Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo led from lights off to the checkered flag to win both the battle and the war, earning his third career MotoGP World Championship and his fifth career world crown with victory at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Spain today. Lorenzo experienced almost race-long pressure from the Repsol Honda of outgoing two-time world champ Marc Marquez, as well as a late race push from on-form Dani Pedrosa on the second Honda, to earn his crown.
The second Yamaha of superstar Valentino Rossi started from the second-last spot on the 26-rider grid, the penalties stemming from an ultra-controversial early race clash between Marquez and Rossi at the previous round in Malaysia. Unable to overturn the ruling, Rossi shook off a qualifying crash to charge through the field in heroic style, moving quickly up to fourth.
Lorenzo took the 2015 world crown by just five points over his teammate Rossi, 330 to 325, after a gruelling 18-round season. The final result was the only time in the 2015 season that Rossi did not lead the standings. Lorenzo’s come-from-behind effort was only the third time in the history of the series that a rider had overcome a series points deficit in the final round.
While Rossi was only eight seconds behind the leading trio by the time he had sliced his way up to fourth, there was no practical way for him to bridge the gap to the fast-lapping leaders. Rossi needed the Honda duo to push Lorenzo down the order, and while Marquez got close, he never actually attempted a pass. Recently on-form Pedrosa made an impressive late-race charge, moving from 2.5 seconds behind to run with the leaders, briefly dicing for second with Marquez with two laps to go. The fact that Marquez did not attempt to pass race long leader Lorenzo might be the reason that the young ace was booed when he reached the second step of the podium.
“The rear tire was destroyed,” stated an emotional Lorenzo, age 28, post-race. “I didn’t see anything in those last laps, I just tried to focus and keep my concentration. Yamaha made an unbelievable bike, we did an unbelievable job and I am very proud.”
“It was one of my toughest races, if not the toughest race [of my career,] because the tension was very high from the first corner. I tried to push like normal, but the tire started to drop, especially on the right side.”
For Marquez, the race was tough, the number one Honda rider explaining that “Jorge was very strong and I was riding over my limit. When Dani arrived I was really struggling in those last laps. I was trying to save to attack on those last two laps, but when Dani overtake me I lose time. I tried at the last corner but there was no grip and I almost loose the front. It wasn’t the best end of season and next year we will try to be stronger.”
Pedrosa, 30, admitted to losing some time early in the race. “I tried to get closer to the leaders in the middle of the race but I could not match the correct rhythm. Then I decided to save the tire and go at the end. I knew I had some extra and I was pushing, enjoying it a lot.”
“I tried to pass (for second) but I ran wide, but in the end I made a mistake with the gears in one corner. I’m happy anyway, I finished fourth overall and after all the problems I’ve had this year, I’m happy.” Pedrosa suffered severe arm pump issues at the start of the season, missed events due to surgery and was not necessarily expected to complete the tour, let alone return to “alien” form.
Rossi will compete for at least one more year, but this season might have been the last chance for the 36-year-old to claim a tenth World Championship. Not obliged to speak post-race since he was not in the top three, Rossi eventually had his own conference and disappointingly continued to lash out at Marquez.
“I think that this championship had the potential to become one of the best in the last years, because the battle with Jorge can arrive at the last point in the last race,” stated Rossi. “But unfortunately at the last three races something changed and something happened that nobody expected. This is Marc Marquez decided to protect Lorenzo to help him win the championship. The problems started at Philip Island and became worse and worse. We arrive in Malaysia when unfortunately we touch and Marquez crash. Then we learn on Thursday I have to start last here, and I knew my championship was finished because I was sure Marquez wanted to finish his work and try to protect Lorenzo.
“The last lap (in Valencia) I think was quite bad for the sport, because something happened that never happened before, and I’m not desperate because I think I play my cards in the best way but I am very sad about the finish. I was ready to lose the championship to Jorge, he is always very fast, but this way for me is not fair.”
“For me the position of Honda is very strange, I do not know how a manufacturer can agree that one of its riders makes the Yamaha win, and try to fight just with his teammate. This is very strange and sincerely I do not understand.”
Behind the fabulous four, Pol Espargaro netted a strong but distant fifth for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad, his team-mate Bradley Smith moving through the pack to claim sixth. Top Ducati was works team leader Andrea Dovizioso in very close seventh, his team mate Andrea Iannone suffering a spectacular fall early in the 30 lap final.
Top Ecstar Suzuki was Aleix Espargaro in eighth, holding off the charging LCR Honda of Cal Crutchlow, eight. An engine problem pre-race forced Crutchlow to start last on the grid, beside Rossi. The top ten was rounded out by the Pramac Ducati of Danilo Petrucci.
Best finisher in the Open class was 16th placed Hector Barbera, just outside the points on the Avintia Ducati. Next in Open was Nicky Hayden in 17th aboard the Aspar production Honda, Hayden’s last ever MotoGP start before the 2006 World Champ moves to World Superbike for Ten Kate Honda next season.
Valencia also marked the end of the Bridgestone spec tire era, the rubber deal in the premier class transferring to Michelin next season.