Yamaha Secures 2015 Rider MotoGP Title with Double Podium at Damp Twin Ring Motegi
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo gave solid performances in tricky conditions at the Grand Prix of Japan, scoring second and third respectively, not only handing the Team its ninth double podium of the season but also securing the 2015 Rider MotoGP Championship Title.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Valentino Rossi remained calm and collected in a tense and difficult race, to secure second place. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo had a strong start to the race at Twin Ring Motegi, but suffered tyre problems mid-way through the race and took a strong third, making it a ninth double podium for Yamaha.
Rossi had one goal for today's 24-lap race: to extend his lead in the championship. You could cut the tension with a knife as the lights went out signaling the start, but he didn't let it get to him and had a dream launch from second place on the grid to take the holeshot in front of Lorenzo. As the Spaniard fought back, the teammates got involved in a shot duel in the first corners, but due to cold tyres and the treacherous conditions, the Doctor was unable to stay with Lorenzo. So began a lonely ride until Dani Pedrosa closed down the margin with nine laps to go and piled on the pressure.
Rossi, unwilling to give up second place and the additional four vital points difference for the championship, defended his position with all he had. He was unable to hold the Spaniard off for long, but was determined not to let him escape. He followed Pedrosa and together they reeled in Lorenzo, reducing the gap to less than 0,4s with five laps to go. Pedrosa quickly took over the lead and Rossi soon followed passed Lorenzo as the Spaniard went wide. The Doctor kept his head down and squeezed out the maximum to create an over three second gap to Lorenzo, but he was unable to stay with Pedrosa and took second over the line, 8.573s from the front.
Lorenzo had a good start to the wet race from pole. He entered the first corner in second place behind his teammate, but needed little time to take over at the front and made clear he meant business. With a clear track in front of him he was in his element and consistently increased the pace, creating a gap of over three seconds, but it wasn't to last. As the track dried up, his front tyre started to deteriorate, forcing him to lower his pace and allowing his rivals to come closer.
With seven laps remaining Pedrosa was within 0.5s and he brought Rossi with him. Lorenzo gave everything to keep his chasers at bay, but the front tyre was too degraded for him to give his all and he fell back to third with five laps to go. The Spaniard did well to bring his Yamaha home in third place, securing another 16 points, together with a second consecutive double podium for Yamaha at Motegi.
Today's 20-point gain sees Rossi increase his lead in the championship standings to 18 points, with a point total of 283. Lorenzo stays in second place with 265 championship points. Additionally, these scores mean that Yamaha, besides securing the 2015 Team Title at the previous round, is certain that one of Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders will be crowned MotoGP World Champion.
Yamaha Factory Racing Team wildcard rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga made his vast experience count and rode a spectacular race, securing a strong eighth place aboard his '60th Anniversary'-styled YZR-M1.
2nd / +8.573 / 24 laps
"Physically it wasn't so bad, but mentally it was very hard to always keep the concentration, because it's very easy to make a mistake. At the beginning we had a good pace, but Jorge was stronger than me and was able to create a small advantage. After that my pace was good, I stayed with him and tried not to lose more time and used it as a motivation to keep my concentration, but when the track started to dry everything became more difficult. The tyre gave up and started spinning a lot on the straight and Dani arrived. It was a difficult situation, because if Dani beat me and not Jorge I would have lost another nine points after Aragón. I was able to do three or four very strong laps behind Dani and catch Jorge, who then made a mistake. I took an additional four-point advantage, which was our target, so we are very happy. The track was a lot better when it was fully wet, because the tyres worked well. When it starts to dry up it feels like you are in a boat at sea, the bike moves everywhere. Three or four times when I touched the throttle I felt the front go and said "no, no, no!", so it was difficult, lots of stress."
3rd / +12.127 / 24 laps
"It was a pity because I think that on the dry I was the fastest and the more consistent rider. Also in the rain I was very fast, but unfortunately the track dried up and my push at the beginning of the race probably made my tyre a bit worse than Valentino's and Dani's. When the track was almost dry, my front tyre was destroyed and I couldn't ride like before. For this race it was important to finish in front of Valentino, but the championship is not over, because I remember in 2013 I was even further from Marquez in the standings and I lost the championship by just four points. Eighteen points is a lot, but if I win all races and another rider finishes between me and Valentino, I can still win the championship."
