2015 Phillip Island Sunday MotoGP Round Up - The Race That Defined An Era?

It was the race we had been waiting for. We knew it had to be coming, but each time we thought, "this will be the race!" the magic dissolved into thin air after a few laps, and the race settled into a rhythm. Not this time. From start to finish, four of the best motorcycle racers in the world – three of the best the world has ever seen, and one candidate to be elevated to that elect club – fought a close quarters battle for victory, spiced up with a dash of very serious consequences for the championship. No more runaway victories, no more cat and mouse, no more stalking until the final lap. It was all-out war, from the moment the lights went out all the way to the checkered flag.

There was a rather keen irony that this race should be such a thriller. At Brno, at Misano, at Motegi, so often, the barnstorming race we had expected based on practice and qualifying failed to materialize once the flag dropped. At Phillip Island, the question on everyone's minds after Saturday night was more like how large Marc Márquez' margin of victory would be, and whether the battle for second would last longer than a few laps. How very wrong we were, and how very happy would we be to have been proven so.

Jorge Lorenzo's worst fears were confirmed from the start. On Saturday, he had been furious about Andrea Iannone's using him as a target during qualifying, and stealing second place on the grid. Iannone got the drag to the line and took off like a scalded cat. Lorenzo followed, and before the first lap was halfway done, we got a taste of what was to come. Lorenzo cut underneath Iannone at the Hayshed in a brilliantly audacious move at an unusual place to pass. It would not be the last brave move. It would not even be the best. We were in for a treat.

Cry havoc!

Lorenzo's lead lasted exactly four corners. Though the Movistar Yamaha man got good drive onto the straight, he had the misfortune of having a Ducati behind him. The peerless top end of the Desmosedici pushed Iannone past Lorenzo along the straight, and the much-improved handling of the GP15 helped get it through the fast and challenging Doohan Corner, while keeping Lorenzo behind him. Iannone pushed on, challenged and harried by Lorenzo at every turn, who in turn had Marc Márquez snapping at his heels, along with Dani Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi and Aleix Espargaro.

As they flowed over the crest of Lukey Heights, Iannone faced an unexpected obstacle. A seagull sat in the middle of the track, flying up lazily to avoid the onrushing horde. Not quick enough, though. As the first rider to come across the seagull, Iannone ducked his head, hoping that if it were to hit him, he would rather be struck on the crown of his helmet than have a bird shatter his visor and injure his face. He was lucky: the seagull got no higher up than the front of his fairing, hitting just above the handlebars and below the screen. The poor seagull was killed almost instantly, but Iannone came away having only missed his braking marker. Lorenzo, already lining up a move up the inside at MG, took back the lead, and Iannone recovered his composure and tucked back in behind the Yamaha.

At the press conference after the race, Iannone was asked about the encounter with the seagull. "The seagull was waiting for me for a kiss!" he joked, adding that he had told the bird to wait for him before the race, not during. It was a good thing the seagull had flown up, Iannone explained, because if it hadn't, it might have hit his front tire rather than the fairing of the bike. If that had happened, he could have found himself on the floor.

The dogs of war

Along the front straight again, Lorenzo's Yamaha found itself outgunned. Passed on the one side by Iannone, on the other by Márquez, Lorenzo was left seething in third, forced to regroup and find another way past. Márquez tried to barge through on Iannone at the Honda Hairpin, but ran wide and let both Iannone and Lorenzo back underneath. Iannone led through Hayshed and up and over Lukey Heights, but Lorenzo took the better line through MG and exited ahead of Iannone into Turn 11, and on to the straight. Iannone tried again down the straight, leading into Doohan once again, but Lorenzo had lined up another brave move. This time around the outside into the Southern Loop, closing the door on Iannone as they hit the apex of the turn.

