Crunching The Numbers: Rossi vs Lorenzo, The Lessons From 2014

Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi head into Silverstone tied on points, with Lorenzo only leading because he has more wins to his name this season than his teammate. With the race that close, who does the season favor? Who will emerge victorious at the end? It is far too early to make any firm predictions, but perhaps we can guess from looking at last year.

There are seven races left in 2015, and the seven left this season are the exact same races in the exact same order as the last seven of 2014. That parallel invites comparisons, and the drawing of conclusions, though such conclusions are tenuous at best. However, there are tracks which favor Rossi, and tracks which favor Lorenzo, and their performance there may yet be indicative of the final outcome.

First, the numbers. Both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo currently have 211 points after the first 11 races. With seven races left, there are a grand total of 175 points still up for grabs. Though neither rider is likely to run the board – they are too evenly matched for that – a look back at their performances last year can be instructive.

In the last seven races of 2014, Rossi won two, at Misano and Phillip Island, and Lorenzo won two, at Aragon and Motegi. Lorenzo took three second places, while Rossi ended in second just twice. Rossi ended in third two times, Lorenzo just a single time, and both riders scored a blank due to poor weather. Rossi crashed at Aragon on a damp track, while Lorenzo retired after a tire change at Valencia in half-wet, half-dry conditions.

Jorge Lorenzo scored a grand total of 126 points in the last seven races, to Rossi's total of 122 points. On paper, that would give the advantage to Lorenzo, but there is another way of looking at the data. Each rider also had a DNF, in anomalous conditions which are unlikely to be replicated. Rossi touched the damp astroturf after it had rained at Aragon, and ended up crashing out. Lorenzo struggled with damp conditions at Valencia, decided to go in change tires, gambling on the rain starting to get heavier. It didn't, and he pulled in. Cancel the results from Aragon and Valencia, and Rossi comes out on top, outscoring Lorenzo by 102 points to 101.

Advantage Lorenzo, or advantage Rossi? Just looking at points scored last year misses the bigger picture, of how they achieved those results. Every race tells a story, consisting of a headline narrative with hidden undercurrents, both of which contribute to the outcome. These, more than anything, offer glimpses of what may come to pass.

At Silverstone, Lorenzo finished ahead of Rossi, but he did so by a huge margin. Lorenzo was engaged in battle for victory all race long with Marc Márquez, only losing out at the end. Rossi, meanwhile, was engaged in fending off challenges from Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, some eight seconds behind Lorenzo. At no point was Rossi a real threat to Lorenzo, but then again, Silverstone has always been a bogey track for the Italian, having missed the first visit to the circuit after breaking his leg in 2010, and never really catching up after that.

Valentino Rossi took victory at Misano, the Italian making it clear from the start that he was out for victory, and brooking no opposition throughout the weekend. Rossi has spent the past six months or so lapping Misano with the VR46 Academy riders, and knows the track like the back of his hand, so there is no reason to believe that 2015 will be any different to 2014, despite the fact that this is one Lorenzo's strongest circuits.

Aragon was truly an anomaly, the weather conditions catching a lot of riders out, the track starting dry after earlier rain, then quickly becoming soaked during a downpour. Rossi crashed early, Lorenzo pitted for tires at exactly the right moment, and capitalized on the situation with the win.

Motegi was a case of Lorenzo doing what Lorenzo does best, setting a suffocating pace that only he can manage to hold. He bided his time behind Rossi, then passed and crushed the opposition. There is no reason to believe the same won't happen again, the only proviso being that Motegi may actually suit the Honda, with either Marc Márquez or Dani Pedrosa, or even both, getting in and spoiling the party.

From Japan, MotoGP headed to Phillip Island, and what turned out to be a very strange weekend indeed. The combination of a new asymmetric front tire and a precipitous drop in temperature during the race (in the region of 10°C between the start and the finish), saw rider after rider crash out of the race. From that war of attrition, Rossi emerged triumphant, Lorenzo crossing the line nearly eleven seconds behind. For 2015, Bridgestone are bringing a slightly different asymmetric front, with the transition point between the two different types of rubber at a different point in the tire. The timing of the race – around 4pm local time, around the point in the day when it starts to cool significantly – means we could see a similar race. But it's Phillip Island, so anything could happen, and both Rossi and Lorenzo are strong there.

