Soaked Sepang Battle Delivers Double Yamaha Podium
Heavy rain saw the start of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix delayed and the race distance reduced to 19 laps, but the more than 95,000 attendees still got plenty of thrilling racing action. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo fought hard during the race to take second and third, their fifth double podium of the season.
Rossi had dropped two places from his position on the starting grid as the 21 MotoGP riders stormed out of the gates. As a result he went into the first corner in fourth, but quickly worked his way to the front over the next couple of turns. Rossi swiftly gained the lead and tried to break away but he was soon joined by Andrea Iannone. The following 11 laps were a consistent tug of war for the lead in the race between the two Italians.
The Doctor used the nimble character of the Yamaha to the fullest in the twisty sections of the Sepang circuit. With 12 laps remaining Iannone made his first attempt to take off at the front, but Rossi didn't let him escape and upped his pace further to close the gap within two laps, with Andrea Dovizioso in tow.
Studying his rival's riding, Rossi timed his attack to perfection. He wrestled his way past Iannone, followed by Dovizioso, and set a provisional fastest lap while the rivals behind him lost time battling each other. With five laps to go, as the track started to dry, Rossi suffered a problem on the right side of his front tyre. As a result he went wide in turn one, allowing Dovizioso through and after having experienced two moments the Doctor decided to bring his YZR-M1 over the line in second place, 3.115s behind the leader.
Teammate Lorenzo took the holeshot from pole on the wet track, but wasn't able to hold off an aggressive move from Marc Marquez and Iannone a few corners later, that saw him being relegated to sixth at the end of the first lap. The Mallorcan moved up one place at the start of lap three when Aleix Espargaró went wide and then took up the pursuit of Marquez who was a little more than a second ahead of him.
Lorenzo set a provisional fastest lap, but lost time and a place due to a scrap with Cal Crutchlow. Lorenzo decided to follow the Briton to the leading group and then found an impressive race pace but was unable to match the front runners. He had a lonely ride to the podium as Crutchlow, Marquez and Iannone all crashed in the later stages of the race, allowing him to grab a solid third place, finishing 11.924s from the front.
Rossi's second place earns him 20 points and leaves him second in the championship standings with 236 points. Lorenzo's performance sees him take 16 points and places him third in the rankings on 208 points, trailing by 28 points, making Rossi the 2016 MotoGP Vice Champion.
The MotoGP paddock heads back to Spain now for the last round of the season in Valencia in two weeks' time.
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
"A double podium under today's critical circumstances is the evidence the team did an excellent job again here in Sepang. Valentino rode a superb and perfect race and I am sure he would have battled with Dovizioso until the very end, if his front tyre would not have dropped so quickly on the 15th lap. He was great to read the situation at the beginning of the race and he was also very brave because he had to reject first Iannone's attacks and then Dovi's. As for Jorge, it was evident from the beginning of the race that he did not have the feeling on today's flooded track but he was patient, his riding was very smooth and he was able to manage the situation for third place on the podium. We wrapped up the triple overseas races in the opposite way we started it. Although Vale has secured the second place in the overall standings, the third place is still open and therefore we head to Valencia now with the aim of having both riders on the final podium. I want to take this occasion to thank the whole team crew and all the staff, as the last three races have been a long and intense journey."
2nd / +3.115 / 19 laps
"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. I had to fight a lot with Iannone and he was fast. After, when I went in front, I was very optimistic but when the water on the track became less the temperature went up, I was a bit in trouble with the tyres, especially with the front. I had two moments, 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. I wanted to win, but it wasn't possible."
3rd / +11.924 / 19 laps
"Being honest, today I've been lucky, because without the crashes I would have finished fifth or sixth. Crutchlow, Iannone and Marquez crashed and finally I got this podium and that's OK. In the past I have been competitive in wet races, when I felt great. Especially with pit stops I have won races, I have secured podiums and got pole positions in the rain. 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. At this track I had more grip than normal, so I had a bit more confidence and I was able to be more competitive. Maybe in the race a bit less than in qualifying, but finally because of some luck it was enough to get to the podium. We now go to Valencia with the aim to confirm the third place in the championship."
Espargaro braves Malaysian weather to seal 9th - Smith perseveres to clinch 14th
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro concluded the Malaysian Grand Prix in 9th position after powering through the treacherous conditions today at the Sepang International circuit. The beginning of the race was delayed due to a sudden downpour at the scheduled start time. However, once the GP commenced, Espargaro bolted forward from 11th on the grid and he completed the opening lap in 9th. During the next few laps, the 25-year-old slipped back to 13th, yet the Spaniard remained resolute and after running a strong and consistent rhythm, he moved into 10th on the 13th lap. Espargaro maintained his solid pace as he continued to run at speed at the physically demanding circuit and he closely monitored his times in order to keep a comfortable gap to the pursuing riders. After pushing relentlessly, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion shot across the finish line in 9th place, which marks a positive close to the penultimate round of the championship. Now, Espargaro confidently eyes up the next GP in Valencia where he will seek to seize the top independent honours in what will be his final appearance on the Yamaha YZR-M1.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team pit box, Bradley Smith bravely battled through to 14th to conclude the triple back to back GP's with another determined performance. Smith began the 20-lap sprint from the head of the fifth row of the grid and he expertly navigated his way around the opening lap, whilst impressively climbing four positions, before concluding it in 11th. From here, the British star stuck into a solid rhythm, yet despite giving his all, he was shuffled back to 16th after one-third of the race distance. However, the determined 25-year-old remained focused and pushed through the challenging conditions all the way to the chequered flag, which he met in 14th. This result marks a third successive point scoring finish since his comeback at the Japanese GP, from his knee injury, with Smith's displays highly exceeding expectations in the flyaway races despite not riding at full fitness. Now, the British star aims to conclude his six-year partnership with Tech3 on a high note in his final appearance at the next round in Valencia.
9th / +33.704 / 19 laps
"It was a very hard race today and especially at the beginning where there was a lot of water on the track but I am glad to walk away with a top ten finish and some valuable championship points. Because of the rainwater on the asphalt, the visibility was limited and the more behind you were, the more time you lost in the first few laps as there weren't any reference points regarding where to brake or accelerate, so it's been really complicated. In addition, I didn't want to risk making any mistakes, therefore we have to be content with this 9th position. However, this result has ensured my 8th place in the Championship standings, plus I am classified ahead of a couple of the factory MotoGP riders so it is pleasing to have ended the oversea races in this way. Now, we'll head back to Europe for the final round of the 2016 season, which will also be my last event with Tech3 so I'm highly motivated to do the best job that I can."
14th / +45.609 / 19 laps
"I have to start by saying that the three back to back races have been fantastic and I am more than satisfied with the results. To come back from my injury and score three point scoring finishes is much better than what I was expecting. If we look at the bigger picture, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team did a superb job as well as the Clinica Mobile medical staff who made sure that I could compete in every session. In terms of the race, it certainly was tough due to the conditions but we have to be content with another finish in the points, even if we were hoping for more. I decided to risk using the hard rear tyre but it is not a compound that I have liked in the past, even though my feeling with it in FP4 was ok on the whole. Unfortunately, with the amount of water that was on the track today, I wasn't able to generate the right temperature into the rear tyre so it was tricky but I did my best and I don't think that I could have given any more. It's a pity to end up in 14th because we've had really good pace throughout the weekend, yet we have to look at the positives and take them onboard. Now, we will have a weekend off and then I will head to Valencia, ready for my final appearance with the Tech3 team, where I will do my absolute best."