The fierce battle at the front had allowed Valentino Rossi to fight his way forward from sixth, and get on the tail of the trio on the lead. Márquez passed Iannone into the hairpin to take second, while Valentino Rossi disposed of Cal Crutchlow, who still clung on to the fight for fourth. A lap later, Rossi was harassing Iannone, failing to get through at the hairpin, instead putting a spectacular move on the Ducati up the inside of Lukey Heights. Crutchlow followed Rossi through, but was dispatched with ease down the front straight, the LCR Honda suffering worse with the wheelspin through the final corner than the Ducati of Iannone.

With the group battling behind, it looked like Jorge Lorenzo was starting to make the break. He opened a gap to 1.4 seconds in the space of three laps, and the race started to look like it was settling into a pattern. Lorenzo was in control, while the others fought among themselves.

Expectations shattered

That familiar pattern proved to be an illusion. Several times throughout the race, it looked like the race was settled, Lorenzo or Márquez pulling out a gap. But each time they did so, the gap would suddenly stop growing, and find himself being reeled back in again. It was as if the lead four – for by now, a group consisting of Lorenzo, Márquez, Rossi and Iannone had formed – were bound together with climbing rope, and each time one or the other got too far from the group, the rope snapped taut, hauling the leader back to the chasing pack.

The race ebbed and flowed, the lead swapping between Lorenzo and Márquez, less than two seconds covering the front four all race long. Whoever led, those behind were engaged in furious combat, passes coming thick and fast. Andrea Iannone and Marc Márquez used the superior speed of their bikes to motor past the Yamahas on the straight, while Rossi and Lorenzo preferred the surgical precision of MG, Lukey Heights, and Hayshed to make their passes. As the laps ticked off, the battle grew more intense. The moves were hard, there was contact, but it was never dangerous, never pushed over the edge into the unacceptable.

The pass of the race came on lap 25, when an attack on Márquez by Rossi at MG Corner left a sliver of daylight open for Andrea Iannone. Not one to refuse an opportunity, the Ducati man sliced underneath both Rossi and Márquez to take second, closing the door on the entry to Turn 11. It was surgical, brutal, and fearless, all qualities we came to admire in Iannone when he raced in Moto2. It was also very clever, a quality we had not previously associated with the Italian. But Iannone is confounding all our preconceptions of him in 2015.

There were still more passes to come. By the end of the race, an industrious and curious Tammy Gorali, TV commentator for Sport 5 in Israel, worked out, there had been 52 passes in total among the top four. Top of the class was Iannone, bagging a total of 18 passes in all. Marc Márquez had the second highest number, passing other riders 16 times throughout the race. Valentino Rossi had 11 passes, while Jorge Lorenzo had "only" 7. Given that Lorenzo led the race for 23 of the 27 laps, he had the least need to overtake.

First, you must finish

Lorenzo may have led the most laps, but he would not lead across the line. He started the final lap six tenths ahead of Andrea Iannone, which seemed like a comfortable gap given the closeness of the racing. But the Spaniard had not reckoned on the speed and determination of Marc Márquez, still brimming with foiled ambition after a tough year on the overly aggressive Honda RC213V. Iannone ran a fraction wide into Turn 1, and Márquez struck straight away, taking over second.

From that point, the Repsol Honda rider embarked on what would be one of the greatest laps of his career. "It was like a qualifying lap," Márquez said afterwards. "When I overtook Andrea, I pushed at 100%. Especially at Turn 4 I brake really, really deep, and there I catch a lot of meters back from Jorge." That gave him the belief that he could catch Lorenzo, and try to take the win. They arrived at the top of Lukey Heights, and Márquez made up his mind to attack. "But only if it is clear," he said afterwards. He did not want to inadvertently decide the championship by taking out Lorenzo in a pass that just was not there. The pass was there, in part because Lorenzo had shown equal caution, leaving a tiny crack open to ensure he and Márquez got tangled up. He held the lead through Turn 11, and took not only his first win at Phillip Island, but also his first actual finish at the track in the MotoGP class. With victory at Phillip Island, only Motegi remains unconquered by the Spaniard.

