SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo clinched his maiden MotoGP world title with a comfortable third-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Yamaha rider only needed a top-10 finish to lift the title with three races remaining after Malaysia.
After starting on pole position the 23-year-old took few risks, easing off with two laps remaining and pulling a wheelie over the finish line.
Yamaha team mate and outgoing world champion Valentino Rossi put in a vintage performance to win the race ahead of Italian compatriot Andrea Dovizioso on a Honda, but the day belonged to Lorenzo, who never looked in danger after making a smooth start.
Lorenzo’s triumph was assisted by injuries to his main rivals, Rossi and the absent Dani Pedrosa, but the Spaniard celebrated his win in style, flanked by team members dressed as video game characters whilst the rider held up a ‘Game Over’ sign.
Dovizioso also made an impressive start and was all over the back of Lorenzo on an eventful first lap that saw Rossi pushed back to 11th place and Australian Casey Stoner’s hopes of a repeat Malaysia victory dashed with a crash on the final bend.
The leading pair pulled away from the chasing pack in the early laps as fan favourite Rossi delighted his massed local support base by weaving his way through the field to third place in hot pursuit of a sixth Malaysian victory in the premier class.
Rossi bridged the gap to the leading duo just as Dovizioso took the lead on the start of lap nine as Lorenzo appeared to be already settling for a top-three finish rather than challenging for a win.
The packed grandstand was soon on its feet when Rossi took the lead for the first time on lap 11, first passing Lorenzo and then Dovizioso as the 20-lap race became a two-way dogfight between the Italians.
Rossi and Dovizioso swapped positions twice on the 16th lap before the former managed to put enough daylight between himself and his compatriot to take the chequered flag for the first time since the opening race of the season in Qatar.