MotoGP Gran Premio of Japan, Motegi, September 30-October 2, 2011

Pedrosa wins dramatic Motegi race

 

Dani Pedrosa leads Jorge Lorenzo

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) crossed the line first to take victory at a dramatic Grand Prix of Japan, where only two of the top seven riders did not either run off track or incur a ride through penalty in an eventful Round 15 race in which Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) completed the podium.

The 24-lap contest began with pole man Stoner launching into turn one ahead of the field, while team mate Andrea Dovizioso jumped the start from the front row, with Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) both also incurring ride through penalties for the same mistake.

Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi crashed out on the first lap, colliding with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies and forcing the American off track which dropped Spies down the order. Meanwhile Stoner appeared set to take another victory, leading clear and free until running off the track on lap five. Shortly thereafter Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) crashed out, while Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) ran off track after lapping in fourth position.

Lorenzo had some catching up to do, and made his way through the field to cross the line second, while Stoner climbed back to third. Simoncelli and Dovizioso took their ride through penalties and then engaged in a battle to the finish for fourth with the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider coming out on top in front of Dovizioso in fifth.

Three Americans followed next, with Spies sixth in front of Hayden and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) avoided any drama to finish ninth in his home race with Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) in tenth. Crutchlow was 11th despite a run-off in addition to his ride through penalty.

That left Kousuke Akiyoshi to take 12th, as his fellow LCR Honda rider Toni Elías crashed out after lapping in sixth position. Shinichi Itoh (Honda Racing Team) was the final rider to finish the race in 13th. Damian Cudlin, riding as a replacement this weekend for the injured Loris Capirossi on the Pramac Racing team, crashed out towards the end of the race, and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) also went down while running in fourth position.

Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) did not participate in the race after taking the decision not to ride. The Czech rider was still feeling the after-effects of a light head concussion sustained in a crash in the opening lap of the Aragón race.

Stoner’s lead at the top of the Championship over Lorenzo now stands at 40 points with three rounds of the 2011 season remaining.

Pedrosa interview

results

Andrea Iannone leads Marky Marc Márquez

Front row starter Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) took the hole shot at the start of the Moto2 race and eventually took his third win of the season, after contesting for the lead throughout the race with pole starter Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) who finished second.

Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing), who led the Championship at the start of the race but now trails Márquez in the standings by a single point having placed fourth in the race, briefly entered the challenge but dropped off the front and finally crossed the line behind Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) who completed the podium.

Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) took fifth ahead of Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2), with Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) crossing the line 5.5s behind De Angelis to take seventh. Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP) was eighth with Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing) rounding out the top ten finishers.

Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar), Raffaele De Rosa (NGM Forward Racing) and Ricky Cardús (QMMF Racing Team) had early crashes, as did Axel Pons (Pons HP 40). Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) had a fall but did return to the track, finishing his home GP in 30th position.

Johann Zarco

Avant-AirAsia-Ajo rider Johann Zarco took a long awaited first victory with a clear win in the 125cc race, ahead of Championship leader Nico Terol and Héctor Faubel (both Bankia Aspar).

Zarco started from pole but rival Terol blasted off the start into the lead, taking team-mate Faubel with him along with a determined Zarco. The three broke from the pack, opening up a five-second gap with Faubel dropping back halfway through the race.

Zarco made his move on Terol on lap 14, with the Spaniard attempting to take back the lead but running too deep on the brakes and allowing Zarco to cross the line over five seconds ahead of Terol in second and Faubel a further 13 seconds back in third.

A remarkable recovery was made by Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing), who started the race from the back of the grid after breaking a chain on the warm up lap. The 16 year-old took fourth place ahead of a pack battling for the position, with Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) following in fifth, Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) a close sixth, Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) and Adrián Martín (Bankia Aspar) in seventh and eighth. Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) had been a contender in that fight for fourth until retiring from the race with a mechanical issue.

Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) crossed the line two seconds ahead of Alessandro Tonucci (Team Italia FMI) to take ninth, while Jakub Kornfeil (Ongetta-Centro Seta) and Marcel Schrötter (Mahindra Racing) followed in eleventh and twelfth.

Josep Rodríguez (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) and Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) collided in the early part of the race, crashing but both rejoining the race. Rodriguez entered the box with mechanical issues while Salom finished in 23rd position.

