Jorge Lorenzo produced a masterful display to claim victory at the Japanese MotoGP at Motegi, taking the championship battle to the final round in Valencia.
After a weekend of fog, typhoons and earthquakes, bright sunshine greeted the teams on Sunday with Lorenzo starting on pole, but with Marc Marquez alongside and ready to pounce.
At the start Lorenzo made the perfect launch leading away from pole as Marquez made a poor getaway allowing Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa through, the Spaniard would recover passing Pedrosa through turn 2.
Lorenzo pulled out a second on his team-mate Rossi on the first two laps however coming towards the end of the third lap the nine-time champion went wide under-braking into turn 11 and lost out to Marquez and Pedrosa, dropping to fourth.
From then on the Honda's began to close in very quickly on Lorenzo and were right on the Yamaha within three laps.
Rossi's brake troubles continued as he ran off track into the gravel again at turn 11 on the next lap dropping him down to eleventh.
Behind the leading three Stefan Bradl, racing with a fractured wrist, was running fourth ahead of Alvaro Bautista, while an all-British battle for sixth between Bradley Smith and Cal Crutchlow saw the Tech 3 Yamaha rider move ahead of his countryman.
As Rossi recovered from his brake issues he was making good progress passing the two Ducati's of Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden quite quickly and was up to 8th.
At the front Marquez was stalking Lorenzo with Pedrosa just behind as the 20-year-old waited his time to attack the defending world champion.
Proving much better on the brakes, Marquez had a look into turn 11 but was rebuffed by the very late-braking Lorenzo as the two rivals locked horns.
The Honda rider had a slight moment running deep at turn 11 on the following lap but was able to recover as Lorenzo upped the pace once more.
That proved crucial as Marquez couldn't stay with Lorenzo, the Yamaha setting remarkable lap times on a circuit well-known as one of Honda's strongest and despite a few issues with backmarkers in the final few laps, Lorenzo was able to take an important win.
Marquez had to settle for second ahead of Pedrosa in third while behind Bautista claimed fourth with Bradl putting into a fine performance given his injury in fifth. Rossi's recovery ended in sixth with Crutchlow and Smith completing the top eight.
At the front however and a brilliant performance from Lorenzo, showing why he is the current world champion, and he is still in the championship battle although Marquez will take a 13-point lead to the final round in Valencia. With 25 points up for grabs it promises to be a fascinating weekend.
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