2015 Valencia Sunday MotoGP Round Up: How Championships Are Won, Lost, And Destroyed

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. The more pressing question is how to distinguish between the two. Narratives are easily created – it is my stock in trade, and the trade which every sports writer plies – but where does stringing together a collection of related facts move from being a factual reconstruction into the realms of invented fantasy? When different individuals view the same facts and draw radically opposite conclusions, are we to believe that one is delusional and the other is sane and objective? Most of all, how much value should we attach to the opinions of each side? Do we change our opinion of the facts based on our sympathy or antipathy for the messenger?

That is the confusion which the final round of MotoGP has thrust the world of Grand Prix racing into. What should have been a celebration of the greatest season of racing in the premier class in recent years, and possibly ever, was rendered farcical, as two competing interpretations of a single set of facts clashed, exploded, then dragged the series down into the abyss. Bitterness, anger, suspicion, fear, all of these overshadowed some astonishing performances, by both winners and losers. Looked at impartially, the Valencia round of MotoGP was a great day of fantastic racing. But who now can look at it impartially?

The day started well, with a thrilling battle in Moto3, with an outcome that did justice to all concerned. Miguel Oliveira won his third race in a row with a brilliant and masterful performance, shaking off the attentions of Jorge Navarro, Romano Fenati, Efren Vazquez and Niccolo Antonelli in a race-long battle, never letting the lead out of his grasp for long. After a dismal qualifying, which saw him start from eighteenth on the grid, Danny Kent finally rode the safe, solid race he needed to wrap the title up, becoming the first British Grand Prix champion since Barry Sheene in 1977. That is a very long time indeed.

Getting it done

All weekend long, Kent had professed he was not nervous. On Sunday, the celebratory championship jersey – well, more of a vest really – wrapped firmly over his leathers, Kent admitted he had been putting on a front. We knew it, and he knew that we knew it, but we kept up the fiction, as it was easier to do that than to keep asking the same, pointless question. Kent's crew chief Peter Bom had expressed his exasperation on Saturday night, he and the team having turned his bike upside down in search of the right feeling for Kent. A long swing arm, a short swing arm, up at the back, up at the front, stiff shock, soft shock, nothing could please Kent. In the end, they had gone for something neutral, but the key set up change was to Kent's mind. After the morning warm up, Kent had told his team manager Stefan Kiefer that he was ready to do what needed to be done. He did exactly that.

Kent's journey has been a long one, ranging from Aprilia Superteens to Red Bull Rookies, from Moto3 to Moto2 and back again. Kent lost two titles by just a single point, and many feared history might repeat itself. That it did not is down in large part to the Kiefer team, and especially to crew chief Peter Bom. The pair are very close, sharing a hotel room at every round, sometimes continuing their discussions on bike set up from garage to hospitality to hotel, sometimes just shooting the breeze about the most random of subjects.

You've got to have faith

Most importantly, Kent has absolute faith in what Bom is doing for him, and Bom has faith in the talent of Kent, and the ability to convince Kent of the Englishman's own talent. It is not Bom's first title, having won Moto2 with Stefan Bradl, and World Supersport with Chris Vermeulen, and that experience stood them in good stead. Bom and Kiefer proved the value of a good and competent team, sadly surprisingly rare, even at this level of racing.

Kent may have deprived Oliveira of the Moto3 title, but the Portuguese rider put himself on the map this year with the Red Bull KTM team. Once KTM brought the new chassis, Oliveira's performance went through the roof, coinciding with the slide of Kent in the second half of the year. Together, the two men utterly dominated the Moto3 class, Kent owning the first half of the season, Oliveira the second. The two men move up to Moto2 with Kiefer for 2016, and will make a very strong pairing.

The Moto2 race itself was a close-run affair, the race cut short then restarted after a massive crash caused it to be red-flagged. Tito Rabat took the win in his return to racing, saying farewell to his Marc VDS Moto2 team with a victory, and paving the way to walk in the other side of the garage on a MotoGP bike on Tuesday, when he moves up to the premier class. Alex Rins secured second, though it looked like he might actually grab the win, before he got distracted by his second place in the championship. Rins has been a phenomenal rookie in Moto2, following in the footsteps and on the bike of Maverick Viñales. MotoGP factories are already making discrete (and not so discrete) enquiries about Rins' availability for 2017, once the Spaniard has served his time in Moto2.

All is not what it seems

Then came the MotoGP race, and as at Phillip Island and Sepang, a tense and thrilling battle was ruined by the events which surrounded the race afterwards. Whether you regard the events post-race as a valid complaint against an obviously rigged result, or the wild ramblings of a man desperate to apportion blame to anyone but himself for his own failure depends entirely on your perspective. There are facts which are beyond dispute, and facts which are open to interpretation, but on one thing, everyone can agree. The aftermath has besmirched what has been undoubtedly the greatest season of premier class racing in recent years. Once again, there are no winners here, and that is very sad indeed.

The facts beyond dispute? That Jorge Lorenzo did what Valentino Rossi feared he would, and took off at the front. That track temperatures were round about where they were yesterday, high enough to cause problems for the hardest option front tire as the race went on, especially for the Hondas. That Valentino Rossi rode the race of his life, making surgical passes left, right and center, quickly working his way forward to fourth. That Marc Márquez had the pace to follow Lorenzo for all of the race, though he had to ride at the limit to do so. That Dani Pedrosa was first dropped by the leaders, then came back again, launching an attack on the penultimate lap on Márquez. That Márquez struck straight back when Pedrosa ran wide, but never attempted a pass on Lorenzo.

All of these facts then leave room for interpretation. Why did Márquez never attack Lorenzo? The Repsol Honda rider says he was biding his time to attack, as he has done so often this year. He was waiting for either the last or the penultimate lap to take a shot at Lorenzo, but Pedrosa upset his plan, he said. Rossi, on the other hand, claims Márquez played "bodyguard" to Lorenzo, riding on tail and protecting his back, not passing Lorenzo, but passing Pedrosa straight back once he was passed by his teammate.

Just the facts...

Márquez says he was right on the limit trying to follow Lorenzo, and points to the gap between the two which yoyoed constantly, Márquez pushing hard to close up on Lorenzo, but only really faster than the Spaniard in the second sector, Turn 6 being the only real option for a pass. Rossi points to the race of Pedrosa, who first dropped back, then upped the pace to close up on Márquez again, to try a final pass. If Pedrosa could catch Márquez again, then clearly the Honda was capable of being faster, Rossi's thesis runs.

Márquez said he went for the win, but was simply incapable of beating an unleashed Lorenzo. Rossi says Márquez was protecting Lorenzo's back, and ensuring that the Spanish Movistar Yamaha rider would win the title, rather than Valentino Rossi.

Which version of events represents the truth? Deciphering that is extremely difficult, as both versions of events share the same two key characteristics: they are plausible, and they are entirely unfalsifiable. There is a chain of events we can follow, and each individual part of the claim can be dissected, but even then the picture which emerges is still open to interpretation. So it comes down to Occam's razor, and the simplest explanation being the most likely one.

Firstly, was Marc Márquez really on the limit, or was he easily faster, as Valentino Rossi would claim after the race? What we do know is that both Lorenzo and Márquez were eleven seconds quicker than in 2013, the last time there was a dry race at Valencia. Though the circuit has been resurfaced since then, the race times of both Márquez and Lorenzo are not hanging about.

On the outside looking in

Can you judge from the outside how hard a rider is trying? Certainly, Márquez looked to be going fast enough through Turn 13, both wheels sliding through the corner. But was that at the limit? I turned to a disinterested party for an opinion, in this case, Andrea Dovizioso, who happened to speak to us after Valentino Rossi had made his accusations of foul play. "It's true, for us is normal to see Marc fighting a lot in the battle. So to see that, it was quite strange. But only the riders know exactly the problems they have in the bike. So I don't know if he was on the limit, over the limit, or he was controlling the race," Dovizioso said.

Is it possible for one MotoGP rider to see when another MotoGP rider is on the limit? "Normally yes," Dovizioso replied, "but you can't know every detail the riders can have. Especially when you ride a different bike." You can make general judgments, Dovizioso implied, but each bike is different, and the precise limits of the bike and where it struggles is not immediately visible. "This is my experience, because I rode already three bikes, and until you try a bike, you can't know every detail of it. Especially the difference from the morning to the afternoon. The conditions always change. So yes, the riders can normally understand and analyze the situation, but it's easy to not see everything." How accurately could another rider judge it? As accurately as 95%? "Maybe less," Dovizioso said. "If you race in your career just one bike, it's less. If you have different experience, you can know more about that, but the rules change, the bikes change, so I can't speak about Honda, it was a long time ago."

