Sepang MotoGP Reaction: Valentino Rossi rues qualifying mistake after fifth place finish

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Valentino Rossi was left to contemplate what might have been as he finished today’s Malaysian GP in Sepang in fifth place to miss out on claiming his 100th premier class podium.

The 28-year-old was counting the cost of a qualifying mistake yesterday that left him ninth on the grid and ultimately unable to pose any serious podium threat in this afternoon’s 21-lap race.

On a rare day that Rossi’s Michelin tyres were comparable to the performance of Casey Stoner’s dominant Bridgestone, Rossi failed to capitalise as he found himself a massive 3.496s adrift of the Aussie at the end of the first lap.

He also lost a place on lap one and dropped to 10th before mounting an impressive charge back through the field that would only carry him though to fifth spot.

He passed Chris Vermeulen, Loris Capirossi and John Hopkins on the second lap before disposing of Toni Elias on lap three to move into the top six. An aggressive move on Anthony West on lap four saw him move into fifth, but by that stage he was already over three seconds off Randy de Puniet in fourth. By the end of the race he’d slashed that deficit to just one second but Rossi has now scored only two podiums in the last eight races.

What made today’s race even more tough to stomach was the fact that he knew a better qualifying result would have given him a rare chance to defeat Stoner.
He’s only defeated the factory Ducati rider four times in 2007 and the Fiat Yamaha rider said: “From one point of view I am happy with my race because my pace was good enough to try and fight for the win. The problem was yesterday unfortunately. We suffer a lot in the change of temperature and change of surface and yesterday I was very, very slow. I didn’t have any grip and my pace was 2.04.5, so two seconds slower than in the race. We work on the bike after the warm-up and for the race I needed the first lap to understand the new setting and after I understood I had a good potential and my rhythm was very good. I made 2.02.3 one lap from the end but I lost 3.5s on the first lap and I was tenth with a lot or riders to overtake. Now if you want to win you have to start in front. I had the potential yesterday to make the first row but I couldn’t and starting from ninth I wasn’t very fast at the start. When you lose 3.5s on the first lap and nine riders to overtake it is difficult because now the difference between the best lap and the worst lap in the race is not so big. I made a huge rhythm but it is not enough to arrive at the first group.”

Rossi said he couldn’t fault the performance of his Michelin tyres that he has been so critical of in 2007 as he clocked his fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap.
“My tyres worked very good today. When Michelin work at the end it is always possible to make a good lap time at the end, also after 20 laps because the tyre work very good inside and have good grip to the end. I was very fast but I was already too far behind. In the race I used the same tyre after the Misano test, so from Estoril more or less. I think we have exactly the same tyre as Dani. Maybe not exactly the same but the rubber is the same. Today it worked very well and also the front today was good. Yesterday we had a lot of problems and today no, “added the seven-times world champion.

Rossi said he was also free from some of the overheating problems that have dogged in hot temperatures in the past, though spending so much time on his own during the race helped cool his YZR-M1.

“When I was with the other guys it was quite high but alone it stabilised in a good temperature and worked well. The bike and tyre performance was good today, “said Rossi.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt