It went all the way down to the final race of the season – in many ways the final lap of the final race – but now the 2015 MotoGP Championship season is over, and Jorge Lorenzo is the 2015 FIM MotoGP World Champion.
You have to consider 2015 as a tumultuous season for the Movistar Yamaha rider, as Lorenzo’s season only came into its own in the latter stages of the championship. But, the Spaniard was arguably the fastest rider of the season, carrying not only the momentum but also the most race wins to the end of the season.
This year certainly wasn’t Lorenzo’s most dominant win, with a slew of equipment issues plaguing the Spaniard, which added to him chasing teammate Valentino Rossi all the way into the Valencia GP, but 2015 was certainly Lorenzo’s most hard-fought season.
After the dust settles on the “Sepang Clash” we think even fanatical Rossi fans will have to agree that Lorenzo is a worthy world champion with his on-track performances – we just don’t expect them to come to that conclusion right away.
There is nowhere left to hide. On Sunday, it is time for the men and women of Grand Prix racing to stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and lend their eyes a terrible aspect.
Much is at stake: a Moto3 title that really should have been wrapped up by now; a MotoGP title rendered complicated by the impetuosity of youth and old age; and just sheer thirst for glory in Moto2.
Glory is what is at stake in all three classes, what young men and women dedicate their lives and sacrifice their bodies and their time to chasing. Sweet victory is there for the lucky few, the bitter draught of defeat for the rest.
It looked like the cards had already been dealt ahead of Sunday’s race when the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected Valentino Rossi’s request to have his three penalty points suspended.
Then Rossi came out swinging on Friday and Saturday, not his usual eight or ninth times, and a struggle to make it through to Q2, but strong pace from the outset and competitive times.
“I’ve been impressed with how fast he’s going,” Nicky Hayden said of Rossi after qualifying today. “He’s looked very solid. We know he’s a nine-time champion because he’s fast on Sunday, but he’s come out of the gate, might not be breaking track records, but compared to a normal Friday, Saturday, he’s looking strong.”
Then came qualifying. Rossi had earned passage to Q2 by right, and had told us on Friday he would be treating qualifying the same as he had every weekend, pushing hard for a fast lap. Rossi seemed to have the upper hand going into Q2, especially as Jorge Lorenzo was clearly suffering with nerves.
He forgot to take off a tear off in the pits, then spent long seconds trying to sort it out with his assistant, before finally leaving the pits in a bit of a fluster. Not a good omen, we all thought.
Marc Marquez had to settle for 2nd on the grid for tomorrow’s race.
Jorge Lorenzo broke the pole record with a time of 1’30.011 to claim his first pole position at the Valencia Circuit.
Dani Pedrosa took the final place on the front row.
Dani Pedrosa continued his recent fine form to finish Day 1 with the second fastest time.
Jorge Lorenzo was all smiles at the start of FP2.
Andrea Iannone was third fastest today at Valencia.
Thursday at Valencia was one of the strangest days in MotoGP that I have known since I first started covering the sport professionally. Maybe it’s just the fact that the usual schedule was disrupted.
Every race weekend has a rhythm: on Thursday, it’s a late start, then rider debriefs, then a press conference, then work; on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it’s an early start, watch practice, rider debriefs/press conferences and then work.
That rhythm was wildly out of sync at Valencia. Earlier start, Moto3 press conference, HRC press conference, a couple of rider debriefs.
Then an unnatural lull, as the riders headed into the press conference room for their meeting with the Permanent Bureau, consisting of Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta and FIM president Vito Ippolito addressed the MotoGP riders and their team managers.
Ten minutes after the riders started streaming through the paddock on their way to the meeting, they were all heading back out again.
What happened in the meeting with the Permanent Bureau? The first rule of meeting with the Permanent Bureau is don’t talk about meeting with the Permanent Bureau, apparently, as no one was willing to tell us about it, apart from some platitudes from Jorge Lorenzo about it being interesting to get different perspectives from people to get new ideas. Not that anyone truly believed that the riders came out with new ideas, but still.
What they must have talked about in the rider meeting was to move on from Sepang and focus on events at Valencia. Nobody, none of the riders involved, had any interest in going over the events of Sepang again, and so they did not really need to be told twice.
There was a suspicion – and I stress, it was nothing more than that – that the Honda and Yamaha riders had all been told not to comment on events, and to put it behind them.
That is probably smart advice, but it left the journalists (of which there were a colossal number at Valencia) feeling frustrated. There was much to ask: had anyone changed their minds, or their positions, after having time to look back at the footage again?
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has rejected Valentino Rossi’s request for a stay of his penalty, given to him at Sepang. The three-point penalty, handed to him at Sepang for the incident he was involved in with Marc Marquez, means he will start from the back of the grid for the final race of the season at Valencia.
Rossi will still be entitled to participate in Q2, if he finishes in the top ten after the three sessions of free practice, but the position he secures in Q2 will not count for his grid position. Everyone who qualifies behind him will be moved forward one position on the grid.
Here is the one thing which everybody has wrong about Valencia: the 2015 MotoGP championship isn’t over by a very long chalk.
Whether Lorenzo qualifies on pole or the front row, whether Valentino Rossi starts from his qualifying position or the back of the grid, the championship won’t be done until the last rider gets the checkered flag. Everything is still to play for.
Why is the championship still wide open? Because Valencia is a fickle mistress, with a record of throwing up more than one surprise. Both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have won here, and both men have lost championships here.
Both men have dominated, and both men have crashed out. Races at Valencia are rarely straightforward, throwing up startling results more often than not. Throw in a spot of unpredictable weather, and anything can truly happen.
The cause of those surprises? Running a race at the beginning of November in Valencia means the weather is always a gamble.
Even when it is dry and sunny, as it is expected to be this weekend, the cold mornings and strong winds can cause tires to cool, turning Valencia’s right-hand corners – few and far between – into treacherous affairs. If it rains or is damp, the wind means a dry line forms quickly, turning tire choice into a gamble.