Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) scored his first ever podium in a wet MotoGP race with a second place finish before nearly 60,000 fans in the rain-lashed Malaysian Grand Prix.
Tropical, torrential rains hit the Sepang Circuit half an hour before the scheduled start of the penultimate weekend of the MotoGP World Championship, which, up to that point, had been held in mostly sunny, humid conditions. Race direction moved the start to 3:35 p.m., though the riders had only their traditional sighting and warm-up laps to acclimatise themselves to the wet surface.
From third on the front row, Pedrosa got his usual lightning start before being passed on the first lap by Casey Stoner (Ducati). Stoner then sped away to the victory, his second in a row.
Pedrosa slotted into second with teammate Andrea Dovizioso third, the duo leaving the rest of the field in the mist. They circulated as a pair until the 15th lap when Dovizioso lost the rear end and crashed from third place. Fortunately, the Italian was unhurt, but he wasn’t able to continue.
Then Pedrosa began to come under pressure from Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), but the Spaniard upped his pace and held Rossi off to not only finish second, but score his fourth podium in a row and tenth of the season.
Rossi finished third and clinched the MotoGP World Championship.
Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) made it three Hondas in a row for the first six laps, and though he would fall back to finish seventh, the Spaniard was pleased with how the day finished.
Now he heads to Valencia in the middle of the a six-rider battle for seventh in the championship, but with the added advantage of home field advantage.
Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) never felt comfortable in the rain. There were rear traction issues that caused him to concentrate on finishing the race, rather than moving up the order. Going into the final race of the season, De Angelis is tied with his teammate in their battle to take seventh overall.
With very little wet weather MotoGP experience to draw on, Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) found it difficult adapting to the conditions. Still, he scored two points with a 14th place finish.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) crashed on the second lap while holding fifth position. De Puniet had gotten off to a lightning start and was well placed before the unfortunate high-side ended his race prematurely.
Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) took a giant step towards the 250cc World Championship with a thrilling, runaway win, his fourth of the year.
The Japanese rider battled with championship rival Marco Simoncelli (Gilera) for the more than half race distance before making a decisive pass on lap 13 of 20. Simoncelli stayed close briefly, but the Japanese rider used a series of fast race laps to pull away to a commanding victory. The gap was 6.3987 secs.
Simoncelli finished in a dead heat for second with Hector Barbera (Aprilia), with race direction giving the position to the Spaniard.
The decision had a profound impact on the championship. Rather than a 17 point deficit, which Simoncelli would have had had he finished second, he now trails Aoyama by 21 heading into the showdown in the season finale in Valencia in two weeks times.
That means that if Simoncelli wins, Aoyama can finish 11th or better to win the last ever 250cc World Championship for Honda.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: 2nd. “Riding in the rain has always been one of my weakest points and so for a long time I have tried to improve this by working hard and going over my limit in the wet. This hasn’t been an easy process, but now, finally, I achieved a podium in the wet, so I’m really happy and I want to thank all the people who have helped in this process. In the middle of the race Andrea was just behind and he was closing and was putting some pressure on me, but I was riding well and I was able to keep my focus and concentration. Finally when Andrea went off, another rider was coming and this time it was Valentino. He was going quite a lot faster than me, but in the last laps I kept my rhythm and was able to finish in second place. I’m very happy today. I also want to congratulate Valentino on the world championship; nine titles is amazing.
Now we go to Valencia and we’ll be trying hard again there. It’s a track that I love and there will be a lot of fans too, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Toni Elias, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 7th. “I saw the rain just before we were due to go out for the sighting lap and I thought ‘madre mía, this isn’t good for us!’ As it turned out it was completely the opposite and with seventh place and some bad results for my rivals we have actually made up more ground in the championship than we might have hoped to if it was dry. I’m really pleased with the result but also with the performance because riding in the wet is not usually our strong point. I don’t know if it was because the track temperature was higher here but I didn’t struggle as much as I expected for grip.
Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to run with the top guys again but in general we have to be satisfied with this Grand Prix.”
Alex De Angelis, San Carlo Honda Gresini: 12th.
“I was so confident that I could have a strong race in the rain today but for whatever reason I never felt comfortable with the wet setting here and I couldn’t get going. The rear was spinning up everywhere and it was all I could to hang on and bring it home in the points. It’s a real shame because this could have been a good opportunity for us to make up more ground in the championship. It’s a missed chance but at the same time my rivals didn’t capitalise on it and we are still within three points of seventh place, which is my objective when we head for the final race at Valencia.”
Gabor Talmacsi, Scot Honda: 14th. “A good start, and then the every-race chaos at the first corners, and several people making several errors. The usual stuff. With all that water on the track, the first part of the race was difficult because of the poor grip. Lap by lap, the situation improved, and my pace was at the same level of the people competing for the tenth/eleventh position. But catching up was too much, as I was racing alone. I want to congratulate Valentino Rossi: nine times world champion. Great.”
Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda: DNF. “I am very disappointed for me and the team. We had found a good race set-up yesterday and I qualified eight in this morning’s warm-up session. Then the rain storm changed the conditions completely, but I was pretty confident as I usually lap with a good rhythm in the wet. I took a good start, finishing the first lap in fifth position. Then in the second lap I lost the rear in turn three, suffering a big high-side. I really do not remember what happened, but after having watched the accident on the TV, I feel lucky because I am OK.”
Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda: DNF. “I was having a really good race and a podium would have been a really positive result for me and the team in our current situation, so of course I’m very disappointed about how it finished. Actually, I didn’t get off the line too well but in the braking zone into turn one and through the first two corners I was able to overtake many riders and climb up to fifth place. My first lap was very good and I was moving forward quickly. Once into third position, I was riding close to the limit and was closing on Dani and I definitely had my sights set on the podium finish. The Bridgestone wet tires were working well, though you always have to be careful because they are very soft. Then, during the 15th lap, the front turned more quickly than usual and it tucked.
It’s a shame today, because I was feeling good on the machine and I really wanted this result for myself and the team. However, we’ll come back fighting for the final race of the year at Valencia.”