After the debacle at Misano, factory Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo observed that capturing the 2015 MotoGP title requires only that he win the remaining five races. His Plan A, which to many seems unlikely, could give way this weekend to Plan B, which would have teammate Valentino Rossi crashing out of a race or two. But Rossi, on average, crashes maybe once a season, most recently at Aragon a year ago. Lorenzo, who loves racing on the dusty Spanish plain, needs to make some hay on Sunday; beating his teammate has never been so important.

Since Lorenzo’s four-round winning streak ended at Assen, Rossi has outscored the Spaniard by 22 points, half of which came last week with his somewhat disappointing fifth-place run in the rain of San Marino. Rossi’s reliability is one reason he’s fighting for a championship at age 36. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, he has started and finished all but three races to Lorenzo’s five. Both are consistent, but Rossi has the edge.

With all the craziness that went on at Misano, Jorge Lorenzo took the biggest hit, dropping him further behind Valentino Rossi for the championship.

The main thing Lorenzo has going for him this weekend is the venue; Rossi simply hasn’t been very good in five outings at Motorland Aragon. Granted, during two of those years he was wrestling a pre-Dall’igna Ducati, which explains some of it. But while Lorenzo has gone 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd and 1st, Rossi has finished 6th, 10th, 8th, 3rd and not at all last year. For Lorenzo, that’s the good news. The bad news is that anything other than a solid win this weekend will put him in the trick locker, a nice working definition of the term “pressure.”

Honda’s Marc Marquez remains the wildcard in the championship fight between the two Yamahas.

I have failed to mention double defending world champion and factory Honda wonderboy Marc Marquez, who won last time out and is likely to be a major fly in the ointment for Lorenzo on Sunday. The young Catalan figures to be in the middle of things this weekend, complicating life more for Lorenzo than Rossi. Let’s just call a spade a spade and suggest that Lorenzo needs to beat both Rossi and Marquez at Aragon. Almost any other order of finish works in Rossi’s favor, and the grueling Pacific swing beckons.

Recent History at Aragon

Dani Pedrosa won six of eight races, including here at Aragon, to end the 2012 season.

In 2012, Round 14 was Dani’s Revenge, as Pedrosa, whose season went up in smoke following his last-row-start-first-lap-crash at Misano two weeks previous, won comfortably. Lorenzo finished a conservative, relatively risk-free second that day, while Monster Tech 3 scrapper Andrea Dovizioso pushed his satellite Yamaha to the limit on his way to a gratifying third place finish (joyfully pimping teammate Cal Crutchlow at the flag) and subsequent “promotion” to the factory Ducati team in 2013. Over the last half of the 2012 season, Pedrosa epitomized the “win or bin” metaphor so often spoken of in racing (generally by Brits) by winning six of his last eight races and crashing out of the other two. Despite piling up his highest career point total in 2012, Pedrosa would end the year 18 points behind Lorenzo, a short, swarthy bridesmaid once again.

In 2013, rookie Marc Marquez, unaware that Aragon was a Yamaha-friendly layout, calmly went out, took Lorenzo’s best shot, and beat him by 1.3 seconds. Rossi, in his first year back on the factory Yamaha after the painful two-year exile with Ducati, took a rather hollow third, some 13 seconds behind Marquez. The rookie phenom’s 39-point lead over Lorenzo at the end of the day would prove insurmountable. Notwithstanding the gratuitous DQ he absorbed at Phillip Island three weeks later, Marquez went on to clinch his first premier class title with a smart, strong second place finish at Valencia in the season finale.

Aleix Espargaro was a surprise podium-finisher at Aragon last year with Forward Racing. It may be just as surprising if he manages to do it again this year for Suzuki.

Last year’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon provided fans with 44+ minutes of two-wheeled slapstick, a memorable flag-to-flag affair that left the day’s results scrambled. Exhibit A: The factory Hondas of Marquez and Pedrosa crossed the finish line in 13th and 14th places, respectively. Factory Yamaha icon Rossi finished the day in the medical center, having run off the track on Lap 4 into a bog which grabbed his front tire, held it fast, and ejected him into the tire wall, concussed, dazed and confused. While Lorenzo won going away, the big story was Aleix Espargaro, who drove his satellite Yamaha from a tenth place start to a thrilling second place finish over Crutchlow, pipped once again, and his factory Ducati. In retrospect, this may have been the all-time high water mark of the entire Forward Racing project, now in tatters, desperately trying to finish the season, its owner under indictment and Toni Elias now occupying the #2 seat behind poor Loris Baz.

Austria Yes, Indiana No

The odds finally caught up with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to Misano, when the provisional 2016 calendar was released. Gone was the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, voted the best round of the season just the previous year. In its place will be the Austrian Grand Prix, to be run at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, roughly 100 miles southwest of Vienna. With but nine turns per lap, it seems likely to favor the Yamahas and Ducatis. The Hoosier in me is screaming “not a very interesting layout,” but we shall save that observation for next year.

