As Round 13 of the 2015 MotoGP championship got underway today, the racing gods were thoroughly bored, watching Jorge Lorenzo put another old fashioned Misano beatdown on rival teammate Valentino Rossi and just plain rival Marc Marquez. So they decided to have a little fun, turning on the rain around Lap 6 and turning it off again during Lap 16, forcing a double flag-to-flag affair for the first time in recent memory. When the laughs died down, Marquez had a win, two Brits finished on the podium, Rossi extended his championship lead, and Lorenzo was in the medical center getting x-rays.

The weekend practice sheets led us to believe that today’s race would be another Lorenzo/Marquez wrestling match, and that Marquez, and the world, would be in trouble if Lorenzo got away early. Which is exactly what happened, Lorenzo and his Yamaha M1 going metronomic in the lead halfway through Lap 1. The expected parade dissolved during Lap 6, when the rain flag came out.

The practice sessions foretold a dominant Jorge Lorenzo race at Misano. Unfortunately, for Jorge, the weather followed a different script.

Most of the riders entered the pits at the end of the lap, leaving the three Alien leaders gingerly pushing their machines over the new and increasingly-soaked racing surface, upon which they had had exactly zero minutes of wet practice. At the end of Lap 7 the three leaders entered the pits, jumped on their wet bikes, and headed back out. Let the record show that factory Ducati #2 Andrea Dovizioso led the race at the end of Lap 7 while Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith led after eight, the first MotoGP lap he has led in his career.

With conditions changing from dry to wet to dry again, pit stop strategy played the most important role in the race.

There is no communication between riders and their garages during races, meaning that in flag-to-flag affairs it is solely up to the rider to decide when to change bikes. On a day like today, with the weather playing tricks, it was the timing of the pit stops that ultimately decided the finish order. Mercifully, it was not another of those the-race-is-decided-on-Saturday things; today, the race was decided on track, specifically inside the helmets of the riders.

Decisions, Decisions

Thus far, we know the bulk of the field changed at the end of Lap 6, the three leaders waiting until a very pivotal Lap 7, in which Mark VDS Brit Scott Redding had a small lowside which convinced him to change to his wet bike and led to an almost-three minute lap. Redding changed back to slicks on Lap 14. Parenthetically, Marquez went back to his dry bike on Lap 18 while the two factory Yamahas, rubber flying off their front tires like shrapnel, ignored their pit boards and stayed out, Lorenzo finally making the change on Lap 21 and Rossi on Lap 22.

Ordinarily, an incident like this would spell doom for a racer. At Misano, Scott Redding rebounded to earn his first career MotoGP podium.

The biggest decision of the day, however, was a non-decision. Smith, who has shown steady improvement each year during his MotoGP tenure, never did enter the pits and rode the entire race on slicks. This led to some interesting lap times in the middle of the race (2:12 on Lap 14) but saved him an immense amount of time not changing bikes and strolling down pit lane twice. In fact, as evidenced by the startling fourth place finish today of Loris Baz on the Forward Yamaha, it would be interesting to compare today’s finishing order with the number of laps each non-Alien rider spent on their wet bikes. Surely Smith, Redding and Baz were the most daring riders today, spending the bulk of a damp Sunday afternoon on slicks.

Bradley Smith had one of the most daring performances of the season, completing the entire race on slick tires for a second-place finish.

Late in the Day

And so it was that Jorge Lorenzo, who can be excused for having expected a bit of a cakewalk today, started Lap 22 from pit lane on cold slicks, trailing a bunch of riders, amongst them Rossi, who had yet to pit. And so it was that Lorenzo, pushing to the max trying to chase down the Italian, lost the front in Turn 15, got launched into thin air, and followed his destroyed bike on a painful high-speed fustercluck through the gravel, his day, and possibly his season, lying in ruins around him. He pounded his right hand into the gravel twice in sheer frustration. Later, it was reported he was in the medical center getting x-rays on, among other things, his right hand.

