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A review of the weekend action at Motegi, with links to video footage of the key events.
The latest round of the MotoGP World Championship, the A-Style Grand Prix of Japan marked the first chance for the confirmation of the 2008 MotoGP World Champion. The series had come full circle from 2007, with Valentino Rossi now the rider with the title in his sights.
Rossi had never won on a four-stroke at Twin Ring Motegi, but was not feeling the pressure of the occasion as he looked to clinch his sixth MotoGP crown. The Italian was even keeping busy in Japan before his date with destiny, one of several MotoGP riders taking part in a special Bridgestone-organised meeting with fans and journalists.
Other events taking place ahead of the A-Style Grand Prix of Japan included a visit to the Yamaha factory for Jorge Lorenzo and James Toseland, and a special minibike race involving Shinya Nakano, Yuki Takahashi and eventual winner Tadayuki Okada.
Riding his last Japanese round as a Honda rider, Nicky Hayden was the fastest rider in the first Free Practice session at the factory´s home round. However, his time was bested in the second session by future Ducati teammate Casey Stoner, out to prove a point at the scene of his 2007 title triumph and one of the few riders with any possibility of denying Rossi glory.
Friday also saw Hayden´s replacement in the Repsol Honda team for next year announced. Andrea Dovizioso will be the factory rider partnering Dani Pedrosa in 2009, with Yuki Takahashi also confirmed as a debutant in the premier class with the Scot Racing outfit.
A Repsol Honda rider from seasons past was also on-track during the race weekend, as former 500cc World Champion Alex Criville performed demonstration laps onboard the NSR500 for the Japanese fans. The Spaniard was delighted to be reunited with the machine, which holds a special place in Honda history.
After Stoner put in another impressive showing in Free Practice 3, it was time for qualifying at Twin Ring Motegi. Having struggled with grip during the weekend on race rubber, Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest rider when the qualifying tyres went on, taking his first pole position since the Portuguese round of the season. Stoner placed on the front row after an encounter with a Japanese insect, whilst Hayden rounded off the first line.
Tyres were under focus on Saturday morning, with the Grand Prix Commission´s decision to run a single tyre make in MotoGP for 2009 announced. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta explained the reasons behind the change in regulations, and revealed the process that will be involved in choosing which brand will be the sole tyre provider.
More paperwork for the future of the MotoGP World Championship was signed over the weekend when a deal was made public for the continued presence of Motegi on the Grand Prix calendar. An agreement to run races at the Twin Ring circuit until 2013 was announced ahead of the MotoGP race.
With the formalities concluded and Rossi fastest in the MotoGP warmup, it was time for the possible title-deciding A-Style Grand Prix of Japan. The Fiat Yamaha rider took the victory in style, beating Stoner and Pedrosa to clinch his sixth MotoGP World Championship.
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