Dani Pedrosa earned his first wet condition race win at Sepang, giving him six victories this season so far.
The weather took a turn for the worse at the Malaysian Grand Prix and riders were faced with the difficult task of contesting the main event on a fully drenched track for the first time all weekend. Conditions worsened through the course of the race and officials eventually red flagged the event after 13 laps and a number of crashes. After waiting to see if conditions would improve the contest was called off, giving Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa his third consecutive win of the season. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo took second and was followed by Pedrosa’s teammate Casey Stoner in third.
As has been the case in recent races, Lorenzo and Pedrosa came off the start and immediately pushed to the front. The Mallorcan gained the early advantage, but couldn’t shake the Repsol rider from his rear tire. Pedrosa made his move to the front after nine laps and once in the lead began to build a gap on his Yamaha rival, going on to win the first wet race of his career.
“This victory is really amazing for me; it’s the first time I’ve won in the wet in my life and I’m really, really happy,” said Pedrosa. “Jorge set a really high pace at the beginning of the race and I remained calm to stay with him. I knew he was on a soft rear tire and he could pull out some good laps at the start. Lap by lap I got a little more confident and I could still push and at half way in the race I overtook him and built a good gap.”
Lorenzo almost went to the ground just before the red flags were shown, bobbling as he entered Turn 15 in the increasingly hazardous conditions. He’d put his hand up a number of times prior to the scare in what seemed an appeal to officials to stop the race. Rain was pelting the track at that point and in some areas riders risked hydroplaning on the large puddles that had formed.
Lorenzo led for the opening laps of the race, but couldn’t keep Pedrosa from passing on Lap 9 of the shortened contest.
“If we were riding at 20km per hour it is easy to stay on the bike but it is very difficult to find the limit in these conditions,” said Lorenzo. “They made the right decision to stop the race, for us it was great because we might otherwise have finished on the ground and crashed.”
Stoner considered pulling out of the race all together due to the precarious conditions at the start, not wanting to risk further injury to his already impaired ankle. He found a good pace during the competition though and was nearing Lorenzo prior to the red flag.
“At the start of the race, I would have been very happy for a podium,” said Stoner. “I was considering not taking part in the rain at all as the risks were very high —if I had come off the bike again and hit my ankle, it would have been game over for the rest of the season. As the race progressed I slowly got my confidence back and I was working on different things as I hadn’t ridden in the wet in quite some time. I slowly began to catch the front two but unfortunately ran out of time as the red flagged the race.”
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden took his best result of the season, finishing fourth after battling back from a tough start which left him in eighth. His teammate, Valentino Rossi, finish in fifth after staging his own comeback from ninth place. In addition to the weather and low visibility, Rossi also ran into trouble with fog developing in his visor and he almost went down at one point trying to clear the issue.
“Our race wasn’t bad because I got a great start despite being so far back, on the fourth row, and then I managed to be pretty fast,” said Rossi. “I was riding with Dovizioso and Stoner, when unfortunately I started having some problems with my visor fogging, and in those extreme conditions, with low light and a lot of water, it was very difficult. I made a mistake in turn 7, and I was lucky not to crash.”
Cal Crutchlow (35) was one of a number of riders to go down in the treacherous conditions at Sepang.
A number of riders weren’t so lucky as there were a series of crashes after the opening eight laps. Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies was one of the first to go down in a nasty high-side through Turn 7. He was taken to the medical center for examination, but according to Team Manager Massimo Meregalli, Spies was spared of any serious injuries. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl also slid out in separate incidents though Turn 7. Dovi was able to re-join the race in 14th, but the contest was called soon after and he finished the day in 13th. Cal Crutchlow, Dovi’s teammate, also crashed out of the competition, two laps before the contest was called off.
“It has been a pretty disappointing weekend to be honest and another DNF has really hurt my chances of finishing fifth in the Championship because Valentino and Alvaro were behind me in the race,” said Crutchlow. “When I crashed the rain had really started to fall heavily and I was braking upright. I must have hit some standing water but I was down with no chance to save it.”
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista took sixth and was followed by Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera in seventh. Leading the CRT effort was Aleix Espargaro of Power Electronics Aspar in eighth. Paul Bird Motorsports’ James Ellision took one of his best results of the season in ninth and Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham rounded out the top-10. Espargaro’s teammate Randy de Puniet was another rider who crashed out of competition, and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards retired after pulling into the pits with mechanical issues.
Lorenzo remains the points leader overall and holds a 23-point advantage over Pedrosa. The Repsol rider kept hope of a championship title alive with his sixth race win of the season. Stoner remains third, putting a bit of distance between himself and Dovizioso, who remains in fourth.
Sepang podium with Dani Pedrosa (center) in first, Jorge Lorenzo (left) in second and Casey Stoner (right) in third.
MotoGP Sepang Results 2012:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
3. Casey Stoner (Honda)
4. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
5. Valentino Rossi (Ducati)
6. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
7. Hector Barbera (Ducati)
8. Aleix Espargaro (ART)
9. James Ellison (ART)
10. Karel Abraham (Ducati)
11. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter)
12. Michele Pirro (FTR)
13. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha)
MotoGP Championship Points 2012:
1. Jorge Lorenzo, 330
2. Dani Pedrosa, 307
3. Casey Stoner, 213
4. Andrea Dovizioso, 195
5. Alvaro Bautista, 154
6. Valentino Rossi, 148
7. Cal Crutchlow, 135
8. Stefan Bradl, 125
9. Nicky Hayden, 114
10. Ben Spies, 88