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Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 14:46 UK

Matt Roberts' MotoGP column

By Matt Roberts
BBC Sport in Motegi

Dani Pedrosa (left) and Jorge Lorenzo (right)
Pedrosa (left) shows his delight at compatriot Lorenzo (right)'s success

Dani Pedrosa's heroics in battling from 11th on the grid to chase Jorge Lorenzo for the win at Motegi have papered over the cracks in his long-standing relationship with Honda, which had begun to show through at the start of the weekend.

Dani is furious that the 2009 chassis, which he tested last year and of which he requested a raft of changes before he would race it, is virtually untouched, and both he and Andrea Dovizioso are still using the 2008 version.

On Thursday he made a remark to the Catalan press along the lines of "let's see if they listen to me for once," while there are already whispers that his team are in negotiations with Lorenzo.

Both riders are out of contract at the end of the year and while Spaniard Lorenzo has refused to comment, his team-mate Valentino Rossi stoked the fire by suggesting, "before it seemed as though Lorenzo would be at Yamaha for a long time. Now maybe it's not so sure."

Yamaha signed Lorenzo as Valentino's long-term replacement and if he were to switch to Honda it would represent a belated counter to Valentino famously going in the opposite direction in 2004.

It is, of course, way too early to get too caught up in transfer speculation but the developing Pedrosa-Lorenzo saga is an interesting sub-plot to what promises to be a fervently supported Spanish Grand Prix this weekend.

A year ago, both riders finished on the podium after a bitter public fallout in the preceding weeks, with Lorenzo having criticised Pedrosa for not shaking his hand after his debut podium in Qatar.

At Jerez, Pedrosa again refused to acknowledge Lorenzo on his pole position and the pair made front-page news when the King of Spain forced them into a handshake after the race.

Reflecting on the incident in a book to be published in the UK at the end of May, Lorenzo reveals that the pair have never been on speaking terms despite several attempts from Jorge to patch up their differences - a factor he blames on them signing for rival managers, Alberto Puig and Dani Amatriaín, at the start of their careers.

"The fact is that Pedrosa doesn't see it like I do and he has taken sides to the point that it has made any kind of relationship impossible," he says.

Japan was the 700th Grand Prix in the history of World Championship motorcycle racing and it is a huge credit to Loris Capirossi that he has appeared in over a third of them.

Loris Capirossi and Ryan Giggs
Some things never go out of style: a young Capirossi (left) and Giggs

On a weekend that saw Ryan Giggs lauded for an incredible professional career in football that started back in 1991, it is worth remembering that Loris's debut Grand Prix appearance came a year earlier in the opening round of the 1990 season at Suzuka.

He won the 125cc world title that year and went on to successfully defend the title before winning the 250cc crown and scoring nine victories - so far - in the premier class, racking up a tally of 99 podiums in all classes.

Whilst Giggs picked up the PFA Player of the Year award from his fellow professionals in a glitzy ceremony on Sunday night, Loris unwound from his 284th GP appearance by joining his Suzuki mechanics at a karaoke bar in downtown Narita.

Thankfully Loris chose not to sing, although his mechanics, I'm sorry to report, were less merciful.

James Toseland did take a typically impressive turn on the microphone at said bar, although it was his performance on the track that really mattered in Japan.

Following a disappointing and fruitless start to the season in Qatar, and on the back of two confidence-crushing crashes in pre-season, it was crucial that James enjoyed an incident-free weekend and picked up some points at Motegi.

He chose to run Bridgestone's softer tyre just to make sure of a safe and fast start to the race, and the tactic worked as he moved up from 10th on the grid to seventh on the opening lap, eventually dropping off the pace slightly but still holding off a late attack from Chris Vermeulen to secure an encouraging ninth.

Vermeulen, by the way, made a great start himself to run fourth in the early stages before developing a quick-shifter problem.

The quick-shifter allows riders to change up through the gears without backing off the throttle or using the clutch and is worth at least half a second per lap. It took Vermeulen several laps to work out how best to ride around the problem without losing too much time and he had picked up his pace again by the end of the race, which makes Toseland's final-lap resistance even more impressive.

There were star British turns in the 125cc race too, with 18-year-old Danny Webb leading for almost half distance after choosing to run wet tyres on a damp but drying track.

With the rest of the field on slicks or intermediates, the gamble looked like it might pay off when he opened out a gap of almost ten seconds by lap 10 of 20. However, his tyres simply shredded in the second half and he was hunted down in an exciting chase, eventually being passed by 10 riders.

One of those to take advantage was Bradley Smith, who looked to have wrapped up at least ninth place until a huge moment just two laps from the end. Brad was thrown over the front of his Aprilia, smashing his front fairing with his helmet and puncturing his chin on the shattered screen.

Unaware that he was bleeding so heavily, he somehow managed to hang on and finish the race, with Swiss youngster Dominique Aegerter passing him on the penultimate lap after having blood splattered on his visor!

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see also
Lorenzo clinches victory in Japan
26 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP column
14 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Stoner takes win in MotoGP opener
13 Apr 09 |  MotoGP
Stoner promises aggressive return
13 Jan 09 |  MotoGP
Kawasaki pulls team out of MotoGP
09 Jan 09 |  MotoGP
Matt Roberts' MotoGP round-up
29 Oct 08 |  MotoGP
Rossi roars to sixth world title
28 Sep 08 |  MotoGP

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