Jorge Lorenzo looked set to take another nine points out of Valentino Rossi’s lead at the Twin Ring Motegi on Sunday, but ultimately ended up losing four points due to tire issues.
Lorenzo dominated the early portion of the race. But as the damp track dried out, the Yamahas -- Lorenzo’s in particular -- suffered from tire degradation and Dani Pedrosa was able to rally his way up through the field and take the win.
Rossi knew that he needed to get a solid qualifying position in order to challenge Lorenzo, and he found himself second on the grid behind his Spanish teammate after qualifying on Saturday.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez lined up alongside them both in third, but it was clear that it would be the Yamaha show early on as both of the championship rivals got strong starts heading into the first turn, with Rossi leading briefly but then getting passed back by his teammate.
Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso challenged Rossi for second in the opening laps but then fell back, losing his podium position to Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa then continued his late-season resurgence and ran down and passed Rossi for second and then Lorenzo for the lead and the win. Lorenzo then overshot a corner as his front tire was shot, and Rossi made the valuable pass by his teammate into second.
With his pass, Rossi extended his points lead over Lorenzo from 14 to 18 points with just three races left to go.
MotoGP will be back in action next weekend from the Phillip Island Circuit in Japan.
Riders' World Championship:
1. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 283 points
2. Jorge Lorenzo SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 265 points (-18)
3. Marc Marquez SPA Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 197 points (-86)
4. Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP15) 172 points (-111)
5. Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 154 points (-129)
6. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 152 points (-131)
7. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP15) 150 points (-133)
8. Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) 98 points (-185)
9. Danilo Petrucci ITA Octo Pramac Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 93 points (-190)
10. Pol Espargaro SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 88 points (-195)
11. Aleix Espargaro SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 81 points (-202)
12. Maverick Viñales SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)* 74 points (-209)
13. Scott Redding GBR Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) 73 points (-210)
14. Yonny Hernandez COL Octo Pramac Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 49 points (-234)
15. Hector Barbera SPA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14 Open) 30 points (-253)
16. Loris Baz FRA Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha)* 28 points (-255)
17. Alvaro Bautista SPA Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 26 points (-257)
18. Jack Miller AUS LCR Honda (RC213V-RS)* 16 points (-267)
19. Nicky Hayden USA Aspar MotoGP Team (RC213V-RS) 16 points (-267)
20. Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 11 points (-272)
21. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (RC213V-RS)* 9 points (-274)
22. Katsuyuki Nakasuga JPN Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 8 points (-275)
23. Michele Pirro ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP15) 8 points (-275)
24. Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14 Open) 8 points (-275)
25. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 5 points (-278)
26. Takumi Takahashi JPN Team HRC (RC213V) 4 points (-279)