The Spaniard extends his championship lead
Jorge Lorenzo claimed his eleventh podium of the 2006 season as he took third position at the Japanese GP behind home favourite Hiroshi Aoyama and San Marino rider Alex De Angelis.
The result allowed the Spaniard to extend
his 250 championship lead by three points, from 24 to 27, as he finished a place ahead of closest rival Andrea Dovizioso. With just two rounds to go, Lorenzo could be crowned world champion at the next race in Portugal if he finishes ahead of the Italian, or just one place behind him in fourth position or lower.
It proved a difficult race for Lorenzo at Motegi, he got away well, but was joined in a lead group by four other riders. Hiro Aoyama, Alex De Angelis, Yukio Takahashi and Dovizioso. After Takahashi had fallen, Lorenzo edged ahead of his main rival Dovizioso on lap 20 and steadily opened a gap to clinch a place on the podium and an important result.
"I am very happy although it might not seem like it. I have taken another step towards my ultimate ambition, but I realize it is not won yet and that I can't afford to relax," said Jorge Lorenzo. "This result allows us to travel to Portugal calmly with our advantage still in tact. It was one of the worst races I have ridden this year as I was not happy on the bike at any stage and the tyres went quite quickly. I failed and would like to apologise to the team because my performance did not match that of the bike. I benefited from Takahashi's fall, but that is part of racing and sometimes these things go against you."
Hector Barbera finished in seventh after riding a steady race despite problems with his bike.
The Valencian rider, who battled to overcome suspension difficulties on his Aprilia, made up several places in the closing stages, but will have to improve if he wants to challenge for victory in the final two races of the season.
"It was a very difficult race and I found it hard to concentrate and motivate myself after all the set-up problems that I had in qualifying," said Hector Barbera. "Whenever I opened the gas the bike moved all over the place and it's difficult to battle with riders who are at 100 percent when you yourself are at about 80 percent. The bike did corner better today, but the rear end continued to give us big problems. I am not happy with the result, but I am with my performance. I am continuing to work hard and hope to have found a solution by Estoril."