The one point which Rossi did press home in his attack on Márquez was that it was unusual for the Spaniard not to ever attempt to pass the rider in front. "For me, if you check the races of Marc Marquez in the last two years you know he always tries to overtake and minimum on the last lap," Rossi said. "So the question is why Marc Marquez never tried to overtake Jorge Lorenzo and never tried to make one attempt on the last lap?"

Márquez' explanation was simple. "I don’t know about Dani, but I was struggling with the front, especially in the beginning," Márquez said. "Then in the end, in the last six laps, I see that the victory was possible, but when Dani overtake me we lose this half second, it was impossible to catch Jorge again." Márquez said that his plan had been to try to pass in the final lap, but his attack had been preempted by Pedrosa, the exchange between the two Repsol Hondas putting too much gap between them and the Movistar Yamaha of Lorenzo.

Horses for courses

Why had Márquez not attacked Lorenzo earlier? At the last race, Márquez had passed Rossi and been passed back nine times in a single lap, but at Valencia, Márquez had not attempted a single pass. In part, that was down to tactics, Márquez following the same strategy he had used at both Indianapolis and Assen, following the rider in front without challenging for most of the race, only launching an attack in the final laps – or in the case of Assen, in the final corner – of the race. In part, it was down to the nature of the bikes and the track, one anonymous MotoGP rider ascribing the passes between Rossi and Márquez to the different nature of the Honda and the Yamaha, Márquez striking where the Honda was stronger, Rossi hitting back in the area where the Yamaha was better.

Then, of course, there was the fact that the two races were held under very different circumstances. At Sepang, Márquez was racing against a rider who had publicly attacked and humiliated him in the press conference on Thursday, and his blood lust was up. Márquez had received a private dressing down from Race Direction for those actions, and been told not to take unnecessary risks around riders racing for the championship. A suitably chastened Márquez was racing at Valencia against a rider who was looking to win a title, and was never quite close enough to make a clean and safe pass. The Spaniard was only occasionally close enough, but it was never possible to do so cleanly, and without a major risk of crashing.

The biggest problem Márquez had was the difference in acceleration out of the final corner. The Hondas have been complaining of a lack of acceleration all year, the rear tire spinning too much to provide good forward drive. The Yamahas have fantastic mechanical grip, getting drive out of the final corner to launch themselves down the straight with enough advantage to easily hold off the Hondas in the braking zone into Turn 1. Turn 6 was the only place where Márquez had the pace to pass Lorenzo, but he could never do it safely in previous laps, and had Pedrosa to deal with on the last couple of laps.

Santa's little helper?

Did Márquez really decide the title in favor of Lorenzo? That seems an odd accusation for two men who have little love lost between them. Lorenzo regards Márquez as the Spanish usurper, the man who stole the popularity which by rights belongs to him. Márquez regards Lorenzo with the same disdain he has for all of his rivals, as an obstacle to victory and to championship glory. Márquez revels in attacking and beating Lorenzo, especially given Lorenzo's public complaints about Márquez' riding. There is nothing Márquez likes more than to beat Lorenzo in a close battle, after the comments which Lorenzo has repeatedly made about how dangerous a rider Márquez is.

The strangest aspect of Rossi's attack on Márquez is that he appeared to be shifting the responsibility for winning the title from the Italian's own shoulders onto the man he had so publicly attacked. Despite Rossi's brilliant early laps – and they were truly things of beauty, passes executed with surgical and ruthless precision – his race pace was simply not up to that of the front three. Lorenzo and Márquez ran laps of between 1'31.5 and 1'31.9 just about all race long. Pedrosa ran laps of 1'31.7, lost ground as he slowed up with an overheating front tire to clock a string of 1'31.9s and 1'32s, before upping the pace again and hitting a 1'31.5 to catch the leaders.

Rossi, meanwhile, was running consistent 1'32.1 and 1'32.2. Fast enough for fourth, but nowhere near good enough for the win. Even if Rossi had started from the front row of the grid, and not had to fight his way forward through the pack (a battle which was over shortly after one third distance), he did not have the pace to beat Lorenzo, nor even the pace to beat the two Hondas. Rossi finished where his race pace dictated, regardless of where he had started. That race pace was roughly in line with what he had shown during practice, a couple of tenths short of the pace of the leaders.

If you ain't got the speed ...

By placing the onus on the Hondas to beat Lorenzo, he is deflecting responsibility of his own failure to do so. All throughout the year, every rider in the paddock bar one has said that the championship has basically been between Jorge Lorenzo, who is the faster of the two, and Valentino Rossi, who has been more consistent and smarter. The faster rider may not always win, but over a full season of eighteen races, having the speed helps.

Even in the races where Rossi has accused Márquez of helping Lorenzo, his accusations do not bear close scrutiny. In Australia, Rossi accused Márquez of holding him and Andrea Iannone up in order to allow Lorenzo to get a gap, which only Márquez could bridge. Yet Márquez finished ahead of Lorenzo, taking five points from the Spaniard, and Iannone finished in front of Rossi, taking three points from the Italian. At Sepang, Rossi was not fast enough to catch Lorenzo after he forced Márquez wide, lapping slower than his teammate. If he had not been suckered into battling with Márquez – clearly Márquez' plan, as revenge for Rossi's humiliation of him in the press conference – then Rossi would have finished either third or fourth, again losing points to Lorenzo. And if Rossi had truly been faster than Márquez, he would have quickly disposed of the Spaniard and gone on to chase Lorenzo. But Rossi wasn't quicker than Márquez, and got sucked into a battle he had nothing to gain from and no point fighting.

Jorge Lorenzo made his feelings about the entire affair clear in the press conference after the race. "I think I clearly deserve this world title," Lorenzo said. "If you see the statistics compared to our rival, we beat him in everything: in victories, in pole positions, in fast laps, in laps leading the race, in laps leading the practice, and everything. Only in podiums, and in the consistency, he beat us." If Rossi could point to events that worked against him, so could Lorenzo: a loose helmet lining at Qatar, bronchitis at Austin, tire troubles at Argentina, visor fogging at Silverstone, and a stupid mistake at Misano. If Lorenzo had not got suckered in trying to follow Scott Redding at Misano on slicks fresh out of the pits, the Spaniard finishes in second or third, Rossi then finishing in sixth. In that case, Lorenzo heads into Valencia with either a 14 or 11 point lead. Either way, the task goes from being difficult to being impossible, with or without help from the two Repsol Hondas.

Known knowns

While the above may be open to interpretation, There are a couple more indisputable facts about the 2015 championship which bear consideration. The first is that this has been one of the most thrilling and keenly contested championships in years, the title only being decided in Valencia. The second is that Yamaha built a fantastic bike in the YZR-M1, arguably the best racing motorcycle ever to see the light of day. The 2015 M1 kept all of the strengths of last year's bike, while the combination of chassis revisions, electronics and the fully seamless gearbox removed the bike's weaknesses.

The third is that both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo deserved the title, both riding better than they have ever done in their careers. What Rossi has done at the age of 36, and after spending so long in the doldrums at Ducati and afterwards, is truly remarkable. To be able to summon up the self-discipline and desire to push his body and his riding skills to try to beat younger men than he, men who grew up watching Rossi, copying him, learning his tricks and trying to improve upon them, is a feat that puts Rossi on a level beyond anything seen in history.

For Jorge Lorenzo, in 2015 he came back stronger than he has ever been in his career, having learned from his mistakes of last year, and inventing new ways to ride around problems whenever he encountered them. Lorenzo may have a strong preference for the Bridgestone tires with more edge grip, but he never had to search for the perfect set up, being quick on the bike despite the setting he had in it, and more consistent when Ramon Forcada fixed the problems he had.

Poisoning the well

Most of all, though, Rossi's decision to attack Marc Márquez so publicly has thoroughly destroyed the credibility of the series, and detracts both from the value of Jorge Lorenzo's championship and his own performance in 2015. By attacking Márquez, Rossi is admitting that he did not have the championship in his own hands, and needed help from other riders to win it. Why he thought those riders would want help him after he launched such blistering attack on them is something of a mystery.

