Rossi wins Japan GP, claims MotoGP title

by Jim Armstrong

The Associated Press

Italy’s Valentino Rossi stormed to victory at the Grand Prix of Japan on Sunday, claiming his sixth MotoGP world championship.

Rossi, riding a Yamaha, pulled ahead of defending MotoGP champion Casey Stoner of Australia with 11 laps to go and won the race with a time of 43 minutes, 09.599 seconds, 1.943 seconds ahead of Stoner after 24 laps at the 4.8-km Twin Ring Motegi course.

Spain’s Dani Pedrosa was third, 4.866 seconds back, while pole-sitter Jorge Lorenzo, also of Spain, was fourth.

It was Rossi’s eighth victory of the season and fifth straight since he took the United States Grand Prix in July.

He came into Sunday’s race needing just a podium finish to claim the title, his first since 2005.

“It’s difficult to compare the titles,” Rossi said. “This one is great because we really battled here. There have been a lot titles in my career but maybe this is the one that required the most effort.”

With three races left in the season, Rossi has 312 points, 92 ahead of Stoner.

Sunday’s race quickly became a contest between Stoner and Rossi as the two riders opened up a comfortable lead ahead of the pack.

“I felt good at the start of the race,” said Stoner , who wrapped up the 2007 title with a sixth-place finish here last year. “I needed a few laps to warm up the tires, then I got a little tired changing the direction of the bike and Valentino came forward.”

With his sixth premier-class title, Rossi moved one ahead of Australia’s Mick Doohan. Only Giacomo Agostini has won the premier-class title more times with eight championships.

Earlier, pole sitter Marco Simoncelli of Italy won the 250cc race, increasing his overall lead in the world championship standings.

Simoncelli, riding a Gilera, crossed the finish line in 43 minutes, 09.385 seconds after 23 laps, .348 seconds ahead of Spain’s Alvaro Bautista for his fourth win of the season.

Spain’s Alex Debron was third.

With three races left, Simoncelli has 215 points, 32 points ahead of Bautista.

Germany’s Stefan Bradl won the 125cc race, edging pole sitter Mike Di Meglio of France for his second career victory.

Bradl, who started from the front row, clocked a time of 39:57.228 on an Aprilia to finish .151 seconds ahead of Di Meglio.

Reigning world champion Gabor Talmacsi of Hungary was third with a time 39:57.509.