MotoGP // LORENZO TAKES TITLE IN MALAYSIAMalaysia has seen a number of title-deciding races over the years because it sits so late in the season. As a result, the absolutely punishing heat and humidity are often compounded by the tension of a title-deciding race. What’s worse is the ever-present threat of torrential downpour which can render all the weekend’s careful preparation useless. This happened last year and threatened to screw up Valentino Rossi’s plans royally. This year, it was Jorge Lorenzo, chasing his first-ever premier class title, who would have to play Sepang just right... [read more]

Dani Pedrosa, the only person still mathematically capable of beating Lorenzo to the title, was out for the second race in a row with a broken collarbone. This meant Jorge only had to place ninth or higher and he would take the title. However, Valentino Rossi made it absolutely clear one week ago that he didn’t plan to cede his crown to Lorenzo without proving he still has the ability to battle any rider and come out on top.

Toward that end, Rossi came out strong, topping Friday’s practice session, after that, his riding seemed to falter some. When qualifying came, he could manage no better than sixth place. To counter Rossi’s unevenness, Lorenzo was never out of the top three in any practice. He also stood at the top of qualifying for much of the session. He took the top spot from Stoner early on, was deposed by Ben Spies and then quickly landed on top again. Then, from nowhere, Nicky Hayden stole provisional pole from sixth place with less than five minutes left in the session. Lorenzo wouldn’t take defeat so easily and bested Hayden with less than a minute to go. No other rider had any answer, so the starting grid was: Lorenzo, Hayden, Dovizioso, Spies, Stoner, Rossi, Edwards, Bautista, Capirossi, Melandri, Simoncelli, Espargaro, De Puniet, Aoyama, Barbera and Kallio.

Lorenzo maximized on his pole position by being first into turn one. He seemed eager to try and get away safely at the front but Dovizioso decided to tag along with him. Rossi had a terrible start, he sunk as low as eleventh place in the opening few corners. Lorenzo then fought off Dovizioso through the final hairpin to narrowly complete lap one in first. At the same moment, Casey Stoner took himself out of contention when his front end slipped out on him, as it has far too many times this season. Lorenzo began to pull away from everyone except for Dovizioso, who shadowed Jorge’s every move and appeared ready to pounce at any second. Meanwhile Valentino Rossi had been methodically clawing his way back up the order with some genuinely ambitious overtaking. By the middle of lap four he passed Marco Simoncelli to take third place. Rossi now went to work on catching the two leaders by clocking the fastest laps of the race so far.

As the laps ticked on, Rossi miraculously bridged the chasm to the front two and left little doubt he was going to become a factor at the front before the end. Sensing this, Dovizioso made his move at the beginning of lap nine; he out-braked Lorenzo into turn one and led for the first time. Mid-way through the next lap, Rossi would pass Jorge going into turn nine and commence his hunt for Dovizioso, who he passed in the exact same spot on the next lap. Andrea retook the lead going into turn one with five laps to go but Rossi got him back, again at turn nine. Lorenzo refused to be dropped, he had been hanging onto the front two the entire time. Jorge had wisely learned his lesson from Motegi and refused to take part in any real battle but remained ready to pounce if the opportunity presented itself. As the laps wound down, Dovizioso stayed with Rossi but never was able to mount a pass, Valentino crossed the finish line only 0.224 seconds in front. Jorge Lorenzo backed off his pace, figuring third place with a world title beats tempting fate by pushing too hard, the gap back to him had grown to six seconds. Valentino had produced a masterpiece designed to take as much spotlight away from Jorge’s title as was possible. While Rossi did well, nothing really trumps a title-winning race, not even a spectacular win.

Further down the order, Ben Spies took a respectable fourth place after passing Simoncelli going into lap fifteen. The battle for fifth place raged hard in the final laps with Bautista, Simoncelli, Aoyama and Hayden swapping that spot multiple times. Bautista won that battle with Nicky Hayden following him. Hiroshi Aoyama took seventh and his best finish of the season after fending off some seriously hard riding from Simoncelli (it looked like their race here last year). Aoyama did this after having qualified all the way back in fourteenth, good stuff for someone who broke a vertebra this year.

So the 2010 MotoGP title has been settled. Jorge Lorenzo is only the second Spaniard to win the title (after Alex Criville, in 1999) and the first to win 250cc and MotoGP. Many congratulations to Jorge for the achievement. Now that the pressure is off his shoulders, we can only hope to see him tangle with Rossi unfettered for the last three races. It would also be nice to see Andrea Dovizioso win a dry race as he has been painfully close to the “aliens” all year. The next race is only one week away at Philip Island, Australia. It’s an amazing track that both Stoner and Rossi do well at. Let’s hope there are still some great battles left in the year.

It’s worth noting that the Moto2 title was settled Sunday after Toni Elias took fourth place aafter his only title challenger, Julian Simon, fell and rejoined the race but was unable to finish in the points. It’s Elias’ first title, surprisingly enough, and he was so overcome by emotion that he could barely speak in the press conference. He dedicated the title to pretty much his entire family and to Shoya Tomizawa, whose number 48 was on Elias’ special celebratory leathers. He ran a fantastic year, paving the way for an expected return to MotoGP next season. If anyone doubts Elias’ worth, go back and watch Estoril 2006. It was a fantastic performance and also the last time a satellite bike has won a MotoGP race. Big congratulations to Toni.

2010 Malaysian Grand Prix // Complete Results:

1. Valentino Rossi
2. Andrea Dovizioso
3. Jorge Lorenzo
4. Ben Spies
5. Alvaro Bautista
6. Nicky Hayden
7. Hiroshi Aoyama
8. Marco Simoncelli
9. Marco Melandri
10. Randy De Puniet
11. Hector Barbera
12. Mika Kallio

Photo: MotoGP
Editorial: Jeff Winterberg

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