Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo held off teammate Valentino Rossi to win the sun-baked Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa third in the historic 700th premier class grand prix.The race was the exact opposite of the dull processional that opened the season in Qatar. There were passes throughout the field and the top three places changed hands right up to the closing stages.It was Rossi who got the jump on the field, but Lorenzo stalked him from the start, making the pass for the lead on the ninth of 24 laps.The Spaniard first went by in the esses, but ran it wide out of the V corner, with Rossi re-taking the lead. But on his second try, at the 90 degree right at the end of the back straight, Lorenzo made it stick.Rossi, however, wasn’t going anywhere. The world champion hung tough until the 15th lap when he made a mistake that cost him a second and dropped him closer to the clutches of Pedrosa.Pedrosa made his first move up in the inside in turn one on lap 17, but Rossi immediately struck back. Pedrosa tried him again in turn five, but couldn’t make it. It was on the run down the back straight that Pedrosa made a clean pass into the 90 degree right that leads to the tunnel.Rossi fought back on the 19th lap, taking Pedrosa in turn five before the first tunnel. From there he was able to hold onto second, but finished 1.304 secs. back and safely in front of Pedrosa, who faded slightly at the end.The opposite was true of the fourth place finisher, Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner. Stoner had brake problems at the start, but his persistence paid off. He worked his way through the field to take Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso for fourth in turn three on the 23rd lap.Stoner had much better luck than teammate Nicky Hayden. Hayden was rammed from behind and knocked down by Scot Racing Team MotoGP’s Yuki Takahashi in the first corner. Hayden impacted his back and head in almost identical spots as he had during practice in Qatar.The day finished with Lorenzo leading the world championship by himself for the first time. His 41 points are one more than Rossi and three more than Stoner.Dovizioso held a secure fifth, while Marco Melandri rode the Hayate Race Team Kawasaki to sixth place.Next across the line was Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi, who stalked Melandri almost to the end.Pramac Racing’s Mika Kallio won the battle for eighth over Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3’s James Toseland, Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, and LCR Honda’s Randy De Puniet.Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards was an incensed 12th after an engine mapping problem early in the race dropped him to the back of the field.MotoGP:1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)4. Casey Stoner (Ducati)5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)6. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki)7. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki)8. Mika Kallio (Ducati)9. James Toseland (Yamaha)10. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki)11. Randy De Puniet (Honda)12. Colin Edwards (Yamaha)13. Alex De Angelis (Honda)14. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati)15. Toni Elias (Honda)
Lorenzo Beats Rossi at Motegi
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.