2009 MotoGP Catalunya Race Report - Triumph Of The Will
A motorcycle racer must possess many qualities, both physical and mental, to be successful. They must have instantaneous reflexes; a gyroscope-like sense of balance; and a tough, wiry physique combining strength with low body weight. They must have the endurance of a triathlete combined with the fast-twitch muscle speed of an Olympic sprinter.
Racers also need the intelligence to cope with the huge amounts of data thrown at them, by the track, the bikes, the engineers. They need to be able to memorize a circuit down to the location of every bump in every corner, each of which could unsettle the bike and cause a crash. They need the courage to take to the track despite injury and push to the very limit, facing the knowledge that more pain lies lurking at every corner if ambition should tempt them to violate the laws of physics. And above all, they need the dogged determination and single-mindedness to put in the hours and hours of work needed to achieve all of this, day in and day out, rain or shine, come holidays or high water.
But the prime character trait that all motorcycle racers must have, the one thing they all share, is the will to win. The overwhelming desire to beat your rivals, to prove your superiority, is what drives racers to put in the years of hard work needed to acquire those other vital qualities. The will to win - for some a burning lust for victory, for others a mortal fear of defeat - is fundamental, and is the single most important quality which distinguishes champions from also-rans.
That desire for victory was being flaunted like an aging tycoon's trophy wife on the grid at Barcelona. Dani Pedrosa was attempting to ride in front of his home crowd despite the searing pain from the fractured femur he suffered at Mugello, only risky painkilling injections making his participation possible. Jorge Lorenzo made his intentions clear by turning up with his bike, helmet and leathers covered in FC Barcelona regalia. The Spanish soccer club had just pulled off the "triple", winning the European Champions League and Spanish League titles, as well as the Spanish Copa del Rey cup, and Lorenzo's regalia were an explicit reference to his intention to take a "triple" of his own - victory at his home Grand Prix would make it a trio of wins this season.
Then there was Valentino Rossi. The Italian has been incredibly successful at the Montmelo circuit, finishing on the podium in every race here since 1997. But a podium would not be enough: Rossi came to Barcelona trailing both Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner in the points, but more importantly, having only one win to his rivals' two apiece. The Doctor knows what victory tastes like at Barcelona, having won here 8 times previously, including 5 in the premier class, and another win here was surely possible.
But more than that, Rossi wanted revenge. At Mugello, the circuit Rossi regards as his spiritual home, Casey Stoner had broken his 7-victory winning streak, and making things worse, Jorge Lorenzo had finished ahead of him, leaving the Italian superstar just 3rd. The Doctor needed a win, not just to regain the momentum of his title defense, but to put the usurpers in their place. And most especially, to take victory from his young upstart team mate at his home race and reestablish order in the Fiat Yamaha garage. Rossi wanted this win so badly you could almost see it hanging round him like a haze.
Even the weather was playing ball. The whole weekend had been hot and sunny, with race day hotter still, the humidity sucking the energy out of riders and spectators alike. No rain would disrupt this spectacle, no pit stops or bike swaps would distort the result. This would be a straight fight, with no arguments or excuses to be made afterwards. All throughout practice, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi had matched each other's pace, qualifying putting Lorenzo on pole, just thirteen thousands of a second ahead of his team mate, with Casey Stoner not far behind the Yamaha pair.
Everything In Its Place
As the lights dimmed, and the pent-up ambition was released in a howl of four-stroke anger, the two Yamaha men immediately made apparent just how much they wanted victory. Instead of the more sedate starts which has so often seen them being swamped by the Ducati of Casey Stoner and a gaggle of Hondas led by Dani Pedrosa, the Yamaha men held their positions off the line. Though the Hondas edged ahead at first and Casey Stoner sought to grab the inside line into Turn 1 on his Ducati, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi held their nerve and waited just a fraction longer before braking, then easing off to peel into the first corner. The front three flicked right, then left, in the order they had lined up on the grid.
Behind the leading trio, the gaggle of Hondas squabbled over the right to chase. Randy de Puniet had been quickest off the line on the LCR bike, but a Repsol storm was gathering behind him. Dani Pedrosa had done his usual trick, firing off the line to gain three places behind de Puniet, but Andrea Dovizioso, irritated at having been bundled down a couple of places, was right on his tail.