The timing and method of Rossi's attack was itself interesting. Firstly, he spoke to Italian television to make his complaint, his preferred way of speaking directly to the Italian people, a method he used on occasion to try to persuade Ducati to make the changes that were needed if the bike was to be competitive. Then, in his customary media debrief, where he explains to the press how his race went, he broke the habit of every debrief I have ever been in with him, speaking first in Italian (and live on TV) before switching to English. That was curious indeed, but it allowed him to make the accusations in his native language first, the language he is far more comfortable with and in which he can be more precise. He then repeated the same claims in English, and though his English is excellent, it was clear that he was still thinking in Italian.

The most informative vignette was on Italian television, when Carmelo Ezpeleta came along to congratulate him on a great season. Rossi made a very public show of saying to Ezpeleta "I told you so! Didn't I tell you on Thursday this would happen?" Rossi had apparently been to see Ezpeleta on Thursday, to warn him of a "Spanish plot" against him. The most intriguing words followed, an almost throwaway line. "I will see you in my motorhome later," Rossi said. For a MotoGP rider to be summoning the CEO of Dorna, the man who runs the series, to his motorhome, is a sign that the balance of power is out of kilter. Carmelo Ezpeleta should be summoning riders to his office at his own convenience. He should not be at the beck and call of riders, for them to summon him as they please.

After his bitter attack on Márquez, Rossi then did not show up at the FIM Gala Award Ceremony, the official prize giving ceremony for the 2015 championship. That is a snub not just of Dorna, who organize the series, but of the FIM, the international federation under whose auspices MotoGP is run. It is a further sign, if any were needed, that Valentino Rossi has taken this loss exceptionally badly, and is in no mood to be gracious in defeat. He believes that someone else is to blame, and he is not afraid to call them out for it.

Bigger than the sport?

There is a grave danger to Rossi's strategy, one that hurts both the championship and himself. Rossi's attack undermines not just the credibility of this year's championship, but of every championship in the future. If fans believe this year's title was fixed, they are more likely to regard next year's championship as fixed as well. Accusing other riders of foul play is opening a Pandora's box of conspiracy and paranoia that will not be tamed, and will grow wildly out of control. If fans stop watching because they believe that MotoGP is not fair, fewer fans will watch to see Rossi enjoy success in the future.

Is MotoGP rigged? If it was, then it would be rigged for maximum financial gain, and that would mean that Valentino Rossi would win every championship. Rossi remains the giant of the sport, the man who is bigger than the series, the rider who sells the championship to casual fans and brings an international appeal to motorcycle racing. If Dorna had their way, they would not choose to have Jorge Lorenzo – clearly the fastest man this year, and arguably one of the fastest riders ever to walk the earth, but not a lovable or even likable character in the slightest – win the championship. Instead, they would have their big ticket riders, Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez win the title.

Does Marc Márquez want a Spanish champion? He certainly does, but only if that Spanish rider is called Marc Márquez. Motorcycle racers are deeply egotistical, and care only about their own achievements. Marc Márquez helping Jorge Lorenzo to beat Valentino Rossi makes as much sense as Max Biaggi helping Rossi beat Sete Gibernau. There is a logic there, but it is an entirely abstract logic which bears no relation to the human reality of the situation.

The truth is out there

Can we believe what we saw on Sunday? The facts speak for themselves, but we should be careful not to read things into them which may or may not be there. Did Marc Márquez really let Jorge Lorenzo win? Whether he did or not, we will never know, and speculating about it is particularly pointless. Did Marc Márquez cost Valentino Rossi his tenth world title? This we can be a little more certain of: blaming Márquez is as valid as blaming Andrea Iannone for Phillip Island, or Rossi himself for a misjudgment at Misano where he stayed out too long, or Andrea Dovizioso for being faster at Austin, or Iannone at Mugello, or Pedrosa at Aragon. All of those riders interfered with the championship, just as all the riders who let Rossi past at Valencia interfered with the championship. It is an entirely simplistic and narrow view of what a MotoGP championship is.

There were eighteen races this season, and points were handed out at each race, each race was run under its own specific circumstances, and there were surprises, oddities and weirdness every race weekend. The point of a motorcycle championship over so many races is to even out the rough patches, to average out the performances, so that the rider who has performed best over the course of the season receives the title. In 2015, that was Jorge Lorenzo, by one of the slimmest margins in a very long time. Valentino Rossi fought like a lion, and comported himself with great dignity as a racer, all the way to the end. But from Sepang onwards, that dignity disappeared, and Rossi looked like an old racer searching for excuses.

That tarnishes the image of a rider who has a legitimate claim to be regarded as the greatest of all time. More importantly, that tarnishes the image of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and MotoGP in particular. That is a very bad thing indeed, as Grand Prix racing will continue long after Valentino Rossi retires. Sometimes, an athlete is bigger than the sport he competes in. But that sport has to ensure that it is not crushed under the weight of that athlete's reputation when they leave.


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Comments

Pretty much nails everything that needed to be said.

However if I may..

I am extremely happy that Danny got it over the line, so I can say I at least saw one British GP champion. But I have sympathy for Miguel Oliviera who finally got the equipment to show what he could do.

And of course the hat must be tipped to Johann Zarco the most decisive champion of 2015.

Now the key fact is that under "normal" conditions Jorge Lorenzo was faster and ultimately that was his fallback and why he is champion today. Valentino came extremely close to beating a faster rider to the title which was an amazing achievement if not one he seemed to take any satisfaction in.

It is very sad for our sport that the new champion had to spend time having to justify winning the title. The outcome was disappointing for many people and I understand that but the result is what it is.

I wish Valentino would for once have been the better man, bit his tongue so as not to ruin the day, but I guess he couldn't.

I hope 2016 has the focus back fully on the racing but I fear the fallout from this mess will go on for a while.

This is some of your finest work. This is what keeps me waiting to see what you will write. You have set a high standard above what many others do.

This race and what happened afterwards did not disappoint me. All of this can actually be used to bring in more fans. When competitors do not like each other it causes tension. Which leads to a feeling of anticipation. Normally at every race, once racers are at the start line getting ready to race they feel all kinds of anticipation, butterflies, anxiety...etc. when many racers are buddy buddy, whether it is fake or real, the drama of those race years can be muted. But when there is tension the crowd as a whole starts to feel the same as the racers before the start of an race. And that feeling is good when it comes to bring people in to watch the sport.

The main reason why Rossi is given such a big area to say and do as he does is because right or wrong he creates a buzz. That buzz leads to more money coming in due to higher numbers of viewers.

Marquez and Rossi do have a problem with each other. Marquez has not fought someone like Rossi, and Rossi is almost to his sell by date. This creates a rage between the two that I have not seen in some time. Marquez was able to work Lorenzo, but Rossi revels in drama. The old man that used to be Peter Pan all the sudden became valid this season after at least 3 seasons looking like he was going to be put out to pasture. He came closer this year to winning than he has in several years. Each year getting closer. Marquez came out and TROUNCED everyone for two solid years, but found problems with Rossi and himself this year. Even watching on my TV you could feel Marquez looked at Rossi in each race that Rossi got by him like Rossi should not be able to beat him. Like a spoiled child that had beating his grandfather running, then one day his grandfather beat him running. And be could not take it.

Rossi on the other hand seems to know that his time is running out. He has steadily improved his speed to the point that he can actually match the front runners at some races. For sure better than the past two years. But Lorenzo is faster most of the time. Seemingly with ease. Marquez has an iron will that others seem to not quite have against him. And maybe the biggest sign of things changing is Pedrosa beating him in a head to head battle. The only thing Rossi is still a master of is head games. Other than that he will have to make several extra steps this next season, which is HIGHLY possible. These words he is saying is also putting him in a position of having to show and prove.

All this has me ready to see next year. The freshness of this exchange is all I see affecting people right now. But by next year it will be on to who is going to win. I personally do not believe the sport will suffer. Marquez has many years to go, Rossi does not even in fairytales have much time left.

...we have to be gratefull for this extraordinary season.

I´m glad there is a controversy like this, because it will give Rossi the extra motivation for next year.
Its going to be a frigging bloodbath of huge proportions next year and at the end the old war horse will finally succeed-I´m sure.
There has never been a bigger drama and a more prolonged climax in the history of the sport.
Let 2016 beginn!!!

I would like to take a step back and look at events under a different light and try to get inside Rossi’s and Marquez’ mind.
From an early age, Marquez shaped himself as a reflection of his former hero, pre-Ducati Rossi: Mercurial, clever, dominant, fast, resourceful, ruthless and above all cutthroat with opponents who did him 'wrong'.

Rossi recognised this and accepted it, even saw it as a compliment. And in 2013/14 Rossi wasn’t in a position for it to matter – after all, he had no shout at the championship in either of those years.

