MotoGP: 2009 Motegi Results

Lorenzo and Pedrosa on podium - see what happens when you don't crash?


As Sunday’s second round race at Motegi approached, it seems The MotoGP gods and the weather gods took a meeting over lunch. The weather gods demanded that Saturday’s practice and qualifications be rained out, and threatened to delay the race itself for the second stage in a row. They had been heavily lobbied by the Sony gods, who wanted the race to be run on their PlayStation 3 instead of the Twin Ring Motegi. (Niccolo Canepa, a disciple of the Sony gods with a total of around 30 minutes experience on the racing surface, was all for it.)

The MotoGP gods, who themselves had been mercilessly lobbied by Honda, declared instead that Friday’s fastest practice lap times would be used as a proxy for qualifications. Before adjourning for drinks, the deities in attendance voted to allow the home team, Honda, a 50th anniversary miracle. The result tightened up the championship standings considerably, and the gods thumbed their collective noses at the Italian God and His chosen icons, Valentino Rossi and Ducati. Behind the scenes, the inscrutable Yamaha gods smiled and said nothing.

The weather gods threatened to rain again but the Motegi race began as scheduled.

Motegi was a race in which all of the non-Aussies were praying for ABS – Anyone But Stoner. Their prayers were answered early on, as Ducati’s Casey Stoner slipped from second place on the grid to around seventh in the first lap. Meanwhile, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, still healing from his crash in early March, managed a miracle move from his eleventh spot on the grid to second place in the course of half a lap, and the lines had suddenly been drawn.

2009 Japanese Grand Prix quick recap
Pos. Lap 1 Lap 6 Lap 11 Lap 20 Finish
1 Rossi Rossi Lorenzo Lorenzo Lorenzo
2 Pedrosa Lorenzo Rossi Rossi Rossi
3 Lorenzo Pedrosa Pedrosa Pedrosa Pedrosa
4 Vermeulen Dovizioso Dovizioso Dovizioso Stoner
5 Dovizioso Stoner Stoner Stoner Dovizioso
6 Stoner Melandri Melandri Melandri Melandri
7 Toseland Capirossi Capirossi Capirossi Capirossi
8 Melandri Vermeulen Toseland Kallio Kallio
9 Capirossi Toseland De Puniet Toseland Toseland

For much of the race, it looked like a wrestling tag-team match. The two factory Yamahas led, followed by the two factory Hondas. Stoner was alone in fifth place for much of the race, as his teammate Nicky Hayden had been brutally taken out on lap one by the affable and quite dangerous Yuki Takahashi of Team Scot Honda. As usual, there were lots of mini-races within the race, with riders going one-on-one for points. But for most of the day, it was the factory Yamahas leading, and the factory Hondas chasing.

Jorge Lorenzo seemed extra motivated before the race.There were a number of surprises during the day. First and foremost, it was not the usual and expected slugfest between Rossi and Stoner, who had won 18 of the last 22 premier class races between them and were expected to duel on this day. Lorenzo winning wasn’t nearly as surprising as Pedrosa, bad knee and all, charging from 11th on the grid to challenge for the lead. It was a surprise that Honda fared as well as they did, given that Dovizioso was their best qualifier in 7th place (although the satellite teams were a mess). 

It was very surprising to see Marco Melandri competitive on a Kawasaki which will be, by season’s end, held together with clarinet reeds and Scotch tape. The final, and perhaps most pleasant surprise of all, was Mika Kallio. The Pramac Ducati rider must have been shocked to find himself starting in the 17 hole, but he rode well all day and finished in 8th place again. Disappointments included Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, who started fast but faded, and Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards, who had engine problems all day. Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias and Sete Gibernau from the Francisco Hernando Ducati team also had bad days, not for the first time and most likely not for the last.

Standings after first two rounds
Rider 2009 2008
Jorge Lorenzo 1st 2nd
Valentino Rossi 2nd 3rd
Casey Stoner 3rd 4th
Andrea Dovizioso 4th 5th
Dani Pedrosa 5th 1st
We shouldn’t get too whooped up by these early season results. Here’s a glimpse of where things stood at this point last year:

Rossi and Stoner, who would dominate 2008, stood third and fourth, respectively, after two races. Granted, Round 2 last year was at Jerez, Spain, and Pedrosa and Lorenzo finished first and third, respectively in their native land. But at 2nd and 3rd, Rossi and Stoner are actually ahead of where they were last year. The season’s a pup.

This week the teams are off to Jerez once more, where the Spaniards again can be expected to do well. Over the last two years there, Rossi has a win and a second, while Stoner has struggled, finishing 5th in 2007 and 11th last year. Racing fans should spend this week directing prayers to the weather gods for clear skies, and prayers to the MotoGP gods for longer practice sessions and some real qualifying runs. And it wouldn’t hurt for American fans to offer up an extra prayer to the Kentucky god to throw Nicky Hayden a friggin’ bone.

Valentino Rossi (left) and Jorge Lorenzo put Yamaha back at the top of the standings.

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