Factory Yamaha pilot Jorge Lorenzo, in a race he absolutely needed to win, did so convincingly, leading wire to wire on the dusty plains of Aragon. Thanks to Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, he reduced his deficit to teammate Valentino Rossi from 23 points to 14, as Pedrosa held off repeated assaults from Rossi over the last five laps. Fans around the world expected Rossi, who hasn’t won a race on Spanish soil since 2009, to take Pedrosa’s lunch money late in the day. But the diminutive Spaniard willfully held on, denying Rossi four points he badly wanted, and tying his best result of a winless year.

As expected, the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday featured Lorenzo and defending world champion Marc Marquez, looking fast and dangerous on the #1 Repsol Honda. Marquez shredded the track record in qualifying on Saturday, earning yet another pole. His start today earned a C from the judges as he exited Turn 1 in third place behind Lorenzo and Andrea “Ironman” Iannone, racing again with a recently dislocated shoulder.

As he usually does when he wins, Jorge Lorenzo won decisively, never really facing much of a challenge. Marc Marquez, on the other hand, had to push hard to catch Lorenzo, eventually pushing too hard and crashing out.

Marquez went through on the Italian later in Lap 1 and set his sights on Lorenzo. Unaccountably, as he was closing on the Mallorcan on Lap 2, he lost the front in Turn 12, backdropped by the massive stacked stone wall that always makes me think of The Inquisition. For the fifth time this season, young Marquez ended up in the gravel, the result of an unforced error caused, one would think, by youthful exuberance, overconfidence, a feeling of invulnerability or, most likely, a combination of the three, the magic of 2014 clearly gone. Until he learns to manage his emotions more effectively (the same problem Lorenzo had in 2008) he will not win another world championship.

As strange as it sounds, the lessons of 2015 may end up serving Marquez well. If he learns he doesn’t need to use every ounce of the considerable speed he possesses during every single moment of every single race, he will keep the shiny side up and compete for the next 10 or 12 world titles. Again and again we’ve seen the veteran Rossi keeping his powder dry and his tires intact, looking for the ideal opportunity to pass a rival and earn points. Winning a race by 12 seconds counts no more than winning by 12/1000ths; points is points, a fact often overlooked by youthful combatants.

Valentino Rossi remains atop the championship standings but the lead over Jorge Lorenzo decreased from 23 to just 14.

67,000 Fans Held Their Breath

With Rossi glued to Pedrosa’s tailpipes all day, the mostly Spanish crowd waited for the inevitable takedown, when Rossi would go through and begin thinking about Lorenzo. Pedrosa passed the wounded Iannone on Lap 3, Rossi on Lap 4. (Iannone’s expected late day fade, due to pain in his shoulder, never materialized, as he finished a very gutsy fourth today, some 16 seconds clear of Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso.) Round and round they went, Rossi never trailing by more than 4/10ths nor less than two, until Lap 19.

Valentino Rossi tailed Dani Pedrosa for most of the way but eventually had to settle for third place.

Over the last five laps, Rossi attacked the Spaniard no less than four times, going through briefly only to get re-passed in the next turn. He would try twice in Turn 1 and twice more in Turn 4, Pedrosa never conceding a thing. As the crowd began to turn blue from oxygen deprivation, Lorenzo took the checkered flag, with Pedrosa gasping his way to second and Rossi taking an exhausting third.

During the post-race press conference, Pedrosa acted surprised when asked how he was able to withstand Rossi’s repeated attacks, a measure of the confidence with which he still approaches his trade. As his tenure with the factory Honda team approaches its end, he will be an asset to one of the newer teams – Aprilia or Suzuki or KTM – anxious to retain his services once HRC bids him farewell. Despite never having won a premier class title, he has forgotten more about this stuff than guys like Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera have ever known. Even if you’re a big Nicky Hayden fan with a long memory, Dani Pedrosa deserves your respect.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso battled for fifth place with the Italian coming out ahead by half a second.

