Japanese Grand Prix 2006
2006 MotoGP World Championship, Rd15, Motegi, Japan, September 24
MotoGP: Capirossi too classy, Rossi closes on Hayden
250cc: Aoyama takes popular home win
125cc: Kallio the Motegi master
The Japanese headlines 25/09/06
1.Loris Capirossi (Ducati)
2.Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
3.Marco Melandri (Ducati)
The Australians: Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 11th, Casey Stoner (Honda) DNF
Pole position: Capirossi 1:45.724
Fastest lap and new record: Rossi 1:47.288
1.Hiroshi Aoyama (KTM)
2.Alex de Angelis (Aprilia)
3.Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia)
The Australian: Anthony West (Aprilia) 11th
Pole position: Lorenzo 1:51.374
Fastest lap: Aoyama 1:52.800
1.Mika Kallio (KTM)
2.Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia)
3.Julian Simon (KTM)
The Australian: Blake Leigh-Smith (KTM) 22nd
Pole position: Bautista 1:57.231
Fastest lap and new record: Kallio 1:57.666
How it happened: MotoGP
Ducati star Loris Capirossi (Ducati) eclipsed the entire MotoGP field for the third time this year, as he led home Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) and Marco Melandri (Honda) in an all-Italian trifecta.
It was a classy performance from Capirossi, who was stalked by his compatriots from the start before beginning to pull away on lap 10.
Rossi passed Melandri a few laps later and set chase, but Capirossi had too much sting in his tail and completed a second successive Japanese GP victory. His final winning margin after 24 laps was 5.088sec, and he also moved past Dani Pedrosa (Honda) into fourth in the World Championship standings.
With two rounds remaining, Capirossi now has 205pts, three in front of Pedrosa (202), and behind American Nicky Hayden (Honda, 236), Rossi (224) and Australian GP winner, Melandri (209).
Hayden, who has just signed a two-year agreement to remain at Honda until 2008, was fifth at Motegi, benefiting from a Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) crash on the final lap.
Nakano was making a late charge for Sete Gibernauís (Ducati) fourth place when the duo collided, leaving the Japanese gun strewn on the infield.
For the Australians, Casey Stoner (Honda) crashed at the halfway mark after a front-end lose, while Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) was 11th just one week after his sensational second place at Phillip Island.
"I got a pretty good start but the pace of the front guys made it nearly impossible to catch them", said Vermeulen. "Our race pace was not what we wanted it to be and I think we have got a lot of work to do when we get to Estoril to be back up there challenging".
"I have never been to Estoril so it will be another circuit I have to learn. A difficult day - but we go away from Motegi with more points in the bag and 11th in the Championship."
Stoner had more pace than his countryman, and was as high as fourth in the early stages before things started to go awry.
"For two laps from the start the bike felt okay, and I was up to fourth place after passing Gibernau", said Stoner. "Unfortunately in the morning warm-up the team decided to put an extra turn of preload on the front, and it was fine with a full load of fuel. But as the fuel went down I had no feeling at the front, the rear was lifting under the brakes and I was running wide".
"Iím disappointed, because since free practice three, we had the perfect set-up and we didnít need to change anything. I wasnít happy with the race, I should have been able to run low 1:47s, and I really have no explanation for the crash, I donít know what I did wrong".
There were no such set-up concerns for Capirossi, whose Bridgestone-shod Ducati has shown amazing speed since the return from the mid-season break.
"It was an amazing race, and we started to find a good setting over the weekend which stood us in good stead, said Capirossi. Bridgestone brought in some new tyres which worked well, and then this morning I watched the pace in the warm-up and saw how fast everyone was going".
"I took off at the start, but I know that Marco always follows closely and I knew I had to break away. After that I saw Valentino closing the gap, so I had to give another push and take me to safety. This is the best of the two wins that Iíve had in Japan".
While Capirossi is probably too far behind a labouring Hayden to annex the MotoGP title, Rossi is right back in the game and he knows it.
"My bike worked brilliantly since Friday morning and I want to thank everyone for all their hard work, it seems that when everything is working for us then it's hard for the others", said Rossi. "Twenty points is a great result for me at this track, which isn't one of my favourites, and now we're only 12 behind in the Championship. We have two races left and if we can continue in this way then it's possible!"
Thanks to Nakanoís lapse of concentration, Hayden still finished a respectable fifth in Japan, ahead of Toni Elias (Honda), with Pedrosa, Colin Edwards (Yamaha), Kenny Roberts (KR211V) and former Motegi winner Makota Tamada (Honda) completing the top 10.
