11 October 2015
MotoGP Japan: Pedrosa: Yamaha stronger, but we took our chance
Dani Pedrosa springs a shock in the Japanese MotoGP to return to winning ways for the first time since Brno in 2014 as Repsol Honda rider celebrates his 50th Grand Prix success.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa was as surprised as anyone after he managed to overhaul Movistar Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to win the Japanese MotoGP in the wet.
The world championship leaders had sealed a one-two on the front row for Yamaha at the Twin Ring Motegi Circuit after dominating qualifying in the dry, with Pedrosa having to settle for sixth place on the second row after struggling with the handling of the RC213V along with team-mate Marc Marquez.
Wet conditions on Sunday appeared to have altered little in terms of the expected outcome of the race as Lorenzo surged into the lead and opened a gap well in excess of three seconds over Rossi, but Pedrosa hit his stride after a cautious start, first passing the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso before hunting down Rossi and bridging an unlikely deficit to Lorenzo to clinch his maiden victory of 2015 and his first in the premier class since Brno in the Czech Republic last year.
Both Yamaha riders began to slow in the final third of the race with front tyre issues stifling their pace, but Pedrosa rode the perfect race to finish strongly on the factory Honda and in the end won comfortably by eight and a half seconds over Rossi, whom he defeated in a thrilling final-lap battle in the previous round at Aragon.
“I decided to go with a soft configuration on the rear but when I started my sighting lap, the feeling was not so good,” said Pedrosa, who was celebrating his 50th Grand Prix victory.
“I was wondering whether to change to hard, but I started and took a lot of care at the beginning because I knew it was going to be important at the end because there are so many first and second gears [corners] here and you must accelerate hard.
“Our machine is quite aggressive on the engine so you must control a lot and in the beginning I could not push a lot and was more slow. My lap time was not so bad but they [Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi] were super fast and I lost so much gap that at this point I couldn't believe I was going to recover all that gap,” he added
“Later, I stayed on my lap time when they started to go off; I didn't now exactly if it was a front or rear problem [for Yamaha riders], I was just more in the front because on the braking [the line] was coming drier. I tried not to stress and I was recovering little by little to [Andrea] Dovizioso.
“When I passed him I thought a podium was good but it was hard to think I could pass Jorge because there were many places where I couldn't see him, but one lap to another they were coming closer and I was keeping my lap time.”
Pedrosa opened enough of an advantage at the front to allow himself the opportunity to savour his return to winning ways on the final laps and it was a special moment for the 30-year-old, who underwent arm pump surgery earlier in the season after the opening round in Qatar.
“I tried to stay calm and do my thing and used some different lines on the track to get a little more wet side of the track,” he said.
“Towards the end when I was in front it was a good last few laps because it was a long time without a win for my team, fans and family and also the doctor that helped me and all the physio I had with no success. So this time it's really important for me to give that back and they can enjoy.
“I did a lot of things in that time [following surgery] to get here but more than the victory today, the thing is that I enjoyed a lot in the race and I was feeling quite good and this is the good part of MotoGP – enjoying the race, like the last race with Valentino,” he added.
“I'm really improving but we know in the dry today Yamaha had a really good pace compared to us, but today we had the chance of rain and we took it and finally I can give this to Honda in their home GP.”
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