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Oct 8, 2012

Stoner Expected To Return For This Coming Weekend's Japanese Grand Prix At Motegi

Pedrosa puts the pressure on as Stoner returns in Motegi MotoGP™

MotoGP

Following Repsol Honda Team's Dani Pedrosa's dominant victory in Aragón there is still everything to play for as the MotoGP™ starts the first of its triple-header this weekend at the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan at the Twin Ring Motegi.

Yamaha Factory Racing's championship leader Jorge Lorenzo may have a 33-point cushion heading into the final four races, but with Pedrosa on blistering form and his Repsol teammate Casey Stoner returning from injury, race wins and even second places could prove much tougher to come by. Pedrosa will undoubtedly be looking for a repeat of last year when he beat Lorenzo in second and Stoner in third at the Japanese circuit. Yet whilst Lorenzo will no doubt be riding with the championship in mind, he has stated that his goal is to race to win. This will also be true for the returning Stoner, with the Australian having missed the last three races through an injury on his right ankle sustained in Indianapolis.

Lorenzo's teammate Ben Spies will be looking to find that extra bit of performance out of his Yamaha this time out, with the aim of holding off the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. 44 points may separate the Italian and the Brit in the table, but out on track their fairing-to-fairing action is proving popular with everyone, apart from team manager Hervé Poncharal presumably. San Carlo Honda Gresini's Álvaro Bautista will be hoping to find a solution to his bike's set-up issues as he looks to once again take the fight to the satellite Yamaha's, while LCR Honda MotoGP's Stefan Bradl aims to bounce back from the error that saw him crash out of third in Aragón.

The Ducati Team had a weekend to forget last time out and will first and foremost hope to get through the Motegi round injury free after Nicky Hayden gave everyone a scare with his crash in Aragón. Valentino Rossi, who last year crashed on the first lap in Japan, has stated that he's looking forward to the race, and that he believes the Ducati should be competitive, whilst Hayden has pronounced himself fully fit. The Ducati satellite riders, Cardion AB Racing's Karel Abraham and Pramac Racing Team's Héctor Barberá both had very different weekend's at Aragón last time out, with the Czech rider aiming for a repeat top-ten performance, and Barberá hoping to get the better of the ARTs this time.

It will once again be the Power Electronics Aspar duo of Aleix Espargaró and Randy de Puniet who will be the ones to watch as the pair battle it out for CRT supremacy, now with extra motivation after having signed for the team for the 2013 season. In addition, having qualified within 1.7 seconds of the top rider in Spain, the new class is edging ever closer to being competitive against the factory prototypes. The line up of NGM Mobile Forward Racing's Colin Edwards, Came IodaRacing Project's Danilo Petrucci, San Carlo's Michele Pirro, Paul Bird Motorsport's James Ellison and the Avintia Blusens' Yonny Hernandez remains the same. There will however be changes in the CRT line-up as former Moto2™ rider Roberto Rolfo replaces Mattia Pasini in the Speed Master team aboard its ART machine, and Iván Silva returns for Avintia in place of David Salom. Yamaha will also field its test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga.


Moto2

A spectacular battle until the chequered flag made the last Moto2™ race one of the most exciting of the season, setting the scene for the upcoming AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in Motegi that promises a continuation of the fierce on-track battles.

Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol's Marc Márquez heads into the fist race of the triple-header with a 48-point margin at the top of the Moto2™ standings and will remain the man to beat. Yet if Pons 40 HP Tuenti's Pol Espargaró's winning performance is anything to go by in Aragón, Márquez will certainly not be cruising to the title, with his rival unwilling to give an inch as long as the title is still mathematically attainable.

Speed Master's Andrea Iannone, who lies third in the table, will be hurting from missing out on the podium in Aragón last time out, after being overtaken by Marc VDS Racing Team's Scott Redding on the last lap. Iannone won the Motegi race last year after a race-long battle with Márquez, and will undoubtedly be looking to do the same this year. Redding will however be one to watch as he chases his fifth podium of the season, and looks to claw back points on Interwetten-Paddock's Tom Lüthi in fourth, who was on the podium in Japan last year.

Tech 3 Racing's Bradley Smith produced one of his best races of the season last time out, and will be hoping that the Mistral 610 can give him the same kind of performance in Japan to hold off the likes of JiR Moto2's Johann Zarco, who is looking on good form at present. Add to this Came IodaRacing Project's Simone Corsi, who put his FTR on pole in Aragón, and the battle promises to be yet another good one.

There will be a big change to the Moto2™ grid when it heads out on track in Motegi, as 2010 champion Toni Elías has been announced as the new Italtrans Racing Team rider, after the outfit split with Claudio Corti last week. Elias will see out the rest of the season with the team, but has not confirmed a ride for 2013.


Moto3

Red Bull KTM Ajo's Sandro Cortese may be in the lead by 51 points as the Moto3™ descends on Motegi for the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan this weekend, but with RW Racing GP's Luis Salom on-song, the title will still be a hard fought affair.

After his emphatic win at Aragón last weekend where he fought through the pain after two big crashes, Salom will be certain that the title is within reach. Cortese on the other hand still has to be consistently fast, and will be aiming to keep a gap to both Salom and Blusens Avintia's Maverick Viñales. Viñales, who still has an outside chance of winning the title was last time plagued by an ECU problem, which saw him unable to contest the race. He and his team will be hoping for no such problems this time, as the pre-season favourite looks to get his challenge back on track.

Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2's Jonas Folger, who recorded his third podium in four races, will head to Japan brimming with confidence after yet another strong display for the Valencia-based team. Cortese's British teammate Danny Kent was subject to some tough overtaking moves in Aragón and will aim to muscle his own way onto the podium in Motegi this time, to emulate his success in Assen earlier this year. With this in mind, JHK t-shirt Laglisse's Efrén Vázquez may have a tougher time to fight his way to the front, yet the Spaniard will once again be battling until the final turn. Racing Team Germany's Louis Rossi will be riding with a clear head this weekend, after singing a contract with Tech 3 Racing to race for its Moto2™ team next year.

The battle for Rookie of the Year has been blown wide open again as Team Italia FMI's Romano Fenati suffered an engine failure in the last race, allowing Estrella Galicia 0,0's Alex Rins to get within 14 points of the Italian. There will be three new faces for 2012 on the Moto3™ grid, as Spaniard Josep Rodriguez has permanently replaced Jasper Iwema in the Moto FGR team, while there will be two Japanese wildcards in the form of Project u JC Harc's Hyuga Watanabe and 18 Garage Racing Team's Yuudai Kamei.