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MotoGP Race Report: Grand Prix of Malaysia

Dani Pedrosa edged to within 23 points of MotoGP World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo with two races remaining this season with his victory Sunday, Oct. 21 in the Grand Prix of Malaysia.

But, oh, what could have been.

Pedrosa passed Lorenzo on Lap 10 of the race and pulled ahead to a 3.774-second lead when Race Direction threw the red flag on Lap 13 – eight laps short of the scheduled distance – due to heavy rain and poor visibility. The race was called a short time later, as the rain intensified and darkness approached at the Sepang International Circuit.

It was the sixth victory of the season and third in a row for Pedrosa. Lorenzo held on to finish second, his 15th top-two finish in 16 starts this season.

The result was a great escape for 2010 MotoGP World Champion Lorenzo, who made an incredible, left foot-planting save of his sliding Yamaha Factory Racing machine in a rain-drenched corner just seconds before the red flag was thrown. In a flash, pole sitter Lorenzo’s reflexes and skill saved 20 points for finishing second.

“If we were riding at 20 km per hour, it is easy to stay on the bike, but it is very difficult to find the limit in these conditions,” Lorenzo said. “They made the right decision to stop the race. For us, it was great because we might otherwise have finished on the ground and crashed.”

Two-time and reigning Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Pedrosa was just as grateful as Lorenzo to finish the race upright.

“I was lucky to be able to win this race and also Jorge to finish second because he was almost on the ground,” Pedrosa said.

Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda teammate, Casey Stoner, finished third. It was his first podium finish since winning the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix in July at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as he missed three consecutive races in August and September due to leg and ankle injuries suffered in a crash in August at Indianapolis.

American Nicky Hayden finished a season-best fourth. His teammate, Valentino Rossi, rounded out the top five in a strong showing for Ducati.

The strong performance produced by 2006 MotoGP World Champion Hayden was not replicated by his fellow Americans on the grid, as Ben Spies and Colin Edwards were not running at the finish.

Spies’ nightmare season continued as he crashed hard on Lap 8 on his Yamaha Factory Racing machine. He will miss the next race, the Australian Grand Prix on Aug. 28, due to a separated shoulder, cracked rib and bruised lung suffered in the crash.

Edwards was forced to retire three laps before the race was called due to electrical problems on his NGM Mobile Forward Racing Suter-BMW.

The championship duel between Lorenzo and Pedrosa will take an interesting twist at the next event, this Sunday at Phillip Island. Lorenzo and Pedrosa have occupied the top two finishing spots in five of the last six races, but Stoner has won his home event for the last five years.

Is the retiring Stoner healthy enough to win his final MotoGP start on home soil? Will he cede positions to teammate Pedrosa, who is within a race’s worth of points of leader Lorenzo with just two races remaining?

PODIUM FINISHER QUOTES

DANI PEDROSA (Winner, Repsol Honda Team): “This victory is really amazing for me. It’s the first time I’ve won in the wet in my life, and I’m really, really happy. I want to thank my team and the people who helped me to get here because when I started racing in these conditions, I was weak, and they know how difficult it's been during all this time. Jorge (Lorenzo) set a really high pace at the beginning of the race, and I remained calm to stay with him. I knew he was on a soft rear tire, and he could pull out some good laps at the start. Lap by lap, I got a little more confident, and I could still push. And at halfway in the race, I overtook him and built a good gap. Some laps later, the rain came down heavy, and it was hard to stay on the bike. I was lucky to be able to win this race and also Jorge to finish second because he was almost on the ground. So I'm happy for the victory.”

JORGE LORENZO (Second, Yamaha Factory Racing): “If we were riding at 20 km per hour, it is easy to stay on the bike, but it is very difficult to find the limit in these conditions. They made the right decision to stop the race. For us, it was great because we might otherwise have finished on the ground and crashed. We used the soft rear where Dani (Pedrosa) and Casey (Stoner) used the harder one. When the conditions were OK, they used less of the center of the tire, so when the conditions became worse they had more to play with.”

CASEY STONER (Third, Repsol Honda Team): “At the start of the race, I would have been very happy for a podium. I was considering not taking part in the rain at all, as the risks were very high. If I had come off the bike again and hit my ankle, it would have been game over for the rest of the season. As the race progressed, I slowly got my confidence back, and I was working on different things, as I hadn't ridden in the wet in quite some time. I slowly began to catch the front two but unfortunately ran out of time as they red-flagged the race. In a lot of ways, I'm disappointed, but I'm happy with the points haul we took today and another podium.”

AMERICAN RIDER QUOTES

NICKY HAYDEN (Fourth, Ducati Team): “Those were really tough conditions. I got a good launch, but when (Andrea) Dovizioso got sideways in front of me, I shut off the throttle and lost positions. I was able to recover, but I lost some confidence when the rear tried to come around a couple times. I had to be really patient in the beginning, but once I got rolling, I had good rhythm. It was clearly the right decision to call the race. There was a lot of water those last couple of laps, and it was almost impossible to see, although the rear lights on the bikes helped a lot. In dry conditions, I would’ve been thrilled with fourth, but I know our potential is higher in the wet. It would’ve been amazing to give my guys a podium today, but it’s a decent result. Hopefully it can help me come out of the difficult period and give us something to build on.”

COLIN EDWARDS (Not classified, NGM Mobile Forward Racing): “We had no real idea of what the rain setting was; we just kind of put what we had in Aragon. Got a good start of the race, felt immediately comfortable. There are still some things that we can still improve. Dry gearing with this bike in the rain is not really working, getting yanked off the corner so bad having to make it up on brakes and corner speed to stay with them. I had three Aprilias right in front of me and was waiting to see if anyone makes a mistake, but then something went wrong. We still have to go over the data to see what went wrong, but it was just not safe to stay on the track.”

BEN SPIES (Not classified, Yamaha Factory Racing): “What a shocking race. The water on the track was incredible. I’m really sorry for rubbing into Nicky (Hayden); I thought I had enough space to brake. I’m relieved we didn’t go down together and he was OK. It was a close one at the start, as well. Dovi (Andrea Dovizioso) spun off the line, and we were lucky not to make contact. That was one of the wettest races I’ve had in a long time.”

POINTS

Riders: Jorge Lorenzo 330, Dani Pedrosa 307, Casey Stoner 213, Andrea Dovizioso 195, Alvaro Bautista 154, Valentino Rossi 148, Cal Crutchlow 135, Stefan Bradl 125, Nicky Hayden 114, Ben Spies 88, Hector Barbera 79, Aleix Espargaro 63, Randy de Puniet 53, Karel Abraham 43, Michele Pirro 30, James Ellison 28, Yonny Hernandez 28, Colin Edwards 25, Jonathan Rea 17, Danilo Petrucci 16, Mattia Pasini 13, Ivan Silva 11, Toni Elias 10, Katsuyuki Nakasuga 7, Steve Rapp 2, David Salom 1.

Manufacturers: Honda 362, Yamaha 346, Ducati 174, ART 87, BQR 31, FTR 30, Suter 25, Ioda 9, Ioda-Suter 7, APR 2, BQR-FTR 2.

MotoGP SUPPORT CLASS WINNERS

Moto2: Alex De Angelis, San Marino, NGM Mobile Forward Racing FTR-Honda

Moto3: Sandro Cortese, Germany, Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM. Cortese clinched the 2012 World Championship.
 

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MotoGP Race Report: Grand Prix of Malaysia
 
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Pedrosa pulls to within 23 points of Lorenzo with wet victory; Hayden fourth
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