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Rossi stalks Pedrosa for Sepang victory

19 October 2008

Valentino Rossi has taken his ninth win of the 2008 MotoGP season - and 150th grand prix podium - after a cool, calculating victory in Sunday's Malaysian GP at a scorching hot Sepang.

The Italian, who wrapped up the 2008 title two rounds previously in Japan, dropped from second to third at turn one, whilst pole sitter Dani Pedrosa blasted into an early lead.

Rossi put his Fiat Yamaha ahead of countryman Andrea Dovizioso to claim second by the start of lap two, and was soon locked onto Pedrosa's rear wheel. The pair circulated together for lap after lap as they pulled away from Dovizioso, who had a queue of riders backed up behind him.

Pedrosa is at his most dangerous when he is able to escape in the early laps but, having failed to do so, the Spaniard looked certain to fall victim to Rossi.

The only difficulty for Rossi was that his Fiat Yamaha couldn't match Pedrosa's Repsol Honda along the straights, even in the slipstream, forcing the Italian to plot a braking move.

That eventually came at the halfway mark of the 21 laps, and saw the eight time world champion dragging his inside foot on the asphalt as he successfully dived inside Pedrosa into a left hand hairpin.

The Italian's biggest threat thereafter was from the weather; with six laps to go white flags were waved, indicating that bike swaps were now permitted due to the threat of rain. That didn't materialise and Rossi cruised to a comfortable four-second victory over Pedrosa.

By contrast, the battle for the final podium position went right to the line.

Dovizioso, who had finished fourth three times during his rookie season prior to Sepang, mounted an admirable defence against Nicky Hayden - whose Repsol seat the Italian will take next year - for almost the entire race, with five other riders also in contention by the midway point.

That seven-way fight was reduced to six when Jorge Lorenzo, who got a bad start from the front, lost the front of his Michelin-shod factory M1 and fell from sixth position through turn one.

With four laps to go, Hayden finally got in front of Dovizioso - the American diving inside into turn one, with Dovi retaliating immediately, only to be squeezed gently to the edge of the track by Hayden.

But Dovizioso wasn't finished and threw his JiR Team Scot machine inside Hayden into the next hard-braking zone. A small mistake by Hayden then allowed Dovizioso a little breathing room, and put Hayden briefly in danger of attack from Gresini's Shinya Nakano, but the 2006 world champion was back on the #4's rear wheel by the start of the last lap.

Dovizioso, impressive under braking throughout the race, held tight lines for the final lap and was rewarded with his first ever MotoGP podium - and the first podium this season for a satellite Honda rider - by 0.3sec from Hayden.

Nakano had overtaken Casey Stoner with six laps to go and the Ducati Marlboro star appeared to be suffering badly in the exhausting 42 degree heat, but hung on to sixth by three seconds ahead of Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi.

That sixth position means Stoner has now secured second in the 2008 world championship standings, the Australian holding a 26 point lead over Pedrosa heading into next weekend's Valencia season finale.

Colin Edwards was the only Tech 3 Yamaha rider to reach the flag at Sepang, in eighth, after rookie team-mate James Toseland fell early in the race. Behind Edwards, Chris Vermeulen was the second GSV-R home in ninth, with Randy de Puniet tenth for Honda LCR.

Kawasaki riders John Hopkins and Anthony West finished eleventh and twelfth, ahead of Alice's Sylvain Guintoli and Gresini's Alex de Angelis.

The second Alice Ducati of Toni Elias was forced to serve a jump start penalty, but still finished ahead of factory Ducati rider Marco Melandri to claim the final world championship point. Suzuki wild-card Nobuatsu Aoki was 17th and a distant last.


Malaysian Grand Prix:

1. Rossi
2. Pedrosa
3. Dovizioso
4. Hayden
5. Nakano
6. Stoner
7. Capirossi
8. Edwards
9. Vermeulen
10. de Puniet
11. Hopkins
12. West
13. Guintoli
14. de Angelis
15. Elias
16. Melandri
17. Aoki


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