Sepang MotoGP Reaction: Marco Melandri returns to podium in Sepang

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Italian Marco Melandri claimed his first podium finish since the end of July with a gutsy ride to second place in Malaysia.

Melandri notched only his third podium of a disastrous 2007 season as he took a big stride to securing fourth place in the MotoGP world championship.

With closest rivals John Hopkins finishing only eighth and factory Suzuki team-mate Chris Vermeulen one place ahead in seventh, Melandri’s second place catapulted him from sixth to fourth in the overall standings with just one race remaining.

Melandri, who had claimed only his second front row start of the season in yesterday’s qualifying session, said his second felt as a good as a win as he gave world champion Casey Stoner a few nervous moments in Sepang.

Fourth at the end of the first lap, Melandri first made his move with a pass on factory Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet on lap five.

He then shadowed fellow Honda rider Dani Pedrosa for two laps before sweeping by the Spaniard on lap eight.

Melandri then commenced a gallant but ultimately vain pursuit of Stoner, who never managed to let his advantage drop below a second in the 13 laps that followed.
Melandri though was delighted and declared his front row start and second his best weekend of a troubled season.

His success had only come though after early drama and he said: “I made a stupid mistake on the warm-up lap. I tried to move the drinking valve so it'd be more comfortable for drinking, but I pulled it off completely. Every time I was braking all the water was coming inside my helmet, so I tried to disconnect the tube from the water bag. But the first two laps the water was still coming out inside my visor, so I felt pretty nervous. I started quite good but I didn't brake hard enough and I should've been in front of de Puniet into turn one but I was braking too early because I was scared of getting too much water inside my helmet. But I don't think my result would've been different.”

Melandri said he almost crashed out on lap 10 in trying to hunt down Stoner in the second half of the race, but conceded he wasn’t sure if he had anything left in reserve had he got close enough to try and pass in-form Stoner.

“I tried to catch Casey but at turn seven I lost the front and almost went down and I lost maybe one second. After that I tried to keep going and catch him again. I saw lap-by-lap I was coming closer and the last three laps I tried to push more to take him but I took too many risks and thought ‘if I catch him, where can I overtake him?’ So I just tried to keep my position. I thought maybe with five or six laps left I could beat him if he made a mistake but he didn't. And catching him was one thing, but passing him was another thing, “said Melandri, who will join Stoner next season in Ducati’s factory squad.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt