Title tussle: Rossi leads Lorenzo during practice at the previous round Photo: EPA/MAURIZIO BRAMBATTI
The 2015 MotoGP season has developed into the most intriguing season for some time and with five rounds to go the championship visits MotorLand Aragon in Spain this weekend.
Heading into the last round at Misano, Yamaha team-mates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were tied at the head of the championship. A crash for Lorenzo meant that he failed to score and left the door open for Rossi to once again take the advantage.
However, things could have been much worse for Lorenzo had Rossi not botched his strategy when changing from wet to dry bikes. The Italian eventually finished fifth the first time season he has not finished in the top three), opening a gap of 13 points over Lorenzo.
But more importantly for Rossi at no point so far this season has Lorenzo headed him in the points standings.
This is only the sixth year that Aragon has appeared on the calendar, and it remains one of the few circuits that Rossi is yet to win at. Last year it was Lorenzo who was victorious there, and if this weekend remains dry I would expect Lorenzo to be challenging for the win once again.
Marc Marquez (Honda) could well be the man who ultimately decides which side of the Yamaha garage takes the championship. In equal measure he could be Rossi and Lorenzo’s greatest asset or their greatest hindrance. Should either of them be leading the race their ideal scenario is to have Marquez (or indeed any other rider) between them and their rival. On recent form, if Marquez is not winning he is very likely to be the jam in a Yamaha sandwich.
Recently Rossi has not had the dry pace of Lorenzo, which must be concerning him. In the last two rounds rain has intervened and Rossi has prevailed. Ominously the forecast for the weekend is dry and warm, which suggests Aragon could be a case of damage limitation for Rossi, though he can never be written off; I don’t think anyone envisaged him being a serious title challenger at this point in the season.
British riders Bradley Smith and Scott Redding will head to Aragon full of confidence after their outstanding results at Misano. Both achieved career best MotoGP finishes, with Smith second and Redding third. Smith is currently the highest placed non-factory rider in the championship, ahead of factory riders Andrea Dovizioiso (Ducati) and Dani Pedrosa (Honda).
Fellow Brit Cal Cutchlow will be looking for a change in form and fortune, having failed to finish in five of the last nine races. His 11th place in Misano was his first finish in three races.
The current MotoGP standings are:
1 Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) ITA 247
2 Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) SPA 224
3 Marc Marquez (Honda) SPA 184
4 Andrea Iannone (Ducati) ITA 159
5 Bradley Smith (Yamaha) GBR 135
6 Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) ITA 128
In the Moto2 supporting class, Frenchman Johann Zarco continues his dominance. After winning at Misano he leads the championship by 93 points.
Zarco could even clinch the title at Aragon this weekend – he only needs to score at least seven points more than his nearest challenger Tito Rabat and not lose more than 10 points to third-placed Alex Rins.
The Frenchman will be looking for his 13 consecutive podium finish this weekend; should he win it would be his fourth victory in succession, and seventh of the season.
Briton Sam Lowes, buoyed by a new three-year deal that will see him move up to the MotoGP class in 2016, will be looking to end the season strongly. He battled valiantly as it is widely recognised that the Speed Up chassis on his bike is inferior to the Kalex used by all four riders ahead of him in the championship.
In fact he’s the only Speed Up-mounted rider in the top 10, which shows he has the ability.
The current Moto2 standings are:
1 Johann Zarco (Kalex) FRA 274
2 Tito Rabat (Kalex) SPA 181
3 Alex Rins (Kalex) SPA 164
4 Thomas Luthi (Kalex) SWI 131
5 Sam Lowes (Speed Up) GBR 128
6 Jonas Folger (Kalex) GER 112
In the Moto3 championship, Britain’s Danny Kent has a commanding 55-point lead, despite losing points to his nearest rival Enea Bastianini last time out at Misano.
Realistically, only Bastianini can catch him but, reassuringly for Kent, Bastianini has not been a model of consistency so far this season. He has only six podium finishes, including the win at Misano, compared with Kent’s nine podiums and six wins.
The current Moto3 standings are:
1 Danny Kent (Honda) GBR 234
2 Enea Bastianini (Honda) ITA 179
3 Romano Fenati (KTM) ITA 139
4 Miguel Oliveira (KTM) POR 134
5 Niccolò Antonelli (Honda) ITA 126