While wins have been few and far between for Dani Pedrosa lately, the Honda man has been no stranger to the podium, and history suggests that the Malaysian MotoGP this weekend should be no different.
Since 2001, Dani has only been off the Sepang podium twice – one occasion was a fourth place on his 2001 125cc debut – and he won the 125 race in 2003 and the 250 in 2004. Last year, he recorded second, and with the resurgent Casey Stoner’s win leapfrogging him over Pedrosa back into the pair’s coveted third place behind the Yamahas in this year’s standings, a similar result in 2009 is highly desirable.
“Sepang is a good circuit, and I always look forward to this race,” Pedrosa said. “It could be tough because we know how fast our rivals have been recently, but still, the win is what we’ll be aiming for, as always – and also to challenge Casey for third in the championship.”
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso has also visited the Malaysian podium in all three classes for Honda, and finished third behind Pedrosa last year. The Italian, who won at Donington earlier this season, suffered from illness at the last race in Australia, but nevertheless posted an impressive sixth place.
'The win is what we'll be aiming for, as always' – Dani Pedrosa
“Malaysia is my favourite track and I have good memories there,” said Dovi. “Last year, I had a strong race at Sepang and scored my first podium in MotoGP on the RC212V for the Scot Honda team.
“It’s a complete track, with a good combination of fast and slow sections, and also the circuit is wide, which lets you try different lines. With a MotoGP bike, it really is fun.”
Fun might not be uppermost in the minds of pacesetters Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, who have only each other to beat to the title in what has been Fiat Yamaha’s most successful season to date.
“There is no chance to relax – everyone is focused, motivated and excited now that we are at this stage,” said Rossi, who came second at Phillip Island after Lorenzo had crashed out at the first corner. “Our number one target for the weekend is to try to close out the championship.”
With a 38pt advantage over Lorenzo and 50pts still on offer, a fourth place or above will guarantee that Rossi retains his title, regardless of his team-mate’s result in Kuala Lumpur, something that the young Spaniard acknowledges.
“After the disappointment in Australia, I am glad to have the chance to be back on the bike so soon,” Lorenzo said. “My target is to confirm second place in the championship and, in just my second season in MotoGP, I think that this is a great achievement.”
Current championship standings
Valentino Rossi (Italy), Yamaha – 270pts
Jorge Lorenzo (Spain), Yamaha – 232pts
Casey Stoner (Australia), Ducati – 195pts
Dani Pedrosa (Spain), Honda – 189pts
Andrea Dovizioso (Italy), Honda – 152pts