Mother Nature chose to add a degree of anticipation to the start of the penultimate round of MotoGP at Sepang by delaying the race due to heavy rain. Under wet conditions, Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner took the win followed by Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and title-fighter Valentino Rossi aboard the Fiat Yamaha YFZ-M1.
With 44 wins from 102 races since he joined the Japanese factory in 2004, Valentino Rossi is the most successful Yamaha rider of all time. He has 21 more wins than Kenny Roberts, Yamaha's next most successful rider.
With the third-place finish at Sepang, Rossi claimed the 2009 MotoGP Championship and his seventh-premier class title with one round to go. The Doctor, who grabbed the final podium spot in front of 60,000 fans, said, “It’s a great achievement, and for me it’s the ninth championship, the seventh in MotoGP. I have to thank all the guys from Yamaha, who are great, and all the Fiat Yamaha team, from Jeremy (Burgess, chief mechanic) and all the mechanics to all the guys that work for me, and all my friends. All the people that helped me with this great achievement.”
After the race, Rossi stopped mid-track for an immediate celebration with family and fans, included in the midst of things was a chicken dressed in a little Rossi helmet. When asked about the chicken, The Doctor explained, "The t-shirt and the celebration is called the ‘Gallina Vecchia!' In Italian we say that the old chicken makes good soup, but it's no use for laying eggs. I am old now, 30, but this old hen has made another egg today and now we have nine! As usual I thought it up at home in Tavullia, together with my fan club, and we had great fun designing the t-shirt and the helmet."
Since the Italian's ninth career title is his seventh in the premier-class and his fourth since joining Yamaha in 2004, I doubt Yamaha will be putting him "out to pasture" anytime soon.
Stoner slipped into an early lead during Lap 1 and then checked out, letting the rest of the pack battle it out for the remaining positions. The Aussie earned his fourth win of the 2009 season.
“Now I’m really looking forward to going to Valencia as it is a track which I have enjoyed for the past few years and I want to give a big thanks to my team, everyone who has supported me and the doctors who helped me out. It has been very nice to come back and get results like this," Stoner said.
The Repsol Honda team of Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso duked it out for second and third for most of the race before the Italian crashed on Lap 14, allowing Rossi to move into third. Pedrosa earned his fourth second-place finish for 2009.
Yamaha pilot Jorge Lorenzo had a bit of an upset when his #1 bike wouldn't fire. The Mallorcan was forced to ride #2, but a return to his pit box instead of joining the grid demoted him to a last-place start. After an impressive effort, Lorenzo finished in fourth.
The other Ducati ace, Nicky Hayden, traded places with Lorenzo a number of times before the Yamaha pilot finally made a pass stick. Hayden would land in fifth with Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen in sixth. San Carlo Gresini Honda's Toni Elias crossed the line ahead of Hayate Racing's Marco Melandri in eighth.
Loris Capirossi fought his way into ninth on the Rizla Suzuki GSV-R with Pramac Racing's Mika Kallio capturing the final top-ten position. Substitute Scot Racing Honda rider, Aleix Espargaro beat out fellow Honda captain Alex De Angelis for 11th.
Heavy rain left standing water in some places, but Casey Stoner was left singing the rain after winning the Sepang MotoGP round.
Rounding out the top-15 was Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards in 13th, Gabor Talmacsi on the Scot Racing Honda machine and Edwards teammate, James Toseland, who finished back in 15th.
LCR Honda's Randy De Puniet crashed out on Lap 6, but was unhurt.
MotoGP Sepang Race Results:
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +14.666
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +19.385
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +25.850
5. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) +38.705
6. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) +41.061
7. Toni Elias (Honda) +48.555
8. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) +55.557
9. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) +1'00.303
10. Mika Kallio (Ducati) +1'00.440
11. Aleix Espargaro (Ducati) +1'01.655
12. Alex De Angelis (Honda) +1'01.847
13. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) +1'10.778
14. Gabor Talmacsi (Honda) +1'15.851
15.James Toseland (Yamaha) +1'50.672
MotoGP Sepang Rider Quotes:
Casey Stoner - Ducati Marlboro:
"I didn’t get a brilliant start but I was happy to be in fourth
Weather conditions rapidly deteriorated at Sepang. Riders were forced to change to wet settings and were allowed a couple of laps for a quick test.
as we came out of turn two and by the end of the first lap I was clear by a second. I have to be honest, I didn’t expect to be so far ahead so early in the race but when I looked up and saw 3 seconds on my pit board I decided to step the pace up even more and try an escape. I kept pulling out a second a lap and then eventually decided to back it off and not take any risks. This is another fantastic day for us and I want to thank everybody in the team for their effort. We’ve struggled with the bike in the wet this season but everybody has worked so well and the difference today was clear to see. We’re really strong now and I can only see us getting stronger from here, which is great news for next season. I want to congratulate Valentino because to win nine World Championships is an incredible achievement. I’m sure that if we continue to work like this ourselves we can put up a much stronger challenge next time.”
