The race started with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) in second on the grid behind Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) in pole, a position Dani maintained until lap 10 when he overtook Jorge and quickly built up a commanding lead. In lap 14, however, the red flag came out and the race was stopped due to weather conditions. Teams waited for a possible restart to finish the remaining seven laps, but intensifying rain ruled that out and the race was declared over, with places counted from lap 13. This gave Pedrosa his sixth win of the season and put team mate Casey Stoner back on the podium in third place, in his second race since his return from injury. This result gives Repsol Honda the 2012 team title, and puts Honda in a good position to take the constructors' title too. Another win for Pedrosa further cuts Lorenzo's lead from 29 to 23, increasing the Honda rider's chances to come from behind to deny Lorenzo the championship and secure the triple title for Honda again.
We had vibration problems in FP-1, but we traced the cause to the rear tire shifting in the wheel and messing with the balance. Other than that, all went smoothly until just before his qualifying time attack. He had two tries at it, but chatter prevented him from improving his time as we hoped, so he ended up in second place on the grid. Still, it worked out well in the long run and we're all very pleased with this win. What we are seeing now is Dani's ability to get the best performance out of the RC213V whether conditions are wet or dry. At this point in the fight for the championship Dani is under a lot of pressure – he has to win every race. He didn't make any mistakes here at Sepang, and deserved this victory. As you say, this marks his first run of three wins in MotoGP, as well as beating his record for wins in a season. If he's going to take the championship, he will have to keep on breaking those records. He's still facing a tremendously difficult challenge, but each time he puts in a performance like this he gets one step closer to maybe being able to snatch that title out of Jorge's grasp.
Certainly I was a bit apprehensive about whether he could win in the wet. As it turns out, Dani is superb in wet conditions too, and he turned in a great race. It didn't seem to hold him back at all. Dani himself says he doesn't dislike riding in the wet, it's just he hadn't had the chance to win in these conditions before. This race went exactly as he imagined, he followed his planned strategy and won. With this victory Dani has broken several of his personal records, but I think his first wet win is the one that will boost his confidence most. He spent the first half behind Jorge, but he was taking it easy. Once he overtook in lap 10, he allowed himself to open the throttle and opened up a big gap. Despite his fast pace, he looked very confident and wasn't taking any risks on the slippery circuit.
Since Laguna Seca, things have come together nicely with the new machines. For proof, all you have to do is look at Dani's performance over the last few races. Compared to the winter tests? Well, I've said this a few times too. We had the 2012 RC213V completely ready for this season and Dani had given it his seal of approval in the tests after the Valencia final round. And then we were hit with these sudden rule changes – new minimum weight and new front tire specs – so we had to start over from the beginning. The bike we used in the winter tests was just a provisional version to get the weight right to meet the new regulation. After that, we had to scramble to adapt the chassis to match the tire spec change, so it's been a hectic season for us. Really, we've only just reached the point where we can concentrate on the race without having to handle all these other complications. Looking back, I see how important it is to be able to respond immediately to changes in the rules and specifications, although I'm not sure if we have the skill to always be fast enough. Changing the weight by four kilos changes the balance. And because we built the bike around the previous tires, naturally we had to really modify the bike when the tire spec changed. It's the ability of our engineers to respond and get the build exactly right that gives us our advantage. You can clearly see it in the results we've been getting in the last half of the season.
The layout of the Motegi circuit put a lot of stress on Casey's right ankle, which still isn't fully healed. Compared to Motegi, the Sepang course has no rapid switchbacks so physically it's easier on the riders. I thought Casey would have a good chance at pole, but brake problems in practice left him feeling not confident in his braking and he didn't give it 100% in qualifying. Looking at his data, I reckon he would have taken pole if he'd felt OK about braking as usual. At Motegi, his brakes were heating up more than usual so we gave the calipers an overhaul, but this changed the feeling of the brakes. This can happen when you overhaul or fit fresh calipers. It was a wet race so we used a different brake system anyway, but his dry brakes had also returned to normal by then too. Casey was cautious in the first few laps of the race, taking care of his ankle. But then he got his rhythm and was gradually increasing his pace, and I feel sure he would have taken Jorge to finish second if only the red flag hadn't ended the race early. Ever since he rejoined us for the Japanese GP, Casey has set himself the goal of getting back into 100% condition for his home GP in Australia. He is on track to achieving that, and I think we'll see Casey Stoner back in top form next week at Phillip Island.
To tell the truth, I don't understand their reason for stopping this race. The rain wasn't especially bad by that point. Lap times had slowed from 2'15" to 2'16" but that by itself isn't a reason to halt the race. Ten minutes after we stopped, the track was indeed hit by a fierce squall that would have made it impossible to continue. All the Yamaha riders, including Jorge, had chosen the softer rear tire option. These are better during rain, but they wear out more quickly and I think the reason Jorge's time had fallen to 17" or so was that his tires had worn to the point where they'd soon be too bad to go on. If the race hadn't been stopped, I reckon Jorge would have been overtaken not only by Casey, but also by Nicky. Anyway, I didn't agree with this decision at all. We waited for a possible restart to complete the remaining seven laps, but the weather just got worse. Abandoning the restart was correct, but I really think they shouldn't have brought out the red flag in lap 14.
To give himself a chance at becoming champion, Dani has to win it. He has to win in Australia to prevent Jorge from securing the title there, and to keep himself in the running. The trouble is, Dani has never had much success at the Phillip Island circuit. Still, he is on a run of setting new personal bests and taking Australia would give him a new high of four wins in a row, seven in a season. He's just won his first wet race here in Sepang, and I'm hoping to see him take his first Australian GP too. Of course Casey has his eyes on the same goal – this will be his last MotoGP race in Australia, and it's a circuit where he's won the last five times. To win the championship, Dani has to beat Casey as well as Jorge but we haven't issued any team order on this. Jorge is such a strong opponent, it really wouldn't be a good idea anyway. I'm hoping Dani beats both of them and has a chance at the title. For Repsol Honda, I want 1-2 finishes in the next two races. The whole Repsol Honda team will be doing their utmost and hoping for a miracle. Keep supporting us out there as we move on to Australia.