At the front, Jorge Lorenzo was on a charge, opening up the start of a gap to his team mate chasing him. The two Fiat Yamaha men were playing different hands, Lorenzo showing his strongest cards from the start, trying to make a break, while Rossi played defensively, limiting his risks until his tires were up to temperature. This early in the game, Rossi was playing it safe, but his strategy was meeting with resistance from behind. Like Lorenzo, Casey Stoner likes to go hard from the start, and seeing Lorenzo edging away the Australian was itching to get after him.
Rossi would not be rushed, however. While a gap had opened to Lorenzo, it was not growing, and The Doctor concentrated on preventing the gathering hordes behind him from getting past. Stoner glared round the outside at La Caixa, but Rossi held him off easily. It was Stoner's turn to bide his time, waiting for the front straight and the chance to pull out of the Yamaha's draft and use the Ducati's superior speed to get through into 2nd.
Once, that superiority in velocity would have left Rossi in the weeds, but the Yamaha is no longer the slouch it once was. Stoner crept alongside as they crossed the line, but Rossi was expecting him, and a wheel length would not be sufficient advantage to take over 2nd. The Italian waited until he saw the nose of the Ducati dive before slamming on the brakes, holding on to his position with relative ease.
What Rossi had been able to do, Randy de Puniet found harder. The Frenchman could not compensate for the weaker engine of his satellite Honda in the braking zone, and was forced to let Dani Pedrosa past. De Puniet's hope would lie in following the Spaniard and hoping that his lack of fitness due to injury would make Pedrosa fade. In the meantime, he had his hands full with another Repsol Honda, the orange, white and black bike of Andrea Dovizioso all over the Playboy LCR's back wheel.
Rossi's braking move had held Casey Stoner off, but it had the added benefit of getting him closer to Lorenzo's tail. The gap to his team mate had shrunk a little, Lorenzo looming much larger in his sights, but Rossi reeling in Lorenzo had only served to make Casey Stoner even more impatient. The Australian had his front wheel glued to Rossi's tail, and as they rounded the long sequence of right handers that lead back onto the front straight, Stoner was once again lining the Italian up for a pass.
The second time along the straight brought an even bigger surprise than the first trip. As the pair had started lap 2, Stoner had at least been able to edge ahead of Rossi, but this time round, he could barely get close enough to pull out of the draft. As they hit Turn 1 to start lap 3, Rossi comfortably held on to 2nd, completely untroubled by the chasing Ducati.
Braking late again at the end of the straight Rossi was now back on Lorenzo, and the three leaders howled around the track line astern and inches apart. From the front only Lorenzo's bike was visible, the other two only appearing as they sprung out from behind the Spaniard on the approach to a corner and the chance to pass. But the chance was not there, each man perfectly on the limit and braking within inches of each other, neither giving nor receiving any quarter or room to overtake.
The best option for passing this early in the race was at the end of the straight, and as they started lap 4, Lorenzo, Rossi and Stoner approached Turn 1 three abreast. Stoner started from furthest back and was left down in 3rd, but Rossi's earlier braking practice was paying dividends, as he slid inside Lorenzo and into the lead.
No Way Out
Passing was one thing but escaping was another. Initially, Rossi took a hint of a gap, but within a lap, Lorenzo was back. Rossi may have grabbed the lead, but now he was being hounded by both his team mate and Casey Stoner. Push as he might, he could not shake them.
Further back, Dovizioso had got past de Puniet, the Repsol rider using the superior horsepower of his factory Honda to motor past de Puniet's satellite machine. But Dovizioso wasn't the only visitor the Frenchman had. A lap later, and Loris Capirossi was past too, the new engine parts helping the Suzuki past the Honda and into 6th.
Ahead of Capirossi, the battle of the Repsols was unfolding to its natural conclusion. Dani Pedrosa had briefly closed on the leading trio, but his lack of fitness and the pain were holding him back. Pedrosa was fighting on manfully, his tiny frame packing a whole lot of heart, but he would not be able to hold his current pace. On lap 6 Pedrosa's pace flagged just a fraction, but enough for Dovizioso to pass through Repsol, the move made that little bit easier by Pedrosa's reluctance to push at the corner where he crashed during qualifying.
Pedrosa's problems were finding an echo at the front. While Lorenzo continued to snap at Rossi's heels, Casey Stoner was starting to lose touch. The Australian had been getting gradually more ill over the course of the weekend and was slowly broiling in the Catalonian heat. The gap to Lorenzo was growing as the strength seeped out of Stoner's body. This would be a duel, rather than a three-way dogfight to the end.
