Capirossi wins Motegi thriller as Rossi crashes out

Loris Capirossi took his first victory of the season in a dramatic Grand Prix of Japan at Motegi this afternoon as Valentino Rossi crashed out and missed his first opportunity to clinch the 2005 MotoGP World Championship. Capirossi made a cautious start from pole position, chasing early leader Marco Melandri over the opening laps before being joined by Max Biaggi. Rossi, meanwhile, made excellent progress from eleventh on the grid and by the time he caught the leading trio on the fourth lap, Melandri had been relegated to third place.

With Biaggi now leading from Capirossi the pair were left alone at the front on lap thirteen, Rossi colliding with Melandri into turn ten and sending both riders tumbling into the gravel. Capirossi then stalked his compatriot for the next six laps before making his move and opening up an advantage of 1.4 seconds to take a clear victory, Ducati's first of the season and the first for tyre manufacturers Bridgestone since winning at the same circuit last year with Makoto Tamada. The Japanese rider crossed the line in a distant third place to complete the podium today.

"It is good to have taken the win today but the team have done a great job all weekend," said Capirossi, who recently signed a new one-year contract with the Italian factory. "Bridgestone have given us some brilliant tyres here and my consistency was good over a lot of laps in practice. I had a good rhythm in the race but sometimes when I tried to pass I was over the limit. When I took the lead I knew I was faster than Max and I knew it would be my race."

Carlos Checa took the chequered flag in fourth place although he was 22 seconds down on his victorious team-mate as only eleven riders finished a crash-strewn race. John Hopkins, who started from the front row of the grid but gradually lost positions as the race wore on, picked up his best ever Grand Prix finish in fifth ahead of Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden, Kenny Roberts, Toni Elías, Rubén Xaus and Franco Battaini. Alex Hofmann crashed and broke his ankle, almost certainly ruling him out for the rest of the season.

With Alex Barros and Sete Gibernau also crashing out, the only rider with a mathematical chance of halting Rossi's championship charge over the next five races is Biaggi, who must score 14 points more than his compatriot to prevent him winning the title in the next race at Sepang in seven days' time. There was a complaint against Rossi regarding the incident with Melandri, which was rejected by Race Direction, meaning a top four finish will be sufficient for the Italian in Malaysia.

Whilst Tamada was unable to repeat his home heroics in the MotoGP class, there was a Japanese winner in the 250cc race as Hiroshi Aoyama took his maiden career victory in front of 68,015 jubilant fans. Aoyama started from pole position but conceded ground to Jorge Lorenzo in the opening laps before launching an unstoppable surge in the second half of the race. His team-mate Dani Pedrosa clinched second place after dodging a collision between Jorge Lorenzo and Alex de Angelis on the final lap, with Lorenzo later disqualified for his part in the incident and banned from the next race at Sepang. De Angelis recovered to take seventh place but the main beneficiary was Casey Stoner, who came through to complete the podium in third and extend his advantage over Andrea Dovizioso in second place in the championship. However Stoner now trails Pedrosa by 63 points with five races remaining.

Mika Kallio was handed victory due to a red flag decision for the second time this season as the 125cc race was halted five laps from the end following a spectacular crash on the main straight. Thomas Lüthi crashed as he battled with Kallio for the lead, his ankles clipped and bike destroyed by an unsighted Sergio Gadea, who was lucky to escape unhurt. Lüthi, whilst fortunate to avoid serious injury, dislocated his shoulder in the crash and is doubtful for the next round in Malaysia. The Swiss youngster still leads the championship by three points from Kallio after being awarded second place in today's race, the final positions being taken back to the previous lap. Héctor Faubel completed the podium.


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