Arnaud Vincent produced a tremendously cool ride in the Sepang heat to win today's Malaysian Grand Prix - and take a 26 point championship lead - after title rival Manuel Poggiali fell following a desperate last turn late breaking attempt.
Yesterday, championship leader Arnaud Vincent had waited until the last 30seconds of the session to take pole from nowhere, on a day when both his championship rivals - and then pace setters - Manuel Poggiali and Motegi winner Dani Pedrosa had crashed out, leaving Pedrosa (in particular) more than a little sore for today's race.
Vincent therefore lined up on pole for today's race, eager to continue his exceptional record of having scored points at every Grand Prix this year – and build on his slim 8 point lead over Poggiali. But when the red lights went out it was Pedrosa who made the best getaway to lead Vincent, Poggiali, Nieto and the rest of the 34 rider field through the tight right-left turn one.
Vincent didn't hang around and out braked the Spaniard mid way around the first circulation and would hold the lead as the top three began to break away – with Poggiali and Pedrosa soon squabbling over second.
By lap 4 of 19 Pedrosa had broken free of the San Marinese star sufficiently to capitalise on his superior braking ability and took the lead back from Vincent, while fourth and fifth placed men Steve Jenkner and Lucio Cecchinello were now less than 1secs behind the top three – and gaining – soon it would be a five way battle for the lead.
The 'fast five' continued nose-to-tail, with Pedrosa and Vincent swapping the lead almost at will, but neither looking to have any real advantage to break away – this one, unlike Motegi one week ago – was going right to the flag.
By the halfway mark fast starter Nieto had rejoined the fight at the front, making the order Vincent from Pedrosa, Cecchinello, Poggiali, Jenkner and Nieto (all separated by 1.2secs) with the second group consisting of Barbera, Kallio, Azuma and de Angelis respectively.
The order at the sharp end changed dramatically on lap 11 when the rear of Vincent's Aprilia stepped out on the exit of a right hander, forcing the 27 year old to back off slightly – dropping him to fourth behind Pedrosa, Cecchinello and Poggiali by the next turn.
Vincent wasn't going to wait for mistake from those ahead to get back 'on point' and instead swiftly carved his way past Poggiali and took Pedrosa on the brakes into turn one – putting him second behind the somewhat unpredictable Italian veteran.