At least it would be a fair fight. There had been nothing to separate the pace of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo during practice, and it was the same story in the race. Rossi first tried to drop Lorenzo by pushing on, and almost broke the Spaniard after Lorenzo ran into Turn 1 too hot, running wide and losing ground, but he was back before the lap was out.
If At First You Don't Succeed
Rossi decided to take a different tack: If he could not break Lorenzo's resistance from the front, then he would attempt an older trick, one that had served him well against earlier foes such as Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau. On lap 13, he let Lorenzo pass, sitting up a fraction early to let the Spaniard underneath at La Caixa.
It was Lorenzo's turn to push, but like his older team mate, try as he might he could not make a break. At every braking point, through every corner and onto every straight, Lorenzo caned his Yamaha as hard as it would go, desperate to break the tow and ditch the man whose crown he seeks. But at every part of the track he could see Rossi lurking in the corner of his eye, his helmet ringing with the baritone duet of two cross-plane Yamahas on full song.
Just to make sure Lorenzo knew he was there, Rossi poked his wheel alongside Lorenzo's here and there, at Turn 1 on one lap, at La Caixa on another, and at Repsol on yet another, probing Lorenzo's defenses and seeking out a weak spot and a plan of attack.
By lap 21 he had it, and on lap 22 he put it into effect. Closing on Lorenzo through the first long right handers of Renault and Repsol, he sat tight on Lorenzo's tail. Not close enough to pass in the first section, he switched focus further around the track. Down the Montmelo circuit's short back straight, Rossi inched closer to his team mate looking as if he was preparing a classic Catalunya move, and dive up the inside at La Caixa.
But he didn't. Instead, he ran in hot and a little wide, cutting back early to get on the gas quicker. A curious move, but one which served a purpose. Round the final right handers, Rossi was closer to Lorenzo than he had been before and carrying more speed. They hurtled out of the furiously fast final corner inches apart, Rossi immediately whipping out of Lorenzo's draft to pass the Spaniard, hitting the braking zone well before Lorenzo arrived there.
It was a useful lesson. The line would work, giving Rossi more drive through the final corners, but it would not get him out of the last right hander and across the line ahead of Lorenzo. If Lorenzo were leading on the final lap, Rossi would have to try an alternative approach.
That was all part of the backup plan, however. Plan A was to drop Lorenzo, and Rossi went for broke. But just as in the earlier laps, and just as Lorenzo had found before, there was nothing to choose between the two Yamahas and no way of making a difference. Just half a lap later, Rossi realized his flight was in vain. This one was going down to the wire, and he switched tack once again.
If attack fails, then best to tighten your defenses, and at La Caixa, Rossi showed Lorenzo how he intended to stop him. As the Spaniard closed on the Italian, Rossi ran his Yamaha wide, cutting back sharp across the nose of Lorenzo, blocking him on the way out of turn 10 and into turn 11.
This may only be Jorge Lorenzo's second season in MotoGP, but that does not mean he is easily intimidated. Rossi may have been leading, but Lorenzo was not about to roll over and accept 2nd place. Unfazed by the chop across his bows, the Spaniard sunk his teeth into the tail of his team mate's M1, and powered towards him around Turn 13 to pull out of his draft and ahead as they motored towards Turn 1.
Under normal circumstances, that would have been good enough to take the lead, but these were clearly not normal circumstances. Seeing Lorenzo a bike length ahead, Rossi waited until he saw the Spaniard brake, then braked himself, drawing closer and holding the outside line.
But Rossi had a problem: Lorenzo was drifting left, ready to block his team mate into the first corner at the end of the straight. He had to act, and so Rossi eased off the brakes, pulling in his knee, already poised to slide through Turn 1, and ran over the rumblestrip and back into the lead. The problem was he still had some braking left to do, but braking at the limit of his ability, he got the bike stopped and into the corner, the M1 bucking in protest at its maltreatment.
Rossi's good fortune was that the track flicks back left after the right hander of Turn 1, and running a little wide merely left him blocking Lorenzo's progress, consolidating his lead.
