Pedrosa scores shock first win of MotoGP season in Japan

AP
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While the FIA World Endurance Championship was busy in Fuji, it wasn’t the only key motor race going on in the American overnight hours in Japan.

An important MotoGP round has taken place at Motegi, and Spaniard Dani Pedrosa has scored a shock victory for Repsol Honda after starting sixth, winning over the MoviStar Yamaha teammates and title contenders, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

It’s Pedrosa’s 50th win in his career (27th in MotoGP, 15 250cc, 8 125cc) and fifth in his career at Honda’s backyard, the Twin Ring Motegi.

Pedrosa scored his first win of the season and passed both Rossi, then Lorenzo, in the waning stages of the 24-lap race. Lorenzo and Rossi had started 1-2, with Lorenzo dominating the opening stanza of the race.

After Pedrosa closed the gap down from two seconds back of Lorenzo, who had checked out from pole in the opening 17 laps of the race, he lost pace with apparent front tire issues. Pedrosa made it past with just six laps to go.

A lap later, with Lorenzo continuing to fade, Rossi made it past for second at Turn 3 after Lorenzo ran wide – which was crucial for championship implications.

Rossi came into the weekend with a 14-point lead over Lorenzo. When Lorenzo was leading with Pedrosa second and Rossi third, the gap had been cut down to five points.

But as the result came clearer, Rossi was able to extend the gap up four points from 14 to 18 over Lorenzo by the checkered flag, with three rounds remaining in the 2015 season.

Lorenzo was denied a shot at his third straight Motegi win, although he did bank his fifth consecutive podium at the race.

Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso rounded out the top five, with Marquez making a late pass of Dovizoso for the fourth position.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.