A second transatlantic crossing, with Laguna Seca having been scratched from the calendar in 2014, has always been expensive, and has seemed a long way to go for not much. The Motor Speedway is cool if you enjoy watching four-wheeled vehicles going fast and turning left, but the infield section, flat as a board, was never great for bikes. Despite drawing 60-70,000 fans, the stands always looked three- quarters empty, due to the fact that they were always three-quarters empty. The real shame in all this is that it undoubtedly means the demise of the MotoAmerica round in Indy.

With the name Maverick, Vinales was the obvious choice for a PR event with Spain’s air force.

If Carmelo Ezpeleta has his way, the calendar will grow to 20 rounds later this decade. If the United States were a better market for the manufacturers, promoters in this country would figure out a way to put together a three race American round consisting of Laguna, Austin and Indianapolis early in the season, with the Pacific flyaway bookending it in the fall. Instead, the grid is likely to find itself schlepping to places like Thailand, Finland (???) and even ultra-ambitious Kazakhstan. Yikes.

Your Weekend Forecast

Valentino Rossi’s streak of podium finishes ended at Misano but he remains in good position, leading the championship standings by 23 points.

As of Tuesday evening, the chances for rain in metropolitan Alcañiz this weekend are zero, with temps hovering around 80°F. With no rain in the forecast, the Aliens are likely to control things, as much as things can be controlled at 200 mph on two wheels. Look for Rossi to lay back a little to watch Marquez and Lorenzo beat each other’s brains in. With Marquez hungry and Lorenzo desperate, Rossi can play tortoise, keeping his eye on the big picture. With autumn coming into view, Jorge Lorenzo enjoys no such luxury.

  • JMDonald

    Five to win it. This is what I like to see.

    • Old MOron

      Who is your fifth?

      • JMDonald

        Lorenzo can win. If he wins five. It would be nice to see the winner decided in race five. May the best man win.

        • Old MOron

          Ohhhh, I get it. I thought you meant just for this weekend. Any of the four aliens could win, plus one other rider.

          On an unrelated note, who are you supporting in RWC 2015? I’m going to watch Scotland v Japan when I get home tonight, so don’t post any spoilers, please. And Wales got off to a good start, but paid a high price in terms of injuries.

          • JMDonald

            I don’t have any dogs in the RWC hunt. May the best team win.

          • Ozzy Mick

            As an Aussie, my heart says Australia, but having lived in New Zealand, where being captain of the All Blacks is more prestigious than being the Prime Minister, I’m betting on the All Blacks. Will Bruce support the land of his ancestors, I wonder?
            Oh, and Marquez this weekend.

          • Bruce Allen

            I’m guessing it’s a fair statement that lots of jobs are more prestigious than being the Prime Minister of New Zealand. I’m happy to support the All Blacks, however. Send me a link where I can catch some video.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Och, aye – you’re a funny cynic Mr Bruce, but this time you may be right.
            I’m working in China at the MOment and some links don’t work but try this for highlights: https://au.sports.yahoo.com/rugby/#page1.
            It’s an Ozzy one so is a little biased in content.
            Welcome to the bandwagon – Together we (the All Blacks) shall overcome! Like Marquez will…?

          • Bruce Allen

            I’m gonna buy one of their jerseys while I contemplate the reality of pulling hard for The Wallabies. WALLABIES? Aren’t they marsupials, with the whole pouch thing? What, was there already a team called The Newts? :)

          • Old MOron

            I went a little crazy and ordered a Brave Blossoms jersey. I’m not the only one, though. The stupid things are out of stock.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Not hard if they only had 3 in stock?

          • Old MOron

            Ha ha ha! Good point.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Wallabies are WANNABE kangaroos. The All Blacks are Superoos.

          • Ozzy Mick

            This weekend is shaping up as a good one for me – happy that Wales beat Eng***d (can’t bring myself to say it – the Old Enemy, as far as us Aussie sports fans are concerned), and Marquez on pole. OK, the result of the race may be different by the time you read this, but better to pole than not?

          • Old MOron

            (1) Not a bad race. (2) Expected result against Uruguay. (3) Now for England. Oh how you will love to beat them at Twickenham. Anywhere on English soil, I’d guess, but especially at Twickenham, and especially while they are tournament host. Good luck!

          • Ozzy Mick

            (1) Rossi under pressure now. (2) Uruguay = minnows. (3) Thanks mate!

          • Old MOron

            What a match! Congrats to the Wallabies. Fantastic play.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Couldn’t agree more but heads down, bums up, we haven’t won the BIG prize yet, altho nice to trample the Old Enemy on the way!

          • Old MOron

            Right, eyes on the big prize. Is that why you seem to be sober? :-)

  • Old MOron

    ” … a short, swarthy bridesmaid once again”
    Ha ha ha!

    “If the United States were a better market for the manufacturers…”
    You mean if we televised something other than NASCAR?