Rossi may have had the lead, but Jorge Lorenzo wasn't going to let Rossi get away with the daylight robbery that he had just perpetrated on the Spaniard. Lorenzo hounded Rossi round the back of the track once again, and Rossi's defensive maneuvers became more aggressive and more blatant. Again the wide line through La Caixa, both men flailing their legs as they groped for balance, and this time Rossi slammed the door more forcefully through Turn 11, trying to disrupt Lorenzo's drive round the long right handers and onto the front straight.
For both men knew that this is where the decisive blow would be struck. Turn 1 would be their best chance of victory, and leading out of the first corner would go halfway to winning the race.
Rossi's block had checked Lorenzo's progress, but it had not slowed it completely. The Spaniard held his nerve and forced his corner speed up, gaining back the ground he had lost in no time at all.
Back on to the front straight, Rossi led, if anything by a bigger margin than on the previous lap, but Lorenzo was coming once again. He passed the Italian on the run into Turn 1 once again, both men braking later than ever, but this time, Lorenzo made sure of his position. He slid left earlier and harder, forcing Rossi out onto the rumblestrip sooner, the Italian locking the front briefly as he scrambled to hold position.
But Lorenzo held the inside line, by a foot and no more, and snatched just enough ground as they flicked back left to slam the door right on Rossi's nose. If Rossi had given a masterclass in braking on the previous lap, Lorenzo was showing himself to be a brilliant pupil.
Though this was not where Rossi had planned to be, his rehearsals on earlier laps following Lorenzo now came into play. The Italian inched closer to his Spanish team mate through Renault, diving hard up the inside into the following Repsol corner. Too hard, and as he ran wide Lorenzo was back, and in the lead again.
One bolt shot, and how many more in his quiver? Rossi kept just inches behind the Spaniard, but Lorenzo had learned more than just braking from his team mate. The memory of those block passes around La Caixa still burned within him, and as the Fiat Yamaha pairing lined up for La Caixa, it was Lorenzo's turn to demonstrate the art of defense. Keeping inside, he allowed Rossi the outside line, then drifted wide, forcing Rossi off line and with nowhere to go.
With just three corners left and none of them good for passing, Lorenzo held the upper hand. It was now a matter of holding his nerve and pushing as hard as he dared, keeping the door closed through the final corners to cross the line for the win.
That was the theory. But a chasm yawns between theory and practice, and Rossi had a final card up his sleeve. Whether it was an ace or a joker even Rossi did not yet know, but as he closed on Lorenzo through the turns 11 and 12 he got ready to play it anyway.
Pushing hard through turn 12, almost clipping Lorenzo's back wheel as the Spaniard sat up to brake for the final turn 13, Rossi dived inside and laid his cards on the table. Sliding, almost losing the front, he held the line, leaving a shocked Lorenzo with nowhere left to go. The Spaniard had to back off a fraction to avoid running into his team mate, losing the crucial momentum that might have seen him beat his team mate back across the line, but could also have forced both men into the dirt and out of the race. Whether it was a conscious decision or not, it was far too early in the championship to be ditching into the gravel in do-or-die maneuvers, for Lorenzo at least.
Valentino Rossi crossed the line ecstatic at victory, more elated than he has been for a very long time. His joy at victory - and perhaps also relief - was visible in the hyperactive release of emotion as he rounded the track on his cool down lap. Valentino Rossi had needed a victory at Catalunya, and in extremis, had taken one.
Jorge Lorenzo followed his team mate home to take 2nd, perplexed and dejected in equal measure. Halfway round the track, he picked up the Barcelona flag he had ready for his celebration, but his body language spoke volumes about his disappointment. Visor down, despite the heat, he trailed back to the pits a beaten man.
Take It To The Limit
Nearly 9 seconds behind Lorenzo, Casey Stoner just held off the charging Andrea Dovizioso to take 3rd. The combination of the heat and stomach cramps had sapped the strength of the Australian, and by halfway, Stoner was falling back into the clutches of Dovizioso. He gathered the last of his strength, and forged on for the remainder of the race, gapping Dovi a little, only to see the Italian catch him again with 5 laps to go. Giving his all, the 2007 World Champion held Dovizioso off to take the final podium spot.
In parc ferme, it was clear just how much it had cost Stoner to hang on to 3rd. The Australian struggled off his bike, and stumbled across into the arms of his young wife Adriana, collapsing against the barrier which walls off the bikes. He was as close to the edge of exhaustion as it is possible to come, but his tenacity was rewarded, as 3rd place meant he was level on points in the championship standings, in an intriguing three-way tie for the championship lead.
