Rossi on course to claim Moto GP title in Malaysia
SEPANG: Valentino Rossi is on course to lift his seventh premier class title at this weekend's Malaysian Moto GP, going into the race with a thumping 38-point advantage in the world championship race.
A top-four ride in Sepang, south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, will be enough for the 30-year-old Italian to be crowned the 2009 world champion on Sunday.
Rossi, fresh from placing second in Australia last weekend, has sweet memories of victories in Sepang -- the season's penultimate event -- and a circuit he has repeatedly said is a personal favourite.
"Phillip Island was like gold dust for us in terms of points and now we go to Malaysia, another of my favourite tracks," he said.
"Of course anything can happen but it's a great track for me and generally the Yamaha works well there so we have a good chance.
"We worked brilliantly in Australia and we know that if we can do the same at Sepang then we can have another good weekend," Rossi added.
"There is no chance to relax -- everyone is focused, motivated and excited now that we are at this stage and our number one target for the weekend is to try to close out the championship."
Rossi has a history of good form in the punishing heat of Malaysia, where he won from second on the grid last year and has seven podium finishes here in total, including five wins.
Second place at the Australian Grand Prix extended his lead at the top of the world championship standings to 270 points after title rival and Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo's first-lap crash.
The Spaniard?s inability to complete the race means that even if he wins at Sepang, Rossi only needs to finish fourth to take his ninth world title across all classes. Lorenzo is in second position with 232 points.
He is the only rider who can stop the rampaging Italian from taking the title here but there will also be interest in the heated battle for the third place in the championship race.
Dani Pedrosa was overtaken by Australian Casey Stoner at Phillip Island, whose win on home soil handed the Ducati Marlboro rider third place in the standings at the expense of the Spaniard.
"Sepang will definitely be a tough race as being fast and consistent in those conditions is always difficult regardless," said Stoner, in his third race back after injury.
"It is not easy to find the perfect set-up there but that?s always been the case and with every day that passes I feel stronger and more confident that I can be competitive in both of the two races that remain."
Pedrosa, on a Honda and with 195 points, is determined to beat Stoner with just six points seperating the two riders.
As the second last outing of the season, he knows how crucial the Malaysian race will prove in deciding the season outcome.
"Sepang is a good circuit and I always look forward to this race. I?ve won here previously with Honda in the 125 and 250 classes, and I?d really like to add a MotoGP win to those victories," he said.
The first free practice is on Friday with the race on Sunday.