Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) has won an extraordinary 2015 MotoGP world title, taking the most emphatic route to his third premier class title: pole position and a start-to-finish victory at Valencia over Repsol Honda pair Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha), who started from last spot on the grid after his well-publicised Sepang indiscretion, finished in fourth position but it wasn't enough to stop his teammate erasing a 7pt deficit and turning it into a 5pt championship victory — the only time Lorenzo has been at the top of the standings all year.
It's only the third time in 500cc/MotoGP history that a rider has come from behind to win the championship in the final round — and Rossi has now been at the receiving end in two of those after American Nicky Hayden performed the same deed as Lorenzo in 2006.
Lorenzo's victory at Valencia was his seventh win of the year, and undoubtedly his sweetest.
“This was one of the toughest races, if not the toughest of my life," Lorenzo said. "The tension and the pressure were very high from the first corner but I tried to push to the limit like I usually do. In the first laps with the new tyre I did all I could. Then with the rear tyre we had some problems as it dropped a lot, especially on the right side and the bike started to move a lot under acceleration and spinning a lot.
"I just push at the maximum and I gave everything I had on the track from the start, from the first corner to the last one. I didn’t think about anything just pushing and racing and giving the maximum. I could see Marc and Dani recovering, so I told myself to keep pushing.
"The effort was worth it as now we can say we are five-time world champions, three in MotoGP. It’s amazing and we have to enjoy it this afternoon, tonight, this week, there moments are difficult to reach and it will be hard to reach again.”
Rossi was less than magnanimous in defeat, saying that he "had to accept" the outcome of the championship while he again took aim at Marquez — and Lorenzo wasn't spared as well.
Rossi said the Hondas were clearly faster at the end of the 30-lap race but Marquez was just protecting Lorenzo "like he did at Phillip Island and Sepang". He also said Lorenzo would not be happy because "it is not a championship that was won on the track".
"We built this season from the first race, and … I was always competitive and never made any mistakes," Rossi said, before unloading. “I think that the situation was already bad, but today was embarrassing for everybody because … the behaviour of Marquez is very bad for the sport. It is something that nobody expects, because a Honda rider that made a Yamaha rider win and give the maximum just to push out his teammate is something that nobody expects and I think it is very, very bad news.
“I am happy because now everybody can see what I said in Australia. I don’t understand the behaviour of Marquez … and I hope in the future he will understand what he did in these last three races."
Marquez, who shadowed Lorenzo the entire race without ever making a definitive passing attempt, said: "It was a very difficult race. I came out focused, as usual, and initially Jorge pushed strongly. I found it hard to follow him, and at that time Dani was two seconds off us. There were a few laps in which I was really on the limit, forcing the front tyre — which moved around a lot.
"With about six laps to go, I felt that we could win because I had caught up to Jorge. I did not expect Dani to come through so quickly, and when he passed me he ran wide. I used that to pass him back but Jorge had escaped by half a second making it impossible to recover the gap, even though I rode the last lap and the entire race at 100 percent."
While Marquez played a straight bat, it was left to HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto to refute Rossi's clams.
"We understand that it’s been a very difficult day for Valentino, after leading the championship for 17 races and losing by just 5pts in the final race must be very disappointing. However, on the other side we cannot accept the strong accusations he has directed against our rider and Honda in the past weeks and in today's post-race press conference. Together with the allegation he made after Phillip Island, there is no evidence to support these accusations; only the fact that Marc took 5pts away from Valentino’s competitor in the championship, Jorge.
"Today Valentino has alleged that Marc never attempted to pass Jorge, who has clearly had a very good pace all weekend which he demonstrated by taking a strong pole position in qualifying. Marc was struggling to stay behind him during the race and both he and Dani have done a great job to not lose too much distance to Jorge. Marc’s plan was to attack in the last lap, as we have seen many times in the past if the opportunity presents itself, he will try. Dani’s pace increased at the end of the race and he overtook Marc but ran wide and Marc was able to immediately pass him back, but this is racing.
"We are sorry that Valentino doesn’t believe this is the case, but we are certain both Marc and Dani were pushing 100 percent to achieve the best result for the Repsol Honda and all our partners as always. We cannot accept that these accusations continue to surface time after time, as this is the perception of one person — which we respect — but it is not the reality."