Stoner's joy meant frustration for Andrea Dovizioso. For the third race in a row, the Italian just missed out on the podium, finishing 4th. To add to the irony, Dovizioso also moved up to 4th in the championship, nipping ahead of team mate Dani Pedrosa. Dovi must be cursing his decision to run the #4 plate, as that is where he seems to be stuck. But he continues to make steady progress, getting closer all the time. The competition at the top of MotoGP is incredibly tough though, and Dovizioso is going to need some help from Honda to match the Yamahas and the lone fast Ducati.
Loris Capirossi is another rider who has been showing progress, helped this time by an improved engine for his Suzuki. Another strong race saw the Italian veteran come home in 5th place, an encouragement for the next race at Assen, the home race for Rizla, the cigarette paper maker which sponsors the Suzuki team.
Capirossi's 5th place was at the expense of Dani Pedrosa, but under the circumstances, the Repsol Honda rider cannot have been too disappointed with 6th place. Pedrosa's season has been decimated by injury, and now 39 points behind the championship leaders, his title hopes must surely now be over. Being 39 points behind one rider would not be insurmountable, as a single crash could allow Pedrosa to claw back 25 points. But the odds of three rivals all crashing in front of him are slim, to say the least, and he has a huge mountain to climb.
Pedrosa did well to hang on to 6th. Over the course of the last 8 laps, Colin Edwards had been closing on the Spaniard. But the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man could only claw away at Pedrosa's advantage a tenth of a time, and he came up just over a second short. But Edwards' 7th place finish consolidates his place as the leading Tech 3 Yamaha rider, and improves his chances of staying in MotoGP for another season next year.
Randy de Puniet had slipped down the field, from 4th on the first lap to finish the race in 8th. But it was still another strong performance from the Frenchman, finishing well inside the top 10 again, and the first of the satellite Hondas. De Puniet has completely cast off his reputation as a crasher, perhaps because, like Casey Stoner, the front Bridgestones give him the confidence to push hard without overstepping the mark. But part of it is surely down to de Puniet's own maturity. The LCR team must be moving up HRC's priority list when it comes time to start doling out the new parts.
The Enigma Machine
In 9th place - and second Ducati - was a remarkable Mika Kallio. The Finn rebounded from the past few dismal races to score solid points, helped along by some of the same changes which were made to all of the Ducatis except for Casey Stoner's, the factory desperate to make the bike more competitive. Kallio has shown that when the bike is right, he can be well inside the top 10, but getting the Ducati GP9 right remains a notoriously tricky affair.
Kallio finished ahead of the other factory Ducati of Nicky Hayden. A 10th place is better than the past couple of races, and the setup changes made helped Hayden to an outstanding 6th fastest time on Friday's FP1 session. But the Ducati is still a fickle beast despite the improvements in setup, and the process of conquering the bike is one of two steps forward, and 1.999 back for the American.
Chris Vermeulen won a closely fought battle for 11th, the Rizla Suzuki rider just edging out Alex de Angelis on the Gresini Honda. Both men have been mediocre at best this season, De Angelis' 6th place at the season opener looking more and more like an anomaly. The chances of either Vermeulen or De Angelis returning to MotoGP next season are starting to look slim.
James Toseland is a little luckier in that respect, with the BBC keen to have a British rider in the series, and Dorna keen to help. But another 13th place finish is not helping his case in the slightest, especially after his revival at Mugello. Toseland will be keen to get to Assen, a track he has had success at in World Superbikes.
The honeymoon is over for Marco Melandri and the Hayate team, as the bike returns to about where it belongs when the weather is dry. The Italian finished 14th, the bike starting to suffer from its lack of development, and little more in prospect. But Melandri continues to impress, getting better results than the bike probably deserves, and is well on course to booking a better ride for 2010.
Sete Gibernau was disappointed to have finished only 15th at his home Grand Prix. But returning from (yet another) broken collarbone, 12th isn't so bad. The fact remains that Gibernau lacks both fitness and race experience after his two-year layoff, and must be questioning his decision to return to racing.
After his impressive top ten finish at his home race in Mugello, Niccolo Canepa slumped to near the back of the field once again at Catalunya, crossing the line in 16th. Canepa continues to struggle in MotoGP, and looks more likely to return to a testing role than racing. But with a bunch of tracks that he raced at in the Superstock championship coming up, he will at least have track knowledge on his side.
