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MotoGP Trendspotting: Grand Prix Of Japan

Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing won the Grand Prix of Japan on Sunday, Oct. 27, the 17th of 18 events in the 2013 MotoGP World Championship that included the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 16-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But it’s time to take a look beyond the results sheets for trends after this race.

Down To Wire: The race for the MotoGP World Championship will come down to a duel between leader Marc Marquez and reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo at the season-ending Grand Prix of Valencia on Nov. 10 after Lorenzo’s victory in the Grand Prix of Japan on Oct. 27.

Lorenzo sliced Marquez’s lead to 13 points with his victory on a Yamaha Factory Racing machine. Marquez finished second on a Repsol Honda.

Marquez, 20, must finish fourth or better to become the youngest premier-class World Champion in history and the first rookie to clinch the title since American legend Kenny Roberts in 1978.

That task shouldn’t provide too stern of a test for Marquez. He has finished in the top three in 15 of his 17 starts this season.

But Lorenzo enters the decisive title showdown in peak form. He has won the last two races from the pole, at Australia and Japan, as Yamaha appears to have swung the performance edge pendulum away from Japanese archrivals Honda.

Marquez and Lorenzo are the only riders to be eligible to win the championship at the finale. Marquez’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, finished third at the Japanese Grand Prix and was eliminated from contention, 38 points behind Marquez.

Rossi’s Mistakes Hurt Lorenzo: Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo had a relationship about as warm as dry ice during their first tenure as Yamaha Factory Racing teammates from 2008-10, with their garages separated by a wall during the last 18 months of that pairing.

But the two riders have enjoyed a peaceful, friendly working relationship during their second stint together, which started this season when Rossi rejoined the team after two fruitless seasons at Ducati.

Rossi could have put Lorenzo into a more realistic position to win the World Championship last Sunday at the Grand Prix of Japan, but “The Doctor” failed when Lorenzo and Yamaha needed him the most.

Seven-time MotoGP World Champion Rossi produced a superb start in the race, jumping to second behind teammate Lorenzo on the first lap. Championship leader Marc Marquez was running third behind Rossi early in the race.

But then Rossi ran wide in Turn 11 on Lap 2 and Lap 3, dropping to 11th. He rallied to finish sixth, but the damage was done.

If Rossi could have kept Marquez behind him for the entire race, winner Lorenzo could have pulled to within nine points of Marquez with only the season-ending Grand Prix of Valencia remaining. Lorenzo could have won the title with a victory even if Marquez finished third in the final race.

But now Marquez only needs to finish fourth or better to clinch the title. He has finished in the top three at 15 of 17 races this season.

The imperious Rossi of five years ago would have tucked behind Lorenzo to protect Lorenzo and parry Marquez, if needed. But mistakes on consecutive laps under pressure proved once and for all Rossi no longer is among the top three riders in the world.

Talent Pipeline Flows to MotoGP: Next season will mark the sixth time in the last seven years that the intermediate class World Champion will climb immediately to MotoGP, as Pol Espargaro of Spain clinched his first Moto2 world title by winning the Grand Prix of Japan.

Espargaro will make his full-time MotoGP debut next season for Monster Yamaha Tech 3 as a teammate to 2013 rookie and former Moto2 rival Bradley Smith. Espargaro will join his older brother, Aleix, in the premier class.

Six of the last seven Moto2 or 250cc World Champions have climbed to the premier class the season after their title since Jorge Lorenzo won his second 250cc title in 2007 and was promoted to the Yamaha Factory Racing team in MotoGP in 2008. Other riders who were promoted to MotoGP straight from intermediate titles included Hiroshi Aoyama (2009 250cc World Champion), Toni Elias (2010 Moto2 World Champion), Stefan Bradl (2011) and Marc Marquez (2012).

Only Marco Simoncelli stayed in the intermediate class for another season after winning the 250cc world title in 2008, climbing to MotoGP in 2010.


TOP FIVE FINISHERS (Grand Prix of Japan, Twin Ring Motegi, Motegi, Japan):

1.    Jorge Lorenzo    Yamaha Factory Racing
2.    Marc Marquez    Repsol Honda Team
3.    Dani Pedrosa    Repsol Honda Team
4.    Alvaro Bautista    GO&FUN Honda Gresini
5.    Stefan Bradl    LCR Honda MotoGP

American finishers: Nicky Hayden, Ducati Team, ninth; Colin Edwards, NGM Mobile Forward Racing, 12th.

TOP FIVE POINTS:

1.    Marc Marquez    318
2.    Jorge Lorenzo    305
3.    Dani Pedrosa    280
4.    Valentino Rossi    224
5.    Cal Crutchlow    188

American points: Nicky Hayden, ninth; 118; Colin Edwards, 14th, 40; Ben Spies, 21st; 9.

NEXT RACE:

Grand Prix of Valencia, Nov. 10, Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, Cheste, Spain.


***


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MotoGP Trendspotting: Grand Prix Of Japan
 
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