In a dramatic race hit by torrential rain and a raft of crashes Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa put in a wet-weather master class to win the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang on Sunday ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner.
“This victory is really amazing for me; it’s the first time I’ve won in the wet in my life and I’m really, really happy,” Pedrosa said. “I want to thank my team and the people who helped me to get here because when I started racing in these conditions I was weak and they know how difficult it’s been during all this time!”
In a race that was declared wet from the start, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo got the holeshot ahead of Pedrosa. Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi got a good start from 11th to move into fourth within the first lap. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso, who had a bad start, was carving his way through the pack and soon got past Rossi into fourth to chase down Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner in third.
Lorenzo, having opted for the softer option wet rear tire, had a small margin over Pedrosa with 18 laps to go, who had the harder rear tire. All Yamahas on the grid as well as Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham had opted for the soft-rear, hard-front combination, with all others running with hards front and rear. A lap later however and Pedrosa was breathing down Lorenzo’s neck having closed the gap to a fraction of a second.
Further afield Stoner was leading a group, about five seconds off the leading duo, with Dovizioso, Rossi, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista and Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow.
With 12 laps remaining, Pedrosa was continuing to stick to Lorenzo’s rear wheel as the pair looked locked in a stalemate out on track.
Further back on the same lap, Yamaha’s Bes Spies suffered a heavy crash out of 10th place, putting a premature end to his race. He was taken to the medical centre to check on a shoulder injury.
Rossi also dropped from behind Dovizioso back into ninth, as his teammate Hayden fought his way up to fifth. A lap further on and it was drama for Dovizioso as he also slid out of the race, which continued to be pummelled with rain.
It was in the final turn of this lap that Pedrosa made a move stick on Lorenzo to take the lead just over the halfway point and the Repsol rider instantly looked more comfortable in front pulling a small gap.
As the grid headed into lap nine there were further crashes in the final turn as Crutchlow slid off, followed almost instantly in the same place by Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet. It was a crash strewn lap, with Bradl also losing the front of his satellite Honda, and Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva also crashing out.
Back on track Rossi looked in his element as he squeezed past Bautista into fifth. Things were also getting interesting at the front as Lorenzo was being not only dropped off by Pedrosa, but also being closed down by Stoner at a very quick rate.
The rain was coming down heavily with 15 laps left, and Lorenzo suffered a very scary moment, where he saved a near crash just seconds before the Red Flag was shown due to safety concerns. After much deliberating as to whether a re-start would be possible, conditions deteriorated, and the win was awarded to Pedrosa, with Lorenzo and Stoner completing the rostrum.
“Jorge set a really high pace at the beginning of the race and I remained calm to stay with him,” Pedrosa explained. “I knew he was on a soft rear tire and he could pull out some good laps at the start. Lap by lap I got a little more confident and I could still push and at halfway in the race I overtook him and built a good gap. Some laps later the rain came down heavy and it was hard to stay on the bike.
“I was lucky to be able to win this race, and also Jorge to finish second because he was almost on the ground. So, I’m happy for the victory, but especially happy to be able to dedicate it to Ginés, a good friend and member of the Repsol Honda Team that sadly passed away yesterday. This one is for you.”
This now puts Pedrosa within 23 point, less than one race-win, of title rival Lorenzo, with 50-points still up for grabs in the final two races.
“If we were riding at 20km per hour it is easy to stay on the bike but it is very difficult to find the limit in these conditions,” Lorenzo admitted. “They made the right decision to stop the race; for us it was great because we might otherwise have finished on the ground and crashed.
“We used the soft rear where Dani and Casey used the harder one. When the conditions were OK they used less of the centre of the tire so when the conditions became worse they had more to play with.”
Stoner was making up ground on the leaders when the race was stopped.
“At the start of the race, I would have been very happy for a podium,” the third-place finisher said. “I was considering not taking part in the rain at all as the risks were very high – if I had come off the bike again and hit my ankle, it would have been game over for the rest of the season.
“As the race progressed I slowly got my confidence back and I was working on different things, as I hadn’t ridden in the wet in quite some time. I slowly began to catch the front two but unfortunately ran out of time as the red flagged the race. In a lot of ways I’m disappointed, but I’m happy with the points haul we took today and another podium.”
Hayden recorded a fantastic fourth, ahead of Rossi, Bautista, Barberá, De Puniet’s teammate Espargaró, Paul Bird Motorsport’s James Ellison and Abraham.
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