How hard had Márquez' last lap been? On arrival into Parc Fermé, his team hurried flung a cover over his rear tire. They did not want his rivals to see just how much he had used of his rear tire, nor where the wear patterns were. An experienced paddock hand can cast an eye over a worn tire, and deduce much about the power delivery and geometry of a bike. Clearly, Márquez and his crew found something to help him go fast around the Island, and they are not keen to divulge their secrets.

Jorge Lorenzo settled for second, while Andrea Iannone put a final dazzling pass on Valentino Rossi, sliding up the inside at Lukey Heights, then closing the door into MG to snatch third. Rossi was simultaneously annoyed and impressed. "It was good, I wanted to do it!" he joked. "Sincerely, when Iannone do it to me, I don't like it a lot. Better the opposite." But the battle had been thrilling, though it was a shame to miss out on the podium. That had meant that Lorenzo had taken 7 points from Rossi's lead of 18, leaving him with an advantage of just 11 points with two races left. It could have been a lot worse: if Lorenzo had won the race – and he came very close to doing so – then Rossi's lead would have been slashed to just 6 points. Rossi still holds the advantage, but his lead looks a good deal more precarious than it did after Motegi.

The hardest battle ever?

Was it the hardest battle of their lives, the three podium men were asked? For sure, said Lorenzo. He had been forced to pull out every trick in the book early in the race, to try to get a gap over Iannone to prevent the Italian using the outright horsepower of the Ducati to motor past him. Márquez had seen the Moto3 race in the morning, and wanted a piece of the excitement. He had not expected to find it in MotoGP, and he had ridden one of the best races of his career, he said. Iannone remembered tougher battles with Márquez, but only when he was back in Moto2, and especially at Aragon.

It was indeed a classic race. I started writing about MotoGP in 2006, and this year has seen shades of that season. What was missing so far was a battle between multiple riders, and Phillip Island certainly delivered on that. To have four riders going head to head, finishing just a second apart, with the championship contenders involved and important points at stake was a glory and a joy. This was Sachsenring or Mugello 2006, an unpredictable battle at the front where the protagonists were putting everything on the line. There have been plenty of great races since 2006, but none quite as good as this. The real winners of the 2015 Australian Grand Prix were us, the lucky spectators who got to see it. This is one we will watch over and over.

Four riders, three different manufacturers. What made it such a fascinating race? First of all, because the differences were small between each rider and bike. Dani Pedrosa explained it best. "In this track, you can see Valentino, Iannone, Jorge, Marc, Crutchlow, Viñales, and some other riders were doing more or less the same lap time, because the track doesn't demand a lot of the bike. But with the same tire also and everybody having a lot of spinning, you cannot apply very much the difference on the track." It was all about finding the tiny differences, trying not to make a mistake, and exploiting what you had. But small gains could be lost in a moment.

Marc Márquez lost in the second half of the race when he overheated his front tire and had to drop back, only being able to push again once it had cooled a little. Jorge Lorenzo had struggled with rear grip all weekend, trying to find drive out of the corners where little as available. Valentino Rossi had found something in warm up, but he and his team had chased down a blind alley on Saturday, meaning he had started too far down the grid and had to work too much to make his way forward. Andrea Iannone rode a brilliant race, but had needed the help down the straight, making a point of thanking Ducati for giving him a relatively simple way of getting past riders when he had to. The passes he made elsewhere showed that speed wasn't the only weapon in his armory, but it was a powerful one nonetheless.

Ducati's not-so-secret

Where did the Ducati's speed come from? First and foremost, the Desmosedici has always had more top end than others, an advantage of the desmodromic valve system the bike uses. Using tumblers to both open and close valves means that little power is wasted opening valve springs, and more radical cam profiles can be used with no fear of valve bounce. The Ducati also has 22 liters of fuel, rather than 20, under the factory concessions rule, and this means they have that little bit more fuel to burn, especially at a track which is not particularly heavy on consumption like Phillip Island.

