best result at the track is a seventh in the 2008 250cc race. Last year he crossed the line in 11th as the leading Open class rider on the Forward Racing Yamaha.
Bradley Smith (143pts) currently occupies fifth in the MotoGP™ World Championship and leads the Satellite battle by 40 points from Octo Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and Smith’s teammate Pol Espargaro level on 88 points. Last year Espargaro finished in 8th ahead of Smith in 9th, while Petrucci and Crutchlow crashed out.
In the Open standings it is Forward Racing’s Loris Baz who leads the way with 28 points ahead of Hector Barbera (23pts) on the Avintia Racing Ducati and LCR Honda’s Jack Miller in third (16pts).
AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham will miss the Japanese GP due to the injured toe that forced him to withdraw from the race in Aragon and he will be replaced by Kousuke Akiyoshi. There are two japanese wildcards for this round, Team HRC’s Takumi Takahashi and Katsuyuki Nakasuga on the Yamalube Racing Team Yamaha.
The Motul Grand Prix of Japan officially kicks off on Thursday at 17:00 local time with the Press Conference. The on-track action starts on Friday at 9am local time with Free Practice for all three classes. Check out the full schedule and the MotoGP™ World Championship standings.