In last place, as expected, finished newcomer Gabor Talmacsi. For a former 125cc champion and a contender in the few races he contested in the 250cc class, finishing 17th can hardly be satisfactory. But considering this was his first weekend on a MotoGP bike, the Hungarian did remarkably well. He cut down the gap in lap times with the leaders by over 2 seconds over the course of the weekend, and was over 15 seconds from being lapped. It was a mature performance, and a useful one, especially from a rider bringing sponsorship to a cash-strapped team.
Talmacsi's result also highlighted new team mate Yuki Takahashi's weakness. The Japanese rider did himself no favors by crashing out on the first lap, the pressure of possibly losing his place to Talmacsi getting to him. Takahashi injured a finger and his chest in the crash, and could potentially sit out the race at Assen, ostensibly to recover. If not, and if the Scot Honda team cannot persuade Honda to provide an extra set of bikes to the team, then Takahashi must surely fear for his job.
The other crasher at Catalunya was Toni Elias, the Spaniard failing once again to finish at his home Grand Prix, a feat he has yet to accomplish in the MotoGP class. But while team boss Fausto Gresini has been scathing at previous races, he was more mild here. Elias has been complaining of a lack of new parts for his factory-spec RC212V, and Gresini backed him at Catalunya, saying that Elias' crash was the result of the Spaniard pushing as hard as possible. Once again, a factory-spec Honda in a satellite team is not the fast track to success that it was in the 990cc era.
All In The Mind
Valentino Rossi's victory at Catalunya was a deeply informative lesson in many different respects. As the first race to be decided by less than a second since Estoril in 2007, and the first race to be decided by a last-lap pass since Estoril in 2006, it showed that the excitement isn't gone from MotoGP, and passing is still possible in the right conditions. It showed that parity is starting to return to MotoGP, as the class matures and the rules are left in (relative) peace. Yamaha have caught up with Ducati in terms of performance, and only Stoner's illness prevented him from putting up more of a fight.
It also shows how important the mental aspect is of motorcycle racing. After the race, Valentino Rossi told reporters that he had been dreaming of that pass all week, preparing it in his mind in case he needed it. Jorge Lorenzo said that he had left the door open, not expecting Rossi to be able to pass there, and was surprised to see him appear up the inside. But if Lorenzo had gone back over previous races, he could have known better. Back in 2007, Rossi pulled exactly the same move on Casey Stoner with five laps to go, in a previous thrilling edition at the Montmelo track.
The 2009 Catalunya Grand Prix also showed us just how afraid Valentino Rossi is of his young team mate Jorge Lorenzo. The reaction in Rossi's pit told you all you needed to know about the rivalry in the Fiat Yamaha garage, Rossi's pit crew celebrating as wildly as if the Italian had just won another title. But to risk disaster in a difficult pass like that so early in the season, just to secure victory rather than give up 5 points with 11 races to go spoke of something more than just a desire to win.
For this victory was also about something more, about imposing his will on events and on his rivals. Rossi further emphasized his victory with some subtle, and not so subtle, celebrations in parc ferme, leaping off his bike, over the pit wall and onto the tarmac on the front straight, to accept the adulation of the crowd. Jorge Lorenzo's home crowd, as the nearest thing Lorenzo has to a home circuit.
Rossi also did something he has done once before, in July last year. As Jorge Lorenzo stood being interviewed by the BBC, Rossi came across and interrupted, congratulating Lorenzo on the race. He did the same thing at Laguna Seca last year, when Casey Stoner was being interviewed after the race. The difference between the reactions between Stoner and Lorenzo were instructive as well: Stoner complained bitterly about the passes, and when told by Rossi "That's racing!" immediately replied "That's racing is it? We'll see..." Jorge Lorenzo, after accepting Rossi's compliments, had just three words to say: "Venga la proxima!" Bring on the next race!
After the race was over, Lorenzo also let slip why Rossi has every reason to fear him. From the start of the season, the Spaniard has denied that he is interested in the championship, always rating himself behind Rossi, Stoner and Pedrosa. But interviewed by Spanish television, he let his mask slip, saying "the championship is still long."
Valentino Rossi took his 99th victory in front of Jorge Lorenzo's home crowd, the man bearing #99 on his fairing, by sheer force of will. The look in Lorenzo's eyes after his defeat spoke of just one thing: revenge. A battle of wills awaits us, and there's a lot of racing left to do.