At Sepang, Rossi once again got the better of Lorenzo, but once again slightly unusual circumstances prevailed. Lorenzo lost an adhesive tank grip, meaning that he could not grip the fuel tank with his knees. Unable to control the bike and his body as he would wish, Lorenzo had to let Rossi and Márquez go. Rossi got the better of Lorenzo, but could not match the pace of Márquez. Take away that anomaly and either of the two Yamahas could win. Both men are quick around Sepang, and the track suits the nature of the M1.

The final race of the season saw yet more weirdness, the weather intervening once again to shake things up. The race started in the dry, but light rain fell in the early laps, before a brief shower saw the track get wetter. Márquez rode a brilliant race to victory, and Rossi did superbly in his wake to take second. Jorge Lorenzo came to Valencia with just one objective, to seize second in the championship from his teammate, but could not follow Rossi in the treacherous conditions. A hangover from his crashes in the wet in 2013? Perhaps, and perhaps the memory of his huge highside in 2012, when there was only a single dry line around the track. Lorenzo gambled on the rain getting heavier, and came in for wet tires. When it didn't, and it became clear that he would struggle to get in the points, Lorenzo decided to pull in, much to the dismay of his team.

Was Valencia representative for the season? Certainly not, nor was it representative of the relative strengths of the two Yamaha men at the circuit. As a rule, Lorenzo has been superb at Valencia over the years, having won there twice on a MotoGP bike. By contrast, Rossi is anything but a fan of the circuit, the Ricardo Tormo track holding many bad memories for the Italian, including crashes and lost championships. The result was, like so many of the last seven races of 2014, something of an anomaly.

Can we extrapolate anything from the end of last year and superimpose it onto the 2015 title chase? Taking last year's results and appending them to the current state of the championship seems very rash indeed. Even a comparison of the relative strengths at each track of the Movistar Yamaha teammates looks like a rather rash step to take.

If there is one lesson we can take from the last seven races of 2014, it is this: unusual circumstances and unpredictable events are what ended up swinging the balance between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in their battle for second in the championship. With the title on the line, and an El Niño growing, ready to throw weird weather Europe's way, that same unpredictability looks set to be the key to 2015 as well. If I were a gambling man, I would find a safer bet to put my money on.


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Total votes: 94
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Comments

slightly favour Lorenzo. There isn't a single track in which he has been repeatedly poor or never fought for the win. The only in which he hasn't won is Sepang.

Rossi, on the other hand, has relatively weaker retrospects at Silverstone and Aragon. And it is entirely possible that both Marquez and Pedrosa might beat him at both of those tracks (as long as the RC213V is well settled).

So it seems more probable that Lorenzo will arrive at Valencia with a slim yet vital lead to manage.

Neither can afford a DNF, and only if both do will Marquez stand a less than nearly impossible chance.

Total votes: 93

Rossi all the way for the championship. It's going to be hard, Lorenzo seems to have some momentum and is going as fast as ever. I really think though that Rossi senses that this is really his last chance and will pull it out. If he can do this I think it will be the best championship year for a long time.
I have nothing to back this up but a feeling. I could be totally wrong, but I hope I'm not!

Total votes: 116

I love that last sentence, and I really appreciate the article focusing on the fact that MotoGP doesn't really lend itself to accurate predictions based on previous years. Every race weekend has its own anomalies and it's up to the teams and riders to work with that. The Indy Moto3 this year is an excellent example!

However, I think something important is skipped over, and that's the influence of Marc Marquez. If Rossi and Lorenzo were alone in the title fight, then each race is about the 25 or 20 points. But with Marquez in the mix, there's a good chance at one Yamaha man picking up 25, with the other picking up just 16. Lose to your teammate and it's bad; lose to your teammate ánd Marquez and it's a downright disaster.

It could well be that the championship will be decided by consistency afterall, instead of outright victories!

Total votes: 94

Can we construct a narrative where we go into the last race with Rossi, Lorenzo and Marquez all needing to win, to win the championship?

I'm looking forward to the hail mary pass on the last corner that runs Marc and Jorge into the dirt allowing Rossi to glide past and take the championship.

Total votes: 91

on the fence David. I think if you disclude variables like rain Lorenzo has the speed on Rossi. That's where my imaginary cash is going.