Pedrosa was about two seconds behind Lorenzo and Marquez at mid-race distance — about the same time that Rossi had picked his way up to fourth position — but found a late burst of speed to latch onto the leaders. With Rossi stuck in fourth, a second place for Lorenzo would have still seen him win the world championship (based on a countback of more wins compared to Rossi), while a third place would have seen Rossi win his eighth premier class title.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was fifth at Valencia from teammate Bradley Smith, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Aleix Espargaro (Ecstar Suzuki).
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) was the only big name to DNF after a crash, while Aussies Jack Miller (LCR Honda) and Anthony West (AB Motoracing) were 21st and 22nd. The third Aussie, Broc Parkes (E-Motion IodaRacing) retire.
Lorenzo ended the championship on 330pts from Rossi (325), Marquez (242), Pedrosa (206), Iannone (188), Smith (181), Dovizioso (162), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda, 125), Pol Espargaro (114) and Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Racing Ducati, 113).
Smith ended the year as the leading satellite rider, and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati) the open class victor.
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha, 45m59.364s
2. Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, +0.263s
3. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda, +0.654s
21. Jack Miller, LCR Honda, 1m05:212s
22. Anthony West, AB Motoracing, 1m27.281
DNF. Broc Parkes, E-Motion IodaRacing Team, +9 laps
Pole position: Lorenzo, 1:30.011 = 160.1km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Lorenzo, 1:31.367 = 157.8km/h
Championship top 3
Lorenzo 330 • Rossi 325 • Marquez 242
With the 2015 championship already safe in the possession of Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), outgoing number one Tito Rabat (EG Marc VDS) left the intermediate class with a bang, winning from teenager Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Tom Luthi (Derendinger Racing Interwetten).
Rabat had missed Phillip Island and Sepang with a wrist injury, but he was superb at Valencia, holding sway over Rins for all 18 laps — the initial race distance of 27 laps reduced after a crash on lap one of the opener brought out the red flag with Franco Morbidelli, Hafizh Syahrin, Marcel Schrotter, Jonas Folger, Xavier Simeon, Robin Mulhauser, Federico Fuligni and Xavi Vierge all involved. Most were unhurt, but Syahrin and Morbidelli were taken to the medical centre for further treatment.
Zarco was seventh while Australia's Josh Hook, who only stepped into Dominique Aegerter's seat on day two after the Swiss rider realised he wasn't fit to resume racing after all, finished in 26th position.
1. Tito Rabat, EG, Marc VDS, 28m48.831
2. Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas, +0.309s
3. Tom Luthi, Derendinger Racing Interwetten, +3.347s
26. Josh Hook, Technomag Racing Interwetten, +47.901s
Pole position: Rabat, 1:35.234 = 151.3km/h
Fastest lap: Rabat, 15.416 = 151.1km/h
Championship top 3
Johann Zarco 352 • Rins 234 • Rabat 231
Danny Kent's quest to become the first British grand prix world champion in 38 years finally came to fruition on the fourth and final attempt, but the Leopard Honda rider was made to earn it.
With championship rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) winning yet again, his fourth victory in the last six races, Kent had to finish in 14th or better to make sure of his crowning — which he duly completed, although his final position of ninth was inflated after three riders ahead of him crashed on the final corner.
However, Kent had already played his cautious and error-free card to a treat, and he's now the second youngest British world champion behind the late Mike Hailwood.
Kent said: "It's a massive relief. I went into the last four rounds with the world championship in the back of my mind, but now it's done and it's a huge thanks to my team, family, supporters and all my fans."
Kent will now move up to Moto2 in 2016, and his teammate will be Oliveira.
Meantime, Spaniard Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia Honda) was second in the 24-lap Valencia race from Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC KTM), while Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) was the cause of the three-way crash on the final bend that also took out fellow front packers Efren Vazquez (Leopard Racing Honda) and Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46 Honda).
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Team Honda) were fourth and fifth.
Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra), another rider on the move to Moto2 in 2016, retired five laps in.
1. Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KTM Ajo, 40m09.792s
2. Jorge Navarro, Estrella Galicia, +0.198s
3. Jakub Kornfeil, Drive M7 SIC +2.090s
DNF. Remy Gardner, CIP, +19 laps
Pole position: John McPhee, Saxoprint RTG Honda, 139.364 = 145.1km/h
Fastest lap: Romano Fenati, SKY Racing Team VR46, 1:39.622 = 144.7km/h
Championship top 3
Kent 260 • Oliveira 254 • Enea Bastianini 207