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
"It's been a tricky race but despite that, we still had a strong start to the race. Both Vale and Jorge struggled with tyre degradation and did well not to get caught out by the difficult situation, because making a small mistake is easily done in races with varying track conditions like today. Still, we can be very satisfied with the results and the work we have done this weekend, it's our ninth double podium of the season and it's certain one of our riders will win the championship. A big thank you to the Team, they have worked very hard, but we don't have time to relax just yet. We are now immediately heading to the next race at Phillip Island where we aim to be the key protagonist again."
Smith 7th after tireless effort at Motegi
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Bradley Smith concluded the Motul Grand Prix of Motegi in 7th position after producing a determined display in what was a demanding race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit today. The 15th round of the MotoGP World Championship kicked off in tricky conditions as rain and mist hit the track in the morning, which caused all of the warm up sessions to be delayed. Yet, the MotoGP race was unaffected and began at the scheduled time and when the lights flicked off, Smith launched forwards to commence his Motegi battle. He completed the opening lap holding his grid position and then targeted the pack in front as he looked to join the hunt for the top six. However, during the next lap, Smith slipped back to 12th but he dug deep and set into his race pace before shifting through the field to 8th by lap ten. Next in his sights was Cal Crutchlow who was holding the leading satellite position and Smith pushed on to consistently inch closer. The Briton homed right in and on the 15th lap, he bolted past Crutchlow to clinch 6th before opening up a gap to the chasing rider. The 24 year old carried on battling but on the last lap he was shuffled back to 7th despite giving his all as he fought all the way to the chequered flag. Nevertheless, today's placement confirms Smith as one of only two riders who have finished every MotoGP race this season and he now optimistically looks onwards to the next round in Australia, where he gained his maiden podium in the premium class last year.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team garage, Pol Espargaro experienced bad luck and unfortunately fell in the final laps of the Motegi battle. The Spaniard, who bolted forwards from 11th position on the grid, confidently aimed to move through the pack at the beginning of the 24 lap contest. Evidently, by the close of the first lap, the 24 year old found himself up to 8th having overtaken three riders and then set his sights on climbing higher. Yet, he was shuffled back to 10th shortly afterwards but remained fully focused and reclaimed two positions with 16 laps left to run. Following this, Espargaro persevered and continued his race pace as he fought the challenging conditions at the demanding stop and go 4.8 kilometre circuit whilst aiming to inch closer to Andrea Iannone in front of him. On the 11th lap, he unfortunately ran wide while trying to overtake the Italian rider and slipped down to 15th position, but pushed onwards before he recovering four places in the following laps. Yet, his luck turned for the worse as he fell two laps from the end whilst running in 11th. Espargaro, who fortunately walked away unhurt from the fast crash at turn eleven, intends to bounce back strongly at next week's Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
7th / +37.667 / 24 laps
"I am pleased with today's result after the difficult start that we had in warm up this morning as we finally managed to turn it around and perform well even in the wet conditions. When the morning session began, we ran with the base setting that we used at Silverstone, which I wasn't overly happy with but it was the only wet setting that we had. To be honest, it didn't work and we were down the order so I expected the race to be even more difficult. I crossed my fingers for dry weather as I knew that if that occurred, I could attack and do a good job, yet it wasn't to be. However, the team adjusted the bike and shortened the wheelbase in order to find some more grip for me and it worked really well. At the beginning of the race, I needed to get used to the new setting and adjust myself, but the feeling came quickly and then I started working my way through the field. It was a shame that Crutchlow passed me on the final lap but my front tyre was really worn and I think that the Honda had a little bit more towards the end. Also, I was a little bit lucky because I was leading Cal until turn 11 and there I tucked the front but saved it with my elbow, so as a result he powered past me. Anyway, I am not too disappointed because I was in the leading satellite battle and we really improved a lot from the warm up. I may have lost 5th in the championship but it was to the rider who won the race, so I can't be too upset. Next up is Phillip Island, which I am looking forward to. Last year I had a good feeling there and the Yamaha is known for running well at that track. Therefore, bearing in mind all of the improvements that we have made to the bike, the feeling and my riding style, it should be a good weekend. I can't promise a repeat of last year's podium but I'll try my very best!"