Most of all, however, Ducati have twelve engines per rider for each season, so that they can afford to run the bikes in a slightly higher state of tune without worrying about reliability. While Márquez, Rossi and Lorenzo were all using their fifth engine, which already has plenty of miles on it, Iannone uncorked engine number nine at Phillip Island, and there are still two more rounds to go. Fresh is fast, and Iannone showed how to turn that into an advantage. The bike also has some rear grip, perhaps a consequence of the winglets adding stability at the front.

There was more to Iannone's performance than just his engine, however. The Italian said that what he was most proud of was being able to mix it with the best riders in the world all race long, and hold his own among them. The engine may have helped keep him there, but he earned the rest round the sweeping turns at Phillip Island. It was always clear that Iannone had talent, but I doubted that he had the maturity and intelligence to make the transition from a fast rider to great rider. Iannone has been proving me wrong all season, and removed the last vestige of doubt. Ducati have needed an Alien to transform their bike from a contender into a winner. Maybe, just maybe, they have one at last.

Alien rising

Speaking of potential Aliens, the ride of the day must surely go to Maverick Viñales on the Suzuki GSX-RR. The Spaniard spent all race long battling with Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow over fifth place. Despite being down on horsepower and acceleration – though curiously, not down on top speed – he kept pace with them all race long, eventually beating Crutchlow to take sixth. His team had found a new set up at Motegi which allowed him to ride better, and he had more grip than the Hondas, a consequence perhaps of having less power. Where the Suzuki was gripping, the two Hondas he was racing were spinning, giving Viñales a chance to compete. He was still being overtaken by both bikes down the straight, but he could make up for it round the fast corners, he said. He beat his teammate soundly, and finished just over six seconds behind the leaders. The gap they had expected to have was 22 seconds. Aleix Espargaro finished 20 seconds behind the leaders on the Suzuki.

With two races left in the 2015 season, the championship is very much open. On paper, Valentino Rossi is stronger than Jorge Lorenzo at Sepang, and Lorenzo is better than Rossi at Valencia. But on paper, Rossi had the stronger record at Phillip Island. And on paper, Marc Márquez had the pace in practice to leave the field standing in the race at Phillip Island. If there is one thing we have learned from the 2015 season, it is that all of our preconceptions must go out of the window. Whatever we expect to happen at the next two races probably won't, and we'll be left dumbfounded and gasping for breath once again.

2015 has been a season to remember, for so many reasons. We truly are in a new golden age of racing, one which we will look back on in the future and counted ourselves lucky to have witnessed first hand. Phillip Island delivered the race the championship deserved, a thrilling battle with no obvious favorite contested all the way to the line. It is a great time to be a MotoGP fan.

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Last comment I made on the round up of the motegi race write up was that - I was hoping that there would be a proper dog fight between the top four (Marc, Vale, Dani and Jorge) and not worry about the result, has been vindicated. Only it was Iannone instead of Dani.

Being there at the end of the first corner in Philip Island, I could get to see the half of the track and parts of the track where there were more over takes. (Entry in to the first corner, Southern loop, Siberia and the top of Lukey Heights and Entry into MG - though at a fair distance).

It was a bit disheartening to see Rossi & Lorenzo carved up by the top speed of Ducati but hey nobody is stopping Yamaha to have a better top end. Being a Rossi fan, I was happy to see Marq get his first win at the Island and limit the damage to Rossi. On the other hand, Iannone (Just kidding). Boy is he having a dream season on the duke. I am glad he did not cede to Rossi, It would have tainted the championship of its pure worthiness.

Wow - This is the best race in ages. The top four were within striking distance all throughout the race.

The weather was great. Phillip Island is the best circuit for racing, racing fans and scenery.

Great write up David, I could see myself visualising the race with every word of yours. Thanks again.

Now on to Sepang.

