Moto GP Chase Tightens

Pedrosa (26) is giving Lorenzo a run for the money - and the title - at this point. Photo: MotoGP
Pedrosa (26) is giving Lorenzo a run for the money – and the title – at this point. Photo: MotoGP

Jorge Lorenzo still has a pretty fair lock on the 2013 Moto GP championship, but a revitalized Dani Pedrosa and Honda continue to chip away at the Yamaha rider’s lead.

According to, Hector Barbera is down in 11th place in the overall standings. Photo: MotoGP

After his fourth win on the trot, Pedrosa has closed to within 28 points of Lorenzo with 75 points up for grabs for the three potential race wins remaining. However, even if Pedrosa wins them all and Lorenzo finishes second each time – which has been the way of things recently – Lorenzo is looking good for his second title.

The race in Japan at Motegi, the first of a three-race Far East tour, was pretty much a repeat of recent ones. Lorenzo grabs the early lead, Pedrosa follows to half-distance then passes and eases away.

Meanwhile, there’s a scrap for third, this time taken by Alvaro Bautista (making it an all-Spanish podium) on the San Carlo Gresini satellite Honda. Bautista and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow were locked in a heated struggle for the last podium spot when Crutchlow’s bike ran out of fuel on the last lap.

Motegi is a particularly hard track on brakes and fuel, having four long straights followed by heavy braking and hard acceleration; Crutchlow fell afoul of the fuel problem, while poor Ben Spies, still having the year from hell on the second factory Yamaha, ran off on the second lap when his brakes acted up early.

The race at Motegi followed a familiar pattern: Lorenzo grabbed an early lead, but Pedrosa caught up eventually and passed for the win. Photo: MotoGP

He crashed at low speed unhurt, but was displaying more frustration than his usually phlegmatic temperament allows: “I’m incredibly frustrated with today’s result. We’ve known all weekend that the brakes could be an issue due to the tough nature of the track but I did not expect to have trouble on the second lap. The team has worked really hard all weekend and we’ve delivered podium pace with the bike so it’s not the result we deserve.”

His team-mate Lorenzo said, “I was completely at the maximum trying to stay with Dani but today we had such different performance on the straights (the Honda, developed at Motegi, had more than 5 km/h on the Yamaha on the longs straights) and he was also riding really well.”

Colin Edwards and the other CRT racers aren’t even close to the frontrunners. Photo: MotoGP

After the top three the results were relatively as expected. Andrea Dovizioso was a disappointed fourth after a poor start by his standards and a race in which he said he never felt really comfortable.

Aussie Casey Stoner made his return after taking time off to let his ankle heal after his bad crash at Indianapolis, but was limited by his condition to chasing Dovi. “I’m a little disappointed to be honest,” he said. “We slowly improved over the weekend … 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.”

Next up was Stefan Bradl, rather off his recent podium-chasing pace. He suffered a crash in qualifying, then for the first time this year had bad arm-pump during the race, slowing him considerably. The German Moto GP rookie said, “At the beginning I could easily follow the group in the front of me with Stoner and Dovizioso but the problem with my braking hand got worse and worse lap by lap … I had to slow down … I aim to bounce back in Malaysia next weekend.”

Marc Marquez got off to a bad start in the Moto2 race, but charged ahead from last to win it. Photo: MotoGP

Ducati had another bad weekend, after Rossi’s stellar second place at the last event at Aragon in Spain. A seventh for Rossi and an eighth for his team-mate Nicky Hayden (riding with yet another injury to his right wrist after his scary crash at Aragon) were not what the team was hoping for. Rossi said, “Unfortunately, this is our potential at the moment, and our pace still isn’t at the same level as the others, especially in the early laps. Today I rode at the maximum for the whole race, I tried to catch Bradl, and I got closer near the end. I think we’ve found consistency since we’ve had the new frame and swingarm, but there’s still work to do.”

The top 10 was completed with local wild card rider and Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Hector Barbera on the Pramac Ducati. Barbera looks likely to drop into the CRT ranks next year, as the satellite Ducati rides are being pulled back into a second factory team.

There are three races left in the season. at this point. Photo: MotoGP

The Moto 2 race was particularly mad, with pole-sitter and series leader Marc Marquez getting caught in neutral at the start. He was lucky not to get torpedoed at the start, and made an inspired charge from last to win on the final lap after a great duel with Pol Espargaro, who’s second in the series.

Next race, Sepang, Malaysia, October 21.

Moto GP point standings after 15 of 18 races:

1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 310 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 282
3. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 197
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 192
5. Alvaro Bautista, Spain, San Carlo Gresini Honda, 144
6. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati, 137
7. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 135
8. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 125
9. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Marlboro Ducati, 101
10. Ben Spies, U.S.A., Yamaha Factory Racing, 88

Join the conversation!