Jorge Lorenzo chose poorly when to switch bikes and crashed out trying to catch up on cool tires. But you can’t really blame him for taking chances trying to make up ground in the championship race.

Lorenzo’s string of podiums at Misano, intact since 2007, fell by the wayside in the worst way imaginable. Meanwhile, teammate Rossi, who finished the day in a triumphant (?) fifth place, saw his personal string of podiums end at 16, but in a good way. His 11 points today stretched his margin over Lorenzo to 23 with but five rounds remaining. He escaped Misano, which has been all but owned by Lorenzo for most of a decade, intact. And if Lorenzo has physical issues that are not fully resolved within two weeks at Aragon, Rossi could be sitting in the catbird seat.

Marc Marquez won his fourth race of the season but still trails Valentino Rossi by 63 points.

We should not overlook Marc Marquez, who today earned perhaps the most meaningless win of his career. He actually dominated the conditions, timing his pit entries perfectly, having learned the Lesson of Aragon 2014, when he stayed out way too long and ultimately crashed out. Surely, his fans around the world, joined by Rossi and his massive worldwide following, hope the young Catalan runs the table this year. A strong finish to the season will make it that much harder for Lorenzo to earn the points he will need to interfere with Rossi’s 10th world championship.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Loris Baz finished a career-best fourth, cementing his position as the favorite to win the open class title.

Loris Baz, whose fourth place finish was the best result for any open class rider this year, did nothing to hurt his rumored switch to Avintia Racing next year. He has pretty much locked up the open class title for the season. The tall 22-year-old Frenchman looks like anything but a MotoGP rider – shades of Marco Simoncelli – but has had a surprisingly successful debut season in MotoGP. Moving up to Avintia, where he might actually get paid, would be a nice payoff for a nice guy.

Two Brits appeared on the podium for the first time in a GP race since the 1979 season opener in Venezuela. Barry Sheene won that race while Tom Herron finished third. Sadly, Herron died later that year in a crash at the Northwest 200.

The factory and Pramac Ducati teams, joined by wildcard Michele Pirro, have seen better days on their home soil. Pirro, who qualified fifth, found himself with deal-breaking electronics issues early, and had to start the race on his wet bike; never quite getting things sorted out, his day ending for good on Lap 10. Suddenly fearsome Danilo Petrucci, who podiumed last time out in the rain, enjoyed a top ten start and beat factory Andreas Iannone and Dovizioso to the finish again, the three finishing 6-7-8 respectively. (Yonny Hernandez crashed his Pramac entry on Lap 10 and collected an oblivious Alex de Angelis, the one Italian rider who is actually from San Marino, adding to his season of woe.) Dani Pedrosa, Alien Emeritus, drove his Repsol Honda to a nondescript ninth place finish, eclipsing Aleix Espargaro and his Suzuki Ecstar by 2/10ths of a second.

Next Up: Aragon

It will be two weeks until the grid descends upon dusty, ancient Aragon, then another fortnight until the frantic three-races-in-three-weeks Pacific flyaway. One hopes that the racing gods got their share of belly laughs today and will have the decency to lay off for the rest of the season. By bolstering the belief of Italian Catholics that God is an Italian Catholic, millions of Rossi fans around the world are giving thanks tonight for Valentino and the heavenly mysteries that brought rain to eastern Italy for twenty minutes on a Sunday afternoon in September.

Valentino Rossi was visited by his former crew chief Jeremy Burgess. If Rossi holds on to win the 2015 title, it will be his first 500cc/MotoGP championship without Burgess at his side.
2015 MotoGP San Marino Top 10 Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
2 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +7.288
3 Scott Redding EG 0,0 Marc VDS +18.793
4 Loris Baz Forward Racing +26.427
5 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +33.196
6 Danilo Petrucci Octo Pramac Ducati +35.087
7 Andrea Iannone Ducati Corse +36.527
8 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +37.434
9 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +39.516
10 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki Estar +39.692
2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 13 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 247
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 224
3 Marc Marquez Honda 184
4 Andrea Iannone Ducati 159
5 Bradley Smith Yamaha 135
6 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 128
7 Dani Pedrosa Honda 109
8 Danilo Petrucci Ducati 93
9 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 81
10 Cal Crutchlow Honda 79
  • methamphetasaur

    What were the two Yamaha characters even doing? I think they need to watch F1 and study some of their pit strategies. You need to pit first, not last. Marquez’s triple lap mega-undercut moved him from behind Rossi to four places ahead of him. The undercut works every* time.

