Valentino Rossi clinched the ninth world title of his career, by finishing third in yesterday's FIM MotoGP race in soggy Sepang behind Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
Stoner's second successive race victory was achieved with a yawning gap of 14.66 seconds back to Pedrosa. Yet it was Rossi's achievement which dominated, as he duly defended the crown he won last year.
Torrential rain caused a 35-minute delay and left behind a saturated track, on which Jorge Lorenzo was relegated from second to the back of the grid after a technical problem on the sighting lap.
The Spaniard nonetheless surged past Rossi, who started on pole but quickly dropped back to 10th. Lorenzo was eventually to finish fourth, just behind the Italian.
As the Australian former champion Stoner began to grind out a huge advantage – four seconds in front after only two laps – Nicky Hayden, Lorenzo and Rossi jockeyed for position behind.
Before mid-race, Stoner was 15 seconds ahead of the pack, with Pedrosa and his Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso engaged in a duel for second until the latter slid off on lap 14, a victim of the greasy Malaysian conditions.
Rossi was therefore up to third and although he could never get to Pedrosa, he had done enough. Having comfortably ensured the title was his again, Rossi engaged in typically eccentric and flamboyant celebrations – involving a chicken, suitably dressed in the Fiat Yamaha rider's blue and yellow colours – and was congratulated by his nearest rival, and team-mate, Lorenzo.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards and James Toseland both struggled, finishing 13th and 15th respectively. Briton Toseland was taking part in his last MotoGP race before returning to World Superbikes next year.
Rossi hailed his own "great achievement" and explained how the weather almost scuppered his race.
"Today it went a bit like how the season has gone – because we were so fast on the dry tyres but right before the start of the race it started to rain," he said. "We had to go out on the track without any wet setting."
In the end, though, it made no difference to the 30-year-old. "It's a great achievement – and for me it's the ninth championship, the seventh in MotoGP," Rossi added.
"I have to thank all the guys from Yamaha, who are great, and all the Fiat Yamaha team, from Jeremy [Burgess, chief mechanic] and all the mechanics to all the guys that work for me, and all my friends – all the people that helped me with this great achievement."
*The British teenager Bradley Smith clinched second place in this year's 125cc world championship by finishing runner-up in Sepang after a protracted duel with title-holder and Bancaja Aspar team-mate Julian Simon, who won his sixth race of the season.Reuse content