Bradley Smith claimed his second successive 125GP podium finish at the Twin Ring Motegi today, the British rider finishing third after he narrowly avoided a major incident at the first corner.
Starting from the front row of the grid, Smith was nearly caught up in a nasty collision involving German Jonas Folger and Spaniard Efren Vazquez on the approach to the first corner.
Vazquez was run over and then struck a trackside wall but amazingly escaped serious injury, though he did need to undergo precautionary CAT scans in a nearby hospital after suffering a mild concussion.
The incident cost Smith precious time and he was unable to seriously threaten dominant duo Marc Marquez and Nicolas Terol in the 20-lap Japanese Grand Prix.
Early leader Terol and title rival Marquez were already 1.362s clear of Smith at the end of lap one and the pair easily streaked away, the lead at the end of lap three a massive 2.5s.
At that stage, Smith was coming under intense pressure from title contender Pol Espargaro, who had started from seventh, his worst qualifying performance of the season.
German Sandro Cortese was also looking to pose a threat in fifth place when he crashed out at the end of the back straight on lap eighth. He remounted to finish 12th.
Smith was easily able to dispose of Espargaro and he was virtually assured of his fourth podium of the season when he extended his lead in third to a comfortable 2.6s. He eventually pulled away to defeat Espargago by ten seconds, the Spaniard’s title hopes suffering a blow as he dropped down to third in the rankings. Espargaro now trails compatriot Terol by 13-points with four races remaining.
Smith’s rostrum ended his disappointing form at the Twin Ring Motegi, which has not been a happy hunting ground for the Oxfordshire rider having only scored a best of eighth in his debut year in 2006.
He finished over five seconds away though from Aspar Aprilia team-mate Terol in second as a Spanish rider won a 125GP for the 23rd race in a row.
Terol seized the early advantage from Marquez, who started from pole position for the ninth time this season.
Marquez was content to stalk Terol for the opening seven laps before he attacked on lap eight and immediately opened up a 0.551s lead. A lap later and his advantage increased to 0.875s and it was over a second by the end of lap 10 as Terol failed to respond.
Marquez, who was knocked off at the first corner at the Motorland Aragon race last month, rode a superb second half to the race, the Derbi rider never giving Terol any hope that he might be able to force his way back into contention.
Marquez, who has won seven races in 2010, now trails Terol by just six-points in the title hunt heading to the Sepang Grand Prix in Malaysia next weekend.
Danny Webb strengthened his challenge for a top ten world championship finish when he claimed seventh position. He was never in the hunt though for only his second top six finish of the season, his challenge blunted with him unable to engage sixth gear on his Aprilia machine.
Danny Kent was on course for a brilliant top 15 finish when he crashed out on lap 12 at the end of the back straight. He was able to walk away with bad swelling to two knuckles on his right hand after his Lambretta machine seized.
The Red Bull Rookies Cup runner-up, who will compete in the final four races for Lambretta, was fighting for a stunning 13th place in only his second Grand Prix appearance.