Then in 2015 Rossi’s confidence increased and, with the faltering of his rivals in the early stages of the season, he saw that he had a genuine opportunity at the title, but it would take all his experience and ruthlessness to achieve it: He knew how fast Lorenzo could be and he knew how gifted Marquez was. He sharpened his elbows, put a knife between his teeth and set about Marquez like he did all his previous nemeses. The friendliness had to go. The ruthlessness had to be dusted off. We saw this before with Biaggi, Gibernau, Stoner, all of whom were seen off in one way or another.

And so here is the conundrum: Rossi has met Rossi disguised as Marquez (not quite as charming but outwardly likeable to start with).

Marquez thinks he was on the receiving end of two wrongs at Argentina and Assen.

Personally, I don’t think for a moment that Rossi did wrong in Argentina and Marquez was a knucklehead in that clash and got what he deserved. In Assen Marquez rode very maturely, then had a brain fart and tried to smash a square peg into a small round hole in the final corner, and arrogantly thought he was dealing with a Lorenzo, a Pedrosa or Dovizioso. Instead he was up against someone as ruthless and clever with 20 years’ experience to boot. He could only come off second best – he was lucky not to crash.

Wind through to PI and I believe Marquez had Rossi’s saying in his mind “you’ll never win a race again”. Others might disagree, but I think Marquez sees himself so gifted that he can control outcomes of races, even championships. All within the rules, apparently.

Before Sepang, Rossi came to the conclusion that Marquez was going to do what he did as a younger man and was likely to take any route he could to achieve this. Marquez believed those two incidents had destroyed his chance at the title. Possibly, but he did it to himself. And so, Rossi felt that he had to express his concerns publicly to try to expose his nemesis and prevent his prediction coming true. Why didn’t he go the usual route of a campaign via others? Too slow – those approaches take time to come out.

This is the only point at which I agree with others on the forum: Rossi shouldn’t have done that, but that was his choice – I wasn’t in his position. The Sepang backlash was the final act of a desperate man, desperate for the best last shot at the title, desperate that he wasn’t fast enough to compete on a level with Lorenzo, desperate that even Pedrosa duffed him up in a fight (where did that come from?).

Rossi sucked up (but didn’t like) the punishment and realised the championship was all but out of reach. He did all he could, and it was a breathtaking display with only one rider getting out of his way. The race up front looked wrong to me. What Rossi made of it is summed up in his press conference and no-show at the awards ceremony. Does anybody out there think that he doesn’t know the MotoGP game inside out, better than any rider, and better than any person running it?

As a Rossi supporter, I cannot damn him, but as you can see I am not blind to his dark side – in fact that is what makes him so interesting. I look forward to a very ‘interesting’ 2016.

David, I love your writing but there is one sentence I strongly disagree with: "By attacking Márquez, Rossi is admitting that he did not have the championship in his own hands, and needed help from other riders to win it."

I apologize but that sentence is plain wrong. When a championship so close anything can tip the balance. Lorenzo and Rossi are incredibly hard to fight against; if a formidable force like Marquez decides to plays favorite one of the two contenders, the task for the other becomes almost impossible. Rossi's request was just that everyone raced to win their own race.

I am with Rossi mainly because I feel he is the most believable. If Rossi did not truly believe that Marquez was playing favorites, I do not see an alternative explanation that would make sense for his attack at the press conference in Sepang. What would have been Rossi's advantage in provoking Marquez while leading the championship by a decent margin?

It is hard to know what happened in Phillips Island, but let's grant Rossi the benefit of the doubt and I agree to believe that Marquez intentionally created the amazing dog-fight behind Lorenzo (involving, Rossi and Iannone and Marquez himself) to prevent Rossi from beating Lorenzo and getting an advantage that would have been impossible to recover.

Rossi's claims are that 1) he had the pace for beating Lorenzo (and indeed, Lorenzo did not disappear despite the crazy fight behind him) and that 2) Marquez had the pace to win the race (and indeed Marquez won).

If one trusts Rossi about the events of Phillips Island (and by the way, Iannone agreed with him that Marquez was playing with them), then everything else follows. The fight put by Marquez against a title contender in the early laps of Sepang was undue, unsporting and certainly maddening.

Nobody can demonstrate that Marquez's could have attacked Lorenzo at Valencia but, if you accept the premises that Marquez was indeed playing favorites, it would be the expected behavior.

The key is who is more believable, Rossi or Marquez. Because of his record, his style, his behavior and what he had at stake, I do believe Rossi and I do believe that Marquez intentionally stole the greatest championship finale in a long long time.

Congrats to Lorenzo, both him and Rossi deserved the title, it is not a matter of who, it is a matter of how. Shame on Marquez.

With respect, David, you've just spent 1000 words blowing down a straw man.

Nobody, at least certainly not Rossi, has ever claimed that "MotoGP is rigged." Or that "Marc Marquez wanted a Spanish champion." Or even that Marquez was being "blamed" for Rossi's loss.

Marquez is being blamed for one thing only: using the racetrack to take out an obsession with personal revenge. It doesn't really have anything to do with Rossi losing the championship, it's solely about calling things as they are. Even if Rossi had somehow won the championship, he should still have called out Marquezr. It's not really even about racing, it's about an ugly character flaw.

I think the reason so many professional journalists (with a few exceptions) have trouble seeing this is because they're trained to avoid ugliness. So they've missed what is clear to most fans and almost every other rider and their teams. (See the video of Rossi's cool-down lap and his return to his pits.)

What a relieve.....finally someone with an excellent analysis.

Very nice to read. It is spot on.

And as my subject says finally a objective article about the greatest sport in the world. So sad to must have seen all the garbage lately...

So onwards to 2016.

With the success of JL and VR in the 2nd half of the 2014 seasons, fans had a portent of things to come. High on his new success but riding a new untamed beast saw MM in the gravel bleeding points to the Yamaha riders. Finally unable to tolerate the pain DP finally underwent arm pump surgery and missed the early races. (it's fairly commonly done by MX/Dirt riders).

After MM finally succeeded in getting back some of his old frame, he was still mathematically in the championship picture, but only if both Yamaha riders crashed and rejoined, or failed to finish or experienced a very very bad day. Statistically, the windows closed for him, the shutters slamming shut after each race until he became irrelevant in the championship picture no matter what.

Even prior to PI, I had a feeling that both JL and VR would do everything in their power to avoid a DNF, and that other riders would play a part in the final point standings. Post Phillip Island, I thought initially that it was a beautiful race, but when Rossi brought his allegations to bear, I re-watched it in light of Vale's accusations, and Valentino Rossi's web hung together tenuously; the Laguna Seca corckscrew, the 2015 Argentina and Assen incidents, and the race in in Phillip island hanging like dewdrops at the intersections.

Then came the Sepang incident, which will be discussed for years. "The luckiest kick ever?"

Valencia also. Since the championship was a Yamaha battle, what role did Bradley Smith play, how significant was Petrucci? Something to ponder and enjoy pondering over in off-season, but in MotoGP there is never really an off-season. Somewhere in the darkness of our imaginations are men and women toiling to do better next season, pouring over engine designs, aero, training regimens, and in some cases where the money is going to come from.

The "powers" that be are debating how to contain/use the press and are clutching closely to their chests the loose golden screws of financial metrics that ultimately fund and fasten the sport. The degree of opacity and control for a few days, the reactionary statements from representatives of major sponsors make this a watershed year for us as fans.

Change is strange. There are rules and there unspoken rules about dealing with the press and how one conducts themselves in the age of new media as a rider, and what is available to fans via journalists. If you throttle the cow, there will be no milk.

I am a Rossi fan and it is truly a tough way for Rossi to end his season, leading the championship until the end, but to lose to his teammate. When I first read that he called MM93 out, I was shocked, then I was shocked that he ran MM93 wide, and I'm shocked again that he said his comments after this final race. I do understand he is human and he is going to feel angry and upset that he lost out finalizing his name as the "GOAT" with a tenth world title. Maybe he will feel better during the offseason. He just needs time away from the drama. I respect Rossi as a fan, a racer and as a person. Hopefully he can still be competitive from the start next season.

Next year will be a different season, single ECU, no Bridgestones, equaling sort of a level playing field for all riders. Maybe Rossi will be champion next year, or someone else than the top four. Lorenzo is fast out of the gates, but his personality and his ways just taints him as as a likable person, in my opinion. When Rossi retires from Yamaha, its going to be a sad day in Motogp.

All in all, congrats to Lorenzo for becoming the 2015 champion, congrats to Rossi for riding from last to fourth and performing well this season. Next year is a new year.

