Dani Pedrosa won yesterday's GP at Malaysia with a gap of almost 3 seconds over his teammate, Marc Marquez. It was a 20-lap race that had turned processional after half distance after Marquez managed to finally make a pass stick on Jorge Lorenzo for second.
But until that point, the two were involved in a fierce fight in which Lorenzo played harder than ever with the young Marquez. There was some fairing contact at one point, as well as some forceful riding that made the temperature of the race increase more than already hot and muggy 90˚F ambient conditions. Seen from the outside it was a clear payback by Lorenzo after all the discussions about the “not clean riding” of Marquez. Lorenzo and Pedrosa in particular bitterly criticized the newcomer, who simply said afterwards, “Things which do not interest me just go in through one of my ears and come out through the other.”
Marquez had been the fastest guy in practice, but as usual, due to one of his classic poor starts he arrived at the race first corner third, behind Lorenzo and Pedrosa. In the first moments Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista joined the trio forming an unusual five-rider group. It was nice to see more than the usual trio up front for once.
But then reality came back to the front. Bautista lost contact when his experimental new Nissin brakes suddenly lost power arriving at the end of one of Sepang’s extra long straights. The Spaniard avoided crashing into the back of Rossi’s Yamaha by inches. Bautista managed to get back on the track after running wide, but the contact with the leaders was gone. Rossi hung tough for a few more laps with the leading trio, but then he eventually faded back to finish more than 10 seconds behind Lorenzo.
In the first few laps, it was easy to see that Pedrosa was riding comfortably and that at any moment he could pass Lorenzo. Which he did decisively on lap four.
Lorenzo tried to follow Pedrosa, but he readily admitted afterward that it was an impossible task. Seeing Pedrosa taking off into the distance, Marquez quickly passed Lorenzo down the front straight on lap five. But Lorenzo fought back, slicing underneath the Honda rider in the tight right-hand first corner. This began an exciting battle that saw the two swapping places numerous times a lap, including Lorenzo’s payback pass that saw the Yamaha rider stuff his M1 up the inside hard enough that his fairing glanced off of Marquez’s shoulder, forcing him to lift up for a moment. The payback had been served. “No, no, I didn´t feel any touch,” said Lorenzo afterward to the surprise of the post-race press conference. Marquez simply smiled. Lorenzo continued, “I saw a space that Marc had left open and I just got in.”
Lorenzo and Marquez continued to pass each many more times, all of them very, very close. Finally Marquez – who was the one who had more to lose – backed off the continuing fight. He settled behind Lorenzo for a few more laps, which let Pedrosa increase his advantage to 1.5 seconds. Pedrosa was riding superbly. He had one of those days – a rare one – when he is simply unbeatable.
Only when Marquez saw it was safe and clear did he make his move on Lorenzo. But Lorenzo tried to fight back once again, getting a great drive and pulling nearly alongside the Repsol Honda on the exit of the corner. This time, however, Marquez seemingly was tiring of the games and drifted to the edge of the track on the exit, forcing Lorenzo to back off or risk going off into the grass.
“Until this point our fight was clean,” said Lorenzo, apparently forgetting his aggressive pass on Marquez earlier. “What Marc did was inelegant; it was not dangerous, because I was on his side and could see what he was doing, not like in Jerez where he appeared out of nowhere and ran into my bike. This time at least I could react. Up until this corner, we left each other some space for the next corner. But in this corner he didn’t leave me space, so I was a little bit angry. But that’s normal; this time there wasn’t any big touching, so it was a normal race. I cannot say anything negative.”
Personal differences aside, once Marquez got into second, the race was finished. He tried to close the gap with Pedrosa, but Pedrosa easily managed the gap and Marquez quickly realized that second was good enough. With Lorenzo finishing third, this meant that Marquez increased his advantage in the championship standings to 43 points.
With 75 to go, this means that if Marquez wins in Australia next weekend and Lorenzo finishes third or below, the Repsol Honda rookie can celebrate his first MotoGP World Championship.