Stoner keeps Honda on top in Motegi

Casey Stoner

The top spot on the MotoGP grid will be occupied for the tenth time this season by Casey Stoner for Sunday’s race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit. The Repsol Honda rider set a time of 1’45.267, two-tenths quicker than pole position challenger Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) as the Australian took his Spanish rival’s circuit best lap record which had stood since 2008. In taking pole Stoner also secured the 2011 BMW M Award as Best Qualifier in the premier class. Today’s sessions were held under overcast skies with temperatures lower than yesterday.

Last year’s pole starter Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) qualified in third after setting a lap of 1’45.791, edging out team-mate Dani Pedrosa who himself had occupied the top spot before losing it to Lorenzo and finally Stoner.

A tenth of a second separated Pedrosa and Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies, who had bounced back after suffered a bout of illness that saw him finish the second practice session after just five laps on Friday. The Texan was followed by Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team), who despite going down in turn five at the halfway point of the outing, starts from the second row after posting his best lap upon his return to the track on his second bike.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) posted a time just over a second off Stoner to start from the head of the third row. Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) followed the Italian with a 1’46.586 with Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) ninth behind his compatriot to take the final spot on row three.“With the time I did in qualifying – one-and-a-half-seconds quicker than last year – I would have been in pole position in 2010!" exclaimed Bautista. "This year the level is amazing and the lap-times are very fast, but our performance is also due to the hard work the guys in the Factory have put in, it has made a big difference. This morning we tested different settings in the two bikes, one of which was set a little bit lower to help me in the hard braking parts of this track, but I tried it too late in the free practice so I didn’t have a clear idea which setting was better. This afternoon we started with the lower bike and harder compound tyres, but the feeling was not what I wanted, so I changed to the other bike and it was better. I improved my lap-time at the end, but I got into some traffic on my last laps so couldn’t improve it anymore. Eighth is not too bad and I want to produce a good race for all the Suzuki company and factory guys that are here this weekend supporting us. I will try to get a good start and fight from the beginning, I think the first three or four will be difficult to catch, but after that I think we can be in the battle for the next few positions. We will see what the weather brings and the condition of the track, but I am looking forward to a good race.”

Álvaro Bautista

“We needed a strong qualifying performance today and Álvaro delivered that," said Rizla Suzuki team manager Paul Denning. "We just didn’t get the timing right on the last run, in terms of track position and traffic, but only half-of-a-second off fourth place on Honda’s home track is a decent result. The first couple of laps will be critical tomorrow and I believe if Álvaro is in the tow with the fastest riders there is a possibility of a very strong result.”

Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) was the final rider in the top ten, with Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) qualifying 11th at his home race. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who finished fifth here last year, ran off into the gravel and had a tumble within the first 15 minutes, but was able to rejoin the session to qualify 14th.

Marky Marc Márquez

The final three quarters of the Moto2 qualifying session for the Grand Prix of Japan saw a battle for pole ensue between Interwetten Paddock Moto2 rider Thomas Lüthi and Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Marc Márquez, with the Spanish rider stepping into the top spot by a margin of just under two-tenths of a second with a time of 1'52.067. The 18 year-old rookie nearly crashed during a fast lap but pulled off an impressive save to avoid going down.

Andrea Iannone is sure to be a contender in Sunday’s race, the 22 year-old Speed Master rider taking the third spot on the grid with a best lap three-tenths off the pole position time. Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing), who had a moment but controlled the near crash, was two-tenths off the Italian in fourth, with last year’s sixth place finisher Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) and Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) joining the British rider on row two.

Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2), who finished fourth at Motegi last year, leads row three ahead of Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) and Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP). Mattia Pasini (Ioda Racing Project) completed the top ten, ahead of Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar) and Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing).

Pol Espargaró (HP Tuenti Speed Up) had an early crash coming onto the start-finish straight and was fortunate not to be hit by an alert Kenny Noyes. The Spaniard returned later in the session to qualify 21st. Sergio Gadea (Desguaces La Torre G22) and Randy Krummenacher (GP Team Switzerland Kiefer Racing) also both went down in separate incidents and did not finish the session.

Johann Zarco

Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) will start the 125cc race from pole position, the Frenchman’s third pole of the season thanks to a best lap of 1’57.888. The 21 year-old held off Bankia Aspar riders Héctor Faubel and Nico Terol, both of whom had seen the top spot in the qualifying session, by a margin of three and four-tenths respectively.