I haven't seen Yamaha lose so much on top end since Valencia 2011, but the lack of top end is vindicated by Yamaha's stability and smoothness, so I guess it's just a matter of being stronger somewhere and weaker elsewhere.

What really does surprise me is just how far Dovi seems to have dropped off lately. At the begining of the season I genuinely thought that Andrea had an off-chance at the championship due to consistency, mind you, I'm really stressing the off-chance part.

Some time after that I thought: Oh well, the dream of a competitive Ducati has only lasted for a couple of races. Then the resurgent Andrea Iannone made me rethink that statement.

So far, the Ducati GP15 has been a rollercoaster for me.

A bit of relevant information for the next race: In all of the years that had Vale and Jorge as teammates, Jorge managed to arrive in front of Vale at Sepang only once, and that was in 2013.

I know, I know, everytime we speculate or base assumptions on previous races it proves itself irrelevant, but I can't help myself as the 7 days and one hour between the two races are such a long wait when you have a season as good as this.

I have a feeling Sepang will be a strong nudge towards who will be the champion is 2015.

Mind you, mathematically, there is a chance of Valentino securing the championship at Sepang, while it is a slight chance, it does exist, and as we have said a million times now: This is motorcycle racing.

... beaten by Ianonne (with a dodgy shoulder) on the same bike, by 29 seconds. ouch.

still... don't under-estimate the benefit of 12 engines per season available and the extra fuel... tuning/building engines for reliability isn't free in terms of top end power.

Both Movistar riders expressed their struggle with rear grip all weekend. From the first practice you could see they were going to be in trouble, losing each lap, several tenths in the last corner. The M1 lacks a bit of horsepower but it wasn't just that in PI.

Not since Qatar 2007 have I seen a Yamaha gobbled up by a Ducati down a straight. Holy smokes. Was shocked to see the Honda make Them look like they were standing still too.

I can now save myself 2 hours a clip in the off season - usually watch Faster a few times to keep my blood moving. At close to 3 hours, I can now just hit play on Philip Island 2015 and feel alive in less time.

Between Marquez, Vinales, Lorenzo and Iannone (hence forth known as Red Cloud (famous Native American warrior), the series has a great mix of talent and strengths - some are complete package). I pray the evil and vacillating geniuses at DORNA have truly cracked the code for next year to give us an even better 2016. We shall see.

Man, Iannone is a stud. Guy has the DNA to be great. I hope he can continue his racing evolution and grab the top step a few times and eventually hoist a WC. I love how he is not afraid to mug Marquez.

PS - David, thank you for a great write up and for all the hard work you and the team put in this year as in all the past (I think I have been with since the beginning? Maybe 2007). Would love to know if this a labor of love or if it pays your bills easily. I hope it is the latter.

couldn't believe they were fighting so much at the beginning instead of letting someone else catch Lorenzo, He wouldn't of led so much if the other 3 stopped fighting so much. Im pulling for Rossi but Iononne was on fire.

Ducati always had crazy top end....but it was always hard to compensate in corners. Iannone would be dead last of those four if he was only good on straights. He was also excellent in corners and on braking. He got that third place fight in last corners with Vale. Iannone showed great race.

As much as I do not like MM, he does have that jaw dropping effect on you. In that final lap I was shocked..."where did this come from?!?!"

But this fight would be even better if both Yamahas would not be in to fight for tittle. They would risk a lot more.

Anyway..great, great fight....and great, great article David.

Before all the inane comments start, yes, the other brands do not use valve springs they use air bags, but it still takes more energy to open them than Ducati's mechanical system. Of late, Ducati have played down any advantage this gives them but given the tendency for the powers that be to create rules, e.g. bore limits and therefore valve size, it is in their best interest to attribute their advantage to anything but the obvious distinction between them and their rivals.

As for the race, I have watched it twice and I will watch it again. Just brilliant.

