Jorge Lorenzo was scared.
The rain had been pouring down all day, and it didn't stop when the red lights went out and 19 of the fastest motorcycles in the world headed down the saturated track, some of them nearly losing control before they ever really got going.
It is kind of funny to watch these guys ride in the monsoon-like conditions they faced in Malaysia.
We are used to seeing them riding on the limits of their bikes' and their bodies' performance potential, with knee pucks scraping across the pavement at over 100 miles-per-hour.
In a torrential downpour like the one that hit Sepang, they still stick their knees out but only from habit, as they rarely get close to the ground. These are the best motorcycle racers in the world, and to see them look like a bunch of 'noobs'—even if it is in conditions that would take the rest of us down before we ever got the clutch out—reminds us that they are in fact human.
Even in rainy conditions, tire choices are critical.
All of the prototype riders chose to go with the harder option tire on both the front and the rear, except for Jorge Lorenzo, who chose the softer rear option.
As a result, Lorenzo got off to a great start and assumed the lead, but the tropical temperatures of Malaysia soon wore down the center of his rear tire, leaving him at a distinct disadvantage against the rapidly closing Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa.
Pedrosa made his move with nine laps to go in the twenty-lap race and made it past Lorenzo on the inside of a left-hander.
The courageousness Pedrosa showed by executing an overtaking maneuver in those incredibly treacherous conditions can not be overstated.
Dani Pedrosa earned some new fans this weekend.
Lorenzo would have been perfectly happy, as he has been for the last three rounds, to accept second place and minimize the damage to his championship aspirations.
But then calamity threatened.
Casey Stoner, who was riding in third, began shaving full seconds off of Lorenzo's lead. In only one lap—the 13th of the race—Lorenzo's lead over Stoner shrank from 3.3 seconds to 1.9.
It was this lap—the one in which Lorenzo was aware of Stoner coming up behind him—that Jorge Lorenzo decided to hold up his hand, not once but twice, in an attempt to signal to Race Direction that the conditions were becoming too dangerous to continue.
It was only after he held up his hand for the second time that he had the near-crash you see in the video.
Was it concern for everyone's safety that prompted the hand to come up?
Or was it rather a concern for his own championship aspirations?
Call me cynical, but with the way he has been riding more to not lose the championship than to win it, I have to think the latter.
He was the only one on the track trying to signal Race Direction. In fact, Repsol Honda teammates Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner said they thought the race could have gone another lap or two.
Lorenzo got his wish as the red flags came out a few turns after he held up his hand for the final time.
He secured his second-place finish after Race Direction determined that the race could not be restarted due to the relentless rain.
Afterwards, Lorenzo all but admitted it:
I was riding and trying to push the hand up to say to the marshals and Race Direction that the track was very difficult. But the race doesn't stop for two laps so I was very worried because Casey was coming very fast. In only one lap he recovers three or four seconds so I knew if the race wasn't over he will overtake me because I didn't have rear tire, no? I used the soft one. I just dropped my middle point of the tire so they have the advantage and I couldn't fight with them.
The gap between Lorenzo and Pedrosa in the overall championship standings is down to 23 points, which means if Lorenzo crashes out of the next race and Pedrosa wins it, Pedrosa will be the championship leader with only one round remaining.
A less-than enthralling season could come down to the final race after all.
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