The record books will show that Jorge Lorenzo’s win today, together with Valentino Rossi’s 4th place finish, gave the 2015 championship to Lorenzo by five points. There will be documentation attesting to the fact that Valentino Rossi passed 20 riders in the first 10 laps, ultimately making it up to 4th place on the grid, at which point he was spent.
There will be no explanation, visual or otherwise, why either of the Repsol Hondas didn’t give Lorenzo a serious go on the last two laps; the term “team orders” has ceased to exist. The three points given Rossi by Race Direction after Sepang were, in the end, decisive.
The bells are not ringing in Tavullia tonight.
Setting the Stage
Jorge Lorenzo laid down “the best lap of my life,” in his words, on Saturday to capture pole in a race where getting away at the front would solve a lot of problems. Joined on the front row by Repsol Honda troublemakers Marc Marquez and the suddenly-hot Dani Pedrosa, Lorenzo earned the best possible track to the title on Saturday.
Everyone know Rossi would be starting from the back row. Everyone had done the math about where Rossi would arrive when. Lorenzo knew, as we all knew, that winning the race meant Rossi’s eventual placement was less of a concern; anything outside of second would put the Italian in 2nd place for the season.
Thus, on a Honda-friendly track, in front of a sellout crowd and millions watching on TV around the world, Jorge Lorenzo exerted his will upon the field and his top competitors to win in Valencia. In a must-win situation he showed us his mental toughness and again brings into question why he bothered to get involved in the Rossi/Marquez tiff. Had he floated above the controversy, his title would shine a lot brighter than it does. He reminds me of my wife’s strong suggestion that I never resist an opportunity to keep my mouth shut.
On the Track…
…The Usual Suspects took their places, Lorenzo followed closely by Marquez, Pedrosa trailing and, eventually, Rossi occupying fourth, unable to do anything about the action so far in front of him. For Rossi to claim the title, he needed both Marquez and Pedrosa to treat Lorenzo rudely, going through to put the Mallorcan in third place.
Amazingly, Lorenzo led Marquez and Pedrosa at the end of Lap 1 and at the end of Lap 30, without having to withstand a serious challenge of any import along the way. This oddity, which also resulted in an all-Spanish podium, is a little fishy. The casual observer, if the top three wore the same livery, might deduce that #93 and #26 were protecting the back of #99. The world will never know.
The worst part of all of this, as we know, is that the specific sanction imposed upon Rossi by Race Direction after Sepang had a direct bearing on the outcome of the season. What if Race Direction had, in its wisdom, assessed Rossi a two point penalty, slapping him on the wrist but allowing him to qualify? Is it that hard to see him finishing second from a second row start on a day the factory Hondas were not getting froggy?
And with triple world champion Lorenzo in effect criticizing the penalty as too lenient, is there any reason to suppose the team won’t be building a wall down the middle of the garage again in 2016, the way it did in 2009? No warm and fuzzies here.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Pol Espargaro lashed his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha to the line three seconds in front of teammate Bradley Smith to capture fifth place for the day, Smith just showing Andrea Dovizioso and his Desmosedici the shade. Aleix Espargaro brought his factory Suzuki across the line in eighth, with Cal Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci bringing the LCR Honda and the Pramac Ducati, respectively, to the flag filling out the top ten.
Farther down the food chain, Maverick Vinales, Michele Pirro and Yonny Hernandez ended their year in the points. Vinales will continue with Suzuki in 2016, Pirro will continue to test for Ducati, and Hernandez moves to the Aspar team but will remain on the junior class Ducati, teaming up with Eugene Laverty. Today, in his last MotoGP start, American Nicky Hayden finished 17th and out of the money, but he finished, as has been declared a MotoGP Legend, with three career wins and a championship to show for his body of work in the premier class. I hope one of the genuine nice guys in the industry can find a competitive team and win a title in WSBK.
Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl finished 14th and 18th today, and will begin practicing on the new Aprilia MotoGP bike on Tuesday in Jerez. Brit Scott Redding ended his generally fruitless association with Marc VDS Honda and will be suiting up for Pramac Ducati alongside Petrucci. (Scott, wouldn’t it have been easier just to lose 15 pounds?) Marc VDS will, in 2016, be bringing Tito Rabat up from Moto2 to ride alongside Jack Miller. Loris Baz will join top open class rider Hector Barbera at Avintia Ducati.
The top factory and satellite teams are standing pat, meaning some riders will not have seats for next season. This is life in the slow lane of MotoGP.
The Final Big Picture of 2015
So, Lorenzo edges Rossi for the title, with Marquez third and Pedrosa fourth; the Aliens remain unchallenged. Andrea Iannone outpoints Smith by seven to claim fifth, with Brit the top satellite rider in sixth. Dovizioso slips to seventh place for the year, ahead of Crutchlow in eighth. And Pol Espargaro pips Petrucci by a single point in the race for ninth place. The two Suzukis finish 11th and 12th, Espargaro outpointing his rookie teammate by eight.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
So MotoGP now has four respectable, competitive manufacturers, two of which have Alien class riders. The rule and tire changes for 2016 will shuffle the deck to a degree, but should not change the order of Aliens. Several junior class riders – Alex Rins and Miguel Oliveira among them – are soon going to be working in the premier class, along with some talented young Italian riders.
The Marquez-Rossi flap this season has exposed some weakness in the relationship between teams and sponsors, with some sponsors seizing upon the opportunity to back out of agreements going forward. Repsol is having a terrible year, courtesy of cheap crude oil prices, and was offended by the event, as was Honda, as was Movistar, as was Yamaha. There is no reason to expect that these types of incidents won’t continue to occur in the coming years.
Indianapolis is gone from the calendar, replaced by Austria, and the calendar is lengthened by a week. Testing this week at Jerez marks the beginning of next season, new bums on new seats. New tires. New electronics.
Goodbye to 2015
Each year, we try to find a quote that summarizes the season we’ve just seen. Without even doing the research, I recalled a statement from a movie several years ago that I believe sums up 2015 for Jorge Lorenzo. Heading into the season, there was faint hope that he would be able to compete with Marquez. As Marquez faltered, Rossi rallied, and Lorenzo was in a season-long dogfight.
There were plenty of points in the season where Lorenzo could have given up. In response to one, he went on a four race win streak. He kept it close until the very last week of the season, and had enough left to seize the day when the opportunity presented itself. He kept the faith.
It could have been Jorge Lorenzo that the young proprietor of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was speaking about when he observed,
If it hasn’t worked out, it is not yet the end.”
We look forward to bringing you MotoGP again next season.
|2015 MotoGP Valencia Top 10 Results|
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||–|
|2||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+0.263|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+0.654|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+19.789|
|5||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+26.004|
|6||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+28.835|
|7||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+28.886|
|8||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki Ecstar||+34.222|
|9||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||+35.924|
|10||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Racing||+39.579|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Final Standings|