Valentino Rossi successfully defended his MotoGP World Championship title with a second-placed finish in the Marlboro Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix on Sunday. Rossi clinched the title for Yamaha with four races to spare after a daring battle for victory with Loris Capirossi, who went from pole position to the top step of the podium for the second time in seven days after taking his first win of the season at Motegi in the previous round. Rossi started from seventh on the grid but swiftly arrived at the front and took the challenge to Capirossi until the final seven laps, when the Ducati rider launched an unstoppable charge to the chequered flag.
"I am very happy because I gave more than 100% in the race today," said Rossi. "We have been in trouble all weekend and this morning I wasn't sure if I would finish on the podium. But I got a good start and rode a clever race whilst other riders seemed nervous and made mistakes. Little by little I moved to the front and I felt comfortable with the bike. I passed Hayden and then swapped positions with Capirossi a couple of times. In the last seven laps he changed gear and I couldn't chase him. Anyway, I am World Champion for the seventh time, which is incredible!"
Capirossi capped off an incredible day for Italian motorsport fans, taking back-to-back victories for the first time in his career. The day was complete for Ducati as Capirossi's team-mate Carlos Checa rounded out the podium, his first top-three finish for the factory following on from fourth place at Motegi. "It was a difficult race because I knew I had a seven-time World Champion chasing me so the pressure was very high," said Capirossi, who moved up to third place in the championship. "Thankfully the Bridgestone tyres worked well in the second half of the race and I was able to escape. To win two races in a row is unbelievable to me and I want to thank everybody at Ducati and Bridgestone."
Nicky Hayden challenged Capirossi for the lead after an excellent start to the race from the second row of the grid, eventually dropping back to fourth place following a determined but ultimately futile resistance for third under pressure from Checa. Fellow Honda youngster Marco Melandri also put on an impressive performance, fighting the pain of 35 stitches in his right foot to hold off Max Biaggi for fifth place and stay in the battle for the coveted runner-up spot with four rounds remaining.
Colin Edwards now lies fourth behind Capirossi, just two points ahead of Melandri, after struggling to tenth place today behind Kenny Roberts, Alex Barros and John Hopkins. Sete Gibernau had another disappointment as he crashed out of fifth place on the second lap, taking Shinya Nakano with him and dropping to eighth in the championship behind Barros. Nakano's Kawasaki team-mate Olivier Jacque soon joined him in the pit box after retiring with a throttle problem, after making his return to action in place of the injured Alex Hofmann.
Casey Stoner closed the gap on 250cc World Championship leader Dani Pedrosa to 38 points with his third victory of the season after the Spaniard crashed out. Pedrosa uncharacteristically slid into the gravel on the opening lap as Stoner set an unrelenting pace at the front, with only Alex de Angelis able to give chase. Sebastián Porto overcame Randy de Puniet and Hiroshi Aoyama in the fight for the final podium position, with Andrea Dovizioso also crashing on the first lap and losing ground on Stoner for second place in the championship.
In the 125cc class Thomas Lüthi made a remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder just seven days ago to clinch victory from pole position and extend his series lead to eight points over Mika Kallio. Lüthi withstood pressure from Kallio in the final laps to take his third win of the season, with Mattia Pasini returning to the podium in third place.
Source: DORNA COMMUNICATIONS
Photo: Ducati Corse s.r.l.