Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) scored a close second-place finish in Malaysia this afternoon to wrap up his fifth consecutive premier-class World Championship with Michelin. The Italian enjoyed an entertaining duel with ...
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team YZR-M1-Michelin) scored a close second-place finish in Malaysia this afternoon to wrap up his fifth consecutive premier-class World Championship with Michelin. The Italian enjoyed an entertaining duel with winner Loris Capirossi (Ducati Marlboro Team), eventually crossing the line less than two seconds down on his fellow Italian. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin) finished fourth after establishing a new lap record during the early stages of the race, run in sweltering 40-degree heat. Michelin riders filled four of the first six finishing positions and currently hold seven of the top eight places in the points standings after 13 of 17 rounds.
Rossi led for two laps just after half-distance, eventually settling for second to secure the crown with four races remaining. Hayden was right with the two Italians for much of the 21 laps, riding as spectacularly as ever, before slipping to fourth. But while the race was a thriller it was also slower than expected. The Sepang race record was broken by just 1.6 seconds, much less than is usual in an era of spiralling MotoGP performance, probably due to poor track conditions.
"Our congratulations to Valentino for the title, to Loris for the win and to Nicky for the lap record," said Michelin motorcycle competitions chief Nicolas Goubert. "Valentino showed how good he is because he had a tough time in practice and yet he had the resources to fight for the lead and get a good result. Also, we're sorry for Sete (Gibernau, Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V- Michelin) who fell on lap two after running such a strong pace in warm-up; for sure he would've been in the fight for the win if he hadn't crashed. Overall I'm a bit disappointed because the race pace wasn't so fast. In winter testing here Valentino was averaging 2m 02s laps on race tyres, today it was 2m 04s, so we have to learn from that. That's what is good about racing - you always learn something! Now we go to Qatar and Phillip Island and we will see what happens there--"
Rossi was ecstatic with his title success, just one week after he'd crashed out of the Japanese GP, also taking out Marco Melandri (Telefonica Movistar Honda RC211V-Michelin). "Today was difficult because we had some problems in practice and there was a lot of pressure on me for the title, especially after my mistake at Motegi," he said. "For sure it's harder to win the title in this situation than to win a race when everything is okay. I tried my maximum like every time, using different tactics from Motegi. I recovered step by step, taking advantage of other riders' mistakes to arrive with the leaders. Once I was in the top three behind Nicky, I thought my job for the title is finished but for a while I was able to have a good fight with Loris."
Hayden crossed the line behind Carlos Checa (Ducati Marlboro Team) but ahead of Melandri and Max Biaggi (Repsol Honda Team RC211V-Michelin). "The first few laps were kinda fun but I couldn't hold the pace in the end," said the American. "Michelin did a great job to give us something for the race that really gave us a chance to fight. Fourth isn't what I wanted but I learned a lot mixing it with Valentino, Capirossi and Checa."