This is a very interesting and eloquent analysis. Thank you for that.

However, let me try and sum up a few important points that seem to not have been accounted for in the analysis:

- Lorenzo was the fastest this year. That's what numbers say and numbers can hardly be refuted. Which numbers, though? Championships do not (and should not necessarily) go to the fastest rider but the to the best overall rider. There is speed, but there is also consistency, intelligent riding (tire maintenance), resilience to adversity (rain), grit, and, of course, sheer luck. The one and only number that grants championships is total championship points. And the equation yielding this number has many more variables than just 'speed'. Lorenzo claimed bad luck, problems with his helmet, the flu, and even rain (!) as personal adversities, in an unfortunate attempt to counter Rossi's accusations of MM being JL's bodyguard. For one thing, Lorenzo should know that when it rains, everyone rides on wet, not just him. So, post-Valencia, he did seem to be blaming everyone and everything else for his poor start in the championship this year, without which (he implied) he would have snatched the title earlier and much easier. This is just very poor, maybe even petty, argumentation from a man who seems to complain more than his stellar riding skills perhaps allow for.

-Philip Island: taking a careful look at MM's laptimes throughout the whole race, one cannot easily explain his inconsistency. The difference between his fastest and slowest laps was around 1.5 seconds (this is eternity in motogp time). His laps were very fast when he was behind VR but much slower after he was taking the lead. This very suspicious pattern kept going on for several laps, with lap-differences of around 1 sec from lap to lap. After overtaking both VR and AI he charged rapidly and managed to overtake JL very easily in the last lap, perhaps after he made sure VR will finish at least one position behind JL. Is that too crazy of a conspiracy theory for one to find convincing? Not at all. Why didn't he let JL win? I could mention two reasons: 1. What VR said: JL was not fast enough and he just couldn't stay behind after a stunning flying last lap. 2. He had to make it look 'real'. That being said, I truly cannot say where VR would end up if MM was not involved in this battle. Iannone vouched for VR during the press conference that followed (MM was playing with us) and this is a fact we must factor in.

- Sepang: a furious MM attacks Rossi and rides like crazy, overtaking Rossi multiple times within a few laps, before VR makes his big mistake: to run MM wide in order to make a (valid) point: slow down Marc, this is not your war here. The rest is just history. MM fell because he bumped his head on Rossi's bike. Rossi opened the gate, and Marquez went in, after a few rounds of dangerous driving, way beyond the line, given that it was not his battle at all. MM in Sepang broke every unwritten rule of fair play and sportsmanship. VR violated the 'book'.

-Valencia 1: MM did not have the pace to overtake JL? Is that true? Taking a close look at his laptimes, we can see that in 16 out of 30 laps MM was faster than JL and in the remaining 14 their times were either identical, or JL was marginally faster (around 1 tenth of a second). Is this the 'vintage' MM we used to love? The one who follows because he 'doesn't have the pace'? No, he took it easy because he didn't want to risk an accident that would cost JR the title, if that was not his cunning plan all along.

- Valencia 2: Rossi's pace. VR started the race from the back of the grid and I am guessing his bike's set up was to get him as fast as possible in the front, and perhaps save his tires for later, if needed. Once he cleared space and reached 4th, DP was already 10 secs in front of him and he had no reason to push to the limit and risk a crash. I am convinced that his bike's set up would be different if he started from the front. In any case, his pace after clearing everyone else was not far from the leading pack. The conclusion that 'he would still finish 4th given JL's strong pace' is anything but safe and sound.

-Why did JL admit that the HRC Spaniards took it easy on him as for the "title to remain in Spain"?

My conclusion is that everything that happened in the last 3 races are too many far-fetched coincidences for Rossi to NOT have a valid point. For the record, I do not believe (hope) JL was involved in all this, and Marquez's plan was strictly his, and perhaps - after a point - that of his team as well.

In order for MotoGP to regain its prestige, riders must stick to the unwritten rules of sportsmanship and stay out of battles that aren't their. Marquez blatantly failed in doing so, despite Rossi's mistakes in handling the situation.

If MM is to be indeed the future of MotoGP, he needs to change atittude. Quickly. This can only make him the true legend that he seems to be capable of being.

As for JL, talking less and keeping on riding ridiculously fast as he usually does might be the best thing to do.

David, I always enjoy your analysis, present article included. But, as some others have implied, Occam's razor cuts both ways, and my "simplest" understanding of observable events in the last two races of the season differs somewhat from the way you have shaded things in this article. I think your attempt at "balance" is somewhat overwrought. You may be straining at a gnat (Rossi's pre- and post-race comments, and his infraction at Sepang), and swallowing a camel (Marquez' claims compared to his actual actions on track and his entire body of racing history).

Some brief background:

I began following MotoGP in 2008 when the Championship came to Indianapolis (nearest location I could affordably travel to see GP racing for the first time). I have been back to Indy each August ever since, and have followed MotoGP like an addict for seven years.

Being from the States, I naturally began as a fan of U.S. racers. I was not really a fan of Rossi during his first stint at Yamaha. However, after following him through the lean years at Ducati, watching him struggle yet continue to fight valiantly, always with a cheerful outlook, and upon his return to previous form at Yamaha after many thought he was "washed up," I eventually changed my mind and became a fan. Rossi had won me over, although I've never really had a taste for the "yellow kool-aid" that some of his fans routinely drink.

In 2013, I was amazed by the young phenom Marc Marquez, and came to admire his abilities on track and his seeming innocence and youthful optimism as well as his obvious and abundant talent. In 2014, I was cheering him on, hoping he might run the tables and break many more records on the Honda. As for Lorenzo, I admit I have never been a fan, and I have negative biases that shape my perceptions of him. He has been, at least for me, the great "spoiler" on the grid, preventing both Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies from greater successes. To me, Lorenzo's immaturity, arrogance, entitlement mentality, and apparent inability to get along with anyone across the team garage is off-putting (I cannot totally forgive Lorenzo for whatever role he may have played in Ben Spies' disastrous 2012 experience with Factory Yamaha, and I admit I have a rather visceral dislike of him personally, despite his ample skill on track).

Fast-forward to Sepang 2015 and my hopes of Rossi winning a 10th title. When Rossi accused Marquez of "racing for Jorge" at PI during the pre-Sepang race interviews, I thought perhaps he was joking or had momentarily lost his mind. I thought maybe the pressure was getting to him in his old age, and just wrote it off as mind games. However, after seeing the battle between Rossi and Marquez at Sepang, the obvious ease with which Lorenzo passed Marquez and yet the fight Marquez gave to Rossi, I saw that Rossi's argument was not only plausible but probable. And, after Sunday's race at Valencia, and what appeared to me to be obvious blocking for and cushioning of Lorenzo by Marquez throughout the race, without ever challenging for the race win, without even showing Jorge a wheel or making even the slightest attempt at a pass on Jorge, behavior never before exhibited by Marquez, I am convinced that Marquez inserted himself into the championship both at Sepang and at Valencia, determining the outcome and delivering the championship to Lorenzo. Lorenzo himself has implied as much to the Spanish press, as others here have noted. Either out of spite, or out of consideration for his own future legacy, and independent of any self-serving claims he may make otherwise, it seems clear to me that Marquez rode in a manner at both Sepang and Valencia that although technically legal, has soiled, cheapened, and tainted the 2015 championship.

Thus, for me, I can no longer be a fan of Marquez. He will never be "the GOAT" in my eyes regardless his future success. What I believe Marquez did is, to me, unconscionable and unpardonable, legal or not, and the 2015 MotoGP championship is for me forever tainted, in spite of an otherwise amazing year of racing. Mind you, the race results are not tainted in my mind because of Race Direction's points sanctioning of Rossi at Sepang. This was probably unavoidable given that Marquez baited Rossi into an illegal maneuver. The 2015 Championship is, in my view, "fraudulent" because Marquez was able to ride legally yet insert himself into the determination of the outcome that was and should have remained between other riders. Marquez' aggression toward Rossi at Sepang and the "cushion" he created at Valencia for Lorenzo, even when his own teammate attempted a pass, is simply unforgivable. The fact that Lorenzo, a most unworthy race winner and champion in my view, is now handed the championship because another rider wishes to express spite or protect his own future legacy, disgusts me in the extreme.

I hope to continue following MotoGP, but the distasteful outcome of the 2015 championship, along with the fact that Indianapolis has been cut from the schedule and that there are no longer any U.S. riders in the series, will make it less appealing, at least for me. In any case, I will be rooting for Rossi and Pedrosa (and against both Marquez and Lorenzo) in 2016 one way or the other.