    • panthalassa

      parenthetically, even they may be dwindling. their race from chicago sunday – the first race of their “chase” – was relegated to nbcsn. sticks and balls …

      • Bruce Allen

        Nuthin’ wrong with sticks and balls. Or, as Austin Powers used to say, twigs and berries.

  • Old MOron

    Hey, I just had an idea. You know how Rossi wore his minnow-and-sharks helmet last week? When they go to Motegi, he should put this on his helmet!

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/3/37/Logo_JRFU.svg/180px-Logo_JRFU.svg.png

    • Bruce Allen

      I’m absolutely certain this is funny as hell, I just don’t get it. :)

      • Old MOron

        Well, this post was for the rugby fans. The Rugby World Cup is going on right now in the UK, and about five days ago, Japan pulled off the greatest upset in World Cup history!

        In rugby the underdog teams are called minnows. Japan have always been minnows. They have participated in every Rugby World Cup, but until now had won only a single game, back in 1991. They made history last week!

        This ties in to Rossi’s helmet, whereon he identified himself as a small fish fighting against big sharks. He is also making history. I think it would be cool if he were to show his solidarity with the Japanese “minnows” by putting the Cherry Blossom on his helmet. That’s Japan’s team emblem. Motegi would be the perfect venue.

        • Bruce Allen

          So, you’re into MotoGP and rugby, two of the more obscure sports on the planet. What’s going on in the world of jai alai ? 😀

          • Old MOron

            Ha ha, Moto GP and rugby are only obscure in the States.
            Jai alai? Uh, too mainstream for me. :-)

  • Vrooom

    Surprised to see Bradley Smith doing so darn well this year, 5th place in the championship. I knew he’d had some good races but hadn’t looked further down the leaderboard than 3rd in a while. Perhaps there’s a seat for him on the Yamaha factory team in the next year or two. Sitting in 10th place must burn Cal Crutchlow, his ego likely doesn’t register double digits. Hoping Rossi gets at least a second out of the race. I just want to see a 36 year old win the championship.

  • spiff

    Go Rossi!!! End transmission.

    • Bruce Allen

      Only if Marquez and Lorenzo take each other out. Even third place wouldn’t sting too much at a place like Aragon.

      • spiff

        So you heard it here first. Practice will go as usual: 93, 99 and everyone else. Qualifying will be 93, 99 and everyone else. Then the race will turn into tire management with 46 1st or 2nd. 93 and 99 fill the rest of the podium. I think 93 will rattle 99 early with 99 most likely ending up 3rd.

        • Bruce Allen

          As I’ve discovered the hard way, predicting this stuff is a rough business. How about this: either 93 or 99 will finish the race in the kitty litter.

          • spiff

            Are you asking me to choose? Oh, then I say 99. :) I think the reality is if Rossi’s race pace can pressure Lorenzo I can see him (99) making a mistake. Lorenzo has to ride on the edge, and Rossi is going to do his best to keep him there.

          • Old MOron

            Based on FP4 Vale seems to be about half a second off the race pace. He’ll need to push to stay “there or thereabout,” then claw his way to the front when the tires fall off.

          • Old MOron

            Wow Bruce, too bad you didn’t go out on a limb and call 99 for the kitty litter. You’d be looking like a real genius right now. Oh well, half genius is still better than all the other journos! :-)

          • Bruce Allen

            Pretty happy with my, um, hedged prediction. Gotta rest up for the October ordeal, six of these things in 15 days. Ugh.

  • Old MOron

    Well, the first practice day saw the Bruise Brothers go one-two. We need for Marquez to find some pace and keep things extra, extra dramatic.

    • DKing

      Nice to see Rossi doing well in practice! Be good to see him get a good position in qualifying. I bet Marquez will pick it up once he tries out the medium tire. It will be interesting to see what they pick on race day.

      • Old MOron

        Good point. I was listening to the commentators, and I think they said that Yamaha has settled on the medium tire for the race, but Honda are still considering the hard. Marc should be faster on the medium. He’ll do well in qualifying. But what about the race?

        The other factor is that Yamaha has tested at this track earlier in the year, so they have some data to rely on. Will Honda catch up with their army of engineers working overnight?

        • spiff

          I think you are correct about Yamaha’s choosing the medium based on their test. If the Hondas do go on hard it will be a fun race to watch strategy play out.

        • DKing

          I know…so much to consider! I love how the race weekend starts on Thursday. It makes the work week easier to finish.. Just for fun…who would you pick as the possible top finisher outside the normal 4 aliens? I think I may go with Smith. Dovi hasn’t seemed real consistent lately and Iannone’s shoulder seems like it may still be giving him trouble….

          • Old MOron

            I agree Smith is a strong contender beyond the aliens. The Espargaro brothers, too, maybe. Would love to see a Suzuki up there. Apparently Aleix’s bike got some minor go-fast parts.

  • spiff

    Check this video out (don’t know if you need a password or not), it is interesting how these guys are possibly hiding their speed.

    http://www.motogp.com/en/video_update/2015/09/25/tech-talk-lorenzo-shows-his-hand/185253