After last week’s eventful race in Qatar, the title battle between Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau has grown even closer and neither driver will settle for second at Sepang on Sunday.

After last week’s eventful race in Qatar, the title battle between Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau has grown even closer and neither driver will settle for second at Sepang on Sunday.

Rossi’s healthy advantage at the top of the MotoGP standings was shaken last week when he was penalised, along with Max Biaggi, for cleaning his spot in the slippery grid. Forced to start from the back of the grid, Rossi crashed out of the race after fighting his way to the top of the field.

Gibernau recorded his fourth win of the season and cut the points difference to 14 points with only three races remaining in the season.

Rossi has a good record at the Malaysian circuit where he has recorded three podium spots, including two victories, in the last three seasons. However, Gibernau has had a solitary podium finish at Sepang, when he finished second last year.

Gibernau’s Spanish compatriot and Rossi’s team-mate, Carlos Checa, has a better record in Malaysia, having finished second in his first two visits to Sepang and fifth last year.

Former MotoGP regular Garry McCoy has been called up by Aprilia to replace injured rider Shane Byrne for the final three races of the season. McCoy makes his first appearance at Sepang this weekend before his home race at Phillip Island and the season finale at Valencia.

"It was very hard for me to leave the MotoGP paddock at the end of last season because I have spent my whole racing career here and I felt like I belong," said McCoy, who has been contesting the World Superbike series riding a Ducati.

McCoy isn't the only rider called in to do duty at Malaysia this weekend, with James Haydon called up by Proton Team KR to replace Kurtis Roberts for the second successive race.

Roberts was expected to have recovered from a fractured wrist and elbow after a multiple-rider crash at Motegi three weeks ago, but has still not received the okay.

Meanwhile, John Hopkins said he would be "disappointed to finish outside the top five" after making good progress with his recovery from broken ribs and a gashed buttock, sustained in the Motegi crash.