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Three Laps to Remember

The battle between Yamaha teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo over the last three laps of the Motegi MotoGP race last Sunday included some of the most aggressive and dangerous riding I have ever witnessed in a roadrace.  At stake was third place in the race, but you would have thought the riders’ lives depended on the outcome.  The riders bumped one another on more than one occasion at speeds exceeding 100 mph.

It would be one thing if these riders were rivals for the championship, but of course they were not.  They were teammates, one of whom had no chance this year at the title, while the other is in a position to clinch the championship shortly.  Rossi appeared ready to take Lorenzo down if he did not concede third place.  Lorenzo seemed ready to toss the championship in the bin if Rossi didn’t concede third place.  These men clearly do not like each other, but one might think that their loyalty to their employer would mean something to them.

If Lorenzo is  young and impetuous, the old man Rossi knows exactly what he is doing.  His contract with Ducati may not start until next year, but he has already left Yamaha behind from an emotional standpoint.


  1. Matthew Gunter says:

    If injury and preparation for 2011 were concerns, Ducati certainly didn’t mind Rossi hangin’ it out. Not that the OEM’s should try to manufacture race results by instructing a team mate to lay off, if anything, Ducati should have asked Rossi to go easy…and Yamaha should be only instructing their debut heir apparent, Lorenzo, to not engage in a Rossi tussle, not Rossi; to restrain Rossi at this point does nothing; Lorenzo is the one who should be reined.
    Let the close racing for the 3rd spot of the podium of the Japanese MotoGP and the season long Moto2 not encourage a single engine rule in MotoGP….

  2. Thomas says:

    I don’t really understand the controversy. Aren’t all racers on the track supposed to keep racing until the finish line? If I were out there and someone were in my vicinity near the finish, I would go balls out to the finish. Even if we were dead last.

  3. Tim says:

    I’m really starting to think Lorenzo is jealous of Rossi. Even though he has a big points lead, Rossi still gets more attention, and I’m guessing that drives Lorenzo crazy. Why else would he risk everything to try to finish 3rd instead of 4th? It has to be jealousy, or an inferiority complex. The sad thing is, Lorenzo need not be jealous. He’s the first guy to come along who hadn’t let Rossi get into his head…at least not until last Sunday.

    Rossi has Lorenzo (mentally) right where he wants him going into next season, but my odds on favorite to win next year’s title is Stoner with the Honda. Ihave a feeling that’s going to be a lethal combo.

  4. al banta says:

    This is racing folks, not golf..These guy’s were going for it. Rossi has the speed and experience, I hope that Lorenzo learned from this battle because it is just the start of the war.
    He should have kept his mouth shut after the race, no one likes a whiner..

  5. PD says:

    Sure glad it wasn’t your #1 idol Spies instead of your #2 idol Lorenzo who was tussling with Rossi. You surely would be calling for Rossi’s head on a platter at the least had that been the case.

  6. David says:

    It looked like Rossi and Lorenzo where on nearly identical bikes (Dovizioso e Stoner’s mounts seemed faster) and Rossi raced as a Champion should, making clear he is still the best one out there. As someone already said, this story is just a the beginning. Rossi is just laying the foundation to next year championship. If Ducati really is faster than Honda and Yamaha (and in many occasions it was clearly the case), then next year should be very exciting.

  7. Norm G. says:

    it should be pointed out (if somebody hasn’t already done so), jorge actually blew BOTH his first and second pass attempts on rossi. if you go back and review closely, you’ll see in both instances, he ran deep leaving a gap wide enough to drive a freight train through. rossi (on the better line) simply responded with a classic over/under.

    since him and rossi are still technically teammates, i don’t necessarily interpret lorenzo’s comments as whining or complaining, however (comma) there ARE consequences any time you fail to stick a landing. after the initial FAIL, and with dani clearly out, the onus was on lorenzo at that point to go into “conservation mode”.

    if anything, rossi (in the sage role of team leader) was handing down to the lad a valuable lesson. a lesson that states, gift wrapping a championship doesn’t always mean you go for the win…? sometimes it also means, you play it safe (especially when you’re at your japanese employer’s home race). only a 9X champion could impart such wisdom.

  8. cgates1 says:

    This site just doesn’t like Rossi, and when Rossi demonstrates his obvious superiority (albeit not as pronounced, perhaps, as it once was) the editors or writers here don’t like it. I note that Casey Stoner usually gets warm congratulations, while Rossi gets a chilly acknowledgement at best.

    In this case, such editorial license has led to exaggeration. Rossi raced fairly, albeit hard. Lorenzo raced fairly – and also very hard. Rossi won, and Lorenzo had a temper tantrum. Lorenzo could have backed off at any time. The stewards clearly didn’t see anything problematic. There just hasn’t been a lot of close racing lately because the top 3 besides Rossi usually don’t fight particularly hard for position so this seemed extra-dramatic.

