“I'm very happy with my race”
Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino rounded off a difficult weekend with a strong ride in today's Malaysian Grand Prix, bringing his Yamaha M1 home in fifth position from ninth on the grid.
His team-mate Colin Edwards, who started from
13th, finished 11th.
The usual hot and steamy Sepang conditions ensured that the 21-lap race would be a test of stamina for all 20 riders on the grid and, after being hampered by grip issues throughout practice, the Yamaha pair were not expecting an easy race. However some last-minute alterations worked wonders and Rossi especially was able to lap consistently at the same pace as the leaders throughout, recording the second fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap.
The Italian dropped two places at the start but quickly found his rhythm and pegged back Nicky Hayden, marking the start of a spirited ride which saw him pass four riders in as many laps. Soon finding himself in fifth with a gap of more than three seconds to Randy de Puniet, Rossi put his head down and kept pushing, trying to close the gap to the Frenchman. Despite steadily gaining ground on him to the flag, it was not quite enough and he had to settle for fifth.
Edwards too made up some places early on and looked to have ninth place secure with two laps to go. However Hayden, who had earlier dropped behind Edwards when running off the track, passed him in the closing stages and Texan was relegated to tenth place.
Today's race was won by Casey Stoner, with Marco Melandri and Dani Pedrosa taking second and third. Rossi now lies 24 points clear of Pedrosa in the championship standings, meaning he has to take just a single point during the final race to secure second place, whilst Edwards' six-point haul sees him hold on to eighth position.
The final Grand Prix of the season takes place in Valencia, Spain, in a fortnight's time.
“Of course I'm disappointed with fifth place, but I am very happy with my race today. It's a pity because we had great potential this afternoon and, if we had been able to start from the front row, I think we could have fought for the victory. We made some modifications today and luckily everything worked much better during the race than it had during practice. We were fast this afternoon, we had a great rhythm but unfortunately we really lost the race yesterday in qualifying! I took some time to find my rhythm at the start of the race but once I did I realised I had a great pace and that my bike and tyres were working very well. I tried to catch de Puniet but, even though I was a tiny bit faster than him, the difference was only one or two tenths and so it wasn't enough to be able to make up three seconds. My Michelin tyre worked very well to the end today so this is encouraging for Valencia, where we will be trying one more time to win before the end of the season.”
“I got a bad start and had a bad few corners, but once I'd got settled I managed to get past a couple of guys and push on a bit. After a while I got Vermeulen and Hopkins in my sights and I was trying pretty hard to close the gap to them, but I couldn't get closer than about 0.8 seconds. Towards the end I started to feel pretty light-headed – I was feeling the remnants of when I was sick earlier in the week – and everything was really a bit of a blur for the last few laps. I had a terrible headache and in this heat it's hard to concentrate if you're not at 100%, and unfortunately I couldn't hold Hayden off at the end. It's been another tough weekend for us but once again it could have been worse and I want to say thanks again to everyone for working so hard and keeping morale going during a difficult couple of races.”
“Valentino ran a great race today but unfortunately he was penalised by his starting position and the first lap, when he had to take some time to find his rhythm. We saw today that the pace he had could have allowed him to fight at the front, but we lost a lot of ground during practice and qualifying and this afternoon we suffered for that. Colin also made some big improvements today but at the end of the day he, too, could only do the best he could from a bad grid position. Today everything worked well, especially for Valentino, and it's a great pity we weren't in a position to make the most of it. We will try once more in Valencia and let's hope we can finish the season on a high note.”