Casey Stoner won the Japanese Grand Prix Sunday, grabbing his second straight victory despite frustrating difficulties setting up his Ducati throughout the weekend.
The 2007 world champion clocked 43min 12.266sec at the Motegi Twin Ring, 3.868sec ahead of pole-position starter Andrea Dovizioso and 5.707sec faster than reigning champion Valentino Rossi, both of Italy.
Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was fourth, after losing a nail-biting battle with Rossi in the final stages of the race.
Stoner, still fresh from winning the Aragon Grand Prix last month, called the victory an “upset” after his team had failed to find the correct setup for his machine in “a disaster weekend”.
“It’s obvious the bike really isn’t perfect for this track. And to come out and still win this was just awesome for me and for the team and for everybody,” the Australian said.
“This was one of my most memorable wins,” he said, after fending off challenges from Dovizioso, who had his first career pole start.
The Honda rider lamented his accumulation of small mistakes that kept him from really threatening Stoner, but said he was happy to take second.
“I wasn’t precise 100 per cent,” the Italian said. “To come back on the podium was so important.”
The true highlight of the race, however, came as the two Yamaha riders staged a brilliant duel with two laps remaining.
Riding side by side, their bikes touched as they overtook each other at successive corners during the final lap. But Rossi, still suffering shoulder pains, had the final say.
“It was funny,” the charismatic nine-time world champion said. “We had some overtaking. But you know, in the last lap... to take a place on the podium, you have to never give up.”
Stoner’s victory, however, did not change Lorenzo’s strong position in the overall championship standings.
With only four races remaining Lorenzo can secure the season title with a solid showing in the Malaysian Grand Prix next weekend and if second-ranked Dani Pedrosa misses the event.
Pedrosa, the only racer with a chance of overtaking Lorenzo, pulled out of Motegi after crashing during practice on Friday, when he broke a collarbone into four pieces.
He immediately flew home to Spain and underwent a successful operation Saturday, but it remained unclear exactly when he would be able to return to racing, his physician said in Barcelona.
With 25 points for a win Lorenzo leads with 297 points, 69 better than the absent Pedrosa (228).
Stoner improves to 180 while Dovizioso (159) swapped places with Rossi (156).