Following the front row qualifiers was a string of three more Spaniards. Maverick Viñales’ (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) time of 1'58.458 placed him at the head of row two by a margin of half-a-second over Alberto Moncayo (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica), who lines up next to the 16 year-old rookie. Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) will complete the second row after running his best lap of the weekend, a 1'59.002.

German riders Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) and Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) qualified side by side on row three, ahead of Bankia Aspar’s Adrián Martín.

Team Italia FMI team-mates Alessandro Tonucci and Luigi Morciano will start on row four, ahead of Luis Salom (RW Racing GP), who crashed out of the qualifying on his seventh lap after nearly colliding with Josep Rodríguez (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing).

Practice to Pedrosa in Motegi

Repsol Honda once again has the upper hand, this time at Honda's home track

Dani Pedrosa led a Repsol Honda top three on day one of the Grand Prix of Japan, with Casey Stoner second and Andrea Dovizioso following in third on the timesheet in warm and pleasant conditions with track temperatures reaching 41ºC. The MotoGP class headed out for the second free practice session on Friday afternoon under cloudier skies than the morning run, and all but one of the riders in the field improved upon their earlier times with the top four spots of the day going to Honda machines.

Pedrosa took over the top spot with 21 minutes to go and set a new fast lap of 1’46.790 ahead of team-mate Stoner by a margin of 0.054s. Dovizioso followed with a 1’46.952, an improvement of eight-tenths over his FP1 time, with San Carlo Honda Gresini Team’s Marco Simoncelli occupying the fourth spot after leading in the early part of the session.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) was fifth in the combined times, posting a lap of 1’47.310, six-tenths better than his earlier time, while Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), who had been third in FP1, bettered his earlier time by four-tenths to end the day in sixth.

Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) stepped up his pace by a full second, putting the Japanese rider seventh with a time of 1’47.785, two-tenths ahead of Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi in eighth. Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) ended the day ninth just 0.02s ahead of Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in tenth.

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies was the sole rider who did not improve in the outing. The American ended the session early having completed just five laps after exhaustion got the better of him – he had been taken ill on the flight to Japan. Spies visited the medical center and will try to rest enough to participate in tomorrow’s sessions.

Álvaro Bautista

Rizla Suzuki?s Álvaro Bautista completed 38 laps of the 4,801m Japanese circuit, recording his quickest time of 1?48.097 on his last lap of the day. He will continue to work through a number of various set-up changes tomorrow and carry on searching for the best tyre choice, as he prepares for Sunday?s race. "We tested a different setting this morning and compared it against the one from Aragon," said Bautista. "We used the new set-up in the bike with the new swinging-arm and it was definitely better. This afternoon we tried the harder option tyres, because although the softer ones were not too bad this morning, I still had a bit of movement entering the corners. This track has a lot of hard braking and the harder front tyre is much better for that because it gives me more stability. We still don?t know which compound we will use for the race, so we have to test a bit more tomorrow and it will also depend on the temperature on race-day. At the end I got into a fairly good rhythm, but I still don?t feel 100% with the bike. I had a little gear-shift problem and this made judging the braking points quite difficult, and I had a lot of movement because I was moving my whole body to change down a gear. We improved at the end, but not enough and I think that we can make some big steps tomorrow. With some hard work we can make the bike perform better and improve our lap-time."

?We didn?t get up to speed as quickly as we would have liked to here in Motegi," said Rizla Suzuki Team Manager Paul Denning. |Álvaro has had a number of small restrictions that have held him back, but on the positive side his best lap-time wasn?t faster than his regular rhythm and was very repeatable. By the end of FP2 the gap to the top-six had reduced to a level which will hopefully allow us to make in-roads during tomorrow and the team will improve the bike overnight.

?After much debate—which in the end I am glad we as Rizla Suzuki stayed away from—it?s a pleasure to be back in Motegi and find the circuit and the Japanese fans so welcoming to the MotoGP circus!?

Thomas Lüthi aims for 12 o'clock

Interwetten Paddock Moto2 rider Thomas Lüthi put in a strong performance on Friday posting the fastest time of the day with a 1’53.002 in the afternoon outing. Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) stepped into second in the combined times with a 1’53.182, and Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) laid down a flyer in the last seconds to land him third.

Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP), who celebrates his 21st birthday today, topped the session at the 15-minute mark and held the lead spot with consistent fast laps until getting bumped down the line and ending up one-tenth of a second behind the Japanese rider to end the day in fourth.

Pol Espargaró (HP Tuenti Speed Up) picked up his pace by a second from the morning to take fifth in the combined times, 0.057s ahead of the morning’s fastest rider Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing). Seventh went to Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX), whose time of 1’53.583 was five-hundredths quicker than Championship contender Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol), followed by Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing) in ninth and Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) in tenth.

Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) was unable to improve on his FP1 effort, lapping a tenth slower to land him 11th for the day, followed by Xavier Simeon (Tech 3 B) and Takaaki Nakagami, who replaces Claudio Corti on the Italtrans Racing team for this round.

Maverick Viñales

Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) streaked to the top of the 125cc afternoon session, only the remarkable rookie’s second session around the Japanese track. The 16 year-old posted the best lap of the day with a 1’59.273, which placed him 0.163s faster than Championship leader Nico Terol (Bankia Aspar).

Terol, whose best effort of the day came in the morning session, was 0.083s quicker than Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) who was third in the combined times having posted the second-best lap in the afternoon.

Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) was fourth quickest overall, posting a time of 1’59.850, with Alberto Moncayo (Andalucia Banca Civica) trailing by four-tenths behind the German to end the day in fifth.

A tightly bunched Spanish group followed with Adrián Martín (Bankia Aspar) just 0.027s ahead of team-mate Héctor Faubel, with Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) trailing just seven-thousandths of a second behind Faubel.

Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) was ninth in the combined times with a 2’00.506 with Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) ending up tenth for the day after crashing early in the afternoon session and being taken to the medical centre for a check up.

MotoGP screams into Motegi

photos by Tim Hailey

Casey Stoner is firmly leading the bullet train into Motegi

The Grand Prix of Japan takes place this weekend as the 2011 MotoGP World Championship—like the NHRA—heads into a swift conclusion which will see three of the final four rounds – starting at Motegi – take place in the space of three weeks.

Taking a 44-point lead into this weekend’s 15th round is Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner, who with victory last time out at Aragón – his eighth of the season – extended his advantage at the top over defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner won last year’s race at Motegi and a repeat of that result would put him in a position to be able to secure the 2011 title in the following round, his home race at Phillip Island.

The Australian knows that is purely hypothetical at the moment however and remains fully focused on taking each race as it comes. Likewise Lorenzo knows that whilst his chances of retaining his title are now slim, there is still everything to play for. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider was fourth in last year’s Motegi race on his way to the 2010 title, but won the previous year so knows his way around the Japanese track well. Lorenzo, who is currently 44 points behind Stoner with four rounds (including this weekend) remaining, began: ”Casey has won so many races and has finished on the podium more than any other rider, so it’s normal he has so many points. Maybe it’s too late to fight with him for the Championship, but anyway there are still four races to go, 100 points to be taken, so you never know. You have to give everything and anything is possible. We must fight for the win in every race.”

Jorge Lorenzo

Lorenzo finished fourth at Motegi last year and won the MotoGP race here in 2009, and anticipates a tough race this weekend. He added: “Normally it’s a difficult track for us because it has a lot of acceleration points and a lot of big straights, but we come here motivated to fight for the win and we will see.”

Andrea Dovizioso

Consistency has been the cornerstone of Andrea Dovizioso’s 2011 season and is the reason for the Repsol Honda rider’s current position of third in the Championship, but the rarity of a DNF at Aragón – the first time he has failed to score points in a race this season – will have angered the Italian. He will be keen to put that right at a circuit at which he finished second in last year’s race.

Dani Pedrosa

Close on the tail of Dovizioso after a third straight second-placed finish in the previous round, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) is looking to score wins as 2011 draws to a close and would be eager to do so at a track at which he sustained a broken collarbone in a practice crash last year. Yamaha Factory Racing rider Ben Spies would also dearly love to add to his win tally having taken a debut GP victory earlier in the year, as he chases a possible top-four Championship spot.

