Jorge Lorenzo may only have lost five points from his MotoGP title lead, but he cut something of a dejected figure after Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
Lorenzo contained Championship rival Dani Pedrosa
until lap 11 of 24, when the Honda rider overtook and rode to a four-second victory.
With a 28-point lead after Motegi, Lorenzo can afford to lose five-points to Pedrosa at each of the remaining three rounds, but the Yamaha star was frustrated at not putting up more of a fight.
Pole sitter Lorenzo, who has not beaten Pedrosa on track since July's Laguna Seca round, found the straight line performance of the Honda hard to match.
Maximum speeds recorded over the Motegi weekend showed Pedrosa to have reached 307.8km/h, slower than only LCR Honda rider Stefan Bradl, while Lorenzo's best was 302.4km.h.
That was just the twelfth best speed out of the 22 riders, and he was also slowest of the five Yamahas.
Yamaha has previously denied that they need to de-tune Lorenzo's engines, after one of his six allowed was lost in the Assen accident.
“I started well and tried to open a gap, but I couldn't,” said Lorenzo.
“I was completely at the maximum trying to stay with Dani, but today it was maybe too much difference, the performance on the straights.
“I tried to stay with him but it was impossible, maybe next time it will be different.
“For sure the Championship is closer now, but we are still very competitive and have the chance to win.”
Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg added: “An important second place of course but a little disappointing to lose the win to Dani.
“You have to keep in mind that we have a lot to lose at the moment.
“We know how Jorge is, he would like to win each one but also in his mind is the Championship and you can see that during the race.”
If Pedrosa gains another three points in next Sunday's Malaysian round he will move to within one-race win (25-points) of Lorenzo with two rounds to go.
“We are going to Sepang not aiming for another second but for the win,” stated team director Massimo Meregalli.