    Stoner usually either rides off or has an average ride; Pedrosa is a known non-fighter if he doesn’t get away; Lorenzo will fight but obviously doesn’t enjoy it; and then we’re into the second tier.

    This is after all racing, not a time trial. Rossi, despite his clownish posturing, is a very hard man and that’s why he’s a great champion. Lorenzo is very fast but he’s immature and certainly gave himself a future mental disadvantage by not playing up the quality of the fight – childish whining is corrosive to confidence.

  9. michael says:

    The above is an interesting read from Wayne Rainey on the event.

    Both riders knew what they were doing. I can’t put any blame on Rossi for being so competitive. That’s how you win all those championships…..

    I thought it was fun to watch. Sometimes, it’s just a parade to the checkers. Not this time. Next year is going to be interesting!

  10. Will says:

    It was merely a heated discussion that went something like this:

    Jorge: “I will be the next world Champion. You must let me through”

    Val: ” Really? Hmmm. I don’t think so. Not today. You want some? come get some.”

    Jorge: ” You. You cannot do this! I am to be the champion!”

    Val: “Been there done that. Today, you are in my world. Grow a pair or take up golf.”

    Jorge: “I must get through!”

    Val: ” That is what Sete and Biaggi said before they ate gravel.”

    Valentino knew exactly what he was doing. He has done it many times before. He is showing that it is still his houlse until the end of the season. And that it will be his again. Jorge will just be holding it for him. Valentino Helped bring Yamaha back from the bottom of the ladder to the top again. He was doing his job, and quite well at that.

  11. I’d wondered if Rossi’s accident had dulled the sword……answered. And wondered if Rossi was going to leave Yamaha as team leader….answered. Bruce

  12. Richard says:

    It was very clearly Lorenzo who was taking the risk here. He could have / should have cruised into 4th. Rossi was ahead of him most of the race (from lap 4 or 5 onward). Lorenzo repassed 7 laps from the end, ran it deep and Rossi repassed him. Again, Lorenzo could have chosen to follow. He tried again 2 laps to go, Rossi didn’t let him have it. Lorenzo should have settled.

    No comparison to Hayden/Pedrosa in 2006. Hayden was in direct competition with Rossi for the championship. Pedrosa shouldn’t have attempted the pass. Here Lorenzo isn’t losing any title hopes by Rossi beating him. And again, Rossi wasn’t the one trying to pass from behind – that was Lorenzo.

    Yamaha should only be addressing Lorenzo for his behavior.

  13. JayDaytona 675 says:

    I mean no disrespect to you Dirck but I’m prompted to ask how long you’ve been watching racing. Those two guys knew what they were doing and that’s exactly the kind of last laps I’m sure we all love to see. THAT’S what racing is all about in my books. Not some mambee-pambee runaway win because one bike is so clearly faster than all the rest. The level of riding skill and the nuances and intricasies of those three laps, while not completely lost on us, will never be for us to judge as only they knew their limits and how far they could push it. I wasn’t surprised at all and am thrilled to have the old Rossi back with us.

  14. Bob says:

    Given that Rossi now has orders to not give Lorenzo a hard time on the track, what do you think would happen if Rossi said “f*** ’em” and did the same this weekend if the opportunity arose? Would they not allow him to race the rest of the season? Would they try and force Burgess to make his bike very slow for the next? Would they just say the contract is fulfilled and let him go?

    I’m a man of principal so to have a boss tell me to deliberately let someone else do better than me to further their career (company included) would make me want to do just the opposite. And if the company bit back, I’d have to take the evidence to the FIM so the FIM could penalize Yamaha for, in a sense, fixing the race. Talk about bad publicity for Yamaha.

  15. Joey Wilson says:

    This is Rossi reminding his young ‘teammate’ that it’s time to put on your big boy pants and see what you can do with this bike and team that was about as successful as Rizla Suzuki ’till I got here, and I’m doing this to you with a gimpy shoulder and a wobbly leg. Pass me, I’ll pass you right back. Complain all you want, but you finished behind me. I’ve got your number, see ‘ya.

    It makes me think of an old Dale Earnhardt saying: Get a couple shop rags, soak ’em in kerosene and tie them around your ankles, so the ants won’t crawl up your legs and eat your candy ass !

    The Doctor is IN.

  16. Mike says:

    Nobody ever complained about things like that in the Grand National series.

  17. Nomad says:

    How has Yamaha not been loyal to Rossi? They offered him the same money to stay that Ducati will pay him next season. Rossi simply chose to move on to a new challenge. In this day and age, I see no other manufacturers showing the loyalty to their riders, both past and present, that Yamaha does. Look at their race of champions, their advertising, their funding of getting King Kenny to come to the Indy Mile, etc. Yamaha is the model for the other manufacturer’s in this dept.

