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Rossi stalks Pedrosa for Sepang victory.

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.

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