50TH MOTOGP WIN: Honda rider Dani Pedrosa of Spain holds up the championship trophy during the awards ceremony for the MotoGP Japanese GP in Motegi. It was the Spaniard's 50th win of his career. Image: AFP/ Kazuhiro Nogi
Tokyo, Japan - Spain's Dani Pedrosa claimed the 50th Grand Prix win of his career on Sunday, taking victory in the Japanese MotoGP as runner-up Valentino Rossi extended his lead in the championship standings.
Pedrosa, who almost quit the sport earlier in 2015 because of an arm problem that needed surgery, grabbed the lead seven laps from the end of a wet race at the Twin Ring circuit in Motegi.
Jorge Lorenzo dropped out with tyre problems
He surged clear of his rivals to win for the first time this season and the 50th of his career, which began in the 125cc class in 2001.
Rossi finished second while his Yamaha team mate and championship rival Jorge Lorenzo faded to third after leading for most of the race until he had dropped back when having tyre problems.
Lorenzo said: "It's a real pity because today if the track didn't dry I would have won.
"There was a dry line and I couldn't follow them. I just had to survive."
Lorenzo added: "Now there is only one target and that is to win the three races. Let's see if we can do it."
Rossi extends championship lead
Rossi now leads Lorenzo by 18 points in the standings with a maximum of 75 available from the remaining three rounds, in Australia, Malaysia and Valencia.
"It was a very long race. It was very easy to make a mistake," the Italian said.
"At this moment I need to take points. After Jorge left our pace was the same. When it got dry it was difficult to control the bike and I saw Jorge slowing.
"It's a good result for the championship."
First win in over a year
Pedrosa had not won a MotoGP race since the Czech Grand Prix in August 2014 and missed three of the season's first four races due to the arm surgery.
The 30-year-old has suffered from a problem common among motorcycle racers when pressure builds up in the forearm and causes intense pain, making riding a bike difficult when the muscle becomes too big for the 'sack' that it sits in.
Sunday's race was delayed by heavy morning rain in Japan which forced organisers to shorten the Moto2 and Moto3 races but Lorenzo was all smiles at the end of a long day.
Lorenzo said: "It was not like I expected. At the beginning I had no good feeling with the rear and couldn't go fast.
"I kept my rhythm while the others burned their tyre. At the end my pace was faster and I'm really happy."