In advance I apologize for eh length of my post. Here goes.

David:
Thanks for all of your hard work and excellent analysis leading to your outstanding series of articles on the state of MotoGP. The comments of Kenny Noyes were a very nice addition to your articles. Your efforts to cull the wheat from the PR chaff is always appreciated.

Several items from the weekend stood out for me. The presence of Biaggi among Jlo's parc ferme group ws one. We all know that VR and Max aren't best mates. At least 2015 spared us the spectacle of fisticuffs similar to those between Max and VR. The presence and display of the Spanish flag by Jlo on the podium could lend credence to some of VR's "there is a conspiracy" statements. Jlo also made several post-race references about bringing the championship to Spain. Clearly, there is still a gulf between our Spanish and Italian friends. Dorna is Spanish and Spain does have 4 GP's. The absence of VR at the FIM gala was scarcely noted. I wondered whether he would show up and how it would go.

I view the bilious nature of the “fans” on social media no more or less surprising than the response of football fans when the star goes down in the 18 yard box (dive or penalty?). It all can be traced back to that concept of functional dualism. All of us see things as “right or wrong” “positive or negative” through filters, among which is our affinity with a person, position or team or even motorcycle brand. I will admit to wondering when MM would attack Jlo as I watched the laps wind down. I was a bit surprised that no kamikaze last corner attack came. That was uncharacteristic of MM as I see his approach to the races. I will not judge whether it was the courtesy being shown to a championship contender or part of a “Spanish Armada” conspiracy.

As we stand on the cusp (brink?) of a new era with new tires and more standardized software, 2016 promises to be as unpredictable as any season in recent memory. Unpredictable, probably, interesting, likely, boring, nope. In addition to the aforementioned changes, the arrival of several riders into the class, Rabat among them, who are unprejudiced by history with Bridgestones may result in a shake-up of the usual order. As I understand, the Michelin front is very different from the current Bridgestone offering. Apparently the rear is also quite different in grip but not so dramatically as is the case with the front.

Moto2 2016 seems to be a fertile ground for lots of battles with the arrival of Olivera and Kent, as teammates, no less, and the attempt of Zarco to repeat. To paraphrase The Who, The kids of Moto3 are alright. New manufacturers in Moto3 should be a good thing. I could go on about lots of things about 2016 but won't.

As a former (not very talented but persistent) road racer myself I will cop to being involved in a shoving match or two over behavior, real or imagined, on the track. It is so easy to fall into the mindset of seeing other riders as enemies out to get you rather than similarly self-centered people trying to win. The animosity between competitors transcends motorcycle racing and is evident in virtually every individual sport. It's not called “the red mist” for no reason.

Whether one views Jlo as a robot or the quintessentially precise rider is irrelevant. As I have previously said, it is no easy feat to click off virtually identical laps. He spoke this year of “focus” which in my opinion was a big help to his efforts. Clearly, he did ride very well in 2015. Having the M1 was surely an advantage especially for his riding style. The Honda package was ultimately too aggressive, even for the poster boy for aggressive riding, MM. Perhaps there is a larger lesson to be learned about being too aggressive.

VR is doubtless among the greatest our sport has seen, but his recent activities and statements were uncharacteristically petulant. In his post-Valencia media briefing, I heard some doubts about 2017 and beyond. I believe he said that “We will see what happens.” Are we seeing the dimming of his star before a farewell? On a related matter, it will be interesting to see whether MM will have an outstanding 2016 or continued reliance on a “ win or bin” philosophy haunts his efforts. In sum, thanks for treating us as thinking human beings not as idiots as so many media, both print and electronic do.

I became site supporter to demonstrate that I do value your work and want to see it continue. Ciao! Have a great holiday season.

Only on this page can you read about Vale meeting with Carmelo in Vale's motorhome, and Biaggi in Lorenzo's Parc Ferme entourage.

I think Biaggi said earlier that in his head, JL would prevail, but in his heart, VR would prevail. It's an interesting duality in the spectacle of MotoGP.

Along with Nicky Haydens' comments about RD giving Rossi a 2-pt, vs. 3-pt penalty to allow Rossi to start on the front row and what happened on track makes
for a speculative off-season that is focusing on the past at the cost of focusing on the future.

In any case, I've enjoyed the dialogue here and challenge everyone who has the wit to post to recognize the value of the site for what David brings and allows us to share. Even before the dust has settled, there are new suspensions, new engines, new ECUs and new strategies that have been and are being formulated for the 2016 season.

It's pretty much impossible to speculate objectively, but even with limited data from past events, but 2016 will not be a boring season. I only hope that David (and others) are not throttled by the "powers that be."

My first comment seems to have disappeared - so I'll write another.

Rossi wasn't angry at Lorenzo, he was angry at Marquez. This is a subtle but important difference.

I do think Rossi made mistakes this year, and Lorenzo certainly won a championship by being a damn fine rider, but the issue isn't Lorenzo - this is all about Marquez.

This will rumble on, and the real story will not come out for years. I am interested in noting how many ex-racers have supported Rossi's theory, including a number of ex MotoGP racers - and they certainly know about the dirty side of racing - not that you'll see anyone risking their reporting career's on repeating their stories.

I think Jorge flying the Spanish flag has a lot more to do with the politics going on in the country at the moment. With the independence movement going on in Catalunya and the Balaeric Islands where he's from inevitably being drawn into this, Lorenzo has his own pro-Spanish stance on this and I think that's what he was asserting with the flag. Tito Rabat flew it in Aragon when he won, which was very political, given that he's from Barcelona and that day regional elections taking place in Catalunya were coopted by independence parties for a referendum on secession.

Put yourself in MM and DP shoes, would you want to be responsible for preventing a Spanish rider from being world champion? What do you think the Spanish press would do? Don't you think their Spanish sponsors would get a lot of negative publicity?
This was the last race, they did what they had to do.
In my opinion, even though MM really does not like VR, I think he would still have preferred Rossi become world champion, this way MM eventually has the chance of becoming the first Spanish 3 time MotoGP world champion instead of JL. And with this, get all the fame, and extra sponsorship $.
If the top 3 had been Italian, instead of Spanish, they would have done the same thing. It is just common sense, I am sure some Italians let him go thru without putting a really tough fight.

Lorenzo was the fastest (and the dumbest) rider of the year whose skills merit being crowned champion. He never looks for a tow and most times figures out his own strategy.

"Catch me if you can. Just don't let me talk too much or I will surely say something cringe worthy in short order."

Marquez was the fastest (and most aggressive) rider of the year whose multiple crashes were just too much to overcome. He killed his own title hopes by going back to his "win it or bin it" style in an attempt to "recoup all the points he lost" ... in one single race win. It wasn't his fault, though. It was that other guy who thinks he can bully me.

"Oh no, here I go sliding down the road again. That's OK, you win the battles, I will win the war."

Rossi. Old man you are a legendary rider who has always beaten your rivals with supreme riding skills and the political savvy to match wits with heads of state. Unfortunately, you just weren't fast enough this year and the legendary ability to bend minds, crush wills and own your opponents psyche deserted you when you needed it most.

"What's wrong with this kid? Don't he know who I am? Step aside for the owner of ... MotoGP. This is very embarrassing to the sport."

There was also another bunch of guys on track but we didn't see much of them. Oh well, maybe on Tuesday.

Even I am looking forward to the winter testing ban this year. See you in 2016.

I'm no racer, although I ride a pointy blue Yamaha and I'm 36, but I've thought about this some on the internet. That counts, right?

Consider that both the Spanish-piloted orange Hondas were ridden the same way in the last four races: "Start hard, nurse the front, attack late." Rossi had encounters with both of them. The big difference is style.

Pedrosa v. Rossi at Aragon was a clean-looking fight. I understand Rossi confronted Pedrosa afterwards, but whatever was said evidently did not leave Rossi seeing conspiracy. When Dani attacked, it looked strategic.

Marquez, of course, fights like a dog looking for leg action. He's not satisfied until the other guy's fairings are stained, and he likes it that way.

This all may be as simple as Rossi feeling that while Pedrosa fought him cleanly, Marquez was trying to do something else that starts with F. Rossi went looking for evidence in timing sheets, and hearsay, and allegations of nationalism, but in the end I think he just felt molested by Marquez' style. It's just his opinion, and an unproveable and possibly hypocritical one.

