The torrential rainfall at last weekend’s Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang may have cut the race short, but yielded a great joint result for the Ducati Team, whose riders both demonstrated the bike’s potential in very difficult conditions.
Team Manager Vittoriano Guareschi commented after the weekend: “It was certainly a strange Sunday, with conditions that we hadn’t ridden in the whole weekend. We started with the tyres as an unknown and opted for the hard rain, which in the end turned out to be a good choice. Our bike performs very well in wet conditions, and both riders took good advantage of that.”
It was in fact a tyre lottery for the whole grid at the start, with almost all riders on the softer option rear tyre suffering with too great a degradation and struggling immensely towards the latter part of the race. Having opted for the harder rear, the Ducati pair of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi were able to push their bikes right up until the red flags came out and halted the race for safety reasons. Hayden finished in his season-best result in fourth, while Rossi fought back from an early error to come in fifth.
Hayden stated after the race: “Those were really tough conditions. I got a good launch, but when [Andrea] Dovizioso got sideways in front of me, I shut off the throttle and lost positions. I was able to recover, but I lost some confidence when the rear tried to come around a couple times. I had to be really patient in the beginning, but once I got rolling, I had good rhythm. It was clearly the right decision to call the race. There was a lot of water those last couple of laps, and it was almost impossible to see, although the rear lights on the bikes helped a lot.”
Yet despite his good result, the American is not getting complacent and knows the team must improve:“In dry conditions, I would’ve been thrilled with fourth, but I know our potential is higher in the wet. It would’ve been amazing to give my guys a podium today, but it’s a decent result. Hopefully, it can help me come out of the difficult period and give us something to build on.”
Rossi, who at one point was suffering with problems with his visor, was able to come back through the grid after a costly mistake in turn seven half way through the race: “Our race wasn’t bad because I got a great start despite being so far back, on the fourth row, and then I managed to be pretty fast. I was riding with Dovizioso and [Casey] Stoner, when unfortunately I started having some problems with my visor fogging, and in those extreme conditions, with low light and a lot of water, it was very difficult. I made a mistake in Turn 7, and I was lucky not to crash because it was the same point where Dovizioso, [Ben] Spies and then [Stefan] Bradl went down. Without that mistake, I could have finished fourth because honestly, Stoner was a bit faster than I was, especially in T2. In general though, it didn’t go bad. Of course I would’ve liked to finish the full race, but there was really too much water. I think the decision to stop was correct because in these conditions, the bikes can aquaplane and you can go down in any corner.”