One of the protagonists of the battle of the season last year was Valentino Rossi, who fought then team-mate Jorge Lorenzo fiercely for the final podium position at Motegi. The Italian finds himself in a very different situation this year however as the search for an improvement in performance continues at Ducati, with Rossi and factory team-mate Nicky Hayden currently sixth and seventh respectively in the overall standings. Rossi and his Ducati Team continue working away on the Desmosedici GP11.1. The Italian has stood on the podium nine times in the premier class at Motegi, including third place last year following a bitter battle with then team-mate Lorenzo, and would dearly love a turnaround in his 2011 fortunes this weekend. He will ride the same configuration machine as he rolled out at Aragón, where the GP11.1 incorporated a new aluminium element in the front chassis section.

Valentino Rossi

“It’s the same specification with the same modification we already tried at Aragón,” said Rossi of the bike. “Unfortunately there we struggled with rear grip and I destroyed the tyre towards the end (of the race). Here it will be very different, we have to understand the condition of the track.”

He continued: “We come from a very bad GP in Aragón, the result was of course not what we would have expected, but even last year at Aragón I was in trouble. Last year here at Motegi was a good race and a good result, I was on the podium and not so far from the victory, so I hope to take the same step with Ducati and to improve.”

Following the Aragón round Rossi tested the latest version of the developing 2012 Desmosedici, and commented: “We tested at Jerez after the Aragón race, and we have some data with which to work for the 2012 Ducati bike, so we’ll try to understand as much as possible during this season.”

Marco Simoncelli

Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) scored a 250cc win at Motegi in his title-winning 2008 campaign and the Italian will be challenging to add to his single podium achieved at Brno this year, and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) currently complete the Championship top ten. For Aoyama the Motegi round presents the most important race of the year for the Japanese rider as he aims to reward the home fans with a solid result at a track where he was twice a 250cc race winner. “I want to say thanks to those who came here to race because it was, I think, a hard decision and it means a lot for Japanese motorcycle fans,” he started. “Personally this is my home race and for sure it’s very important. Last year I was injured and couldn’t perform as I would have liked, and this year after Assen I was also injured and suffered a lot on the bike, but now I’m much better and feel good on the bike and I hope this time I can perform much better than last year. My best result so far this year is fourth place at Jerez and I want to better that here.”

Discussing the area he will target for improvement in the lead up to Sunday’s race, Aoyama added: “I always struggle at the beginning of the race because I can’t push the tyre enough, but from mid to end of the race I have a good rhythm, so the target is to improve in the first part of the race.”

Álvaro Bautista

Álvaro Bautista has also tasted victory in the former 250cc class at Motegi and the Rizla Suzuki rider is keen to convert his recent good form into another solid result on the GSV-R after a recent run of impressive displays.

“We have had good results and have been consistent in the last few races, and our target here is to continue in the same way and be closer to the second group like Dovizioso, Spies and Simoncelli. We are working very well and we’ll try to get off to a good start on Friday and have a good set-up ready for the race,” he said.

Bautista continued: “Last year I had a good race here and finished seventh, this year I think we’re more competitive and have more confidence in the bike. It’s a good track for Suzuki and I hope to get a good result here.”

The MotoGP field will be expanded this weekend with the addition of two further names, with HRC test riders Kousuke Akiyoshi and Shinichi Itoh both participating in the Grand Prix of Japan. Akiyoshi, who rode at Assen earlier this year, will be on an LCR Honda with Itoh on an RC212V for the Honda Racing Team. “After what happened in March, it feels like a dream to be here racing this weekend,” Itoh said. “First I would like to thank Honda and all my sponsors for this opportunity. This weekend I will do my best and I can represent and give some hope to all those who have been, and still are, suffering from the tragedy that happened back in March. This track is one of my favourites so I’ll try my best but also make sure I don’t get in the way of the regular riders.”

Loris Capirossi will unfortunately not be able to ride this weekend after the Pramac Racing rider suffered a heavy crash at Aragón which aggravated an existing right shoulder injury. The Italian hopes to be fit for the following round in Australia.

Stefan Bradl's advantage over Marky Marc Márquez is dwindling more quickly than the worldwide economy

With just four rounds of the 2011 season now remaining the most closely matched of the three World Championship categories - Moto2 - guarantees to serve up another gripping instalment this weekend.

