MotoGP Motegi Japan Friday practice results—Pedrosa out

Rossi quickest, Spies fifth, Edwards seventh, Hayden 13th; Pedrosa crashes on third lap, breaks collarbone in three places—Lorenzo can clinch title in Japan

Dani Pedrosa

2010/09/18 - mgp - Round13 - Aragon - MotoGP - Dani Pedrosa - Repsol Honda - No Bike - PortraitAndrew Northcott

MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 1 – Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa saw his slim title hopes slip away after he broke his left collarbone in a crash early in the first practice session for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit.

Pedrosa had arrived in Japan on a run that saw him chop 21 points from the championship lead of Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. The Spaniard had won in Indianapolis and Misano, then finished second to Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner in Aragon. Lorenzo finished third, second, and then fourth in Spain, his first time off the podium all year. The points lead shrank from 77 to 56 as they arrived in Japan for the first of three races on the trot; Malaysia and Australia follow on consecutive weekends.

Pedrosa was on his second flying lap when he crashed, landing hard on his left side and breaking his left collarbone into three pieces. According to the Repsol Honda team press release, the crash "was caused when a small problem with the throttle cable didn’t allow Pedrosa to close the throttle when he came to brake, an issue which has already been investigated and resolved." Pedrosa was to fly home to Spain on Friday night with an operation scheduled for Saturday to plate the collarbone.

Obviously this has been a really bad day for us," Pedrosa said in the team release. "It was a strange crash in only my second full lap, in a slow section of the track. I tried to stop the bike as usual but I knew something was wrong and couldn’t avoid going down. After the crash I knew immediately that I was injured because it was very painful. I had a big impact in my left ankle and also my collarbone was broken as I hit the track - so obviously it feels very unlucky because recently we have had really good results. I’ve been very healthy through the pre-season and through the year and we had been working a lot to get to and stay at the maximum level. Another injury to contend with is really not what I needed - I don’t feel as though I deserve it. Anyway, once the doctors had checked everything here, we decided it was best to go back to Spain for the operation. I hope it goes as well as possible and that I can return to racing soon.”

Even if Pedrosa returned in Malaysia next weekend, he’d be at less than full strength in the tropical heat of Sepang. The race is usually the hottest, most humid, and most taxing of the year, and a weakened Pedrosa wouldn’t be able to stop the Lorenzo train from steaming to the title. Most likely he'll return at Phillip Island in two week's time.

As it stands, if Lorenzo can leave Sepang with a 75-point lead, the title is his. He needs only a second place or better here in Japan, even if he fails to score a point in Malaysia, to return the premier class championship to Spain. The only other Spaniard to win the premier class title was Alex Criville, who took advantage of the injury to Mick Doohan to win the crown in 1999.

The title would also be Yamaha’s third in a row, following Rossi’s world championships in 2008 and ’09.

While Lorenzo knows the pressure is off, he still would rather have everyone at full strength—and he knows his fortune could be to MotoGP’s detriment for the rest of the year. “Well, obviously the best way to win the world title is with all the riders at the best conditions and all the riders competing,” Lorenzo said. “But you know, races are like that and everybody gets injured sometimes in racing. I get injured in 2008 and Vale this year and now…bad luck is time for Dani. Is not good news for the championship, but obviously for us, for the championship, for the points, it’s good, no?”

Rossi was the surprising fast runner in the one-hour morning practice, held in sunny, warm conditions, a great contrast to the gloomy wet Thursday. Rossi had said he didn’t expect his injured right shoulder would withstand the rigors of the Motegi circuit, which has a number of hard braking corners, but he topped the time sheets by a comfortable 0.213 seconds. Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso was second, followed by Lorenzo. Aragon Grand Prix winner Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro) was only .007 sec. behind Lorenzo in fourth.

Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was the first of the Americans in fifth, but 1.128 seconds down on Rossi; his session was interrupted by a very slow-speed fall just before the gravel trap after running off the hairpin Turn Three. Interwetten Honda MotoGP rider Hiroshi Aoyama, riding in his home grand prix, finished a season best sixth in practice, followed by Spies’ teammate Colin Edwards.

Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden had a very minor get-off in the morning. More troublesome was his placement; he was 13th out of 16 who finished the hour, and 1.708 seconds slower than Rossi.

** MotoGP Motegi Japan Friday practice results**
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha 1:48.174
2. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Honda 1:48.387
3. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 1:48.474
4. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati 1:48.481
5. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 1:49.302
6. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda 1:49.357
7. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha 1:49.377
8. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati 1:49.544
9. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Suzuki 1:49.568
10. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) Honda 1:49.581
13. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 1:49.882