There was a great Moto GP race at Sepang in Malaysia this weekend past. The fact that it wasn’t for the lead didn’t detract from the excellence of the spectacle at all.
Up front, Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa grabbed the lead from the pole, followed by the JiR Scot rider Andrea Dovizioso (who’ll be the Spanish midget’s team-mate on the factory Honda squad in 2009), and world-champion-elect Valentino Rossi on his factory Fiat Yamaha.
Rossi quickly disposed of Dovi, sat on Pedrosa’s ass for 10 laps, then passed him and pulled away for a dominant win. Pedrosa rode to a lonely second, as Dovi dropped back into the clutches of half a dozen riders – this was what made the race worth watching.
It was Rossi’s ninth win of the season. "I am so happy with this win today because all of the toughest championships of my career, including with Yamaha in 2004, have been won with nine victories. Of course that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win again next week, but for now I like this number!"
He added, "Today was incredibly hard because it was so hot," which was hardly an exaggeration. An air temperature in the low 40s, soaking wet humidity, and track temperatures over 60 degrees meant the race was a serious physical endurance contest.
The group fighting over third – Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden on the second
factory Honda, Shinya Nakano on the San Carlo Gresini Honda, Casey
Stoner on the factory Marlboro Ducati, Loris Capirossi on the Rizla
Suzuki, and Colin Edwards on a Tech 3 Yamaha were all scrapping like
mad for the last podium spot.
The last third of the race saw Hayden all
over Dovizioso, but the Italian rode a beautifully defensive (albeit
still bloody fast) line and didn’t cave to the Kentucky rider’s
pressure. On one lap the two passed each other four times – great
The ride of the day, however, had to be from Shinya Nakano, who is unreasonably looking to be out of a Moto GP berth in 2009. The guy started 15th and rode a superb race to finish fifth just behind Hayden; seriously impressive.
Not impressive were the Kawasakis, again nowhere, Marco Melandri on the second factory Ducati who finished second-last (he’s going to Kawasaki in 2009, which makes you scratch your head a bit), and Chris Vermeulen on the second Rizla Suzuki, who was ninth, two spots behind his team-mate Capirossi.
Honestly, it’s another head-scratcher why Suzuki has signed him back for 2009 along with the aging Capirossi when they had a young talent like Ben Spies panting for a ride … who’s since signed with Yamaha for World Superbike.
Oh well, as usual nobody asked CMG before making their rider choices.
2007 world champion Casey Stoner rode a quiet, conservative race, finishing sixth with little drama. He desperately needs an operation on his left wrist to repair a damaged scaphoid (he’s been having trouble with race distances as the pain and weakness increase), and since he locked up second in the championship at Sepang he’d probably be wise to skip the last race at Valencia in Spain next week and get the operation in.
As usual at the post-race press conference, Rossi was cheerful and chatty, while Pedrosa looked and acted as though his dog had just died. In fact, it was Rossi who lost his; if you’ve ever noticed the bulldog decal on Rossi’s bikes, it’s modelled after his real-life bulldog Guido.
Guido died a week and a half ago, and this time he was still on the bike, albeit with wings and a white robe. As noted Moto GP scribe Julian Ryder put it so nicely, "It’s so much more interesting talking about Rossi’s dog (he’s getting another one) than tyres, don’t you think?"
October 26, Valencia in Spain, last Moto GP race of the year.