Total votes: 90

As a journalist, I do not have a dog in this fight. I agree that on paper, Lorenzo looks to have the speed on Rossi. The problem with that is that they don't race on paper, they race on asphalt, in the open air, with a great big bunch of other riders. That introduces too many other variables to be able to make reliable predictions when two riders are tied on points with seven races still to go.

Total votes: 97

Isn't it one of Nicky Hayden's catchphrases? "That's why we line up on Sunday"? You never know what'll happen, and that's why we actually hold the races.

Total votes: 92

So who's your money on then DE - as a journalist?

Mine's on Marquez (but maybe that's the just the devil in me).

Total votes: 86

It seems like Lorenzo has the edge in speed now but what has been great this season is that Lorenzo has only beaten Rossi in the last two races, before that you had Rossi winning Assen with Lorenzo third and Sachsenring with Rossi third and Lorenzo fourth. It's been seesawing all year between the pair before you even put Marquez in to the mix.

Who knows what the hell is going to happen? At any race any one of the top 3 (4?) can outpace the others. It's what has made this year particularly great so far. We could easily see Rossi win Silverstone and be filling the forum up with how it's over for Lorenzo since Rossi beat him there for two weeks and then have Lorenzo destroy everyone for another two races in a row.

Total votes: 91

Living in California, god I hope it does. I'll admit to being a Rossi fan, but as a rider I have tremendous respect for anyone who suits up on a race weekend in any series.

It's hard to argue the momentum is with Lorenzo, but he's never really seemed the same rider in the wet after the Assen collarbone incident. It's just my opinion but if there end up being a few wet races by the end of the season, I think Rossi will see his 10th crown. If not, we'll look back and say the series has moved to a point where bad qualifying can not be made up for in the race no matter how good you are.

Either way I think we are quite lucky this year compared to recent times. Yes the Brno race was not the fireworks show we were expecting, but if you sit behind Lorenzo while he is in the lead - you've already lost. David I'm really glad you pointed out in an earlier article this season that Lorenzo's style can only be appreciated trackside. When Cal was at Tech3 didn't he once say his style is close to Lorenzo's as he was bidding for a factory ride... Yes I'm being sarcastic - Good day all.

Total votes: 84

I agree that he has been weak in rain so far but suspect that with the title in play and so close he will be able to focus and might surprise a few.
That said, rain is always a high risk thing. Rain or not I won't bet either way, just hope that Rossi end up on top.

Total votes: 88

I'm not ruling Jorge out of anything, I'd be a fool :) I do admire that so far he and Rossi seem to be keeping it cordial considering the titanic battle they are engaged in.

Total votes: 86

A few years ago I believe it was Mattia Pasini that got into trouble and I believe got penalty points for tutoring at a Race School on a track that was on the MotoGP calendar. How is it possible that Rossi has been allowed to lap Misano without issue? Has what ever rule that affected Mattia Pasini been absolved or is it a case of looking the other way because its Rossi?

Cheers

Total votes: 75

Riders are allowed to ride at a circuit at any time, except for shortly before an actual race. I believe 2 weeks before a race is the cut off. So Rossi is entitled to practice at Misano, as long as he does not do so between next Monday and the race at Misano. I believe Pasini gave track instruction the week before the race.

Total votes: 89

He was banned for a round of World Supersport after being found guilty of riding an R1 road bike around Misano.

Total votes: 93

You are correct. Scassa was also banned for slightly different reasons. Scassa was banned because in World Supersport, riders are only allowed to test at nominated circuits, or circuits not on the calendar. As WSS and WSBK are both production categories, it is easy to see how a trackday or track instruction can be seen as testing.

In the Grand Prix classes, riders are allowed to practice on standard production bikes at any circuit, as long as they do not ride there 14 days before the GP event (whether that means the Sunday or Friday is not entirely clear). The only exception is in Moto2, where, ironically, the riders are not allowed to use Honda CBR600RRs, as they use the homologated Moto2 engine . The only exception is wildcard riders, who are allowed to test.

Total votes: 88

Strange rules indeed.

Back then, the road-going 1000cc R1 was an entirely different beast to the Supersport 600cc R6 that Scassa was racing at the time - but today's R1 is more similar to an M1.