If Marquez had raced Vale like he raced Lorenzo, maybe this drama would never have boiled up. If, if if... Anyway... Stop the madness, bring on 2016. :)

David I know I have commented earlier. I had hoped that the horrible knot in my stomach from the last few weeks would reduce given time after Sunday, but it has not it has grown and that is a sign for me that something is deeply wrong.

I do not condone VR's behaviour at the pre-Sepang and Post-Valencia press conferences, nor do I buy his conspiracy theory involving DP, Honda and JL. Neither do I think that JL did not deserve the title.

However, take all of the context, motives and emotion out of it and I am still stuck with one question: would MM have attempted an overtake if it was VR in front? The only answer I can come up with is "absolutely". I am not saying he and DP would have beaten JL but the fact that he did not attempt an overtake on JL but did retake DP ENSURED this could not happen. I struggle to see how that is anything other than fixing the race and therefore MM deciding and determining who would be champion. This is not about fairness it is just plain wrong. It does a huge disservice to the two championship contenders who had fought all season to bring it down to the wire and both deserved to win based on their own different merits this season. It is also cheating the fans who wanted to see a "genuine" or "real" race.

To those who think it is okay I ask this: If VR cannot win the championship next year but instead spends each race not going for the best result but doing what he can to battle with MM and make sure everyone else gets more points than MM is that okay? That is not a sport I want to watch...

I understand the desire people feel, when a season has ended, to wrap things up and put a final conclusion on it. When there is one rider who doesn't let go graciously in defeat, he is usually branded a bad loser.
But I feel I have to stick up for Rossi a little bit here, having watched him since he came on the scene, and having followed his career.
He heard something before the deciding part of the season, probably from Ezpeleta, about Marquez holding a grudge against Rossi since Argentina. At first he let this go, but after the PI race he was wondering. Marquez said that Rossi asked him after the race about the way he was racing, so people who claim Rossi waited until the Press conference before Sepang to air his suspicions are probably wrong.
Then, after the qualifying for the Sepang race, and the things that were going on there between Rossi and Marquez, Rossi and Yamaha asked for a meeting with Race Direction and Marquez, because they felt things were getting out of hand, and a talk between the two would possibly calm things down. They were rejected. And rightfully angry about this rejection.
Now look closely at the Sepang race again, and you can see that Marquez was trying to get Rossi to crash by running in to Marquez' back wheel after he overtook him, by very agressively flicking his bike around before the next corner.
This was what Marquez believes Rossi had done to him at Argentina.
I believe however at Argentina Marquez was foolishly racing too close to Rossi's back wheel after being overtaken by Rossi, so there was no more room for Rossi to swing to the other side before the next corner, therefore Marquez crashed. Remember Marquez said after the race: I know what to do now.
I think in the Sepang race Rossi realized what Marquez was trying to do, and had enough of it. The rest we all saw.
I still think his penalty was deserved, and I still think Lorenzo is a deserved champion. I think Lorenzo was, overall, the best rider this season.
But I understand Rossi's frustration very well, and agree with him that Marquez was probably acting like a child in holding on to his grudge when he had only to blame himself for what happened at Argentina and Assen.
The crucial question in this is, was Rossi right about PI and was Marquez already messing with him there to minimize his title chances, or was he wrong about PI and did his comments in the press conference result in the things that happened at Sepang? The fact that he was messing with Rossi's chances at Sepang and Valencia are clear to me, so I have to disagree with Dave there.
Was Marquez really playing with Rossi at PI or was he only slowing down in the right hand corners, as Honda seems to claim, because that was the bad side of his tire?
I would love the see the data on this.

Great article David (as always) - however I am afraid that I disagree with your conclusion. Like many, my comments are a form of therapy to get all of the thoughts out that have been swirling around my head. Like others, I must apologise for the length of my therapy session.

After Marquez protesting his innocence at Sepang, I thought that he would do everything in his power to win the race to show that he wasn't trying to help Lorenzo/hinder Rossi. So to see him defy team orders (Suppo clearly have no control over him whatsoever) and not even attempt to overtake Lorenzo and at the same time appear to prevent Pedrosa the opportunity, looked to me as clear a signal as that he had only one plan. Unless Honda's sole aim is only sell motorcycles in Spain, they must be pretty disappointed with how the final race turned out.

I'll be honest (unlike some), I've never liked Lorenzo, his complete lack of personality coupled with inability to win or lose with anything approaching grace has meant that never had any time for him. Likewise having Biaggi at Parc Ferme was a dig at Valentino whether he realised it or not and showed a lack of class. I don't think Sector will be the last sponsor to prefer to spend their money elsewhere (let's not forget that after Rossi left, Yamaha could not find a title sponsor with Lorenzo as their main rider). Although it's not his fault, from a racing perspective, the first corner to last manner of his races are invariably a disappointment. If I want to watch one rider going very fast with no overtaking, I'll watch the Isle of Man. He better beat Rossi next year - as if Rossi decides to stay on, then Yamaha might decide that commercially, it makes more sense to replace him than Rossi.

Marquez on the other hand was a different story. Young, exciting and more than happy to mix it up - he really looked like the future of MotoGP post Rossi. However, he seems to have believed his own hype too early. If he had not (in my opinion) forced himself into the mix of deciding where the championship was headed, he would have almost certainly been the face of MotoGP when Rossi finally retired. Now, that seems incredibly unlikely. For me, the fact that he selfishly spoilt the end of what was one of the best ever seasons of MotoGP for the fans, purely out of petty spite is unforgiveable and if the social media is anything to go by, then he is likely to experience a very different atmosphere next season and beyond - fans don't tend to forgive or forget, especially those wearing yellow. His behaviour has shown a side that is more akin to the Joker, the character who his smile is often compared to, than the bouncy young man he first appeared to be.

The claim was that he wanted to deny Rossi so that the total number of titles to be the "greatest" was one less to beat. If this is true (and David has suggested that there might be something in this), then it shows a lack of maturity if he believes it. Being far too big a person (6'7" 110Kg) to be a motorcycle racer (despite being the 4th generation of biker in my family), my main sports are kickboxing and boxing. If you were to ask most boxing fans, who they consider the "greatest", I would wager that a heavy majority would say Mohammed Ali.

Did Ali win the most fights? The most titles? Was he the biggest puncher? The best technician? Probably not, he was certainly up there in all those categories, however he lost fights, courted controversy and definitely went on too long - I think you can see the similarities all ready. The reason that Ali is considered the greatest is because of what he brought to boxing as well as all the aforementioned talents. Ali was fantastically talented, however he was also a fantastic personality, engaging, intelligent, funny, interesting and also very mischievous and not afraid to speak his mind (I think you can guess where I am going with this). Rossi is his motorcycling equivalent and is likely to be remember as "the greatest" no matter how many titles anyone else wins. By behaving as he has, Marquez has painted himself in the role of George Foreman, a fantastic boxer, but nowhere near as popular and rarely given the title that all sport participants dream of. The "greatest" is always a subjective thing and maybe one day, with the wisdom of age Marquez might realise this.

As for Rossi? I was surprised by his outbursts; however to simply roll over and take it was never going to be an option for someone who has given so much to (and received so much from) the sport. Were the tyres not changing next year, then I think that it is likely that Rossi would leave (maybe even going to World Superbikes). One thing is for sure, he will be just as determined next year and if the shoe should be on the other foot, then I would expect him to be as big a nuisance as he can to Marquez at every opportunity.

I think that the most visible implication of the 2015 season will be on the rules for the 2016 season. Dorna have already suggested as much in the meeting at the start of the weekend. After the 3 point penalty from Sepang, you can bet the next time Marquez/Lorenzo etc touch another rider, there will be a long queue of people stood outside race direction demanding that he be disqualified from the championship and banned indefinitely. The courtroom is about to become a regular fixture in MotoGP.

Also, the bitterness and vitriol that has plagued social media since Sepang will continue and I don't believe that the off season will change that much. As soon as there is contact or a "hard move", then Mike Webb may well wish he was stood across the ring from Mohammed Ali, rather than trying to unpick the mess that will be stood in front of him.

Thanks once again to David (and Kenny too) - I'll see you soon for the next session of racing therapy!

The story that Rossi went to Pedrosa's motorhome after the Aragon race to ask him why he fought him so hard for 2nd place was related by the EL PAIS journalist Nadia Tronchoni in an article she wrote after Sepang. But David Emmet himself asked Pedrosa in his Thursday press debrief in Valencia if Rossi had confronted him about Aragon and Pedrosa said they'd just had words on the podium but in a jokey way. So according to Pedrosa, the reported confrontation did not happen.

