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GP Week : Issue 172
T he shortest race of the Malaysian Grand Prix day started late and finished early. In between, another flawless display saw Dani Pedrosa do what hehadtodotokeep championship hopes alive, while worsening conditions made a fraught race for all. Scheduled for 20 laps and started on a wet track, the race got under way with mechanics warming up slick-shod bikes in the pits ready for a quick change if the sun came out. Instead it went the other way. As locals confirmed, the rain-bearing north-eastern monsoon scheduled for November had started early. Lorenzo had snatched pole and took off in the lead, but Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda was tucked in behind the Yamaha as he waited his chance. He took it down the back straight at the end of lap nine, outbraking him into the hairpin, and then slowly but surely pulling clear. He was the clear winner, no matter when the race would be stopped. “I’m really happy – it’s my first win in a wet race,” he said. He’d cut Lorenzo’s lead to less than one race win, at 23 points, after winning all but one of the last six races ... the exception when he was knocked off at Misano. “All I can do is to try to keep winning,” he said. Behind the pair, by more than seven seconds after seven laps, a brawl had piled up behind Stoner’s Repsol Honda in third. But now the rain intensified and the landscape changed with it. Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Yamaha) had worked through the pack and was chasing an ever-faster Stoner on lap ten, only to fall, remounting at the back. Behind them, Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati) had run into visor misting problems and dropped from fifth to eighth, behind Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda), who’d also had a big moment. Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha) had been storming through after he was baulked on the first corner. He had just taken fifth of Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda) when he became first victim of the pooling water. Braking for the hairpin he aquaplaned and fell, followed into the gravel 30 seconds later by leading CRT rider Randy de Puniet’s Power Electronics ART. All this left Stoner and Hayden alone in third and fourth; while Rossi was recovering pace and on lap 13 consigned Bautista to sixth. Stoner had closed to within four seconds of Lorenzo, and even had Pedrosa in his sights. He’d considered whether to risk racing. “If I tweak the foot at all that’s the end of my season. I’ve been trying to avoid wet sessions.” He’d not been confident at the start, but then it had got wetter. “When it’s heavy rain it’s my playground. If the race had gone full distance I think could have won it. It’s nice to feel slightly competitive,” he said. By now Lorenzo was waving on the straights, urging that the race be stopped. At the end of lap 14 he also lost the bike at the end of the straight, exercising a miracle save with his leg ... but allowing Stoner to get on his back wheel. He was about to lose second when the red flags came out, with results taken from the previous lap. Hayden and Rossi were spaced out in fourth and fifth, the American’s best result of the season; Bautista was still close. More than 30 seconds behind Hector Barbera (Pramac Ducati) narrowly beat top CRT finisher Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics ART), then James Ellison (PBM ART) beat Karl Abraham’s prototype Ducati back into tenth. There were points for all with only three more finishers: Petrucci, Pirro and the remounted Dovizioso. Ben Spies (Yamaha) had crashed out early after dropping to tenth; Silva also crashed, and Colin Edwards (Suter BMW) pitted to retire. With Lorenzo on 330 and Pedrosa on 307, one non-finish for the Yamaha rider could change the balance of the championship. Stoner has 213, Dovi dropping somewhat on 195; then a battle for fifth between Bautista (154), Rossi (148) and Crutchlow (135). 28 GPWEEK.com // 28 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> SEPANG