Has Rossi been doing a 'Rabat' on the new track surface at Misano in readiness?

Crafty.

You voted 3. Total votes: 79

An over-eager errant finger, and don't know how to delete - sorry.

Total votes: 82

The R1 and M1 are very different. The R1 is a production bike for starters. It does not have the power of the M1, not top end, acceleration, torque, nor does it have the suspension of the M1, or the ceramic brakes (rotors), and it certainly doesn't have the tires of the M1 as Rossi has no way of stealing a set to use in his private time. All of this means the brake markers are not the same, neither are the lap times. This is a useless argument. What Rossi has done with his academy is not against the rules in any way so this is a pointless debate. Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, all free to do the same on a production bike. More riders don't do it because the bikes and tires are vastly different so it provides little benefit. It is akin to Marquez or Rossi lapping around their own dirt tracks, nothing more than "training.". This was asked at the pre-event press conference at Brno btw.

As far as the rain goes, all bets are off. Any rider can go down at any time with little warning. I've seen hundreds of crashes in the wet, front just washes out. Sometimes there is warning with the rider just pushing too hard but many times the front tire just lets go. Rain races are races of attrition and races where satellite riders actually stand a chance of winning, or a Suzuki, or a Ducati. Power deficits such as Suzuki's go away completely. Oliver Jacque stepping in for Hoffman in China 2005 getting second behind Rossi on the Kawasaki and Chris Vermeulen on the Suzuki in 2007 coming from 12th to win come to mind with surprising results in the wet. Anything can happen. Rossi or Lorenzo having an off in the wet could be disastrous. 11 weeks to go. Should be exciting. Brno was a snoozer but at least one rider isn't 100 points ahead.

Total votes: 92

So what that Rossi's been busy sussing the new track surface at Misano at every opportunity on a modified, Suzuka 8 Hour-spec missile?

He hasn't broken any rules - but he's probably learned a hell of a lot during the process of blatantly bending them.

Total votes: 102

He didn't break nor bend the rules. Any rider could do the same. They can move from their tax havens to a new home close to one of the circuits and ride a production bike all year.

Total votes: 91

My question had more to do with the clarification of the rules than anything else. It was unclear as to exactly what the rules restricted riders from using tracks on the official calendar.

Something to note "Any rider could do the same. They can move from their tax havens to a new home close to one of the circuits and ride a production bike all year." this isn't true lets be honest as Rossi himself stated during the pre grandprix press conference he has an 'agreement' with the circuit that offers him the luxury to ride it with his VR students on a weekly basis. We can't even pretend that Alvaro Bautista or Alexi Espagaro could afford to rent out a private track on a weekly basis simply to ride around, let alone a track like Misano. Heck even in the heyday of unrestricted testing, privater teams couldn't afford to be out there testing on GP tracks on a weekly basis. Rossi has financial, marketing, relationship clout which allows him access to this facilities which honestly not many/all riders have.

Total votes: 81

But how can you be sure that the plain, grey R1 in question was in fact a 'production' bike?

With Rossi tirelessly testing at Misano and with the same round coming-up directly after Silverstone, it's inevitable that questions will be asked and doubts raised.

Rossi's always honed his skills at his ranch using off-road bikes, so this recent, intensive bout of 'circuit training' represents a radical departure from the 'norm'.

But as you say, anyone can do it so maybe Lorenzo should consider renting a 'home' in Aragon - to get some valuable testing time in on a plain, grey R1 before that round of the championship as well?

Oops, but I forgot - unlike Misano, Aragon hasn't recently been re-surfaced, so there'd be very little to be gained.

In a tight title battle, Rossi's so-called 'training' at Misano is best described as highly dubious 'practice'.

Total votes: 86

The scales seem to have tipped in Lorenzo's favor. There does seem to be good info from last yr re which tracks are stronger for which rider. And the unforseen has been foreseen in that we have a LOT that can upset the applecart.

Most notably rain and Marquez. It is difficult for me to discern my wishes for an interesting championship and the old guy to rise to the challenge of one more title vs wisdom and intuition. It does seem smart to say that rain could favor the wiley adaptable Rossi over the methodical momentum building Lorenzo. Also that Marquez can upset a rhythm at the front more for a clear track hungry Lorenzo than the scrappy Rossi.