"It has been a tough event here in Japan this weekend and we were not at our best in the practice sessions. Therefore, the wet conditions this morning certainly didn't help to make things any easier. However, I began the race confidently and with quite a good start. In the first few laps, the bike was working really well and I found a solid rhythm, but shortly after that I began to struggle with the front tyre moving a lot which made it really complicated to turn the bike. I kept on pushing yet when I tried to pass Iannone, I ran wide and lost several positions, so I had to commence my recovery from 15th position with 13 laps remaining. While I was trying to make up some time to the guys ahead of me, I was continuously battling with my M1 as the front tyre was dropping more and more. Then, three laps before the end, I had closed in on my brother and would have loved to pass him but unfortunately, the front tyre locked and I fell whilst braking into turn 11 with only one and a half laps to go, which is a big pity as I definitely didn't want to end my weekend in this way. I hit my head on the barrier during this incident, but I've undertaken a medical check and luckily I walked away unhurt. Another positive is that we are now flying to Australia, which is my favourite track and we were strong there last year, so I'm looking forward to next week and getting back on my Yamaha YZR-M1."
Hard race for Baz and Elias at Motegi
It was a tough and bitter race for the Forward Racing riders today at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi circuit. Under the rain Loris Baz was forced to retire while Toni Elias crossed the line in 20th place.
Baz, who has struggled all weekend to find the right pace on the Japanese track, suffered the weather conditions and in the race he has lost the feeling with the front of his Yamaha Forward. 20 laps to the checkered flag he entered the pits for changing the bike and he rejoined the race before retiring 7 laps later.
Complicated race also for Toni Elias, for the first time riding the Yamaha Forward in wet conditions. The Spaniard, despite progress in the warm up, struggled to find the pace and he closed in 20th position.
"Im not happy with this race weekend. I suffered in the free practices and today I was not able to find the right feeling. With both bikes I lost the grip with the front tyre and I preferred to come back to the garage. It is a pity, I lost the leadership of the Open class, but in a week we will be in Phillip Island for the next race".
20th / -1 laps / 24 laps
"It's been a difficult race. In qualifying I managed the gap with the other Open, but today the weather conditions were completely different. It was the first time that I was on the wet with the Yamaha Forward and I struggled a lot. Despite the steps made during the warm up, unfortunately, I could not keep the same pace as the others Open bikes. Im looking forward to Phillip Island race.
Nakasuga finishes 8th for a Japan GP personal best!
Todays race began in difficult conditions, with no one knowing whether the rain would continue or if the track would begin to dry out. In the intense competition following the start, Nakasuga (YAMAHA FACTORY RACING TEAM / 15th grid start) managed to come through the first lap in 13th position. By the end of the second lap he had moved up to 11th position, where for a while he found himself dueling with his recent Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race teammates Pol Espargaró and Bradley Smith. As the fierce competition continued around the track, Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki) overran a turn on the 6th lap and Danilo Petrucci took a fall on the ninth lap. And, when Andrea Iannone had his machine stop on the 11th lap, Nakasugas steady riding had him now in 8th position.
As the race progressed the conditions became increasingly difficult, with a number of riders taking falls as a result, However, Nakasuga rode on steadily with a good balance of speed and patience. And in the end, he beat his previous best in the Japan GP of 9th place in 2012 by finishing in 8th place this time on his YZR-M1 with the Yamaha Motor 60th Anniversary livery.
8th / +44.654 / 24 laps
My goal this time was to hold my position in the top 15 and then move up as far as I could. I cant say that I am satisfied with my 8th-place finish today but I do accept that this result shows where I stand at present. During the race, I truly enjoyed competing with my two teammates from the recent Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race; I was able to pass Bradley Smith and close in on Pol Espargaró to the point where he saw me and picked up the pace. Although it was a difficult race, both from the standpoint of the tires and the machine, the fact that the results of this round have effectively brought the championship title race down to a contest between Rossi and Lorenzo makes me very happy, considering my role as the M1s development rider. I feel satisfied with the job I have done in that respect. The conditions out on the track today were difficult, and having been able to hold my own out there against the MotoGP riders has given me a real confidence boost. Also, because we were able to get some good wet-condition race data today, I feel it was a very meaningful race weekend.