Marco Melandri betrayed his anger and frustration after a 'stupid' throttle issue on his Kawasaki ZX-RR restricted him to just eighth place at Sepang last weekend – and whilst he is still very much in the fight for seventh in the final 2009 MotoGP riders' standings, the Italian has admitted that his focus now is already on 2010.
Having qualified a lowly 15th around the Malaysian circuit – where he has previously finished up on the podium, with Honda two years ago – Melandri progressed his way through the field to eighth at the chequered flag in distinctly inclement conditions, but it could have been rather higher, he contended, had it not been for throttle woes that he confessed are not a new phenomenon.
Now equal seventh in the title chase with Rizla Suzuki rival Loris Capirossi, the Hayate Racing Team star is just three points clear of San Carlo Honda Gresini duo Toni Elias and Alex De Angelis and the second Rizla rider Chris Vermeulen, and seven ahead of LCR Honda's Randy De Puniet – meaning any one of the six contenders could feasibly claim the spot in the Valencia finale in just over a week's time.
“I'm very, very angry about the race because I felt very confident from the beginning, and I was sure I could fight for a podium,” Melandri told motogp.com
. “We've had many problems with the throttle in the last three races, and [at Sepang] it was also very hard.
“I couldn't open the throttle and the grip was sliding in my hands. Many times on the straight the throttle was coming back, so I couldn't use the full power of my engine and at every corner it was so difficult to open the throttle. We worked very hard all weekend, and it was wasted in the race because of stupid things. I'm lucky we still have one race to go.”
Happily, at least, that race is one in which the Ravenna native has triumphed before – racing to only his second-ever premier class victory at Valencia in the 2005 finale en route
to the runner-up spot in the championship table to untouchable Yamaha rival Valentino Rossi in just his third season at the highest level. Whilst a similar result this time around would end a largely frustrating campaign on an undeniable high, Melandri admits that his attentions are already switched rather further ahead than that.
“I like the track, I won there in 2005 and I feel good for the race,” the 27-year-old underlined. “I hope the bike's going to be working, especially the throttle! I'm looking forward to next year, actually. If we're good we can have a good race and finish [in the] top seven or eight, but the last few races have been very difficult so I have to see how the throttle is working for this race.”