Dani Pedrosa - Repsol Honda:
“Riding in the rain has always been one of my weakest points and so for a long time I have tried to improve this by working hard and going over my limit in the wet. This hasn’t been an easy process, but now, finally, I achieved a podium in the wet, so I’m really happy and I want to thank all the people who have helped in this process. In the middle of the race Andrea was just behind and he was closing and was putting some pressure on me, but I was riding well and I was able to keep my focus and concentration. Finally when Andrea went off, another rider was coming and this time it was Valentino. He was going quite a lot faster than me, but in the last laps I kept my rhythm and was able to finish in second place. I’m very happy today. I also want to congratulate Valentino on the world championship; nine titles is amazing. Now we go to Valencia and we’ll be trying hard again there. It’s a track that I love and there will be a lot of fans too, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Valentino Rossi - Fiat Yamaha:
"Today without the rain it could have been a brilliant race, with the four top riders fighting together, but the rain changed it, all our work was thrown away and we had to start with a bike we didn't know so well. I made a good start but I made a mistake in braking, it felt like I was braking for one year and I went wide! Of course I wanted to win but after the first corner it was difficult with Casey so strong so I went for the podium. I really enjoyed the race and I think it was great to watch."
Jorge Lorenzo - Fiat Yamaha:
Jorge Lorenzo (99) ran an impressive campaign back up to fourth after he was demoted to the back of the grid for the start of the race.
"I want to start by giving my congratulations to Valentino and all his team. He is the champion. As for the race, today was a difficult day. We improved in the warm-up and I was hoping to have a good race, but when it started to rain we had problems to turn on the bike. We had planned to ride two laps, but I didn't have enough time and the pit-lane was closed. Then had to begin from last position, but I did one of my best ever starts! The first corner was incredible, but as time went on I began to have some grip problems, like during the whole weekend. However it was a great race for me in difficult circumstances and we finished fourth, not so bad. It's been a great season and I could never have expected to be fighting with Valentino like this so early in my career. Now I just need one point in Valencia and I will have my goal of being the vice-champion."
Nicky Hayden – Ducati Marlboro:
“We’ll take a top five, that’ll work for us. I was quite excited when it started to rain because I’ve been on the pace with this bike in the wet this year and I felt I could do something special. Unfortunately I struggled a lot on the brakes in the beginning and a lot of guys came past. From there I had a lot of fun passing and fighting with people, trying to close down the gap to the lead group, but I was just missing a little bit to really go with Rossi and Lorenzo and try to fight for the podium. When Vermeulen came I knew he was a rain specialist so I pushed hard to make sure he didn’t see a crack in the door and think he could push it open. I’ve been fourth here five times so I’m only one spot off my mark! After Phillip Island it seems every time we try to get something going we have huge bad luck but I’m thankful I have a team who keep working and never give up – we’re trying to build something here together and we’re making progress. Even this weekend we were consistently up near the top. I have to say congratulations to Casey and Valentino. It wasn’t a terrible day for us either but now we go to Valencia and try to build on it again.”
Chris Vermeulen - Rizla Suzuki:
The Rizla Suzuki team of Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi riding their second-to-last race together. Vermeulen moves to World Superbike for 2010.
"I got a good start, but in turn one there was a lot going on and I got pushed around a little bit, but I came out of it ok and was able to get my head down straight away. For the first four or five lap laps I really struggled to get a feeling in the tyres, especially on the left-hand-side, but once I got that working and in to a rhythm I felt quite good. The bike worked well up until the last few laps - when the track started to dry out - and then it was very difficult through the corners, but I'm sure it wasn't easy for anyone out there. I think we had the speed for a top five today and my guys did a great job with the motorbike to be able to give me something competitive today when we hadn't done any wet testing here at all."
Toni Elias - San Carlo Honda Gresini:
“I saw the rain just before we were due to go out for the sighting lap and I thought ‘madre mía, this isn’t good for us!’ As it turned out it was completely the opposite and with seventh-place and some bad results for my rivals we have actually made up more ground in the championship than we might have hoped to if it was dry. I’m really pleased with the result but also with the performance because riding in the wet is not usually our strong point. I don’t know if it was because the track temperature was higher here but I didn’t struggle as much as I expected for grip. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite enough to run with the top-guys again but in general we have to be satisfied with this Grand Prix.”
Loris Capirossi - Rizla Suzuki:
"I don't really have a lot of things to say about today - I am just so disappointed! The team did such a good job this weekend and we thought we would have a good race this afternoon, especially after this morning's warm-up was good as well, but then for the race it rained really hard. The set-up of the bike for the wet was pretty good but I struggled a lot for the first 10-laps because I couldn't get any feeling from the left of the tires. I dropped down to 13th and I then managed to overtake three or four riders and finish ninth. The result was not really good for this track and we weren't lucky with the conditions, but sometimes things happen like that!"
Randy de Puniet - LCR Honda:
“I am very disappointed for me and the team. We had found a good race set-up yesterday and I qualified eight in this morning’s warm-up session. Then the rain storm changed the conditions completely, but I was pretty confident as I usually lap with a good rhythm in the wet. I took a good start, finishing the first lap in fifth position. Then in the second lap I lost the rear in turn three, suffering a big high-side. I really do not remember what happened, but after having watched the accident on the TV, I feel lucky because I am OK.”
Andrea Dovizioso - Repsol Honda:
“I was having a really good race and a podium would have been a really positive result for me and the team in our current situation, so of course I’m very disappointed about how it finished. Actually, I didn’t get off the line too well but in the braking zone into turn one and through the first two corners I was able to overtake many riders and climb up to fifth place. My first lap was very good and I was moving forward quickly. Once into third position, I was riding close to the limit and was closing on Dani and I definitely had my sights set on the podium finish. The Bridgestone wet tires were working well, though you always have to be careful because they are very soft. Then, during the 15th lap, the front turned more quickly than usual and it tucked. It’s a shame today, because I was feeling good on the machine and I really wanted this result for myself and the team. However, we’ll come back fighting for the final race of the year at Valencia.”