A Spartan comeback for Lorenzo’s fifth crow
A year full of hardships saw Jorge Lorenzo capitalise when he could, showing heroic speed and taking the title at the last moment.
Since joining the MotoGP™ World Championship in 2008 Jorge Lorenzo has always been a title threat. His first season was one of the most impressive debuts to date and the Majorcan has continued to build each year, honing his race craft. Bad luck plagued Lorenzo’s 2014 campaign, the year starting with an uncharacteristic crash followed by a jump-start in Austin. Many fans feared the worst as 2015 got off to a similarly rocky start for the Movistar Yamaha rider.
A positive winter testing programming had Lorenzo hopeful of a strong year; Yamaha had improved many of their weaknesses and a change in fitness regime had Lorenzo in the best physical shape of his life. But things did not go to plan as the curtains lifted on the 2015 season in Qatar, Lorenzo qualified as the top Yamaha but was a distant sixth. Meanwhile title favourite Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), who had dominated the 2014 season, started third. It was a poor start to the race for Marquez who ran wide and dropped back, Lorenzo taking advantage of the situation after a lightning start to become involved in the battle for the lead.
While Lorenzo was able to stick with the leading group, the situation was complicated when Lorenzo encountered an issue with his helmet, the lining coming loose and partially blocking his vision. He rolled off to secure a safe fourth as Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi stole victory from Dovizioso.
Again in Austin Lorenzo was the highest placed Yamaha on the grid, rounding out the front row in third. The race was another difficult one for Lorenzo; Marquez broke away to take a dominant win followed by Dovizioso and Rossi as some began to doubt Lorenzo’s title challenge. It was Lorenzo’s second worst start to a premier class season. His struggle to fourth was put into perspective after the race as it was revealed Lorenzo had been battling bronchitis. Would luck go Lorenzo’s way?
The story of a difficult year continued in Argentina. Again he would be unable to keep up with the leading group, Lorenzo’s decision to run a harder rear tyre proved a mistake. As Lorenzo struggled, Rossi and Marquez clashed at the front, the latter falling from the race and putting his own title challenge into doubt. With the paddock preparing to head back to Europe, Rossi stood at the head of the championship with 66 points, Lorenzo a distant fourth and 29 points behind.
Once back in Europe the pendulum began to shift, Lorenzo producing four back-to-back victories, untouchable in each as he led from flag to flag. His first came in Jerez from pole position, producing a classic Lorenzo win. The French GP was another crushing victory for Lorenzo who had hit an incredible vein of form. In both races Rossi was just behind, Lorenzo able to claw back several championship points but never make dramatic inroads. It was off to Rossi’s home race in Mugello for Round 6, a must win round for Lorenzo to continue building his momentum.
Mugello has always been a favourite track of ‘the Spartan’. The 2015 race was one of Lorenzo’s best riders at the Italian circuit, inch perfect on his Yamaha M1 to beat Iannone by a comfortable five seconds. Marquez had attempted to stay with Lorenzo but soon found himself in the gravel, the 2015 Honda proving a difficult bike to ride on the limit. As the European tour continued Lorenzo looked unstoppable, each weekend his pace during practice and the race was peerless.
Lorenzo had won at Rossi’s home and try as he might Rossi was unable to repay the favour at the Catalan GP. For the fourth straight race Lorenzo was the top of the class, showing without doubt that he was the fastest rider on the MotoGP™ grid. Again Marquez had fallen from the race while frantically trying to stay with the untouchable Majorcan, his third crash of the year putting a premature end to Marquez’s hopes of a third crown. Through grit and determination Lorenzo was now within just a single point of Rossi in the standings, the championship lead hung in the balance as tension began to grow.
The Dutch TT was one of the most difficult weekends of Lorenzo’s racing career in 2013, coming back to race just a day after breaking his collarbone. While the 2015 edition of the historic race resulted in no broken bones, it was a difficult weekend as Lorenzo was unable to find a comfortable setting on his M1, qualifying a disappointing eighth place. He would salvage third as Rossi and Marquez had their second on-track clash of the year, Rossi running across the gravel to secure victory and again open his championship lead.