With victory at Aragón, his seventh of the year in his rookie Moto2 campaign, Marc Márquez narrowed Championship leader Stefan Bradl's advantage at the top of the standings to just six points. Motegi will now commence a packed schedule of three races in as many weeks, as the fascinating duel between the German and his Spanish pursuant nears its climax.

Bradl, who suffered a problem with his rear wheel at Aragón which played a pivotal part in his eighth-placed finish, will seek to halt Márquez's alarming run of devastating form which has seen the 2010 125cc World Champion win six of the past seven Moto2 races. The Viessmann Kiefer Racing rider himself has not won a race since Silverstone, maintaining his lead with a consistent run of podium finishes, but will need a return to race-winning ways if he is to deal with his adversary's surge. Both have previously won at Motegi in the 125cc class, Bradl in 2008 and Márquez last year, thus adding to the anticipation.

Aside from the engrossing two-way tussle at the top there is another great contest playing out below the title aspirants, as five riders contend for third position in the Championship. Andrea Iannone (Speed Master), Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2), Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project), Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) and Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) are all in with a chance of finishing third, and will all be out to impress in the final races of the season.

Currently eighth in the standings Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) will be fully prepared for a strong effort at his home Grand Prix, whilst British rider Scott Redding will be eager to turn his recent strong form into a first podium result of the season. His Marc VDS Racing team-mate Mika Kallio has a very strong record at the Motegi circuit having won three times (twice in 125s and once in the 250cc class), and the Finn would love to rediscover that kind of form as he continues his search for a first Moto2 podium.

Elsewhere Turkish rider Kenan Sofuoglu (Technomag-CIP) is set to make his return from injury although Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar) will not be present after further surgery on the leg he injured back in June.

Tomoyoshi Koyama, who filled in for Sofuoglu in the Turk’s absences at Misano and Aragón, will ride as a wild card under the CIP with TSR team banner, and former 125 World Championship rider Takaaki Nakagami replacing Claudio Corti on the Italtrans STR machine for this GP.

Nico Terol need only keep it going

Round 14 of the 125cc World Championship will see current standings leader Nico Terol and his main title rival Johann Zarco go head to head once more as the Spaniard looks to extend his advantage whilst the Frenchman continues in search of a first GP win.

With victory at Aragón Terol extended his lead at the top over Zarco to 36 points, taking his eighth win of the season and consigning his rival to a sixth second-placed result if 2011. Terol's win was also the 14th consecutive victory for Aprilia in the class, the manufacturer's longest ever sequence of successive victories in the category.

Knowing that catching the Bankia Aspar rider remains a tough task Zarco's determination to taste a first GP victory continues to drive the Avant-AirAsia-Ajo rider on. Neither Terol or any other rider on the current 125cc grid has previously won a GP race at the Motegi circuit.

As the battle rages between those two at the top the fantastic rookie season of Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) continues. Third place at Aragón was the precocious 16 year-old's seventh podium of his debut year in the World Championship, and few would bet against the talented young Spaniard adding spice to the title fight with a charge for victory of his own in Japan.

More experienced heads in Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) and Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) will also have an eye on challenging the leading group at this round, where Folger is set to make his 50th Grand Prix start. If the German lines up on the grid on Sunday he will become the third youngest rider ever reach the milestone, with only Scott Redding and Jorge Lorenzo having done so at a younger age.

The Spanish contingency of Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo), Luis Salom (RW Racing) and Alberto Moncayo (Andalucia Banca Civica) will all push to be at the front, whilst Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) is expected to be fit to ride after crashing out at Aragón on the final lap when battling with Zarco for second position. British rookie Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) will also look to consolidate what has so far been an impressive debut year, and he currently completes the top ten as it stands in the Championship.

Japanese fans will have five young talents to cheer on this weekend with wild cards Takehiro Yamamoto (Team Nobby), Kikari Ookubo (18 Garage Racing), Jun Ohnishi and Hyuga Watanabe (both riding for Project u 7C HARC) lining up alongside Syunya Mori, who will replace the injured Simone Grotzkyj (Phonica Racing) for this race. Swiss youngster Damien Raemy will replace Francesco Mauriello on the WTR-Ten10 Racing this weekend.

The Grand Prix of Japan runs from Friday September 30th to Sunday October 2nd, with the opening session the 125cc first practice which gets underway at 9.15am local time on Friday.

courtesy of MotoGP

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