    • Old MOron

      Fcuk F1. As for the Bruise Brothers, they played a conservative hand, a sound strategy considering how much either one stood to lose.

      Marquez: “It was difficult to think on the bike because in the end you are riding on the limit. You must think how many seconds is the other rider, how is the track, how many laps remain? Try to calculate the lap time, what you can do in dry tires and wet tires.”

      Marc’s quote shows how tricky the maths get, especially in real time, in the middle of a wet race.

      Valentino: “Is always difficult because I know that if you come back into the pit earlier it is better for the result, but more risky. Two laps before I wanted to stop but it was still raining a little bit on the back straight and I thought if I stop and it restarts to rain, for me the result was very bad. Also I check a little bit Jorge and he was still behind me, so I decide to continue and I think one lap too much.”

      Jorge: “Maybe you can win if you enter quickly into the pits, but if you put the slick and then crash you can lose the championship and not have options for the rest of the season. Knowing that I was second, I waited a little bit to see what Valentino was doing because if he entered the pits and I entered at the same time, with dry tires, maybe I could be faster than him afterwards. But if I enter the pits before him and then it starts raining, I could crash and get injured, or he might win and I lose 25 points. For this reason I decided to stay out.”

      Vale and Jorge’s quotes show that each had a reasonable perspective. In hind site they both admit they should’ve come in a lap earlier, but hind sight is a luxury. The rain alternated harder and lighter for 20 minutes. Since they had no way of knowing which way the weather would go, their conservative approach was not unreasonable.

      • spiff

        Good quotes.

      • methamphetasaur

        Your opinion on f1 notwithstanding, my point still holds. Look at any series that pits on purpose (i.e. not because of rain) anfd you’ll se they all do the same thing. Pitting first is faster. Your outlap on new tires will be faster than his inlap on old tires. It’s mostly a moot point in this situation because Lorenzo crashed, but had he not pushed it too far before his tires were heated up, he likely would have finished 5th and Rossi 6th. And with even more pointless speculative hindsight if he pitted when his pitboard character told him to- who knows, but a win might not have been out of the question.

        And also they kept showing their tires in super slowmo and they both looked pretty chewed up, so they might not have made it to the end even if it did start raining again.

        As you say- even though we know what happened now, and the right choices that were made could very easily have turned out to be the wrong choices- so i shall put it this way, and you can take it or leave it as you wish: if it were me, I would have pitted early (especially if I were Lorenzo, since he was behind)… and as a few of them proved, in this particular instance it turned out to be the right choice.

        • spiff

          But in the heat of the moment he didn’t pit. He was trying to keep pace with Rossi who would have looked brilliant if the rain came back. Bench racers are always fast. Do you have any clue how fast I was? :)

        • Old MOron

          Your point is well made: pitting first is faster. Both Valentino and Jorge have acknowledged this. But especially in yesterday’s race, pitting first was also more risky.

          In this case, the reward for going in early was a possible race win, but the penalty for getting it wrong was possibly throwing away the entire championship. Imagine weighing those stakes in the heat of a rain race battle, and you can see why they both chose the conservative route.

          By your own calculations, “had [Jorge] not pushed it too far before his tires were heated up, he likely would have finished 5th and Rossi 6th.” In that case, Jorge would’ve gained a single point on Vale. Both competitors would’ve have survived a crazy, risky day with barely a change in their championship hopes. That sounds like a well-played conservative strategy on a uniquely risky day.

    • spiff

      46 and 99 only cared about each other. They weren’t thinking race win, it was all about points.