"Luck" seems to favor VR46. He lands on his feet. He gets motivation where others lose focus. Money? On Lorenzo. Money I would LOVE to lose!

Smith - congrats on the contract. His trajectory has been really exceptional. All of us seem to err on the side of looking towards a phenomenon to come along as "the next Marquez" that would leap into the front via talent. I was one of the folks wondering aloud re Herve going with Smith bringing him into MotoGP. And his first year looked as expected. The unlikely beginnings and slow kindling fire sure looks good now. Can we separate that from the strong showing of the 2015 Yamaha bike? I don't, but Smith impresses. Looking fwd to seeing how the gap between 2016 factory and satellite bikes shrinks, and Smith's performance to illuminate that particularly. Btw, of all the current riders Bradley is the one to tip for a future broadcast commentator role. Keep up the good work mate!

P.S. glad to see Rossi riding the R1 at Misano for training rather than the motocross bike, too many injuries. Same w supermoto. May keep his head more in the game as well. Surprised more riders don't do that. Seems Abraham would be best positioned for it at Brno. Rossi looks to really enjoy sharing the social aspects of riding, good for him starting his own Moto3 program. Great fit.

Ready for Britain!

Total votes: 95

has the consistency. At the rounds where Lorenzo will mysteriously be well off the pace-Pedrosa will also become a large factor-possibly even Ducati again at Sepang or PI.

The other factor I believe is that the big four and others mindsets will have changed after watching Jorge walk away from so many rounds this season.

I predict now there will be an unusually strong effort made to get in front of him quickly and disrupt his rhythm when hes on form, Marc and Rossi are certainly more than capable of this, as are Dovi and Ianonne if close enough.

Total votes: 88

there are two simple and huge problems to be tackled first; Lorenzo is second to none on getting terrific starts and pushing the tyres while they are relatively cold in the first lap.

It has been nearly impossible to keep Lorenzo at bay this season.

Total votes: 83

Will also favor Lorenzo with his size and style, so it will be quite an achievement for the Doctor if he gets this one at 36 with the current regs and competition

Total votes: 93

And we had a strange weekend in Silverstone that made Rossi come out on top.

I think no one argues that in the dry a win for Rossi seemed unlikely but I also think that Marquez would have won at Silverstone in the dry.

So Rossi came out with +12 points instead of - 4 compared to Lorenzo ( giving that the order at the finish was 93,99,46).

Now we have problaby the strongest circut ( at least on paper ) for Rossi coming up. If he wins there and Lorenzo is second then he leads by 17 points.

Aragon is Hondaland and Maybye Rossi will slip out of the podioum for the first time ( Marquez, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Rossi )
After Aragon Rossi leads over Lorenzo by 14 points

Montegi: 93,99,46 Rossi still ahead by 10 points

Phillip Island: 46,93,99 Rossi gains to 19 points

Sepang: 93,46,99 Rossi to 23 points clear of Lorenzo

So in Valencia all Rossi has to do is to score 2 points.... But we all know what happend the last time that was the case :)

If we try to see the races through Lorenzos (rather foggy) visior it might look a bit different:

I really dont think he can beat Rossin in Misano so after Misano it will still be advantage Rossi ( 46,99,93 ) by 17 points.

Aragon... I think Lorenzo wants to win there but if he does I truly belive Rossi will be no 2 because of the test they had earlier but lets say 99,93,26,46. So after Aragon Lorenzo is only 5 points after Rossi.

Montegi 93,99,46 and now Lorenzo is only 1 point behind Rossi.

Phillip Island.... I cant see Lorenzo in front of Rossi.... But maybye Marquez: 93,46,99 and Rossi is 5 points ahead.

Sepang: 93,46,99 Rossi 9 points ahead.

In Valencia we may get a repeat of 2013 with Lorenzo trying to outsmart Rossi ( in 2013 it was Lorenzo vs Marquez ).. But this time Marquez dont give a fuck and wins ahead of 99 and Rossi 3th... Title goes to Rossi with 5 points.. Hell if Marquez wins Rossi can even be 5th :)

Total votes: 78

Athough I did not get it excactely right WHAT happened I am on the money that Rossi is 14 points ahead of Lorenzo after Aragon...

Total votes: 73