Valentino Rossi claimed his seventh MotoGP title and his ninth world championship in total by fighting back to third in a wet Malaysian Grand Prix dominated by Casey Stoner.
While Stoner (Ducati) blitzed the field from the outset, Rossi had to recover from a first corner error that dropped him to the foot of the top ten to take third behind Dani Pedrosa’s Honda.
Rossi’s title rival and Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo had to start last and recovering to fourth was insufficient to prolong the championship fight.
The race was delayed by nearly 40 minutes due to a massive downpour, and although the rain eased considerably, the track was never ready for slick tyres.
Lorenzo was demoted to the back of the field when he had to change to his spare bike and failed to get out of the pitlane in time to join the grid.
But it looked like he would swiftly overcome this setback, for while Lorenzo immediately gained ground off the line, Rossi ran wide at the first corner and dropped from first to eighth – right in front of his flying team-mate. Both Lorenzo and Marco Melandri then passed the cautious Rossi before the opening lap was over, and it took several failed attempts before Rossi was able to re-pass the Hayate Kawasaki.
Lorenzo picked his way past Loris Capirossi (Suzuki), Nicky Hayden (Ducati) and Toni Elias (Gresini Honda) – overtaking Hayden three times in total as the American kept fighting back – but Rossi was shadowing his every move, and that was no good for the Spaniard, who needed a lot of bikes between them.
Although following Lorenzo to the flag would have guaranteed the title for Rossi, he was not prepared to do that and overtook his team-mate to move into fourth on lap eight.
Up front, Stoner soon passed Pedrosa for the lead and then stormed away at 2s per lap in the first half of the race, before backing off and cruising to a brilliant second victory in seven days.
Pedrosa came under pressure from his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso until the Italian crashed at Turn 5 late on, allowing Rossi to celebrate his championship victory from the podium.
Randy de Puniet was the only other rider to crash out in the difficult conditions. The LCR Honda rider had a vicious high speed high side while running fifth on lap two but escaped serious injury.
Hayden completed the top five ahead of Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, who lived up to his wet weather ace reputation by steadily advancing from his initial 14th place.
His team-mate Capirossi went in the opposite direction, before recovering to ninth behind Elias and Melandri, and just in front of Pramac Ducati pair Mika Kallio and Aleix Espargaro, and Alex de Angelis (Gresini Honda).
James Toseland’s awful weekend got worse as he finished a distant last, but his Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards also floundered with his wet settings and trailed home 13th.
Pos Rider Bike Time/Gap 1. Casey Stoner Ducati 47m24.834s 2. Dani Pedrosa Honda + 14.666s 3. Valentino Rossi Yamaha + 19.385s 4. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha + 25.850s 5. Nicky Hayden Ducati + 38.705s 6. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki + 41.061s 7. Toni Elias Gresini Honda + 48.555s 8. Marco Melandri Hayate Kawasaki + 55.557s 9. Loris Capirossi Suzuki + 1m00.303s 10. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati + 1m00.440s 11. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati + 1m01.655s 12. Alex de Angelis Gresini Honda + 1m01.847s 13. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha + 1m10.778s 14. Gabor Talmacsi Scot Honda + 1m15.851s 15. James Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha + 1m50.672s Retirements: Andrea Dovizioso Honda 14 laps Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1 lap Matt Beer - autosport.com
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