There would have been a time in the past when Dani Pedrosa would have crumbled in conditions as bad as those that severely disrupted the Malaysian Grand Prix. But with rain lashing down to provide the toughest conditions imaginable, Pedrosa buried his wet weather jinx in emphatic fashion to claim a first ever Grand Prix victory in the rain.
Pedrosa mastered the diabolical conditions with such aplomb that it was hard to remember how rain races had previously been the big thorn in his side. It has taken his entire career to this point to build up his delicate confidence in the rain. He has worked tirelessly when confronted with rain conditions in MotoGP. And away from the paddock he has honed his skills to master the technique of being as fast and competitive in the rain as he is in the dry.
How he has gone from being so slow and timid in the rain to be unbeatable in yesterday’s Malaysian monsoon will remain a closely guarded secret. But whatever he has done to instill such speed and confidence in the rain ensured he kept the pressure on compatriot Jorge Lorenzo in the 2012 title chase.
Yesterday’s win in a shortened race, as the weather made conditions too dangerous to ride in was his third in a row. Never before in his MotoGP career has he embarked on such a hot streak of form. He’s now won five out of the last six races and Honda eight out of the last 10, and he trails Lorenzo by 23-points with just two races remaining.
With Lorenzo still to finish lower than second in the 15 races he’s seen the checkered flag this season, the title though still appears to be a long shot for Pedrosa.
Dani Pedrosa agreed with race direction in their decision to cut the race at Sepang short due to unsafe conditions.
He said: “I just try to keep focused and riding well and that’s all I can do. But I am so happy because in the wet I knew I had to start the race and try and have a good feeling. We didn’t practice in the wet at all this weekend but right from the start it was good. This is my first ever victory in the wet, so I am very happy because I worked very hard to improve in this area. I was very weak when I started racing and it takes a lot of time for me to learn and get more confident. I am really happy and I want to thank all those people that helped give me confidence. It was a very tough race and at the beginning Jorge was very fast, so I just tried to follow and not to lose too much time. I knew he was on the soft rear so he could do some good laps in the beginning but lap-by-lap I get more confident and I can still push. At halfway I tried to pass and make a gap and some laps later the rain came really heavy and it was really hard in the last lap.”
Pedrosa agreed the race could not have continued for much longer as aquaplaning and visibility became major issues.
“Maximum we could have gone for one more lap. Some parts of the track the water was getting very deep and the last time I was on the straight I was at half throttle in every gear. When I see the red flag I thought immediately it was over but when I came in I see they didn’t allow us to go to the Parc Ferme, so then I was a bit confused about doing a race for six laps.”
With no sign though of the torrential rain easing, the scheduled restart over seven laps was abandoned and full world championship points were awarded.
Casey Stoner considered pulling out of the race at Sepang, afraid of the consequences should he have crashed while still recovering from a broken right ankle.
Stoner Podiums After Near DNS
Casey Stoner made a welcome return to the MotoGP podium in dreadful conditions at the Sepang International Circuit after the reigning world champion had pondered withdrawing from the Malaysian Grand Prix. Conscious of the consequences should he crash and further damage a slowly recovering right ankle injury, the Aussie came close to pulling out of the scheduled 20-lap race as rain battered the Sepang track. The Repsol Honda rider did start the race and he secured his first podium since he won the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca in July with a hard earned third behind dominant Spanish duo of Pedrosa and Lorenzo.
Stoner, who is bidding for a sixth straight win on home soil at Phillip Island this weekend, said: “When I saw it was raining I wasn’t feeling overly good about getting on the bike to be honest and I highly considered not doing the race. I know how big of a risk it is if I crash and hurt my ankle again and I am out for the season. In a normal crash you can bash your foot and not have a problem at all but if I do any damage to it is game over for my season and that’s not the way I want to end the season. I was hoping for a dry race until the heavens opened and we decided to go out. I struggled a lot at the beginning of the race getting any feeling and confidence. I haven’t ridden in the wet for a long time, maybe the Sachsenring. To be back on the bike in the wet on a track where there’s not a lot of grip, I was nervous and tense and not riding well and Dani and Jorge rode off into the distance. From that point I just wanted to cover the position I had and trying to stay on the podium. But I got more confident and better feeling and I reduced the gap they kept pulling out. When a bit more rain came this gave me an advantage and I felt more comfortable and if it had continued but not as bad as it was, I think we had a very good chance of fighting for the victory.”
The race was stopped with seven laps remaining as conditions deteriorated and the double MotoGP world champion believes the right decision was taken, even though he had closed right up on Lorenzo in the battle for second. The Spaniard almost crashed in the braking zone for the last corner just seconds before the red flags were displayed and had the race continued Stoner could have taken four more points away from Lorenzo to help teammate Pedrosa’s bid to capture an elusive first world title.
Stoner said: “I think one or two more laps and it would have been really impossible but before that we didn’t have huge puddles in the corners and we have ridden with this in the past. I’m sure we could not have finished the race distance. To stop the race before it was stopped would not have been correct but the only time I thought it was getting close to dangerous was the last time we crossed the finish line. Then there was quite a lot of aquaplaning but we have ridden in much worse conditions and it has been as bad as this many times before.”
Casey Stoner riding at Phillip Island in 2011. The track will honor Stoner this year by naming Turn 3 after him in a ceremony before competition begins in the penultimate round of the 2012 season.
Phillip Island Turn 3 Named after Stoner
The Phillip Island track in Australia will honor reigning world champion Stoner by naming its Turn 3 after the Repsol Honda rider later this week. A special naming ceremony will take place at Turn 3, which is one of Stoner’s favorite corners on the 18-round world championship calendar, on Thursday morning ahead of his farewell appearance in front of his home crowd this weekend.
Stoner becomes the third Australian MotoGP world champion to have a corner named after him at Phillip Island. The start/finish straight is named the Gardner Straight after 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner. And the first turn is called Doohan Corner after five-time World Champion Mick Doohan.
Stoner is bidding for an unprecedented sixth consecutive victory in his home race having not been defeated at the spectacular and super fast Phillip Island track since his first championship-winning year with Ducati in 2007. The 27-year-old will retire from racing after next month’s Valencia race.