Jorge Lorenzo has triumphed for the seventh time in 2013, winning Sunday’s AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider fought off a stiff challenge from Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to ensure that the MotoGP title battle goes down to the wire for the first time since 2006.
Providing a truly unpredictable end to the late-season triple-header, the Motegi weekend was very much shaken up by inclement weather conditions; this led to the cancellation of all track action on Friday as well as heavy modifications to the Saturday agenda. Ironically, Sunday’s race took place under clear blue skies in Japan.
From his fourth pole position of the year, it would be a lights-to-flag victory for Lorenzo to move one win ahead of Marquez in the 2013 season. Teammate Valentino Rossi looked to be providing a buffer between the current title holder and the pair of factory Hondas, but made two mistakes at Turn 11 and fell back down the order.
Lorenzo would come under severe pressure from Marquez at the mid-way point of the race, with Pedrosa in hot pursuit. However, the Mallorcan was spared some breathing space as Marquez made mistakes at both Turn 11 and Turn 1. The 20-year-old would never be as close to Lorenzo again, eventually ending the day 3.1 seconds in arrears.
Pedrosa’s third place marked his 12th podium finish of the season, but the Sabadell rider was unable to complete a hat-trick of Motegi victories as his chances for the 2013 world title officially evaporated. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top five, with the GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider having slipstreamed his way past the LCR Honda MotoGP bike at the start of the eighth lap. Rossi fought back to sixth place after running as low as 11th, while Cal Crutchlow got the better of impressive Monster Yamaha Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith in seventh and eighth spots.
Ducati Team completed the top ten with Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, while 11th place was taken by wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga for Yamaha YSP Racing Team. In 12th was lead CRT rider Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing), with Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro having become the third of three retirements courtesy of a high-speed accident from which he escaped unharmed. Lukas Pesek (Came IodaRacing Project) was first to retire, while Cardion AB Motoracing’s Luca Scassa pulled into the pit lane with a loose right foot peg.
Sunday’s result – marking the 200th premier class race victory for Yamaha – sees Lorenzo move to within 13 points of Marquez with just the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana remaining. This signals the first final-race MotoGP title-decider for seven years; in 2006 it was also a duel between the Honda and Yamaha factory teams, with the crown won by Nicky Hayden as the American picked up a maiden title from then reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi.