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Dani Pedorsa took his first wet weather victory to complete a hat-trick of wins at a rain-curtailed Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang this evening. With several riders falling foul of the treacherous conditions, the 20-lap race was red-flagged on Lap 14 as the rain intensified and did not abate until a restart was called off.
Pedrosa got the better of championship rival Jorge Lorenzo for yet another outing, beating him to second place having spent most of the race at his tail sizing him up for that decisive overtaking move. He takes away 5 more points from the Yamaha rider's lead, which now stands at 23 points, but at this rate he is running out of races with two rounds remaining.
Casey Stoner took a strong third place to round off the podium in only his second race back from the ankle injury which saw him miss three races after Indianapolis.
The weekend began with a tribute to Marco Simoncelli who tragically lost his life at the event a year ago. All riders and paddock people unveiled a plaque in his honour at Turn 11 which was the site of the accident.
In the prelude to the weekend, the dry practice sessions were headed by Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa, with most of the frontrunners opting not to run in the Friday afternoon session which was hit by rain. It was Lorenzo, however, who came out on top in qualifying on Saturday, breaking the circuit lap record to take his seventh pole position of the year. Pedrosa was two-tenths of a second behind in second with Andrea Dovizioso on the Tech 3 Yamaha for company in 3rd. Stoner managed a 4th on the grid on the other factory Honda, a good effort despite not yet being 100 percent fit. Cal Crutchlow on the second Tech 3 Yamaha machine was 5th, ahead of Ben Spies for Yamaha Factory Racing. Hector Barbera put in a great performance to qualify a high 7th for Pramac racing, beating the likes of Stefan Bradl and Nicky Hayden on their LCR Honda and Ducati machines respectively, while Alvaro Bautista rounded off the top ten for San Carlo Gresini Honda. Valentino Rossi was a disappointing 11th on his Ducati, clear of the top CRT bike of Aleix Espargaro in 12th.
On race day, the start was delayed to accommodate overruns from the preceding Moto2 event. The race was declared wet at the start in light of the continual rain lashing down on the track. As the lights went out, Lorenzo won the drag race to Turn 1 to make the holeshot, with Pedrosa tucking behind his compatriot. As happened in Motegi, the pair was a cut above the rest of the pack and began opening a gap to third placed Stoner.
The Hondas were on the harder compound rear Bridgestone tyres, while Lorenzo chose the softer compound which was stronger in the initial part of the race. Pedrosa could stick with Lorenzo quite comfortably, and as the rain began to worsen by lap 10, made the move on the final hairpin in the lead up to the start-finish straight. He was covering for the possibility of an early end to the race due to the heavy rain, and once past, could pull away from Lorenzo who was now struggling on his tyres with too much water on track. The Yamaha was getting within the sights of Stoner who was rapidly gaining on him, but no sooner had Lorenzo had a massive wobbling moment at the hairpin, than the red flag was out on Lap 14. The weather at this point was well and truly unsafe for racing, with several riders crashing out in the space of two laps.
Race Direction waited for the rain to abate but it only grew worse and with daylight fading, the mooted restart was not to be. The results stood as they were at the end of lap 14, and since two-thirds of the race distance was completed, full points were awarded.
Further afield there was much action in the fight for the non-podium places. Dovizioso had a slow start, spinning his rear wheels to lose ground and was down in 6th by the end of lap 1. Stoner capitalized with a move up to third, a position which he kept till the flag although he treaded gingerly in the first few laps to gain confidence in the wet. Bradl was up in 4th on lap 1, but was immediately overtaken by Dovizioso and Rossi, who had a blinding start from 11th and was briefly ahead of the Tech 3 rider. The Italian pair stuck together till lap 9, when Rossi lost a chunk of time to fall down to 9th.
The other Ducati of Hayden had worked his way up from 8th on Lap 1 to 5th by this point, having passed Bautista, Bradl and Rossi. Then came the spate of incidents- Ben Spies was the first to go off form 10th, hurting his shoulder, followed by Dovizioso who was able to rejoin after his slide into the gravel. A lap later it was teammate Crutchlow's turn for an off at the final hairpin, who watched Randy de Puniet coming in his direction retiring in almost identical fashion. Ivan Silva also had a fall riding his Avintia bike, as did Bradl from 6th position.
The quick succession of retirements left Hayden in 4th, with Rossi having regained some of the lost positions to be back in 5th, 6 seconds down. He just pipped Bautista who had to settle for 6th, in front of Barbera, who gained the most from the incidents, in 7th. Espargaro was the top CRT bike in a high 8th place, ahead of James Ellison and Karel Abraham.
The result leaves Lorenzo at 330 points at the head of the standings, with Pedrosa at 307. Honda's lead in the constructor's championship is now 16 points at 362, while Repsol Honda were crowned team champions with their 537 points now unbeatable at the top.
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