Valentino Rossi has been a Grand Prix rider for twenty-one years. In that era records have not fallen but plummeted in the famous Italian’s wake. The 37 year old’s excellence at the highest level of motorcycle racing was re-affirmed today at another sodden MotoGP spectacle – this time in the heat and downpours of Sepang for the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix – when #46 made the top two of a world championship category for the fifteenth time in his career.
The Movistar Yamaha man finished a clear second to Andrea Dovizioso after a rain-enforced race delay and by cracking open the champagne for the sixth occasion from the last seven (and the second week in a row he has trodden the second step of the box) Rossi extended his margin in the standings over teammate Jorge Lorenzo to 28 points. With just the Grand Prix of Valencia in Spain to run in two weeks time ‘The Doctor’ is the official runner-up behind world champ Marc Marquez; the Spaniard crashing out of the running for the second week.
“My main target for today was to arrive in front of Jorge for second place in the championship, but I also wanted to win because I felt very good with the bike in the beginning,” Rossi said. “I risked too much and I made a mistake and in that moment Dovizioso was too fast and he went. Securing second place in the championship is important, the battle with Lorenzo is always very intense and we always arrive at the last race. When you beat a rider that‘s very strong, like Jorge, it‘s great and in the end it has been a good season.”
Lorenzo made a bold charge on the grippy and resurfaced Sepang asphalt to move up to third place and notch a remarkable sixth consecutive trophy at the Malaysian course; always such a popular and well received stop on the MotoGP trail. Unlike Rossi, Lorenzo still has some work to do in Valencia – the scene of his amazing performance one year ago that helped pocket the ’15 crown – and has Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales just 17 points behind in the chase for the bronze medal this term.
“Being honest, today I‘ve been lucky, because without the crashes I would have finished fifth or sixth,” Lorenzo admitted. “Crutchlow, Iannone and Marquez crashed and finally I got this podium and that‘s OK. In the wet, with the Michelin tyres this year, especially at the beginning, I had trouble getting confidence in the front tyre. It has been hard for me but after Brno we made some modifications to the setting and also this tarmac helps. We now go to Valencia with the aim to confirm the third place in the championship.”
Elsewhere through the Malaysian damp and Monster Yamaha Tech3 Pol Espargaro ensured a top ten finish in ninth place while Phillip Island victor the previous Sunday – LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow – was in contention for another podium spot until he fell on turn two and could not become the first Brit since Barry Sheene 39 years ago to own back-to-back Grands Prix.
MotoGP has dealt with a range of inclement weather over the last weeks and with the last of the triple flyaway – Japan, Australian and Malaysia - now in the history books. Valencia will turn the back cover on the 2016 saga in which nine different winners have ruled the premier class from the seventeen meetings to date. All the championships have been decided which reduces the pressure and means all-out warfare around the Ricardo Tormo circuit in two weeks; a date that also traditionally provides the first taste of 2017 with the immediate post race test once tyres have cooled and the Sunday night party has faded.