There's nothing stopping the other manufacturers from also using positive actuation for opening and closing the valves. I know this is a Ducati signature, but they aren't the only engine manufacturer to do it (historically). If the other manufacturers think it's such an advantage then they could make something like it themselves (rather than spending millions on pneumatic valves),

Actually, desmodromic valve operation is very old, like so many of the things we regard as modern technology. The first patent for desmo valves was lodged in 1896. Taglioni, the great Ducati engineer, also submitted a bunch of patents in the 1960s, but these have mostly expired. I am pretty sure that a modern manufacturer could quite easily get around patents held by Ducati, as the main operating principle is free of any patents. But it would require a lot of research and development.

I think that Ducati's top end speed was actually a bit of a benefit of their winglets. In the aerial shot the Ducati had a bit of a jump in speed right after they crossed the line. This coincides with a bit of a fall away in the track that many of the GP bikes wheelie over in 6th gear. I suspect that the winglets were keeping the front wheel down enough to reduce the effect of the anti-wheelie system that was probably hindering the Yamaha (they have been reported as having the best anti-wheeile program.

Each rider has different risk appetite in this race, and the end result somehow reflects this fact. Marquez and Iannone had nothing to lose, Lorenzo had some risk, and Rossi should be the most cautious of the potential of losing points. Given that the Yamahas can only overtake in the corners rather than straights, add to the cautiousness. But anyway, still one of the best races in the past decade!

I dont usually post comments. To me social media is a bunch of people harshly judging people they dont know, faulting on every tiny little detail, on things that they could never achieve or know what theyd do if the shoe was on the other foot. I Dont miss the articles but nine times out of ten i dont scroll past davids last line, as after i do im usually just annoyed at how silly people can get sometimes. But after yesterdays display i thought it would be safe to venture past the article as yesterdays race was without fault and all riders where fantasic. Easily the best race i have seen in a very long time, not to mention one of the best over takes (ianonne on marc and vale). Bravo boys absolutely brilliant.

I don't usually post in FB or similar social media. I am not even on FB. But motomatters is different and David usually is on top of cringeworthy comments that insult and inflame.

So we are in a good place! And keep posting, It is always valuable to hear good comments from people who are in the know.

If you're feeling bad for that seagull don't waste your sorrows. Little fellow lived on that Island and should have known better. Besides, the motorcycle men have been practicing all week so for it to be in that spot it was asking for it. Sure the death was un-timely but when you walk onto the track you assume all responsibility of the hell that happens next. It was tough but I'm sure it's seagull buddies learned a valuable lesson...God forgives but the Ducati's don't.

As any Aussie boat-owner recognises, seagulls are guano-enhanced feathered super-rats, brainless and venial. The entire boat-owning community of Australia thanks Iannone for his valiant effort. Anywhere he ever goes in Australia in future, he can expect unlimited free beer and a Barramundi dinner (and that's a serious treat, as anyone who's ever compared Barra with Tasmanian trout/Scottish river salmon will appreciate.)

Seagulls are less preferable than cockroaches.

Seriously, isn't it about time they equipped the marshall posts at PI with crow scarers to drive these pests off the track before they cause a big shunt and someone gets really badly hurt?

At the Melbourne Cricket Ground a falconer deploys a tethered peregrine falcon on the roof of the stadium during nighttime AFL games for the express purpose of scaring away the pesky silver gulls (seagulls) which gather en masse.
Then again Ianonne may have had to deal with a swooping 200+ km/h predator (other than MM93) as well.

Generally at PI the seagulls are the least of your concerns, its the cape baron geese and kangaroos who reside within the circuit that potentially will cause incident.
A club race last year had three geese sitting and walking about 2-3 metres from the track on the inside of Honda corner throughout the race...

David said in his Twitter sidebar comment that this report 'barely scratched the surface'.

To do this race complete justice would have taken David an effort of the stature of his seminal report on Laguna Seca 2008: https://motomatters.com/report/2008/07/22/2008_motogp_laguna_seca_race_r... .

