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Melandri, Vermeulen and Hopkins ready for fourth place battle

Melandri, Vermeulen and Hopkins ready for fourth place battle

The 2007 MotoGP World Championship already confirmed as property of Casey Stoner, and the runner-up spot currently held by Valentino Rossi all but an outside shot for Dani Pedrosa, the tightest battle for fans to watch out for in Valencia is that for fourth place.

The 2007 MotoGP World Championship already confirmed as property of Casey Stoner, and the runner-up spot currently held by Valentino Rossi all but an outside shot for Dani Pedrosa, the tightest battle for fans to watch out for in Valencia is that for fourth place.

A quartet of riders are in with a mathematical chance of the fourth spot in the overall classification; Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen, John Hopkins and Loris Capirossi. Whilst Capirossi will have to depend on the fortunes of others if he is to overcome a 19 point deficit on current fourth placed rider Melandri, the Gresini Honda man and the Rizla Suzuki duo are separated by just five points heading into the final round of the season.

Melandri returned to the podium today with his best dry result of the year, on the rostrum for the first time since the U.S. Grand Prix in late July. The 25 year-old has been keen to reward Fausto Gresinis faith in him over the past three years, and can be expected to give it his all in his final race for his mentor before leaving for Ducati. He experienced a small problem today with his drinks tube, but did not feel that this affected his chances of taking victory.

I dont think that the problem was that big, I didnt really drop places because of it, he explained in the post-race press conference. I thought that I might catch Stoner in the last few laps, but he didnt make any mistakes to let me in. Passing him is a different matter altogether, added Melandri, who finds himself in a similar position to that of the final race of 2005, where he arrived at Valencia attempting to beat Nicky Hayden to the runner-up spot. On that occasion he rose to the challenge, winning the race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.

At Sepang the Suzuki pairing of Vermeulen and Hopkins gave an early taster of what will be a no holds barred internal duel in two weeks time, scrapping for seventh during a race in which the top six were one step ahead.

It was a tough race and I am totally exhausted! said Vermeulen after the race. I got in a little battle with a few guys at the start, but John and myself both made little mistakes and we dropped back a couple of spots. I also had a bit of a vibration issue with the bike under acceleration and it took me a while to figure out how to ride fast with that.

I just got my head down and pushed as hard as I could and then I saw on my pit-board that it was plus-zero with John and it stayed that way for the whole race! We passed each other a number of times and I eventually got in front and held him off. It was good to beat him as it closes the gap in the championship, but we werent near the podium and we still have a lot of work to do. We are here tomorrow for a further test and I am sure we can work out a lot of stuff, concluded the Australian.

Hopkins, who had previously held the upper hand in the fight for fourth for a large part of the year, now finds himself trailing his team-mate and Melandri after a disappointing couple of races. He nonetheless enjoyed pitting his wits against the rider with whom he has shared a garage for the past two years, and is relishing the challenge of MotoGPs Spanish sojourn.

Going in to todays race we had pretty high hopes with the way the bike and tyres were working this weekend, but it just didnt really happen for us. I got off the line pretty well and through turn one and then I made a few mistakes in the first few laps and even ran off the track at one time. From then on it was just a Rizla Suzuki battle with me and Chris going back-and-forth. It was good to race with him and it was a bit of fun, but I wish we had been fighting for one-and-two or two-and-three, but it was not to be! I have got to say hats off to all my mechanics this weekend they have been working really hard and sweating their butts off! We now have to go to Valencia and claw our way back into fourth place in the championship at the last race of the year.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2007, POLINI MALAYSIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX, Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen, John Hopkins

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