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So after 11 races, 276 laps, eight wins and 10 other podiums between them, Rossi and Lorenzo are back to where it all began in Qatar...
With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, MotoGP Commentator Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the motogp.com team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.
Locked together on the same number of points, neutral fans around the world remain none the wiser about who will eventually prevail at the end of a season in which the momentum has continually swung back and forth between the two.
After last weekend’s one-man demolition show by Lorenzo in Brno, it is now a best of seven to determine who will have the bragging rights and the biggest bonus at Movistar Yamaha.
Brno wasn’t the classic we’d all anticipated when a dream front row was completed by Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Rossi in qualifying.
The hell-raising and nail-biting 22-laps we craved quickly became a relatively tame procession, as Lorenzo gained instant and sweet revenge on Marquez for his narrow defeat to the Repsol Honda man in a far more engrossing encounter at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one week earlier.
Marquez huffed and puffed in the early stages before he was blown away by Lorenzo, who took a fifth runaway success of the season with another faultlessly executed performance.
And just as he did during a career best four-race winning streak between Jerez and Catalunya, he didn’t see the exhaust pipes of another rider, with a performance that perfectly showcased all of the key weapons in the Spaniard’s vast arsenal of talent.
A blistering burst of speed in the first three to four laps came after a trademark lightning start. What followed was a remorselessly consistent pace that inflicted a rare hammering on Marquez and Rossi.
From laps two to nine in Brno, his times deviated by just 0.335s.
And between laps 14 and 21 when the race was long over as a contest, just 0.376s split his laps.
He did two more laps in the 1.56s than Marquez, but more telling was that he managed five sub-1.57s more than Rossi.
Marquez and Rossi were magnanimous in defeat. Both conceded they had been well beaten by the much faster rider, but this defeat was way more damaging for Rossi than Marquez.
And it showed.
Marquez remains very much a rank outsider for the title, with races running out for him to make any major impression on the top two unless bad luck or self-inflicted mistakes throw him a lifeline.
But Rossi’s body language said it all. His previous 10 podiums had all been celebrated with energy and elation. He cracked a smile for the cameras in Brno, but he looked as deflated as I’ve seen him on the podium for a long time.
It is not only the fact that Rossi has seen his 13-point lead wiped out in the space of seven days, but it is the manner in which Lorenzo has retaliated after a pre-summer break blip that will concern Rossi and the yellow army the most.
The significance of his win was not lost on Lorenzo. His animated fist pumps on the slowing down lap showed how huge it was. The swagger was back, and his chest out and hands on hips pose on the tyre wall might have smacked of arrogance to some, but to me it showed just what the win meant for Lorenzo.
For many observers in Brno, Sunday’s race felt like a defining moment in the season where the power shifted irreversibly in favour of Lorenzo for the title.
Of course, the battle is far from over and it would be grossly disrespectful to Rossi to say his challenge is wilting like a dying flower.
Lorenzo has won two more races than Rossi and led for an astonishing 142-laps more than the 36-year-old.
Yet they sit together on 211-points because of the Italian’s remarkable record of finishing on the podium in every race.
You can’t help but feel there will still be plenty more twists to the plot in the final seven races and recent history suggests that the title race will go right down to the wire.
Go back to the last seven races of 2014 and Rossi and Lorenzo were separated by just four-points in favour of the latter. In that spell they both won twice, had one DNF and four other podiums. Game on, bring it on is what I say.
It is certainly going to make for a fascinating and tense climax in the last seven races.
For one it will be seventh heaven. For the other just hell and a long winter to ponder what might have been.
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