Jorge Lorenzo rode an almost perfect race in today’s MotoGP season finale at Valencia to claim his third MotoGP world championship and fifth world title overall, but it was his Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi with an utterly jaw-dropping ride from the back of the grid up to 4th place.
Jorge Lorenzo led every single lap of today’s race from pole position. Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez were on his tail throughout the race, with Márquez in particular nipping at his heels.
Some Rossi fans may have even been rooting for Márquez at points during the race, which felt particularly weird given the recent feuding between Rossi and Márquez. Had Márquez and Pedrosa been able to get around Lorenzo, however, Rossi would have been world champion with his fourth place finish. Had only Márquez been able to get around, Rossi would have only had to finish third to claim the championship.
It was in the context of this points battle for the championship that made the battle up front particularly tense.
Meanwhile, Rossi started from the back due to a penalty from his contact with Márquez at Sepang, but gained one position on the grid. A mechanical issue pulled Cal Crutchlow from his starting position, forcing him to start from the pit lane.
It was from this less than ideal starting position that Rossi rocketed through the field in one of the most masterful rides I’ve ever seen. He cut through the inside on some of the first few turns to pass masses of slower bikes at once, leaping ahead fifteen positions in the first two laps.
When Rossi reached the top ten, however, that’s when he really had to work for it. Andrea Iannone crashed out of fourth place, giving Rossi one position. Fortunately, Iannnone walked away, however, his bike was badly damaged. Rossi had one close call with Pol Espargaró in particular that was an amazingly close pass, but ultimately, he made it stick to nab sixth position with twenty laps to go. You could tell Rossi was pushing hard as he started to run wide in some places as he worked through the field. With eighteen laps left, though, Rossi made it to fourth.
Unfortunately for Rossi, however, the top three were just too quick, and too far ahead of the rest of the field. Rossi would have had to finish second in the event of a Lorenzo win to still win the championship.
Up front, Márquez wasn’t going to accept second place without a fight. He was sliding quite a bit in the last half of the race, but never lost sight of Lorenzo ahead of him. With two laps to go, though, Pedrosa caught up to Márquez and passed him, but Márquez took second place right back.
As much as Márquez looked for the right opportunity to pass Lorenzo, though, he ultimately couldn’t find it. Lorenzo won the race, and jumped ahead of his teammate in championship points to win his fifth world title.
Crutchlow, too, had a fantastic ride from the pit lane after his bike was repaired. He finished ninth.
Today also marked lone American rider Nicky Hayden’s final race in MotoGP. Hayden moves to World Superbike next year.
Full race results can be viewed here.
[Clarification: This is Lorenzo’s fifth overall world title, but only his third in MotoGP. The other two were 250cc championships. This has been edited above. H/T NickEice!]
Photo credits: AP Images
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