What is likely to be the final Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix today produced two memorable shootouts. Up front, defending Honda world champion Marc Marquez dogged Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo for 24 laps before stealing his lunch money at Turn 1 of Lap 25 and holding the Mallorcan off for the final three laps. The undercard featured Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi and Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa in an equally riveting daylong battle for third place. Rossi prevailed after half a dozen lead changes over the last 10 laps, keeping his string of 2015 podia intact and his lead over teammate Lorenzo at nine points.
Coming on the heels of a breathtaking Moto2 tilt, with a front group of five riders, eventually won by rookie and soon to be MotoGP pilot Alex Rins, the MotoGP race was much more of a mano a mano affair. Kind of a Noah’s Ark thing, the animals boarding two by two. A pair here, a pair there…
At the start, Lorenzo rocketed out of the three hole to lead the pack into Turn 1, trailed by Marquez, Pedrosa, Ducati #1 Andrea Iannone, Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith and Rossi, whose qualifying on Saturday once again prevented him from challenging for the win. By the end of Lap 5 Rossi had taken over fourth place, and the lines were drawn. At that point, Rossi trailed Pedrosa by 1.6 seconds, but you got the impression that the Italian marvel wasn’t going to go down without a fight.
By Lap 14, Rossi trailed Pedrosa by a mere three tenths. While Lorenzo continued to lead Marquez, who appeared to be biding his time letting Jorge do the “donkey work,” I made a quick note: Y H H Y → H Y Y H. This was my shorthand prediction that the Yamahas would move from positions one and four to finish second and third. Midway through the race, my suspicion that Marquez would eventually take down Lorenzo while Rossi outraced Pedrosa was, in the end, rewarded. Prior to the race I had envisioned two Hondas and one Yamaha on the podium; that prediction turned out wrong by 18/100ths of a second, Rossi’s margin over Pedrosa at the line.
At this point in 2015 there can be no argument that Marc Marquez has returned to his otherworldly form of the past two seasons. For the first 25 laps today he was maintaining strict control of his RC213V, not throwing the front into the turns and waiting for the rear to show up. Once he made his move on Lorenzo he engaged his “reckless abandon” setting and turned the dogs loose. Lorenzo would get close several times over the last three laps, but he wasn’t going to get past young Marquez late in the day. Pedrosa, who had improved steadily between Friday morning and Sunday, qualifying second, appeared ready, willing and able to podium today. There was a time when Pedrosa would have taken on the two leaders once his fuel load dropped, but that day appears to have passed.
Rossi, for his part, will either figure out how to deal with the 15 minute qualifying sessions or see perhaps his last best chance for a tenth world championship vanish before his eyes. He may be the fastest raceday rider on the grid, but his habit of consistently digging himself a hole on Saturday and trying to climb out on Sunday will eventually burn him. Lorenzo, much more interested in Rossi than Marquez, adjusted his strategy for qualifying, opting for three runs rather than two, simply in an effort to gain a front row start today. Had qualifying been limited to 13.5 minutes rather than 15, Lorenzo would have started at the back of the second row, his race strategy blown. This year, more than any year in recent memory, races are being won and lost on Saturday.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Ducati’s Iannone qualified seventh and finished fifth today on his 26th birthday while teammate Andrea Dovizioso went seriously walkabout at Turn 2 of Lap 1, re-entered the race in last place – i.e. behind Toni Elias – and pedaled his posterior off for a distasteful ninth place finish. Dovizioso, once the model of consistency and control, had amassed a total of four (4) points in the previous four rounds before hitting a seven point jackpot today.
Iannone barely held off Smith and his Tech 3 Yamaha, nose thoroughly out of joint over the fact that his teammate, Pol Espargaro, who trails him in the 2015 standings by 24 points, received a shiny new contract with the team for next year while Smith received bupkus. (I gotta think it’s the hair, or lack thereof.)
Anyway, Espargaro held off LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow today for seventh place while rising Octo Pramac star Danilo Petrucci, who had received a major tow on Saturday into a second row start, completed the top ten riders.
The two Suzuki guys had utterly forgettable weekends in Hoosierville. Rookie Maverick Vinales qualified ninth and finished 11th, while the elder Espargaro, Aleix, dawdled through Q2 to start 12th and could only manage a 14th place finish. While it’s safe to say the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not terribly friendly to any of the manufacturers, it seems distinctly unfriendly to the Suzukis. Team Ecstar will probably be thrilled to see Indianapolis fall off the calendar next year.
Just for the record, lest I be accused of ignoring the only American on the grid, Nicky Hayden had a criminally bad hair day today on his way to finishing 16th. Kind of a weak semi-mullet with a painfully lame mini-ponytail on top. The kind of haircut that would be much better suited to World Superbike.
The Big Picture
The Movistar Yamaha team maintains control of the 2015 championship, with Rossi on top of Lorenzo by nine points and Lorenzo leading Marquez by 47. Even though Marquez has gathered 70 points over the last three rounds, Rossi has earned 57 and Lorenzo 49. At this rate, Marquez will not catch Rossi until Round 24, a virtual impossibility in an 18 round season. Iannone holds a solid grip on fourth place, 32 points ahead of Smith and 35 points ahead of former Ducati #1 Dovizioso. Despite having started three fewer races due to injury, Pedrosa now leads wannabe Alien Cal Crutchlow by six points, with Pol Espargaro a single point farther back. Vinales rounds out the top ten with 62 points.
It’s a short week until Round 11 at Brno, The Circuit That Desperately Needs a Vowel. Forward Racing is slated to perform its swan song in the Czech Republic, with the pitiable Loris Baz riding their last open class Yamaha until and unless he breaks it prior to the race. Karel Abraham figures to return to his Cardion AB Honda, since all his aunts and uncles will be there cheering for him to earn a point or two.
Brno is one of those long flowing circuits that tend to favor the Yamahas, so Marc Marquez will need to bring his A game if he intends to continue to cut the gap between himself and the Bruise Brothers. This doesn’t appear to present much of a problem, in that he once again looks unbeatable. But there don’t appear to be enough battles left to allow him to win The War of 2015.
|2015 MotoGP Indianapolis Top 10 Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||–|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||+0.688|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+5.966|
|4||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+6.147|
|5||Andrea Iannone||Ducati Corse||+21.528|
|6||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+21.751|
|7||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+30.378|
|8||Cal Crutchlow||CWM LCR Honda||+31.607|
|9||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+32.821|
|10||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Ducati||+34.517|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 10 Rounds|