After starting from pole position the Italian was part of an entertaining battle for positions over the first half of the race before breaking clear alongside compatriot Loris Capirossi (Ducati). Just as they have done on so many occasions in the past, the pair became embroiled in a cat and mouse chase that had the 43,182 spectators on their feet until the very last lap.
With half a lap of the Sepang circuit remaining Rossi dived past Capirossi for the final time, opening out a crucial advantage within the next two corners and denying his rival the opportunity to make a last-gasp pass in the final hairpin. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) clinched the final podium position in third place despite riding with an injured knee. Rossi’s victory moves him up to third in the championship, four points behind the Spaniard and 26 adrift of series leader Nicky Hayden (Honda), who finished fourth.
Colin Edwards managed a top ten finish despite struggling all weekend to find the appropriate set-up for his YZR-M1 machine at this track. The Texan was up against it as he started out from eleventh on the grid after yesterday’s decision to base the qualifying positions on aggregate free practice times and he struggled to make an impression after losing touch with the leading pack. The series now moves on to Australia for the second of three races in as many weekends before returning to Europe for a tantalizing double header in Portugal and Spain.
VALENTINO ROSSI (1st; 43’07.829)
“That was another legendary battle between myself and Loris – very hard but also very fair. At Brno he escaped but today I was able to hang on to him. When both our bikes are working well it is always spectacular because his performs better in some sections and mine in others so it makes for a beautiful fight. I enjoy racing with him so much because there is a lot of respect between us and a great trust – he is probably the hardest rival I have ever had but also one of my best friends in the paddock. At one point I thought I’d got away but then he appeared again and I knew it was going to be a battle to the end. He tried to break free but I stayed with him and I think we passed each other about ten times in the last few laps, it was amazing. I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everybody at Yamaha because they virtually cancelled their summer holidays to get this bike working at the maximum again and I was able to push at 100%
today. For the two Honda riders to finish third and fourth is not ideal but all I can do is keep winning races so that is what I will try to do.”
COLIN EDWARDS (10th; +19.909)
“We’ve had the same problems since Mugello – I don’t have enough rear grip and I can’t push the bike as hard as I need to. This weekend we turned it upside down but still couldn’t find that little bit of grip we need. We’ve been following Valentino a little with the setting and today I had virtually the same as him. I don’t know how he does it, but somehow he does and today I couldn’t. It’s always tough starting from so far down the grid and I tried to make up the ground but from mid-race I was basically riding on my own, trying to cut down the gap to Melandri but without much success. Luckily we have another race in seven days at a place I love so hopefully we can move onwards and upwards in Australia.”
DAVIDE BRIVIO – CAMEL YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
“What an incredible day! Another great race from Valentino and from our part all I can say is that we really enjoyed the show but we’re enjoying the 25 points even more! Valentino never gives up and his performance today was typical of him, I think that says it all. All our staff, from Japan to Italy and here in the paddock, have been working incredibly hard and this is their reward. Colin had a difficult weekend – he improved this morning but it wasn’t enough. We’re pleased that we have another race in seven days’ time at a circuit both our riders like so all we can do is keep our heads down, stay focused and do our best to hold on to this championship in the four rounds that remain.”