Round 12 of the 2015 MotoGP season was shaping up as another Marquez-Lorenzo cage match, the two brightest lights of the sport hammering the grid during four free practice sessions. They qualified one-two, with Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi, the other usual suspects, making up the top four. The Racing Gods waited to intervene until just before the sighting lap, and a dry race suddenly became a wet race – just what the Doctor ordered. Rossi’s much-needed win put 12 points between him and Lorenzo as the flying circus heads for Vale’s home crib at Misano.
The main Spanish contingent at today’s British Grand Prix got collectively rolled, as now-former world champion Marc Marquez flipped his Repsol Honda RC213V out of second place in pursuit of Rossi at Turn 1 of Lap 13. Jorge Lorenzo, who led early, gave us no reason to doubt our belief that he hates riding in the rain; having fallen as far back as sixth place by mid-race, he managed to recover sufficiently to finish fourth, going through on Pedrosa late well after Marquez had left the building. With all of his damage-control modules in the red, Lorenzo managed to limit his debit to teammate Rossi today to 12 points; it could have been much worse.
That there was an all-Italian podium today is, in itself, surprising enough. That little-known Danilo Petrucci, on the Octo Pramac second string Ducati, would stand on the second step today, is a true shocker. While Ducati factory #1 Andrea Iannone was missing in action this weekend (qualified ninth, finished eighth), Petrucci put on a one-man showcase of his wet-riding skills, after having started in 18th place, slicing through the field, passing a couple of Aliens along the way, keeping Andrea Dovizioso (who secured his first podium today since Le Mans) behind him and, late in the day, putting himself in position for an attack on his friend and idol.
Rossi, having received word from his pit board that his paisan was closing the gap, finished the race with a few fast laps to help Danilo avoid the dishonor attendant upon a third-tranche Italian rider contemplating a take-down of Valentino Rossi. Such would be comparable to elbowing Dr. Desmond Tutu out of the buffet line at a Queen’s reception.
In England, that sort of thing just isn’t done.
The Battle of Britain
With three genuine Brits and a citizen of their former penal colony in Australia in the line-up, much was on the line regarding post-race bragging rights. Cal Crutchlow and teammate Jack Miller were flying early in the race, while Bradley Smith and Scott Redding were lost in the sauce. Young Miller, in fact, was gaining so many places so fast that he temporarily forgot the fact of his earthbound-ness, only to be reminded of it on Lap 3 when he went hot into a slow lefthander and collected Crutchlow. The announcers subsequently speculated that Cal might administer a brief etiquette lesson to the enthusiastic Australian later in the garage.
Which left Smith and Redding to carry, figuratively, the Union Jack. For Redding, the announcement came today that he would be leaving Mark VDS Racing for a seat on the second string Octo Pramac Ducati being forcefully repossessed from Yonny Hernandez. Thus, predictably, Redding would have his best day ever in the premier class, finishing sixth after starting 7th, neatly trading places with Smith in the process. Smith was not okay with this, but at least had the pleasure of having watched teammate and rival Pol Espargaro go ragdoll on Lap 14.
On a dry day, both British riders might have entertained thoughts about fighting for the podium. Today’s rain tamped down the annoying tendency of the Ducatis, from factory to Avintia, to consume racing slicks at a maddening rate. Thus would we end up with two Desmosedicis on the podium and three in the top eight, compared to only two Hondas. We are reminded that the Ducati, in almost all of its previous iterations, has been surprisingly stable in the wet.
The Big Picture
Marc Marquez sealed his fate today as if it weren’t already sealed. No more conjecture about a third consecutive title. We’re left with the Bruise Brothers on the factory Yamaha team. Heading into Silverstone, most people’s money was on Lorenzo, who had more wins, and more pace, than does Rossi at this stage of his season/career. The smart money overlooked Lorenzo’s glaring difficulties running in the wet, as the past two weeks were the first instances in 2015 where weather had anything to do with race day. Now, it must be acknowledged, the weather can play a huge role in how the season turns out; it may have already done so.
Is it oversimplifying things, with a third of the season left, to suggest that Lorenzo will have things his way on dry tracks and that Rossi will enjoy the advantage on wet ones? Lorenzo at Aragon, Phillip Island and Sepang? Rossi at Misano, Motegi and Valenciana? Someone on odd calendar days and the other on evens (there are four odds and two evens left.) One thing is certain – now that Rossi has a lead, however small, he is not going to give it away. Just as on the race track, he is not going to make the unforced error that would hand the season to Lorenzo. He will take what the defense gives him, make himself very difficult to pass, figuring it will be enough to take him through November. For Rossi, there will be no risks, crazy or otherwise, until and unless the chips have come completely down and it’s win or bin for the season. Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t salivate at the thought of Rossi and Lorenzo heading to Round 18 tied for the championship?
Elsewhere on the Grid
Suzuki Ecstar teammates Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales finished in their customary ninth and 11th spots, but traded places, with Espargaro taking the six points. Surprisingly sandwiched in between the two Suzukis was chronic underachiever Alvaro Bautista in 10th place, tying his previous best finish of the season at Catalunya. Bautista’s teammate Stefan Bradl, who has been schooling the Spaniard since the day he arrived from Forward Racing, was gracious enough to crash out today, allowing Bautista to enjoy his top ten finish.
American Nicky Hayden enjoyed his best day since Le Mans with a respectable 12th place finish coming off the back of the seventh row. Hector Barbera, Mike de Meglio and Alex de Angelis were the last three riders to score points today.
A Quick Look Ahead
Then there is this Johann Zarco, who is busy these days trashing the Moto2 division. Today, he gradually worked himself to the front of the grid after a mediocre start, where he led pretenders Tito Rabat, Alex Rins and Alex Marquez on a merry chase for perhaps 13 laps. As things got a little tight toward the end, he casually dropped his lap time by two seconds for each of the final three laps, winning going away. Not many riders who can do that.
Zarco, leading Moto2 by 85 points, is clearly ready for MotoGP, but is MotoGP ready for him? With the grid expected to shrink to possibly 22 seats next season, and all of the good ones spoken for, would Zarco consider moving up to the premier class with a second-rate team, or would Moto2 present a better opportunity, with things expected to open up again in 2017? Rabat is taken care of for next year, being re-united with Mark VDS. Everyone else is scouring garage sales for Ouija boards, seeking answers to open-ended questions.
Or praying to The Racing Gods, who made their presence felt today, intervening on behalf of Valentino Rossi as well as Carmelo Ezpeleta, the Dorna CEO who seeks the closest of close MotoGP championship races in 2015.
|2015 MotoGP Silverstone Top 10 Results|
|1||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||–|
|2||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Ducati||+3.010|
|3||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+4.117|
|4||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||+5.726|
|5||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+11.132|
|6||Scott Redding||EG 0,0 Marc VDS||+25.467|
|7||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+26.717|
|8||Andrea Iannone||Ducati Corse||+29.393|
|9||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki Estar||+38.815|
|10||Alvaro Bautista||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||+41.712|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 12 Rounds|