MotoGP: Pedrosa wins Malaysian GP overshadowed by Rossi kick

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Dani Pedrosa’s strong finish to the 2015 MotoGP season continued in the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday as he claimed his second victory in three races ahead of Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.

However, the race was overshadowed by an on-track clash between Marc Marquez and championship leader Valentino Rossi that has seen the latter be demoted to the back of the grid for the season finale in two weeks’ time.

Starting from pole, Pedrosa made a clean start to lead into turn one before controlling proceedings throughout the race to take a fuss-free win ahead of Lorenzo by 3.6 seconds at the flag.

Marquez initially stayed with Honda teammate Pedrosa before dropping behind Lorenzo and entering battle for third place with Rossi, who had accused the Spaniard of trying to derail his title bid earlier this week.

On lap seven, Rossi dived down the inside of Marquez at turn ten to take the position before the Honda rider fought back through turns 11 and 12. The two riders went side-by-side into the turn 13 and 14 complex, with Marquez on the outside.

After turning his head to see where Marquez was, Rossi lifted his left leg and made contact with the Spaniard, causing him to fall off his bike. Rossi was able to continue, but a fuming Marquez was resigned to his sixth retirement of the season.

Rossi eventually finished the race in third, leaving his lead over Lorenzo in the championship standing at seven points ahead of the title decider in Valencia on November 8.

Unsurprisingly, he was brought before the stewards after the race for his clash, with many – including Lorenzo – calling for his disqualification from the race.

The race director ultimately decided to uphold Rossi’s third place finish, but he will be forced to start the final race of the year in Valencia from the back of the grid, setting the stage for a thrilling championship showdown.

“You know unfortunately I lost a lot of time with Marc and in turn 14, I tried to go wide to get a better line to make him slow because he just rides to cause me some problems,” Rossi told after the race, having skipped the post-race press conference.

“Unfortunately he came to me and I think he crashed in that moment. It’s a shame because I think that in a normal race we can stay and fight with Jorge and we lost some more points. Valencia will be more difficult.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.