With the 2016 season around the corner, we thought it was time for PaddockChatter to review the rollercoaster season which saw Jorge Lorenzo be crowned World Champion. Rather than review the entire season, we’ve picked out the top five races (in our humble opinion) which seemed to shape the year.
1. Argentina: When the Marquez/Rossi battle started
Round three of the MotoGP season saw Valentino Rossi secure his second victory of the season in dramatic circumstances. With Bridgestone tyres playing a big part in proceedings, early race leader Marc Marquez saw his pace drop off meaning Rossi could hunt the Spaniard down.
With two laps to go The Doctor caught up with Marquez after he made his way from eighth on the grid, and the two riders touched. The battle came to a climax as Marquez clipped the back of Rossi’s bike and crashed out of the race.
Rossi crossed the line over five seconds ahead of Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow, and left South America with a six point lead in the championship standings with Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo finishing in fifth.
So early in the year Marquez is magnanimous about the racing incident, in contrast to his comments about Rossi later in the season: “When he caught me, we fought for a few corners and unfortunately we touched and I crashed. I’ve always said that he’s my idol and my reference, so you always learn things from him.”
2. Assen: Marquez/Rossi Round Two
Battling for the victory as soon as the lights went out, Rossi started the race from pole position and took the wholeshot into the first corner with Marquez not far behind.
Waiting until the 20th lap of 26 to make his move which stuck for three laps until his Italian rival retook the lead and attempted to pull away. However Marquez was refusing to let a possibility of a win go, and he made his move on the inside of Rossi going into the final infamous Geert Timmer chicane.
Forcing Rossi to run straight on through the gravel he was able to keep his Yamaha YZR-M1 upright and take the win from the reigning champion by 1.242s. Movistar Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo who started the race from eighth on the grid was able to stay out of the drama and secure the final spot on the podium.
Their relationship was still civil however cracks were beginning to show between the pair, as Marquez was beginning to seem wary about Rossi’s race craft and Rossi was playing the innocent party.
Despite being pushed by the media Marquez kept his cards close to his chest on his opinion on the day’s racing events: “But ok, I think when we had the contact we were already really in the same position – I was not really back and I think he already saw me.
I prepared like this and when I stopped the bike I had the place and then we had the contact and we already know in that chicane it is really tight, so I know that I did the correct.”
Rossi explained the situation as clearly as he saw it: “I know that with Marquez it’s always difficult on the last lap, so I tried to play all my cards. My last two laps were very strong but Marc didn’t give up and tried to enter in the chicane but I was already in the corner so I have to cut the corner.”
Little did everyone know there was more drama still to come…
3. Silverstone: Rossi’s wet win
Silverstone certainly delivered in terms of drama as the race was red flagged ahead of the start as rain fell just as the warm-up lap was underway, forcing riders to enter the pits and swap bikes.
With limited wet track time over the weekend it was anyone’s race and Rossi stormed to the front to take his first win at the British circuit in front of 138,000 cheering fans.
Fans treat Rossi as one of their own in the UK
Spaniard Marquez continued to struggle with his race finishing tally, as he crashed out of the race on lap 13 as he was chasing down the Yamaha of Rossi.
However the story of the day belonged to Italian Danilo Petrucci having the ride of his life aboard the Pramac Ducati as he secured second position in front of the British crowd. At a circuit the satellite rider is keen on, he was able to get up into a podium fighting position on the seventh lap and never looked back.
Bringing a refreshing level of humour to the post-race press conference Petrucci said: “I really don’t understand why Valentino came so close lap by lap. But then Dovizioso came and the rain fell harder and I was scared about the front. In the last two laps Dovi took a little gap. In the last lap in the last corner I started laughing, as I couldn’t believe it!”
Andrea Dovizioso completed the all-Italian podium aboard the factory Ducati, making it the second time the Italian tricolore had dominated the podium this season.