Five riders spent the shank of the day fighting over fifth place. Borrowing from the book of Genesis, “in the beginning” it looked like Tech 3 Yamaha little brother Pol Espargaro enjoyed the inside track, until he went walkabout on Lap 4, falling from fifth to tenth place, ultimately finishing ninth. This sounds worse than it actually was, as he finished only two seconds behind Dovizioso in fifth, separated by big brother Aleix on the Suzuki Ecstar, LCR Honda hooligan Cal Crutchlow, and Tech 3 teammate Bradley Smith. Smith, notably, had a forgettable weekend, qualifying 10th and finishing 8th, though still managing to hold onto fifth place for the season. Lame duck Pramac Ducati rider Yonny Hernandez completed the top ten, pipping Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales at the flag, despite a slew of pre-race flyovers from the Spanish Air Force, one of the two F-16’s emblazoned with Vinales’ #25.

Non-finishers today, besides Marquez, included the hapless Alex de Angelis, crashing out on Lap 6, Pramac Ducati overachiever Danilo Petrucci, who lowsided on Lap 10 for his first time outside the points all season, and a visibly pained Karel Abraham, who retired his open class Honda on Lap 12, apparently having re-injured his troublesome left foot. Karel, buddy, do the industry a favor and give it up. You’ve got a law degree and a rich father. Go put on an expensive suit and take clients to lunch, and let this MotoGP thing go. 38 points in three seasons – dude, it’s just not happening.

The Big Picture

In two weeks, the ass-dragging, sweat-soaked Pacific flyaway commences in Japan, with three races in three weeks. 14 points now separate Rossi and Lorenzo, two of the most talented riders on the face of the earth, on the same equipment, sharing the same garage. Old and crafty versus young and fast; the fable of the tortoise and the hare on two wheels. We all know how that ended. Whether the same holds true in MotoGP remains to be seen. Personally, I have my doubts.

Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo still need to decide the rider championship but after the results at Aragon, Yamaha has clinched the team championship.

Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo still need to decide the rider championship but after the results at Aragon, Yamaha has clinched the team championship.

Marquez now leads Iannone by a meager 12 points in the battle for third place and looks vulnerable. If Iannone manages to capture third place for the year, I will be conferring Alien status upon him, certain that Gigi Dall’Igna will provide him a further-improved ride for 2016. Bradley Smith enjoys a four point advantage over Dovizioso for fifth place; it would be great to see the wide-eyed Brit finish the season in the top five. Whether Dovizioso will allow this to happen, if indeed he can do anything to prevent it, is yet another unknown. Pedrosa, now trailing Dovizioso by only ten points, could easily jump up to fifth place for the year based upon what he showed today, after having endured a wretched start to the 2015 season.

A wounded Andrea Iannone put in a valiant effort to take fourth place. The Ducati trails Marc Marquez by just 12 points for third overall and overtaking the reigning world champion is a realistic possibility.

Ducati, Honda and Yamaha all have a dog in the fight for eighth place, as Petrucci, Crutchlow and Espargaro the Younger are separated by only five points. At the tail end of my attention span, the two Suzuki teammates are separated by a mere two points in the contest for 11th place. Certain Rookie of the Year Vinales, it would seem, has more on the line, in that ending the season as the #1 rider on the team would bolster his chances of securing a ride with one of the more established factory teams commencing in 2017.

As October approaches, we find one of the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers lighting candles for sunny skies and the other praying for rain. Is it even possible that the 2015 MotoGP championship hinges on the weather? The mind reels.

2015 MotoGP Aragon Top 10 Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha
2 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +2.683
3 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +2.773
4 Andrea Iannone Ducati Corse +7.858
5 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +24.322
6 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki Estar +24.829
7 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda +25.367
8 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +25.503
9 Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech3 +39.516
10 Yonny Hernandez Octo Pramac +43.889
2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 14 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 263
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 249
3 Marc Marquez Honda 184
4 Andrea Iannone Ducati 172
5 Bradley Smith Yamaha 143
6 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 139
7 Dani Pedrosa Honda 129
8 Danilo Petrucci Ducati 93
9 Cal Crutchlow Honda 88
10 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 88
  • Old MOron

    I like “Ironman” for Iannone. Okay okay, respect to Pedrobot. Happy for Yonny to get a top ten. Now for Motegi.

    Oh please, oh please, oh please, can we have another battle like in 2010?
    http://www.streetfire.net/video/rossi-vs-lorenzo-2010-japan-greatest-battle-ever_2079971.htm

    • Bruce Allen

      Classic stuff. Was selling out to Ducati the worst mistake of Rossi’s career or what? Nice that he finally acknowledged it this past year.

      • Old MOron

        Was it a mistake? Probably. Was it the worst mistake of his career? Well, since it was the only mistake of his career, yes. But was it really a mistake?

        Maybe it fits right in with his “What if I never tried it?” perspective. He probably learned something about himself during his cold years at Ducati. Maybe it makes his legend all the greater that he was able to suffer and make a comeback.

        I sure hope he whoops Lorenzo at Motegi like he did in 2010. And I hope he whoops him at Philip Island and Sepang.

        And I hope he whoops everyone on the Michelins next year.

        • Ozzy Mick

          @East South, I agree re Stoner’s greatness at Ducati. I had fantasised at the time how Rossi would have done at Ducati, wondering how the all-Italian combo might work. Interesting that Ferrari, apparently, don’t employ Italian drivers.

          • methamphetasaur

            Maybe because there hasn’t even been an Italian on the grid since Trulli gave up in 2011?

          • Ozzy Mick

            Check this out:
            http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1923944-ferrari-italy-and-formula-1-where-have-the-italian-drivers-gone-and-why
            You are right about Trulli but other reasons were lack of sponsorship for Italian drivers, and also because Enzo decided to stop using Italian drivers after he was accused of being a ‘killer’ after several Italian Ferrari drivers were killed in the earlier days of the scuderia.

          • methamphetasaur

            He stopped using Italian drivers- that is unless they got an American passport first…

      • http://facebook.com/ East South

        Probably the worst, wasted his time at Ducati!
        Ducati’s problems where masked by Stoner’s greatness.

  • spiff

    Okay Bruce, I concede. Wasn’t tire management, and one made it to the kitty litter. I would just like the record to state I preferred the 99in the litter.

    • Bruce Allen

      So noted.

  • JMDonald

    One down, four to go.

  • http://facebook.com/ East South

    watching rossi vs dani, is what its all about! racing

    • methamphetasaur

      The second great Rossi-Pedrosa battle this year. Unfortunately for Rossi not the same result as Indy (athough the same 3rd place finish)

  • Michael Mccormick

    In the end, Jorge wins the championship. Rossi’s psychological tricks will not get Lorenzo’s goat. Lorenzo is looking more and more like Steady Eddie Lawson.

    • Bruce Allen

      I really think it all depends on the weather, of all things. Lorenzo is frightened in the rain, Rossi’s not. There you have it.

  • methamphetasaur

    And now for something completely different…

    Whatever happened to Aegerter? Laying on the floor unmoving- race restarted because of- carried away on stretcher- carted away to hospital… but never mentioned once in the race coverage? I figured you might mention something in the usual half paragraph about moto2 and moto3, but not so much this week.

  • Vrooom

    Describing Rossi as the tortoise is bold. The tortoise is leading the motogp championship. Pedrosa did a great job of keep Rossi in check, the man can still ride, have to wonder if Rossi could have closed the gap to Lorenzo given it was only 2.7 seconds had he not had to tangle with Pedrosa. There’s Spanish liqueur in the Honda garage!

  • http://facebook.com/ East South

    Marquez just went to undergo surgery one rival down for the championship.

    • Old MOron

      Wow, interesting turn of events. If Marc was going to win the remaining races, then this is good for Jorge. If Jorge is going to win remaining races, this is good for Vale. If Vale wins races, then this doesn’t matter.