Sepang MotoGP: Valentino Rossi predicts tough Sepang race from third row

Published: 20 October 2007

Valentino Rossi has admitted he faces a mountain to climb to record his 100th premier class podium in tomorrow’s Malaysian GP after he slumped to ninth in qualifying.

The seven-times world champion was punished for a mistake on his Michelin qualifying tyre as he starts tomorrow’s 21-lap Sepang clash from the back of the third row.

The Fiat Yamaha rider had been as high as second with just eight minutes remaining but he slipped down the field after a rear tyre slide on his second qualifier cost him dearly.

He was fastest in the first and last split timed sections but said: “With the qualifying tyre, our potential was good, because I am first in T1 and T4, but I was not able to put together the two laps. The first lap I was quite slow at the beginning, which is normal with the first qualifier. But the second lap I lose the grip in T3, and I lost time, so. I have to start in ninth position unfortunately. My potential was a lot more, because it is possible to have got second or third place. That was important, because our potential for the race is not very high. This morning was not so bad, but this afternoon we don’t have enough grip, with more temperature on the asphalt I am sliding a lot. For all the practice I was very slow. This is quite upsetting for us, and in fact, when you make a bad lap time in all the practice, after it is difficult to make a big step with the qualifier, and I make a mistake with the second tyre and lose the chance for the front row.”

Rossi said his ninth position, which is his worst qualifying result since he ended up 11th on the grid in Assen’s Dutch GP back in June, meant he faced the prospect of a tough race in the searing Sepang heat.

Rossi stormed from the fourth row in Assen to win, but a repeat of that dramatic success seems unlikely, with only two other Michelin riders qualifying in the top ten.
“Tomorrow will be a very difficult race for us. Starting from the third row is also worst. Because if we start in the first row, it is easier but we are not very, very fast, and especially we have some problem after some laps with sliding. We have to fix some problem especially in braking where I am not very fast, “said the 28-year-old, who admitted his hopes of notching a century of MotoGP podiums would be reduced even further by a wet race.

“It if rains it is a difficult situation, because here the track dries very quick. So if we have a half-and-half race, it is difficult to make the right choice when you stop to change the tyre, or which tyre we start with, “said Rossi, who said as well as problems with grip and endurance from his Michelin tyres, the heat was also hampering his challenge.

Yamaha’s YZR-M1 has been susceptible to suffering from severe cooling problems in hot conditions and Rossi said his Fiat-backed four-cylinder machine was facing the same predicament in a hot and humid Sepang.

“We suffer a lot in the hot temperature with our bike. Already our bike is not the fastest, but with more temperature we lose more kilometres than the other guy. We take 10km from (Casey) Stoner, but also from (Dani) Pedrosa, so it is difficult, “said Rossi, who said he had continually asked Yamaha engineers to solve the overheating problems.

He added: “Unfortunately, I don’t build the radiator. We speak a lot. I say to Yamaha every time, when we have a lot of problem with the temperature. We had a problem in the Sachsenring this year, and Laguna Seca, but also Valencia last year. So for the new bike they have to find something better. We continue with the same radiator that we had on the 990 and the engineers think it is enough, but is not enough. I think is not just a problem of the radiator, but maybe the engine is very close, and delivers a lot of hot air and heating to the water. The air cannot flow in the best way, and we are not able to remain cold.”