Round 9 was another difficult race for Lorenzo. The German GP has always been a weak race for Lorenzo who had never taken victory in the premier class at the Sachsenring ahead of the 2015 race. Lorenzo’s German GP would prove no better than Assen as Lorenzo battled to fourth, ending his run of 2015 podiums as the MotoGP™ World Championship entered its second act.
Indianapolis would be dominated by Marc Marquez, continuing his perfect record on American soil, but Lorenzo was able to stay within touching distance and critically finish ahead of Rossi yet again. As the paddock returned to Europe once again Lorenzo returned to winning ways and had another near faultless weekend in Brno, converting pole position to victory in the Czech GP. With Rossi third the pair now stood level on points, locked at 211 with only seven races remaining. It was as though a whole new season had begun.
Weather would play a devastating role in the following two races, Lorenzo’s ‘new’ season getting off to the same difficult start as the main one. As in Qatar, Lorenzo experienced visor problems during a wet British GP, a fogged visor forcing him to settle for fourth in the race. Then in Misano disaster struck, throughout the weekend weather had been glorious and Lorenzo had dominated but on race day the heavens played their role. Riders were forced to swap from slicks to wets and back to slicks as conditions swayed back and forth. Both Rossi and Lorenzo stayed out longer than the rest of the field, the two pushing each other to the limit as they sparred for every point they could. Lorenzo dove into the pits a lap early but fell on his return to the track, his only solace coming as Rossi finished fifth and ended his run of consecutive podiums finish. Now 23 points behind, Lorenzo had nothing to lose in the final rounds.
Aragon was Lorenzo back to his best, the Majorcan romping to victory, the weather remaining stable and his run of bad luck coming to an end. Once again Lorenzo was ahead of Rossi, the Italian losing out to Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and ending third.
Then it was off the most gruelling period of the MotoGP™ calendar: the flyaways, three races in two weeks without a break. Again weather disrupted Lorenzo’s race, the Japanese GP held on a drying track that ate Lorenzo’s tyres, dropping him to third as Pedrosa returned to his best and took victory. Hope returned once more in Phillip Island as Lorenzo secured second in the best race of the decade. The Majorcan held off the charge of Iannone and Rossi, only beaten by Marquez in the closing corners. Again Rossi was off the podium and Lorenzo’s title challenge reignited.
Malaysia would produce perhaps the most dramatic race in a decade, but Lorenzo was uninvolved as he attempted to chase down a resurgent Dani Pedrosa for victory. With Rossi in third and Lorenzo second the title would be decided in Valencia, Lorenzo 7 points behind the Italian. But with Rossi starting from last due to his penalty from Sepang, the advantage seemed to sit with Lorenzo
From first on the grid Lorenzo rode the race of his life for first, as Rossi fought to fourth. Jorge Lorenzo was crowned the 2015 MotoGP™ World Champion by 330 points. His season was one of hardships and recovery, the sort of season only a true Spartan could battle back from and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The 2015 crown is Lorenzo’s third in the premier class, his fifth throughout his World Championship career.
JORGE LORENZO: WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP STATISTICS
• Lorenzo is the first Spanish rider to win the premier-class world title on three occasions.
• This is Lorenzo’s fifth world title across all classes (3 x MotoGP, 2 x 250cc) making him the second most successful Spanish rider of all-time after Angel Nieto who won thirteen world championship titles (7 x 125cc, 6 x 50cc).
• He is just the third rider in the 67 year history of motorcycle grand prix racing to win the premier-class world title having arrived at the final race of the year with a points deficit; the other riders to have done this are Wayne Rainey in 1992 and Nicky Hayden in 2006.
• Lorenzo is the first rider to win the premier-class world title after not finishing on the podium in any of the first three races of the year.
• During 2015 Lorenzo had start to finish wins in four successive MotoGP races (at Jerez, Le Mans, Mugello and Catalunya), leading across the line at the end of every lap, which is 103 consecutive laps in the lead. This set a new record in the MotoGP era for consecutive laps led by an individual rider.
• He has led at the end of every lap in all seven victories that he has achieved during 2015.
Images and Article Courtesy of MotoGP.com