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The MotoGP™ championship hangs by a thread, 18 points split the two protagonists but could a rider with nothing to lose decide the title?
The Motul Grand Prix of Japan saw the 2015 MotoGP™ World Championship battle officially become a two-rider duel; only Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo have a mathematical chance of wearing the crown. Lorenzo has been the fastest rider and when everything aligns he is untouchable, but on multiple occasions Lady Luck has played cruel tricks, issues with his helmet and unpredicted rain have meant Lorenzo is always trying to recover. Meanwhile Rossi has been steady, he’s taken four wins to Lorenzo’s six but has only missed the podium once and has an 18-point advantage to show for it.
Three races to decide who is king. Three races of pure aggression and all out speed from Lorenzo: “Eighteen points is a lot, but if I win all races and another rider finishes between me and Valentino, I can still win the championship.” He’s won three in a row before, in 2010 on his way to his first MotoGP™ title, Lorenzo won the British GP, Dutch TT and Catalan GP in succession. When Lorenzo took his second title in 2012 he won the French GP, Catalan GP and British GP with strong rides. In 2013 he did exactly what he needs to do now: win the final three races in a row. It’s possible, but the pressure is on.
Even if Lorenzo can win all three remaining races, Rossi can settle for second at all three and take the title by 3 points. Consistency has granted Rossi a slither of breathing room. The scales are tipped ever so slightly in Rossi’s favour, but a gaggle of riders are out to upset the balance in the closing rounds.
If the Aragon GP didn’t prove Dani Pedrosa’s place amongst the MotoGP™ ‘aliens’, then surely his incredible recovery at the Japanese GP proved his out of this world ability. On lap 7 the Repsol Honda rider was 8.844 seconds behind Jorge Lorenzo, by the end of the race he was 12.841 seconds clear. Even with extreme tyre degradation, closing a near 9 second gap is a staggering achievement as even four seconds is often seen as an ‘impossible margin’. He might not have started 2015 well, but Pedrosa intends to end it well. If he can be a wedge between the Movistar Yamaha duo, as in Aragon, then the 18-point margin could suddenly become very small, or very big.
There is of course the other Repsol Honda, Marc Marquez might be injured but he has recovered from worse. He doesn’t need to be contesting victory, or even the podium, at each round as with the scales so finely set a single race could shift them dramatically.
The penultimate round of the year is held at the Sepang International Circuit, where much of the winter testing takes place for the MotoGP™ class. Riders and teams already have well defined settings and this can often lead to surprising results with some riders benefitting more than others. Ducati could be one team to benefit from the testing, the GP15 is still a new machine and Sepang is one of the few tracks they have data at for the machine. Both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone have shown that the GP15 is capable of podiums and fighting at the front with seven podium finishes between them.
Regardless of how the scales tip or who is responsible for the movement, the closing three rounds the 2015 MotoGP™ World Championship are set to be three of the most tense and hard fought races in years, even more tense than the infamous 2006 season. Both Rossi and Lorenzo are Titans of the modern era, but a swathe of Olympians could play a role in their clash.
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