Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales pushed to the max during today‘s Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, putting on a brave ride from 11th on the grid to 4th position over the finish line. Valentino Rossi had a heroic run at the Sepang International Circuit, but it ended in heartbreak on lap 17 when he crashed out of the lead. He was able to rejoin the race and took the chequered flag in 18th place.
Viñales started from 11th on the grid and soon found himself in 10th position. After warming up his tyres on the first two laps, he began his charge. His pace was as strong as the front group, meaning he had no problems cutting through the field, though there was a lot of ground to be made up.
With nine laps to go he took over sixth place from Andrea Dovizioso. The Spaniard didn‘t waste any time to also pass Dani Pedrosa. He was trying to close the gap to Álex Rins but was unable to catch him. As his teammate at the front made a small mistake, Viñales crossed the line in fourth place, 4.667s from first.
Rossi had a perfect start from second, taking the hole shot and holding the lead superbly. He had a stunning consistent pace that allowed him to make a clean getaway from his pursuers.
Though his advantage went up and down over the first half of the race, there was no one who could really reach Rossi at the front, let alone make an attempt at passing the nine-time World Champion. However, in the final ten laps the heat and the tyre degradation meant Marc Márquez was closing in.
The Doctor responded by picking up the pace and defended his first place brilliantly, but a small mishap in Turn 1 on lap 17 caused him to slide down the tarmac. He was able to rejoin the race in 18th place and finished in the same position, 58.288s from first.
Today’s results see Rossi hold on to third position in the championship standings with a 25-point gap to second. Viñales, in fourth place, reduced the gap to his teammate to 2 points. Yamaha is still in third place in the Constructor Championship after the race in Malaysia, with a 38-point margin to second, while the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team remain in second position in the team standings, with now a 39-point gap to first.
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in two weeks’ time for the final showdown of 2018, the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, held from November 16th – 18th.
“I already said yesterday that we lost the race in qualifying. This morning I went out in the wet again and I finished first. Everything in MotoGP is so close now, so you have to start at the front. The tyre wear also gets worse when you’re fighting your way up from the back, you destroy the tyres. I was close to the podium, but with four laps to go the tyre dropped a lot and I couldn’t do anything about it. The team worked very well this weekend, they provided me with a really good bike. I think that, if I had started from the front, I would have been fighting for the race. I’m actually really happy that at three different tracks I was in contention to win. I think there are still many things that we can improve on, but things are better compared to before, and now I can be more consistent. I think Valencia will be a good track for us, I really like the track, it’s good for my riding style, so let’s see.”
“It was a great shame because this was my best race of the season. I felt comfortable, I had a good pace, I pushed, and I had the chance to win, but unfortunately with four or five laps to go I fell – I don’t understand what happened. I made a mistake, because I crashed. It’s such a pity, but it still remains a good weekend, because we improved the setting of the bike. I think we have to do some more work, but it looks like we were able to use the bike in a better way in the last few races. This is good, but we have to see if we’re also strong in Valencia. It’s a difficult track for us in general, but we have to try.”
Team Director Massimo Meregalli:
“For sure this is not the ending we had hoped for this weekend. The final results don‘t do justice to the pace of our riders, because they both had really strong form this weekend. Maverick had to start from the fourth row and make up a lot of ground. If he had started a bit more towards the front, he would have been a top contender today, because his pace matched Vale‘s. Valentino did exactly what he needed to do at the start. He was leading the race perfectly, so it‘s a great shame it ended the way it did. Nevertheless, we can take some positives from these last three races, as we made a step with the bike and were consistent in our performance. Today we were competitive at a circuit that doesn‘t necessarily play to our bike‘s strengths. So, with that in mind, we head to Valencia eager to fight at the front again during the season finale.”