This weekend’s Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix could see Jorge Lorenzo crowned as the 2010 FIM MotoGP World Champion.
The Fiat Yamaha rider currently has a 69-point advantage over Dani Pedrosa in the championship standings and only needs to finish ninth on Sunday to lift the title now that Pedrosa has been confirmed as not racing this weekend.
Lorenzo has a solid track record at Sepang, clinching his second 250cc title here in 2007 and storming to a fourth place finish last year after starting from the back of the grid.
“This could be a very special weekend for me, the team and my family,” said Lorenzo. “I’m very excited, but I know I also need to concentrate and work hard. I just want to start the race with confidence and speed, not think too much about the points or the championship and enjoy what could be the most important race of my career.”
While Lorenzo was keen to focus on the championship during today’s pre-event press conference, the assembled journalists were more interested in talking about his wheel-to-wheel battle with Valentino Rossi for the final podium position at Motegi just four days ago. Lorenzo, however, refused to be drawn on the battle, or the war of words that followed.
When questioned about the events at Motegi Lorenzo responded, “We’re here for a big thing this weekend, it doesn’t matter what happened in the past only that it doesn’t happen again now or in the future.”
While Lorenzo has been both vocal and critical about Rossi’s riding in Motegi, the reigning World Champion is adamant that it was simply a good battle between two rivals at the top of their game.
“The battle with Jorge at Motegi was great and very funny,” declared Rossi. “I love always the battle and it looked good on television and even better from the bike. It was very aggressive and nothing more.”
Rossi lifted the world championship here last year with a podium finish and, of all the current MotoGP riders, has the most impressive record at the Sepang circuit. However, the reigning world champion is making no promises for this weekend’s race in Malaysia, where the shoulder he injured in a motocross crash earlier in the season could still cause problems.
“This is one of my favourite tracks,” he continued. “Every time I ride this track I love it and it’s very exciting. I have great memories of races and championships here. I’m curious to see how much pain I will have with the shoulder here at Sepang, as it’s a difficult track.”
When asked about the rumours that he’ll end his season early to undergo surgery on his damaged shoulder, Rossi answered, “It’s 99 percent certain that I will go to Australia and, if I don’t have any more pain from the shoulder, I will finish the season.”
After a difficult start to the year Casey Stoner got his season back on track with back-to-back victories at Aragon and Motegi. The Ducati rider took victory at Sepang last year and could still finish second in the championship with a strong run of results to close out the season.
Stoner is the only rider to win in all three grand prix classes at Sepang and the Australian would be quite happy with another win this weekend, to add to his premier class victories in 2007 and 2009.
“We came here with more confidence after Motegi,” declared the Australian. “We started well in Japan but then had a bit of a downturn followed by an upturn. It was an important race win for us. We haven’t had the best of seasons and I haven’t really been able to give Jorge or Dani a run for their money, but we’ll keep working and see how it goes this weekend.”
Andrea Dovizioso made a return to the podium in Japan and the Repsol Honda rider, who started from pole at Motegi for the first time in his MotoGP career, is another rider with an impressive track record at the Sepang circuit. The Italian clinched the 125cc World Championship with second place here in 2004 and then secured his first ever MotoGP podium with third place in 2008.
After impressing last time out in Japan, the sole representative of the Repsol Honda team is keen to fight it out at the front of the race once again this weekend in Malaysia.
“We made a really good weekend in Japan; the best this year,” said Dovizioso. “We arrive here with more confidence and our bike always goes well at this circuit. It will be an interesting weekend and there’s a good chance we can battle for the podium and maybe even the race win I hope.”
Currently ninth in the championship standings, Marco Simoncelli equalled his best result of the season so far with a sixth place finish in Japan. The Italian is confident that the consistency he showed during the race at Motegi last weekend will stand him in good stead here at Sepang.
“Motegi was a great weekend,” stated Simoncelli. “I had the pace all through practice, qualifying and warm-up and in the race I was consistent, whereas in the past my performance has dropped off towards the end. Now we are not far behind the leaders, but we need to work hard to catch them. I hope that I can improve my results between now and the end of the season, starting this weekend in Sepang.”
Earlier in the day Marco Melandri got his weekend off to a winning start by taking victory in the annual Sepang kart racing challenge. The San Carlo Gresini rider got the better of Mika Kallio in the closing stages to take the win, with Dominique Aegerter flying the flag for the Moto2 riders by finishing in third place.
Despite snapping his chain during the qualifying race, Danny Webb took fourth place ahead of Bradley Smith in fifth. Jules Cluzel and Jasper Iwema finished sixth and seventh respectively, despite a big coming together on the final lap. Danny Kent, Kenny Noyes and Alberto Moncayo rounded out the top ten.
Valentino Rossi withdrew from the event with a sore shoulder, while his personal assistant Uccio failed to qualify after one of the wheels fell of his kart.