A broken exhaust three laps from the end for championship leader Arnaud Vincent – coupled with a dominating victory for Dani Pedrosa, with Manuel Poggiali second, means that the 125cc championship is now on a knife edge after today's Pacific Grand Prix.
What had looked like being a Pedrosa dominated final qualifying session yesterday suddenly came alive in the dying minutes, as he and Poggiali duelled for pole. Pedrosa emerged victorious in that battle, but it all really mattered today and the young Spaniard was eager to make amends for his premature exit last time out in the Rio rain, while Poggiali and Vincent had a championship to fight for.
Behind the two, third fastest Steve Jenkner, fifth Andrea Dovizioso and eighth on the grid Hector Barbera had all either equaled - or set an outright best ever - Grand Prix start position and looking for better in the race itself.
When the lights disappeared and the 37-rider field sped into the tight turn one it was Pedrosa who held the advantage – initially – before Vincent out braked him into turn two, with Dovizioso third in front of Poggiali, Barbera, Nieto and Jenkner.
Not completing the first lap was top wild card qualifier Ogata, in tenth, whose race ended in the Motegi gravel and the Japanese, although stretchered away, appeared to be suffering from a hard hit of disappointment to rival any bruises.
Meanwhile, Pedrosa took the lead back into turn one on lap two, while later in the lap Grand Prix rookie Dovizioso's impressive weekend came to an unfortunate finish when he spectacularly high sided out of third while exiting a medium radius right hander. The young Italian was thrown high into the air before crashing to the ground on his back. Although winded the Scot Racing Team rider was able to walk away.
Top two Pedrosa and Vincent looked like they were capable of dropping the Poggiali, Jenkner and the rest of the pack, but the next few laps would see Poggiali and Jenkner also break away, as the field took a two-by-two-by-two formation.
Lap 5 of 21 and Pedrosa was now visibly checking out up front, and within three laps had a lead of almost two seconds – while Poggiali and Jenkner were now just 1.5secs from the second placed Frenchman's rear Dunlop.
Pedrosa's domination looked like it may be coming to an end on lap 9, when Vincent took 0.5secs out of the Telefonica riders lead on one lap, 'Dani' responded to hold his 1.3secs advantage firm over the World Championship leader, with the Poggiali/Jenkner fight still raging for the final podium position, 3.5secs behind the leader.