A mysterious mechanical failure on the very first lap meant that Marco Melandri's planned World Championship party was put on hold, leaving Telefonica team-mates Fonsi Nieto and Toni Elias to cruise to a formation finish in the 250cc Malaysian Grand Prix.

Yesterday, Nieto had thrown a spanner in Melandri's plans to clinch the 250cc crown this weekend by taking pole from the MS Aprilia star. Nevertheless, Melandri only needed to finish in front of Nieto today to wrap up the title with two races to go - but when the red lights disappeared it was Elias who led into turn one, with Nieto in second, just ahead of Melandri, with Rolfo fourth.

Nieto quickly put a move on his team-mate - only for the former 125cc ace to retake the position a few turns later, before Nieto did the job properly and promptly pulled away from the pack at a frightening rate, Realising this Melandri also put the hammer down and sliced ahead of Elias for second - but disaster was to follow...

Heading down the long straight before the last turn, Melandri suddenly sat upright and slowed with presumed mechanical problems - there was no visible signs of an engine failure - but whatever it as it was terminal and his factory Aprilia effectively 'died' soon after.

The young Italian kept remarkably composed (perhaps due to his championship lead still being a substantial 27 points despite todays DNF) and he was left to cruise around the next lap - while his MS team threw their pit board to the ground in frustration - before pulling into the pits and retirement. The party would have to wait.

Nieto found out about his rivals demise the next time he crossed the start line, while across the pit wall Melandri's unknown problem was being investigated by the very subdued works team who swarmed around the 250cc twin cylinder...

Meanwhile, back on track Nieto now looked to be cruising, safe in the knowledge that his team-mate was second - and holding a buffer over Rolfo - while Porto and de Puniet embroiled in a battle for fourth.

By lap 9 the question of team orders was raised with Elias now just 0.2secs behind Nieto - would he follow the his fellow Spaniard or be allowed to race..? If Nieto fell the title would go to Melandri there and then...

Although it seemed that Elias would be told to 'hold station' it was not quite that simple as Rolfo was rapidly catching the top two - setting the fastest race laps - and adding to the Telefonica teams dilemma.

Fortunately for them, both Nieto and Elias had enough in hand to rebuff the Italian's challenge and pegged the gap to the Gresini Honda to around 2.5secs by lap 15 of 20, while battle of the race was between Porto, de Puniet and Battaini (respectively) separated by just 0.2secs as they fought - almost physically - for fourth.

Onto the last lap and the Telefonica team-mates rode to a formation finish led by a wheelie-ing Nieto, while Rolfo took the final podium place 3.7secs back. Meanwhile, heading onto the last lap Battaini was now leading Porto and de Puniet - but it wouldn't finish that way...

Hard racer Porto picked his moment to perfection and outbraked Battaini midway around - and immediately put his head down for a well deserved fourth. Behind him the battle raged and was decided in Battaini's favour only at the flag.

A notable performance came from home hero Sharol Yuzy who having scored points for ninth, promptly completed his slow down lap waving a huge Malaysian flag much to the appreciative local crowds delight.

On the podium 'Fonsi' pulled Elias up to share the top step of the podium in a sincere gesture of thanks to his team-mate for riding shotgun throughout.

Speaking in the press conference afterwards, Nieto paid further tribute to Toni: "In the race lady luck was on my side (with Melandri retiring). Toni was told to stay in second and I have to say thank-you very, very, much to him for allowing me to win this race."

A somewhat sort of breath Elias, due to the stifling heat and humidity, added: "Before the race I was given team-orders, but at the beginning I couldn't stay with Fonsi anyway. I later managed to catch him and it was possible to win - but I respected the team-orders. Second's not so bad - I'm happy."

Third placed Rolfo stated: "I was happy at the start, but later it was hard to keep the rhythm. It was a pity as I wanted to stay up front."

Full results to follow...

1. Nieto
2. Elias
3. Rolfo
4. Porto
5. Battaini
6. de Puniet
7. Matsudo
8. Alzamora


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