    • Michael Mccormick

      You watch F1 and study and do your undercut. Must be simple

  • JMDonald

    This race was not the dynamic I envisioned. I feel for Jorge. They should have pitted earlier. Another day in yacht racing. No?

  • Old MOron

    Props to Smith, Redding, Baz, and Petrux!

    • Bruce Allen

      Your boy Petrux did exactly what??? to earn your kudos?

  • Old MOron

    Hey Bruce! Do you have any details on the Burgess-Rossi reunion? Did Jeremy tell him that he should’ve pitted earlier? :-)

    • Bruce Allen

      Looking at the photo, it appears Jeremy had just returned from a casting call for extras for the next Harry Potter movie and was explaining to Rossi that he, too, could be an extra in a Harry Potter movie. Rossi was reminding him that he was in the midst of a world championship scrap and might have to wait for the next one. Burgess, older than me, always looks like two cents.

  • Michael Mccormick

    Marquez won, and you can bet he will finish the rest of the season strong. Unfortunately he has to wait to become the next Rossi, but he’s young and has time on his side, and immense talent. No one can ride like he does, just watch him and you’re blind if you don’t see the talent and passion. I’ve been a big Schwantz and Ross fan i for years, but Marc is the next moto gp miracle. Last season was no fluke

  • Bruce Allen

    No one seems to have noticed that Marquez, having pitted twice, still managed to beat Smith, who had a couple of rain-induced slow laps, by over 7 seconds. As Mark Beale has pointed out elsewhere, if Bradley Smith were going to be an Alien, he’d already be one.

    • Old MOron

      A couple of rain-induced slow laps? Mark Beale may or may not be right, but Smith rode like a badass yesterday. He spent a longggg time on slick tires in wet conditions yesterday. I’m surprised he had the nerve to open the throttle at all.

      • Bruce Allen

        You have to wonder what was going through his mind, out there on slicks mid-race when it was pouring. BTW, when MO is late posting the race results you can always find them at in the morning, Eastern time.

        • Old MOron

          Thanks, Bruce. Pity I can’t post replies there without first creating a wordpress account.

    • spiff

      If Rossi wins this year I think he will call it a career. So this made me think “who gets the ride”. Smith was my choice for less than ten seconds. I agree with you 100%… Since Rossi no longer wants the seat do think they will call Spies? 😉

      • Bruce Allen

        Interesting idea. It would be rare for a world class athlete to go out on top, almost as rare as a 36 year old winning a MotoGP title. I had thought Pol Espargaro might succeed Rossi, but probably not. My 2016 dark horse pick would be Alex Rins. If Rossi were to stick around for another year, I would DEFINITELY bet on Alex Rins in 2017.

        • East South

          if Rossi leaves, i think Marquez will move to Yamaha.

          • Old MOron

            I think it will depend on how Rossi feels about the Michelins. He will have tested them a couple of times by the end of this year. If he feels good on them, he’ll stay for another year. I hope.

          • East South

            rossi would be better on the michelins. if JLo and MM cant find the grip they wont be able to do their trick.

            everyone will stand a chance at winning. but rossi will probably quit when he is at his high point.

        • Old MOron

          Yeah, Rins is a hot ticket. Another thing Yamaha could try is to poach Vinales from Suzuki.

  • Shlomi

    Marc was slower than Lordnzo on dry, and slower than Rossi on wet. He won the race for pure luck, as both Rossi and Lordnzo rode way too long on rain tires. He changed back to slick earlier as he could not match the leaders on wet, so why not gamble for slick. In 10 years when every one debate who was the best rider of all time everyone will remember that Rossi beat Marc when Rossi was at the end of his career. You can only imagine what would have happenend if Rossi was at his prime (ask Biaggi…)

  • cocoallegro

    Why did Lorenzo and Rossi stay out on wets for so long? Lorenzo had pit board instructions to come in 3 laps before he did.

    • Bruce Allen

      Pit board information is generally regarded as suggestions, rather than orders. Lorenzo might have won this one if he hadn’t crashed, enjoying an additional lap on slicks.