    I look forward to the racing next season. It is good to mix things up from time to time. Yamaha, Rossi and Burgess have developed a solid platform in the M1. Spies and Lorenzo will get to ply their skills with their own setups without the benefit of Rossi’s guidelines. Ducati will have the services of the best rider/tuner combo next year to develop that bike further. Hayden will be there to back them up. Honda will have Pedrosa and Stoner with all their eccentricities to sort that machine.

    Hopefully it will make for some excellent racing.

  18. Bob says:

    I agree too. This is just the begining. Rossi has layed the foundation for 2011. He truly has emotionally left Yamaha. He has no more loyalty to them other than finishing the season. Regardless of that, Rossi is too much of a true blooded hardcore racer that has one purpose….to beat everyone he can. Just because he and Jorge both race for Fiat Yamaha doesn’t mean he’s going to wave him by and hand Jorge a higher placement. He’s there to win, even if the title is pretty much spoken for. Good on him. If anything, Lorenzo should have just got behind and played it safe rather than choose to fight it out. He has to finish to win. Glad he didn’t though. Good fun to watch.

    In this day and age of companies only caring about the bottom line and the employee is just a disposable tool to make things happen, he shouldn’t worry about loyalty to the company. The company has no loyalty to him. He can take the rest of the season to piss off Lorenzo and get in his head. So far, out of him, Stoner and Perdosa, Lorenzo has been the toughest to crack mentally.

  19. Eric says:

    This kind of racing is nothing new for Rossi, does anyone remember Biaggi running Rossi off the track in 2001? Rossi promply passed him, flipped the bird, and proceeded to win the race. How about Rossi punting Sete’ off the track and taking the win in South Africa? Dangerous or not, he is without a doubt the most exciting motorcycle racer in modern times if no all time.

  20. HM in Appalachia says:

    “Simon Evans” nailed it dead on!It was only the start of 2011!

  21. hal 9000 says:

    That was epic!!! But the difference between those two is Rossi enjoys those battles and knows the fans do too thats why he is the GOAT. We all know that if had come out of that in 4th he would still say that was FUN.

  22. Simon Evans says:

    I think many misunderstand. The race hasn’t finished… it has only just begun. What we saw at the weekend wasn’t closing shots of two team `mates` rivalry in 2010, but the first opening shots in what I hope will become an epic 2011 war – and I use the word `war` advisedly as blood WILL be spilled.

    Rossi has already started the psychological battle. At which he is supreme master. And Jorge showed that he doesn’t understand Rossi-level racing as well as he thought he did.

    I’d say Rossi won, and not just on the track. Lorenzo should had simply laughed it off as `the last gasp of yesterdays man` or somesuch, but the hissy-fit just shows that Rossi did exactly what he was aiming to do… and reading between the lines of Lin Jarvis’ quotes Rossi will now back down for the remainder races under team orders.

    The real back story in all of this is the REAL failure was Yamaha not anticipating this and issuing the team orders sooner.

    And again, Rossi comes out as the smart thinker. Ducati already have an edge in 2011 and he hasn’t even started working for them yet!

  23. Jaybee says:

    Those last laps between Rossi and Lorenzo were a throwback to the days before corporate racers, when winning meant everything. Both of these guys have big egos, and I doubt I would like to hang out with them for very long – but it sure as hell was exciting racing!

    Spartan mothers used to tell their sons, “Come home with your shield, or on it.” For the last part of the race we saw two Spartans battle it out for the last spot on the podium.

  24. Bill says:

    Can anyone recall waaaaay back, I think in 2006, when Pedrosa tried to pass on the inside of Hayden, which caused both of their Honda’s to crash? Hayden was in (or on the way) contention for the championship and Pedrosa, not. I believe Pedrosa took a lashing for that kind of maneuver given the points standings. Do you think Rossi took any kind of lashing? I doubt it.

  25. Glen says:

    Come on people. Racing is a dangerous sport and it is a competitive sport. The best racers can weigh the risk against the reward and come out on top. In this case the reward was beating one’s rival. The risk was crashing. We witnessed two of the best pushing the this equation to the absolute max and not crashing. It was pure genious. Those three laps are to be treasured not use against the riders for doing anything wrong!

  26. Steve says:

    Like the rest of the comments here, I agree.. very dangerous racing for both of them… but it was GREAT to watch! I wish the race could have been extended a few more laps even! I was glad to see Rossi pull it out! I know these guys have huge egos but Lorenzo is a bit too much “in your face” when he wins in my opinion… he’s immature but he can ride! On the other hand, Rossi is not a “team player”… he refused to share setup info with Lorenzo, etc… I don’t blame him though…
    Can’t wait for next year… Stoner on a Honda should be very fast! Rossi on Ducati should be fast. Ditto Lorenzo & Andrea Dovizioso. I’m still hoping the Americans can make their mark!

