Heavy rain saw the start of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix delayed and the race distance reduced to 19 laps, but the more than 95,000 attendees still got plenty of thrilling racing action. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo fought hard during the race to take second and third, their fifth double podium of the season.
Rossi had dropped two places from his position on the starting grid as the 21 MotoGP riders stormed out of the gates. As a result he went into the first corner in fourth, but quickly worked his way to the front over the next couple of turns. Rossi swiftly gained the lead and tried to break away but he was soon joined by Andrea Iannone. The following 11 laps were a consistent tug of war for the lead in the race between the two Italians.
The Doctor used the nimble character of the Yamaha to the fullest in the twisty sections of the Sepang circuit. With 12 laps remaining Iannone made his first attempt to take off at the front, but Rossi didn't let him escape and upped his pace further to close the gap within two laps, with Andrea Dovizioso in tow.
Studying his rival's riding, Rossi timed his attack to perfection. He wrestled his way past Iannone, followed by Dovizioso, and set a provisional fastest lap while the rivals behind him lost time battling each other. With five laps to go, as the track started to dry, Rossi suffered a problem on the right side of his front tyre. As a result he went wide in turn one, allowing Dovizioso through and after having experienced two moments the Doctor decided to bring his YZR-M1 over the line in second place, 3.115s behind the leader.
Teammate Lorenzo took the holeshot from pole on the wet track, but wasn't able to hold off an aggressive move from Marc Marquez and Iannone a few corners later, that saw him being relegated to sixth at the end of the first lap. The Mallorcan moved up one place at the start of lap three when Aleix Espargaró went wide and then took up the pursuit of Marquez who was a little more than a second ahead of him.
Lorenzo set a provisional fastest lap, but lost time and a place due to a scrap with Cal Crutchlow. Lorenzo decided to follow the Briton to the leading group and then found an impressive race pace but was unable to match the front runners. He had a lonely ride to the podium as Crutchlow, Marquez and Iannone all crashed in the later stages of the race, allowing him to grab a solid third place, finishing 11.924s from the front.
Rossi's second place earns him 20 points and leaves him second in the championship standings with 236 points. Lorenzo's performance sees him take 16 points and places him third in the rankings on 208 points, trailing by 28 points, making Rossi the 2016 MotoGP Vice Champion.
The MotoGP paddock heads back to Spain now for the last round of the season in Valencia in two weeks' time.
Valentino Rossi2nd / +3.115 / 19 laps
My main target for today was to arrive in front of Jorge for second place in the championship, but I also wanted to win because I felt very good with the bike in the beginning. I had to fight a lot with Iannone and he was fast. After, when I went in front, I was very optimistic but when the water on the track became less the temperature went up, I was a bit in trouble with the tyres, especially with the front. I had two moments, I risked too much and I made a mistake and in that moment Dovizioso was too fast and he went. Securing second place in the championship is important, the battle with Lorenzo is always very intense and we always arrive at the last race. When you beat a rider that's very strong, like Jorge, it's great and in the end it has been a good season. I wanted to win, but it wasn't possible.
Jorge Lorenzo3rd / +11.924 / 19 laps
Being honest, today I've been lucky, because without the crashes I would have finished fifth or sixth. Crutchlow, Iannone and Marquez crashed and finally I got this podium and that's OK. In the past I have been competitive in wet races, when I felt great. Especially with pit stops I have won races, I have secured podiums and got pole positions in the rain. In the wet, with the Michelin tyres this year, especially at the beginning, I had trouble getting confidence in the front tyre. It has been hard for me but after Brno we made some modifications to the setting and also this tarmac helps. At this track I had more grip than normal, so I had a bit more confidence and I was able to be more competitive. Maybe in the race a bit less than in qualifying, but finally because of some luck it was enough to get to the podium. We now go to Valencia with the aim to confirm the third place in the championship.