Championship contender Lorenzo struggled to be up and fighting for the victory at a track he has been successful at in the past, and it was later revealed he was struggling with his visor steaming up in the wet conditions.
Rossi left the UK with a 12 point lead ahead of Lorenzo, and this looked to be the defining moment of the season.
4. Misano: Shark Bite
Visiting Rossi’s homeland on the back of a stunning victory for The Doctor, all eyes were on the Yamaha duo to see if the championship was still wide open.
Rain threw a spanner into the works in Rimini as the race began dry before white flags were waved and the leaders, Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi all entered the pits on the same lap to switch tyres.
With a drying track the drama really started to unfold with reigning champion Marquez the first of the front runners to swap back to slick tyres followed by Lorenzo and eventually Rossi.
Despite Lorenzo crashing out of the race with eight laps remaining, Rossi made the mistake of waiting too long to change bikes and as a result crossed the line in fifth meant he was unable to pull a substantial lead on his team-mate.
Marquez was victorious in front of a sell out crowd and Rossi was fifth, but it wasn’t the result that we feel made a big blow to Rossi’s title chances, it was the crucial mistake he made in swapping bikes too late. It showed his weakness and if he can make such a mistake under pressure, what’s to say he can’t do that again?
5. Sepang: To Kick or Not To Kick
Despite what could be said about other races last season, it’s clear which one was the championship decider; the ever controversial Malaysian Grand Prix.
With a racing moment which will go down in history and will have fans arguing over for decades, it’s clear the Rossi/Marquez clash was the defining moment of 2015 and is what most would say lost Rossi the championship and respect from numerous fans and crucially his peers.
Following the events in Philip Island which provided racing fans with one of the best races of at least this decade, Rossi entered the press conference in Malaysia with claims that Marquez was helping Lorenzo and could have won the race. From that moment on it was chaos and Rossi did what he does best, mess with his rivals minds.
However whilst the media were focusing on the Italian and the Spaniard, the turtle and the ant, Lorenzo was quietly thinking of securing his fifth world title in front of his home fans in Valencia; something many thought wouldn’t have been possible at Silverstone back in September. Finishing in second position and ten seconds ahead of his main rival, who was facing punishment following the events in the race it was all coming together nicely for the #99.
We would provide you with the crash data but that’s something that both manufacturers are holding close to their chest. But this graph shows you the two riders lap times, and from that you can draw your own conclusions.
5.1/2 Valencia: Smooth Like Mantequilla
Producing a master class in front of his home fans, you can’t ignore the dominant form Lorenzo produced in the final round of the season, which is what he does best – smooth like mantequilla.
As championship rival and team-mate Rossi started from the back of the grid Lorenzo was able to ignore the boos around the arena-style circuit, as well as the criticism from inside the paddock and showed everyone why he deserved to be crowned world champion.
Leading the race from when the lights went out, the Majorcan never looked back and crossed the line to take his third GP championship and fifth world championship.
“Yeah this was one of the toughest races, if not the toughest of my life. The tension and the pressure was very high from the first corner but I tried to push to the limit like I usually do. In the first laps with the new tyre I did all I could. Then with the rear tyre we had some problems as it dropped a lot, especially on the right side and the bike started to move a lot under acceleration and spinning a lot. On corner entry I had to be so careful as I didn’t want to crash. It was very difficult to still keep the 31.5, even the 31 high. I started going 32’0 in the last laps. It was very difficult to keep even this pace. It was very difficult to see the board, half the laps I couldn’t see the board. I just push at the maximum and I gave everything I had on the track from the start, from the first corner to the last one. I didn’t think about anything just pushing and racing and giving the maximum. I could see Marc and Dani recovering, so I said to myself to keep pushing. The effort was worth it as now we can say we are five-time world champions, three times in MotoGP. It’s amazing and we have to enjoy it this afternoon, tonight, this week, there moments are difficult to reach and it will be hard to reach again.”