  27. Fernando Pan says:

    It felt like Rossi was telling him something like this: “So you think you can simply pass by The Doctor, the eigth time world champion, the legend, just like that?” “No Sir, you will have to fight!”

  28. Tom says:

    I know that Yamaha may have been worried about the championship but they got more airtime then any other manufacturer during the race. For that they must be extremely happy. After all we aren’t talking about Stoner and his return to form today. We are talking about Yamaha’s battle for 3rd place.

    I’m happy with this entertainment value of this drama. Next year is really shaping up to have even more drama. It should be an awesome season.

  29. jerrylee says:

    It was “personal”. Two very talented competitors in a take no prisoners contest. That’s racing!

  30. JP says:

    Give us a break MD! stop Rossi bashing and enjoy the racing!

    And Mr. Jack; there is nothing like “Smart Racing”; watch any Senna video to see what I mean!

  31. W Devine The Woodlands, TX says:

    Fun to watch and amazing display of riding skill and experience…. instant classic….

  32. Mike says:

    Funny–I see little difference between the 2009 Catalunya GP and the 2010 Motegi GP, in terms of risk taken. Though there was less, if any, contact between the two riders in that race, Rossi’s last corner pass in Catalunya was probably at least as risky as anything that happened at Motegi. Can you imagine what would have happened if he’d crashed trying that? Never mind pulling in his knee to miss Lorenzo as he dived around the outside of him in turn one.

    Then, it was good racing. Now, it’s dangerous?

    Bottom line–a couple of guys decided they needed to prove that their appendage was bigger than the other’s. One guy did. The other one is crying about it to anyone who’ll listen.

    If Yamaha doesn’t like it, they don’t have anyone to blame but themselves. They put Rossi in this situation by first hiring, then keeping Lorenzo, both against his wishes. Do they expect Rossi, of all people, to back down from a fight?

  33. Jack says:

    Yeah, it wasn’t smart racing for either of them but it was great entertainment for the rest of us. Without those two fighting it out the race wouldn’t have been very interesting. Aside from Spies falling in last and fighting his way back to mid-pack nothing really exciting happened.

  34. Doug says:

    It may have been ill advised for both riders and I am sure they both got an earful from Yamaha, but that was some great racing. The interviews after the race were fun. Rossi looked like the little kid who had just won his first skate board race and Lorenzo looked like the kid with the big bag of sour grapes.

  35. Brett says:

    This sounds as if you’re surprised. You really shouldn’t be. Ask Max Biaggi and Sete Ginbernau what happens when Rossi decides not to like you. While some of the most aggressive riding I’ve seen, it’s not unexpected. Rossi has nothing to lose and nothing to prove. Lorenzo could have easily tossed the championship away and nearly did in rookie exuberance.

    At the end of the day it’s two riders that do not like each other. What it also is is two Racers intent on beating the other. Not at all unlike Schwantz & Rainey. If they can’t win the race, by God they’re going to beat THAT guy or go to the hospital trying.

    From a judgement perspective – Rossi was being himself. Throwing down the gauntlet. Not the best idea – but there it is and if you consider it unexpected against someone he’s known to dislike you’re blind. Lorenzo on the other hand should have recognized that there was no difference in 3rd & 4th from a championship perspective. He wins it next week, period. But – he’s a Racer in the real sense.

    Its clear that these two intend on beating one another at nearly any cost. This ought to be a pretty wild 2011 season if both these guys stay healthy.

  36. John A. Kuzmenko says:

    They’re both good and they’ve both got egos.
    Nothing new here.
    Maybe they’ll do it again. 🙂

  37. Mark says:

    Rossi had the right of way, he was on the inside of the corner when they touched. I don’t know what Lorenzo was complaining about. He should just shut up and race. Leave the fighting on the track, trash talking is lame.

  38. abhi says:

    As you said, Lorenzo may be young and impetuous but Rossi is a veteran. Not very professional of him. He is getting paid a fancy packet and he is still obligated to race for the constructor’s title and team title. With such behavior he is doing neither. Had the positions been reversed (with Rossi being the championship leader) by this time Lorenzo would have been crucified for such behavior by the press and Rossi fans.

    Wonder what Ducati and Hayden make of this…

    • b says:

      The constructor’s title and team title aren’t in jeopardy. Jorge’s championship is already in the can. If Jorge is determined to risk the championship position, that’s his problem and not Rossi’s. You also can’t presume what Rossi’s obligations are.

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