How Melandri saw it
How it happened: 250cc
Just one hour after two KTMs finished on the podium in the opening 125 GP race, Japan's Hiroshi Aoyama kept the fire burning for the Austrian marque with a superb victory.
Aoyama, also a winner at Motegi in 2005, got away in the front pack, and then picked off his competitors one by one until he hit the front.
Although there were a few anxious moments while he was leading the pack, Aoyama maintained his composure to defeat Alex de Angelis (Aprilia), who hails from the tiny principality of San Marino.
In a race where Aussie Ant West (Aprilia) was 11th, the final winning margin was 1.341 seconds, with Spain's Jorge Lorenzo (Aprilia) completing the rostrum, ahead of his main World Championship challenger Italy's Andrea Dovizioso (Honda).
There was a touch of dťjŗ vu about the result, after the same quartet dominated the Australian GP only with Lorenzo first that time, ahead of de Angelis, Aoyama and Dovizioso.
Aoyama said of his win at Motegi: "I feel very special today. After my victory here last year of course I wanted to do the same again this year. But it was not the same. I'm riding a European bike now and everything is different, also the environment. But Iím so happy I hardly can speak".
"My start was not so good and when I found my rhythm I tried to push as hard as possible. When I hit the front I tried to put some distance between me and the others and two or three times I almost crashed. I even broke my windscreen when I tried to avoid a high-sider so I had to be a bit more careful because I really wanted to finish the race on the top of the podium".
"Finally I made it and I'm very happy with my KTM. The bike really was so fast on the straight and the new chassis we had here was working very successfully".
Aoyama (173pts) made up some ground on de Angelis (187) at Motegi, while Lorenzo (265) continued to break away from Dovizioso (238).
Dovizioso has not finished in front of Lorenzo since he triumphed at Catalunya on June 18. Since that time, Lorenzo has won five times, while Dovizioso has managed just three podiums.
Meanwhile, Roberto Locatelli (Aprilia) was fifth at the 4.448km Motegi circuit, followed by Shuhei Aoyama (Honda), Lorenzo's teammate Hector Barbera (Aprilia) and wildcard Ryuji Yokoe (Yamaha).
West started from 19th on the grid, and then picked his way forward to finish just over one-second in arrears of 10th-placed Rattapark Wilairot (Honda).
West remains in 11th on 71pts.
How it happened: 125cc
Flying Finn Mika Kallio (KTM) ended a string of second places with his third win of the season, and was joined by new World Champion Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) and his teammate Julian Simon (KTM) on the dais.
"This weekend went unbelievably well for us", said Kallio, who also set a new lap record in the 21-lapper. "My engine was super fast and we also improved the chassis right from first practice and through all the qualifying training. Yesterday I tried out a slightly softer tyre, but we decided on a harder one for the race today. This allowed me to brake harder in the corners".
"I stayed behind Bautista and watched out for possibilities to pass him. There were only two places where I knew I could overtake him. I tried at the first and he closed the door, but I managed to take him at the second place. I know I can only take second in the Championship now, but I am going to try to win the rounds in Estoril and Valencia as well".
Australian Blake Leigh-Smith, deputising in the Red Bull KTM Junior Team until the end of the year, improved 10 spots on his qualifying performance to finish 22nd.
"That was alright", said the 16-year-old. "I let the clutch go a bit too early and I missed the start and I also went wide at the first corner. I believe that put me right at the back and I had to fight my way up. It was a fight over 21 laps from the beginning right to the end".
"If I had not been stuck behind one of the guys in front for quite a while, I think I could have even followed (Derbi rider Pol) Espargaro. I finally finished second in the group I was riding with. I had a very good weekend and I made fewer mistakes than last round at Phillip Island".
Meanwhile, the final battle for third position at Motegi was absorbing, with less than one-second separating Simon from sixth-placed Hector Faubel (Aprilia). Mattia Pasini (Aprilia) and Luka Pesek (Derbi) were fourth and fifth, while Tomoyoshi Koyama (Malaguti) and Briton Bradley Smith (Honda) filled positions seven and eight.
Koyama has just signed a contract to race for KTM in the 2007 World Title.
In the standings, Bautista (300pts), Kallio (226) and Pasini (185) are all ensconced with two rounds remaining, although the battle for fourth is still wide open between Faubel (152) and Sergio Gadea (Aprilia, 143), who has failed to finish the last two races.
Next race: Estoril, Portugal, October 15