The indomitable and irrepressible Valentino Rossi took his ninth World Championship crown in Malaysia today, riding to third place in a dramatic rain-hit race at Sepang. It was the Italian’s seventh title in the premier class, his fourth for Yamaha – more than he has won with any other manufacturer – and his 163rd career podium. His Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was forced to start from the back of the grid after a sighting lap problem but he recovered brilliantly and rode a superb race to chase Rossi home in fourth place.
After three dry practice sessions the heavens opened thirty minutes before the race started and a torrential downpour ensued. The race was delayed forty-five minutes, by which time the rain had abated to a steady drizzle, but with no wet track time during practice the race had become something of a lottery. Rossi seemed to get away well but at turn one he ran wide and exited in eighth position. He then surrendered two more places, including one to his charging team-mate, and finished the first lap in tenth. For the next few laps he tailed Lorenzo as the Spaniard charged his way through the field, the pair putting on a scintillating display of overtaking in the wet until they arrived in fourth and fifth on the seventh lap. Rossi now set his sights on a podium and passed Lorenzo, surviving a huge slide in the process, before quickly pulling a gap of a second on his team-mate. He slowly began to close the gap to Andrea Dovizioso in third and looked like he would soon be within striking distance when his fellow Italian slid out, leaving Rossi in the final podium spot. He didn’t give up there however and started to reel in Dani Pedrosa, who was second, but with the track by then almost dry and the championship in the bag he decided in the final few laps to take the safe option and came home behind the Spaniard, with Casey Stoner the clear winner out in front.
Lorenzo’s troubles began when a problem with his race bike meant he had to switch to his spare at the last minute, meaning he left the pit lane a little late. He planned to do two sighting laps, as Rossi had, to get a better feel for the wet track but by the time he came through for the second one the pit lane had closed, meaning he then had to start from the back of the grid. The 22-year-old surged through the field at the start however and rode one of the races of his life to pass twelve riders and come home fourth behind Rossi. Lorenzo will clinch second place in the championship by taking just one point at the final round in Valencia, in two week’s time.
Position: 3rd Time: +19.385
“It’s great to be World Champion again, I am very proud to have done this nine times in my career. I want to thank everyone in my team, Furusawa-san, Davide Brivio, Lin Jarvis, Jeremy…everybody! This season has been very hard and Lorenzo especially has pushed me to new limits, but I think it’s been a great duel for everyone to watch. Today was unbelievable, when the rain came it was scary for everyone because all the work we’d done was then useless and we were riding ‘blind’ with the setting. I made a mistake at the first corner and then I was a long way back, so I think I did a great race to finish third! I was going to try to pass Dovizioso when he fell and then for a few laps I thought I would try to get Pedrosa but with wet tyres on a drying track it was a bit risky by then and so I decided to be safe. It’s a fantastic feeling to take this title with Yamaha again and I also must thank Bridgestone, who have done a great job with the tyres all year. My celebration was because in Italy we say an old chicken makes good soup but can no longer lay eggs! I am like the old chicken – 30 years now – but I have made another egg! That’s nine!”
Position: 4th Time: +25.850
“I want to start by giving my congratulations to Valentino and all his team. He is the champion. As for the race, today was a difficult day. We improved in the warm-up and I was hoping to have a good race, but when it started to rain we had problems to turn on the bike. We had planned to ride two laps, but I didn’t have enough time and the pit-lane was closed. Then had to begin from last position, but I did one of my best ever starts! The first corner was incredible, but as time went on I began to have some grip problems, like during the whole weekend. However it was a great race for me in difficult circumstances and we finished fourth, not so bad. It’s been a great season and I could never have expected to be fighting with Valentino like this so early in my career. Now I just need one point in Valencia and I will have my goal of being the vice-champion.”
“Every year is special but this year was very interesting because we realised from the start of the season that our strongest rival was in our garage! It hasn’t been easy but it’s been a fascinating season for everyone and we are very proud at Yamaha. We have to give huge congratulations to Valentino because this year we’ve seen him work harder than ever, and when the level goes up he puts even more effort in and this means that we, too, have all had to work even harder to keep up with him! Working with Valentino is always great fun and we are very lucky in our team. Today he showed his talent once again after a bad start to come home on the podium and we are so happy that all our work has paid off. Congratulations to Valentino and thank you to everyone in the team, at Yamaha and at Bridgestone for a fantastic job.”
