A glorious MotoGP season for the Fiat Yamaha Team reaches its penultimate chapter this weekend, with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo targeting the podium at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur. From the fresh air of Phillip Island the series heads to sticky and steamy Sepang with both riders keen to maintain Yamaha’s record of having at least one rider on the podium in every single race so far this season.
Second place in Australia for Rossi, who was already crowned World Champion at the previous round in Japan, resulted in his 149th visit to a Grand Prix rostrum and leaves him just ten short of the all-time record held by Giacomo Agostini, whom he also robbed of the all-time win record earlier this season. The 29-year-old, who is the most successful rider at Sepang with four victories, is also just 35 points short of the highest ever tally in a MotoGP season, which he shares with Casey Stoner, with 50 still up for grabs.
After back-to-back fourth place finishes in the last two races, Lorenzo has also pinpointed a top-three return as his main goal for this weekend. The Spanish rookie, who won the 250cc race at Sepang two years ago and clinched his second world title in the class with third place last year, has played a crucial part in Yamaha’s success this season, with the factory lifting the Teams’ and Constructors’ titles. He currently lies fourth in the championship and with a 37-point advantage over Andrea Dovizioso he looks set to stay there – an unprecedented position for a debutante in the four-stroke MotoGP era.
Sepang is one of the widest tracks on the MotoGP calendar, measuring 16 metres across in some areas, and always features high track temperatures in the tropical climate. With four major hairpins, and some fast and frequent changes of direction in its 5.542km layout, Sepang provides a stern workout for the entire bike set-up and its largely consistent, if demanding, climate makes it the ideal winter testing venue.
Valentino Rossi - “Looking to have fun”
“I am looking forward to going to Malaysia because we have done quite a bit of testing there with Bridgestone so we have a lot of data – not something we have had for most of this season. I was quite strong there in the winter and I hope it’s the same again this time, especially since we know a lot more about the tyres now. We have two races left and I would really like to try to win them both, plus I also want to keep up Yamaha’s excellent podium record this season. I love Malaysia and I have had some great races there in the past, plus it generally suits our bike very well so with any luck we can look forward to a fun weekend. That said, we know that Casey will be very strong again as well as others so it will no doubt be a good battle!”
Jorge Lorenzo - "I’d like to get back on the podium”
“I’m looking forward to arriving in Malaysia and going to a quite a fast circuit, which I like and where most importantly we’ve tested already this year and things didn’t go badly. We’ve scored decent results over the last four races so I’m optimistic going into the final two rounds of my rookie MotoGP season. We’ve got a couple of fourth places recently so now I’d like to get back on the podium. I hope and believe that Michelin will come up with some tyres that give slightly better performance than in Japan and Australia, where we were just a little bit short of being with the best. Sepang is well known for the heat and the changeable conditions; one minute it can be boiling hot and then the next it’s throwing down with rain. I’ll be training hard this week to stay in good shape and finish off a positive trip around the Pacific."
Davide Brivio - "One eye on the statistics”
“We have reached our most important targets for the season so the focus for us is on having fun but we also have one eye on the statistics. It would be nice to keep this podium run going for Yamaha until the end of the season and if Valentino can make the points record it will mean we’ve had a strong finish to the year, which is clearly all we want. We know Sepang very well from the preseason testing but, as with every season, by the time you come back for the race you have a whole season of development under your belt and the bike is very different. The data is useful but really we start from scratch with the setting. The circuit has two long straights, which test the bikes’ top speeds, but overall it’s a good track and Valentino likes it very much. Hopefully we can have another fun weekend, like at Phillip Island.”
Daniele Romagnoli - "Jorge has already surpassed expectations”
“Malaysia is a track we already tested at three times in the winter – once at the end of 2007 and twice at the start of 2008. We have a base set-up, lots of information and Jorge knows how to ride the bike here. If you look at the results so far this season Michelin have done well at tracks where we have tested previously so I’m sure they will be competitive again. We fought for pole position in the last round at Phillip Island and quite honestly we were a little disappointed not to be on the podium. It would be great to make up for that this weekend but whatever happens Jorge has already surpassed our expectations for him this season so there is absolutely no pressure on him – we just want him to enjoy himself and to do his best.”
Valentino Rossi : Information
Lives: Tavullia, Italy
GP victories: 96 (70 x MotoGP/500cc, 14 x 250cc, 12 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Czech Republic, 1996 (125cc)
First GP: Malaysia, 1996 (125cc)
GP starts: 208 (147 x MotoGP/500cc, 30 x 250cc, 30 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 51 (41 x MotoGP/500cc, 5 x 250cc, 5 x 125cc)
World Championships: 8 Grand Prix (1 x 125cc, 1 x 250cc, 1 x 500cc, 5 x MotoGP)
Jorge Lorenzo: Information
Lives: London, UK
GP victories: 22 (1 x MotoGP, 17 x 250cc, 4 x 125cc)
First GP victory: Brazil, 2003 (125cc)
First GP: Jerez, Spain, 2002 (125cc)
GP starts: 109 (15 x MotoGP, 48 x 250cc, 46 x 125cc)
Pole positions: 30 (4 x MotoGP, 23 x 250cc, 3 x 125cc)
World Championships: 2 x 250cc
Sepang: Record Lap
Casey Stoner (Ducati) 2007, 2'02.108
Sepang: Best Lap
V. Rossi (Yamaha) 2006, 2'00.605
Grand Prix Results: Sepang 2007
1. C.Stoner (Ducati) 43'4.405
2. M.Melandri (Honda) +1.701
3. D.Pedrosa (Honda) +2.326
5. V. Rossi (ITA) Yamaha +4.773
Jorge Lorenzo Result: Sepang 2007
3. J. Lorenzo (SPA) Aprilia +2.957 (250cc)