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Rossi could cast his mind back to his famous fight with Lorenzo at the Twin Ring Motegi in 2010, if he is seeking inspiration...
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.
Not that Valentino Rossi needs motivating to defeat Jorge Lorenzo at the start of their crucial title run-in in Japan this weekend, but the Italian might cast his mind back to their famous fight at the Twin Ring Motegi in 2010 if he is seeking inspiration...
Lorenzo stood on the brink of his first MotoGP world title, but nobody could have cared less than Rossi, who once again played the role of smiling assassin to absolute perfection.
As a meaningful contest, the World Championship was already over.
Lorenzo’s closest rival Dani Pedrosa was already back in Europe recovering from a broken left collarbone he’d suffered when the throttle stuck open on his Repsol Honda in practice.
Before Pedrosa’s cruel luck, Rossi had assured Yamaha he would do everything within his power to help Lorenzo win the title.
Rossi was out of the equation after suffering his own injury demons when he broke his right leg in Mugello earlier in the season, which followed a serious pre-season right shoulder injury sustained in a motocross training accident. But once Pedrosa was out of the equation, the last thing Rossi felt Lorenzo needed was a helping hand to dethrone him.
As far as Rossi was concerned it was every man for himself, and Lorenzo felt the full force of Rossi’s ruthless streak, just as Sete Gibernau, Max Biaggi and Casey Stoner had done in the past. Scraping paint and ruffling feathers were part and parcel of the job description as far as Rossi is concerned.
To him, not racing Lorenzo would be cheating his all-out attacking philosophy. Rossi even said at the time that if Yamaha had expected him to just sit behind Lorenzo then he’d be better served sitting on his sofa at home in Tavullia.
So in a captivating final two laps in which they changed places six times, Rossi did what Rossi does best. He engaged Lorenzo in a heated battle and the pair had contact more than once before Rossi eventually prevailed for third.
Rossi was ecstatic. For him it was epic racing between two epic rivals and the perfect way to liven up a sedate Sunday afternoon in the Japanese countryside.
Lorenzo was apoplectic. Rossi’s aggression in the latter stages had shown blatant disregard for the prize at stake. Well, that was Lorenzo’s version.
Rossi felt he’d fought fire with fire and had not rolled over in an intense last lap battle.
In a highly charged atmosphere that followed, Lorenzo voiced his frustration to Yamaha management. In his comments to the media words like ‘dangerous’ and ‘crazy’ were used.
Rossi was politely requested he adopt a less aggressive attitude towards fellow Yamaha riders for the remainder of the season.
In other words, Yamaha felt Lorenzo’s complaints were justified. I’d imagine at the time that would have gone down like a lead balloon with Rossi.
His relationship was already at its most tense in his seven-year spell with Yamaha, having quit a couple of months earlier to join Ducati because more and more focus was being placed on Lorenzo as Yamaha’s future star.
Rossi and Lorenzo will joust for glory again in Motegi this weekend in what is a very different scenario to 2010. Both of them are still firmly in contention for the title, though Rossi will be wary that at the last four races in dry conditions, Lorenzo has been the faster rider. And his lightning starts mean nobody has been able to interfere with his butter smooth braking style and precision lines in and through the corner. If he can get away at the front and run his astonishing consistent rhythm, then he must be a big favourite for victory at the stop and go Twin Ring Motegi.
Rossi would love a repeat of 2010 on Sunday. In fact I’m sure he’d love any type of race as long as he finishes ahead of Lorenzo. Hopefully we’ll see a repeat of the shoulder-to-shoulder drama we saw back in 2010.
Mind you, Lorenzo arrived in Japan with a sprained shoulder suffered in a minibike training accident. So shoulder-to-shoulder might be the last thing he needs.
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