What Happens When It’s Time to hand Over the Crown, but Not the Win
4:48am EST — Valentino Rossi gave a masterclass on winning from well behind for the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix, going from eleventh on the first lap to the win, but it was third-place finisher Jorge Lorenzo who would get all the glory for winning his first MotoGP world championship. Andrea Dovizioso finished second after a spirited battle with both Fiat Yamaha teammates while Ben Spies and Alvaro Bautista completed the top five. Near pole-winner Nicky Hayden dropped back, but finished sixth.
Lorenzo fought off a late charge from Hayden to secure pole in Saturday qualifying for the race likely to win him the 2010 MotoGP World Championship. The American had pole in the final minute, but lost it by a tenth to the Spaniard. Dovizioso, Spies, and Stoner rounded out the top five starters for the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Rossi just edged out in sixth at the end by Stoner. Dani Pedrosa neither qualified nor raced after his Japanese accident left him revocering in Spain from surgery to a broken collarbone.
It was a scorching hot, humid, and overcast late afternoon as the race got underway with Lorenzo leading Dovizioso, Hayden, Spies, Somoncelli, Edwards, Capirossi, Melandri, Rossi, and Bautista as the top ten at the end of the first lap. Dovizioso was not allowing Lorenzo to get too far away, though the Spaniard needed only to finish ninth to clinch the championship. Rossi got a bad start and worse first lap, dropping briefly to eleventh before moving back up to ninth. Stoner, who was well out-qualified by teammate Hayden fell off on the first lap. Hayden himself had fallen behind the charging Lorenzo and Dovizioso, nearly a second and a half behind by the end of the second lap, though he had a gap of three tenths to Simondelli, gaining time as he fought with Spies for fourth. The next lap, though, was all about Rossi, who charged up to fourth, passing Spies and Hayden after Simoncelli picked them off. Lorenzo still had only about a tenth on Dovizioso, but the rest of the race involved some serious fighting, with Rossi next overtaking Simoncelli for the final podium position. He was two seconds behind Lorenzo and Dovizioso after the pass, though.
One quarter of the way through the race, Lorenzo led by nearly four tenths over Dovizioso, and the top ten of Rossi, Simoncelli, Hayden, Spies, Melandri, Edwards, Bautista, and de Puniet were covered by seven seconds. Capirossi had also fallen, but appeared to be uninjured. The close racing was not to last, however, as gaps appeared by the end of the sixth lap, particularly as Hayden had fallen more than two seconds behind Simoncelli, though he remained fifth and two tenths ahead of Spies. Espargaro was out on L7, moving Bautista up to seventh. The conditions were so hot that a Moto2 rider had been unable to complete the race, requiring help to get off the bike when he returned to the garage. Dovizioso was certainly not letting Lorenzo escape at the front, as Rossi posted the race fast lap on L7, hunting down the leaders from third. The gap was down to six hundreths from Dovizioso to Lorenzo in front, but Rossi was catching them, only nine tenths behind Dovi by the end of the eighth lap. Spies had taken fifth from Hayden, who seemed to be losing his (admittedly surprising) pace from qualifying.
Dovizioso charged past Lorenzo on the next lap, leaving him to Rossi’s devices as Edwards was out of the race with what looked like a mechanical issue. At the halfway point of the twenty lap race, Lorenzo and Rossi were separated by nothing, as Rossi took second from his teammate and rival, though without the histrionics of the final laps of the previous race. Rossi was soon three tenths ahead of Lorenzo. Simoncelli, Spies, Bautista, Aoyama, Hayden, de Puniet, and Melandri rounded out the top ten of the twelve riders still racing. By the end of L11, Rossi had charged past Dovizioso for the lead, with a nearly two tenths gap. It was seven tenths by L12, with Lorenzo another three tenths behind Dovizioso. The gap remained about the same for the top three, though Simoncelli was another seven-plus seconds behind Lorenzo, with Spies just two tenths behind him. Hayden seemed stuck in eighth, three tenths behind Aoyama and lapping faster than everyone in front of him but the top three.
Dovizioso had clawed back some time from Rossi with five laps to go as Edwards returned to the race to score points. The margin between first and second was just one tenth at the end of L15, overtaking the reigning world champion for the lead on L16, though he lost it by the end of the lap as Rossi fought back to win on the day he had to give up his crown. Lorenzo was just a few tenths behind and ready to pounce should the close racing take out both or either Italian. Meanwhile, Spies had overtaken Simoncelli for fourth, before he took Rossi’s position at Fiat Yamaha for the 2011 season. The gap between first and second was back up to a half second with three laps to go as the fighting continued for fifth through eighth, all covered by less than a second. With just two laps left, Rossi still led Dovizioso, with Lorenzo and Spies seemingly content in third and fourth, Bautista fifth (while scrapping with Simoncelli who was sixth), Hayden, Melandri, de Puniet, Kallio, and Barbera the running order. Simoncelli and Aoyama contniued their 25- class rivalry by coming together. They remained upright despite taking a very small off track excursion, giving Hayden their positions but remaining ahead of Melandri. Rossi kept the lead and the win, but the man with the most reason to celebrate was the 2010 MotoGP champion, Lorenzo. He did get the Spanish flag stuck in his chain on the victory lap and attempted to pack in the first position spot in parc ferme, but seemed overjoyed with his first win.
Final Positions for the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix:
2. Dovizioso +.224
3. Lorenzo +6.035
4. Spies +13.676
5. Bautista +15.402
6. Hayden +18.826
7. Aoyama +20.218
8. Simoncelli +23.547
9. Melandri +23.964
10. de Puniet +31.850
11. Barbera +38.579
12. Kallio +38.849
*[due to lack of American SPEED channel live coverage of the Malaysian Grand Prix, this race report was written from live timing and scoring and Twitter reports. Please excuse the occasional lack of detail to which you have become accustomed and know it will return next race]
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