I've been watching MotoGP for 30 years and it was painfully obvious to see Marquez protect Jorge. When Pedrosa past Marquez he took his place back without any problems but he couldn't launch one single attempt on Lorenzo for the whole race.

It's as obvious that Marquez wanted the better of two evils.

A little disappointed with your analyze David but still a great read.

After all the words about anger, motivation, rivalry, nationalism, etc.; for me the race was the expected disappointment. Going back to the last controversial (or so it seems) result: 2006; at least Nicky Hayden didn't have Dorna stacking the deck in his favor to win the championship. He had to do it on his own, and have Valentino make a fatal error during the race to ensure his victory.

And for all that, there's still a loud minority who to this day will say "The wrong rider won the championship."

I seriously wonder if Dorna should change its name - I'd suggest NASCAR, unfortunately the name is already taken. For the final race of the season, Dorna was certainly determined to ensure a certain result would happen.

And I'd love to see the autopilot routine in the programming on Marquez's bike.

As always, fantastic write-up, stuff like this is why I am a subscriber. And now I have to respectfully quibble...

It is absolutely correct that if Rossi had more speed, other points would be moot and these conversations would not have happened. He likely would not have bothered to call out Marquez, regardless of what he says Marquez is doing. Lorenzo, as much as he has been utterly classless off the track in the last few rounds, is 100% right about that: if Rossi was fast enough to beat Lorenzo and Marquez when they are at their best, then Rossi wouldn't be saying the things that he has. I'm a Rossi fan, but that's the truth. You can't slag off Lorenzo in terms of his performances, which have been incredible. He is one of the greats.

And I find it very sad that Rossi will not just say "If I was faster, it wouldn't be an issue. But I'm not." If he has said that, then I missed it.

However, I find it extraordinary that so much focus has been put on Rossi's public statements having a negative effect on MotoGP, even while Race Direction and journalists have stated on multiple occasions that Marquez has not been putting in a fully honest effort. To say that Rossi's statements have "destroyed the credibility of the series" is a bit much, in my humble opinion. I think, David, you have properly identified that it is difficult to tell the reality on the ground from the two competing narratives. I completely agree. We have examined the repercussions if Rossi is wrong: he is acting in a way that does not befit a champion of any sport, he is bringing the results into question, he is tarnishing the name of gran prix racing, he is tarnishing his legacy by putting responsibility for his success on the shoulders of others instead of his own. If he is wrong, sure. But, since it's impossible to fully tell which version of events is correct, we must also consider the following possibility, which no one seems to be willing to do in detail, either on this site or elsewhere:

What if Rossi is right? What if Marc Marquez has actively worked, over the course of several races, to ensure that Rossi did not win the championship? Consider:
- at PI, Iannone agreed that Marquez was "playing" with him and Rossi, and was convinced Marquez had more pace, though he would not come out and claim why MM was employing those tactics
- at Sepang, Race Direction and a number of qualified observers stated that they did not think Marquez was running a completely straightforward race
- at Valencia, Marquez fought with Pedrosa instantly, and never, ever fought with Lorenzo - which does not fit in with the narrative stated here and elsewhere about there being no love lost between MM and Lorenzo, or with Marquez' usual take-no-prisoners style

These are important things to consider because while Rossi may have observed these actions and called them out, others are on record saying the same thing. They stop short of saying WHY Marquez would make the choices he has, but they have openly called it strange and unusual. Not just one race and not just two, but 3 races in a row, all at the end of the championship. And not just people in the Yamaha garage. Dovi. Iannone. Race Direction. Former champs. Journalists.

I'm NOT saying Rossi is correct. But I'm saying that he could be, and I find it strange that we examine the repercussions of his possible wrongness in scathing detail, and yet we don't talk about the possibility that he's right. Because if he's right, the ramifications are frankly frightening, as a fan of the sport. If Rossi is right, then it is Marquez who is ruining MotoGP for the fans. It is Marquez who is tarnishing the name of the sport. It is Marquez who is calling all the results into question. It is Marquez who is not just robbing Rossi of a championship (I personally don't believe that, I think Rossi just needs to be faster,) but robbing Lorenzo of the credit he is due for a phenomenal season, of overshadowing Pedrosa's amazing resurgence, and of overshadowing the amazing performances of people like Iannone, and Smith, and Vinales. If Rossi is right, then it is Marquez who has turned an entire racing series upside down because he simply couldn't handle losing. I watched Rossi lose for years, YEARS, and he never lost his cool. I'm supposed to believe that all of a sudden now, he has just lost that part of his character, that he snapped, that he's just too old to handle the pressure? And simultaneously, I'm supposed to believe that a rider who has a consistent reputation for questionable choices on the track, and who is much younger and less emotionally mature, is so much less likely to have done anything wrong that we should not even consider the possible ramifications if he HAS done something wrong? You'll have to forgive me, as I'm 33 years old, and the prospect that life's pressures will totally break my ability to deal with them in a scant 3 years is not something I have a lot of interest in contemplating!

In all seriousness and with respect to David, it's just too big of an ask for me pesonally. If MotoGP seems less honorable now, if the results are to be trusted any less, I can't lay all the blame at Rossi's feet, even though I wish he had said nothing. In the end, if Marquez had not made such questionable choices, and had just outright beaten Rossi and Lorenzo as he has shown he can, then none of this would have ever happened. None of it. And that's not being talked about. My final point is the other thing that's not being talked about: whatever you feel about Rossi's statements, he is on his way out. I cannot see him racing past 2018. He'll still be around the series and the paddock, but he's not going to carry the same weight. Lorenzo, while younger, is 28. Marquez, on the other hand, is 22. He will likely be the face of MotoGP for the next ten years. And this new face of MotoGP has earned a reputation, even before these incidents, of someone who feels that the rules only apply to him insofar as management is willing to bring him to heel - which, as we can see, there is zero appetite for. Not from Honda, not from the sponsors, not from race direction. What we have communicated is that we dismiss our champions when they get old, but we allow an immense amount of latitude when they are young, even if they behave in questionable ways. That's ultimately terrible for the championship, and the way Marquez carries himself when he's not winning is ultimately terrible for the championship, and we're set for at least a decade of it if he can stay healthy and motivated. People think Rossi makes a bad poster boy for the sport? Wait for Marquez to take over and let's compare. It may be that we have spared the rod, spoiled the child, and as a result spoiled the sport. Only time will tell.

Nice try. But before Rossi spouted his conspiracy nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, saw what he claimed to see. There is zero evidence for his claims. Marquez never did anything wrong.

The frightening and shameful part is seeing how much bigger than the sport Rossi thinks he is and that he's actually right.

Why would CE go to Rossi while he was surrounded by cameras? He should have known Rossi would make maximum use of this and humiliate him. I don't get it. He should indeed have gone to Rossi's motorhome: to congratulate him on a great race and discuss the events in private. This was completely embarrassing.

Thank you David for shining a clear light through all the murk. After years of reading, with the occassional post, I have put my money where my mouth is and become a subscriber.

I'm convinced Rossi lost his chance of winning the championship the moment he insulted Marquez at the opening press conference in Sepang. From then on there was no way that Marquez would do the minutest thing to help Rossi win the championship and as a long time Rossi fan I can't say I blame him.

Congratulations to Lorenzo, a worthy winner. Hopefully the Spanish will show him more respect in the comings months than they did on Sunday.

Keep up your good work to lighten our spirits through the winter gloom!

such as this, that I just became a site supporter… and happily…

David, you have done a great job all season… but this analysis may be the "cherry on the top", as the saying goes, in bringing all that has been put in play, to some sort of logical conclusion.

A couple of thoughts and I don't know if others have covered them in their comments…

Could Rossi have sensed what was coming at the end, seeing Lorenzo's dry pace, race after race, from Indy on and started all this fighting as some sort of "getting in his head" game or as an excuse for losing out on the title?

As for why Marquez didn't make a pass attempt... to me, from what I could see via our TV feed in the US, it looked as if Lorenzo was running a pretty darned inch perfect lines on just about every corner… Just where was Marquez supposed to make the pass, at least one that wasn't a high risk lunge pass?

Anyway… on to the 2016 season!! I sure would like to be a fly on the wall in the Yamaha garages… I'm willing to bet that it will be… uh… "interesting", to say the least…

Because emotions were running high, I left moderating the comments on this article until I returned home on Thursday. I have now approved a bunch of comments, both positive and negative, but deleted those which question my integrity. If you feel I am biased, then you should not read this website.

Now that I am home again, and things have calmed down a little, comments will be moderated and approved more quickly. Thanks for your patience.

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