“Congratulations to Valentino for his ninth title! We’ve given everything we have this year to make his life difficult on track but now he has won and he deserves this victory. This year has been great for Jorge and today he did a brilliant race from last on the grid. Unfortunately we had trouble with the race bike and had to change to the back-up one, and then Jorge wasn’t in time to exit the pit lane after his second sighting lap. It was a pity but he put on an exciting show and did so well to finish fourth. Now we will focus on confirming the second place in Valencia and then look forward to next year, when I am sure Jorge will be even stronger.”
Colin Edwards remains firmly in the hunt for a top five world championship finish in 2009 after a tough Malaysian MotoGP race this afternoon.
Optimistic of a top six challenge in the dry, two days of hard work and preparation in hot and humid conditions counted for nothing after a torrential downpour saturated the 5.548km circuit just 30 minutes before the scheduled start of the 21-lap race.
The deluge forced Race Direction to delay the start for 40 minutes but once underway, Edwards was mounting a determined challenge for a top ten in front of 59,206 fans when he encountered small front-end issues with the wet setting on his Monster Yamaha YZR-M1.
He climbed as high as 12th place on lap 13 but was unable to maintain his pace in much cooler conditions than normal for the Malaysian GP, the intervention of the rain dropping temperatures to 27 degrees.
Edwards ended the penultimate race of the campaign in 13th position, the American closing the gap on Andrea Dovizioso in fifth in the overall standings to just four points heading to the season’s final race in Valencia on November 8.
British rider James Toseland ended a difficult weekend with 15th position to extend his impressive points-scoring run to seven successive races. The 28-year-old also ran into front-end grip problems but fought hard in tricky conditions to claim a single point, Toseland confident he can finish the season in style at Valencia next month.
Colin Edwards 13th – 148 po ints
“The weekend wasn’t great to be honest. The bike wasn’t fast in the dry for some reason and I just couldn’t get going all weekend. We tried a different setting this morning and it felt better, but it certainly wasn’t a miracle spark. But with the rain coming like it did it just made it a guessing game. I did two warm-up laps behind Valentino (Rossi) p to check the conditions and from that moment the front feeling wasn’t great. Even then I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get any weight on the front and that’s exactly what happened. I could carry the lean angle I wanted but the front wouldn’t load at all, so I couldn’t get the bike turned. When it was properly wet I felt like I was upping my pace and closing in on the group for tenth, but then the tyres started heating up and I was sideways all of the time. In the final laps I was losing a lot of time. I’m going to Valencia still fighting for fifth in the championship wi th (Andrea) Dovizioso) crashing, but I don’t like taking profit from the mistakes of other people. I just want to say congratulations to Yamaha and Valentino. He’s done another amazing job and nine world titles is just a phenomenal achievement.”
James Toseland 14th – 88-points
“I wasn’t too sorry when I saw the rain to be honest because it had been a tough weekend in the dry. We went with the base wet setting but I had the same problem in the rain that I did in the dry. I just didn’t have any grip on the rear and in the wet the problem was on corner entry to the apex. So my corner speed was just way too slow to make a decent lap time. I am not out there just riding around at the back. I was doing my absolute best and trying my hardest but it was impossible for me to go any faster with the feeling I had. It has been a tough weekend but I’ll look to bounce back and finish stron gly in Valencia for my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3.”
Herve Poncharal – Team Manager
“It has been a very disappointing weekend and easily the worst for us this season. We were struggling in the dry so I can’t say I was unhappy to see the rain because I thought this would give us a chance of improving our results. Unfortunately our performance was even worse in the rain and we can’t be happy. Now we have to understand why we struggled so much this weekend. The only good thing is that we go to Valencia with Colin still fighting for fifth in the championship and the whole team is motivated to finish the season on a positive note. Finally I’d like to pass on my congratulations to Valentino and Yamaha. They have done another incredible job this season. Valentino has proven once again what a formidable rider he is, and Yamaha has undoubtedly the most dominant bike in MotoGP.”