That report cemented David's reputation as the true Poet Laureate of motorcycle racing reporting, and with the hindsight of the history of Ducati post-Stoner, we can add a bit of wonder at the way in which the report managed to weave not just a description of the race events but the characters of the protagonists and the characteristics of the bikes involved into a compelling story of a highly-complex battle of wills, skills, determination (at times, bloody-minded and almost desperate determination!) and experience, all conducted at the absolute limits of physics with any mistake having the potential of catastrophe and requiring continual micro-second judgement for the better part of an hour's racing.

David no longer has the time available to do a report of the depth and complexity as that referenced above, or this site would not be as information-rich as it is. Mostly, the races for some years now have not had the level of intensity for this to be mourned as a loss but for this particular race, I do wish someone could gift David the time to forensically dissect the race and re-visit those legendary race reports.

P.I. 2015 was a four-way Cage Fight of the Champions - with Iannone as the wildcard. The Story is not just about blood and feathers, but everything about the 2015 season: the differences and problems of the bikes, injuries, luck/bad luck, judgement and bad judgement, strategy, teamwork.

P.I. is recognised as THE circuit where, weather as a factor not being important, it is all about the rider. May I point out that the top 6 positions were occupied by riders of four different marques? - something I do not believe we have seen this season.

David - as a plea - in the off-season, could you revisit this race and dissect it more comprehensively?

I 2nd Oscar's comments above David: would be great if you could do something more in-depth off-season, although I have greatly enjoyed your recent foray into podcasting. Also enjoyed re-reading the piece from 2008 (I was fortunate to be at LS that year in the corkscrew 'seating' area) and enjoyed this quote most of all: "Vermeulen, Hayden and Dovizioso were out for places. Rossi and Stoner were out for blood."

I know this is one of Rossi's favorite tracks, but I was shocked that he was actually faster than Lorenzo come race day. He was a bit behind in practice and quali just like in every other race since Assen. This was the first time in 7 full race weekends when Rossi was actually faster than jorge in any session (I think) with "normal" conditions.

In spite of the drama since assen, I was becoming a bit bored with seeing rossi scavenge for pace while lorenzo dominated (of course Rossi maximized when conditions weren't "normal" and that was anything but boring). While the 4th place at PI must have been frustrating for rossi, this was actually his best dry performance in a long, long, long time. At Malaysia last year, Rossi battled marquez to the end, Pedrosa is always huge there, Ianone should be fast again, and jorge MUST finish ahead of Rossi with a podium to claw back enough points to make Rossi finish higher than 4th in Valencia, assuming he wins (pressure!). So Malaysia will be dramatic no matter what happens!

I have been unabashedly cheering for Rossi but I am actually neutral now. If lorenzo dominates in the last 2 races (unlikely at Sepang) and Rossi performs like he did the 7 weekends prior to PI, then I'd rather see Lorenzo take the crown. I am hoping we see Rossi come out fighting jorge again next Sunday. Regardless, whoever wins will deserve it and we get to enjoy every second of the battles and the war.

Phillip Island and guts - the consideration of PI as a "rider's track" and benefitting those with courage was certainly underscored this weekend. Iannone, Marquez, Crutchlow and Vinales all stood out as having the goods.

It was interesting that the 3 battling for 2nd didn't hold each other up while duking it out. Their pace did not suffer, they appeared invigorated of course, but how did they keep up such pace? There were only one or two moments in which a maneuver caused a rider to throw away a good line and lose time. Impressive.

Tires - they didn't drop off. Iannone looked to be burning them up. I wondered about JL99's front relative to VR46 as Valentino is inclined to work the whole bike and tires more evenly rather than rude the front. And PI had been so abrasive last year. What a change in tarmac. And Bstone, perhaps this was a good outing for them. With about 8 laps to go it would have been reasonable to expect to see more backing it in and movement of bikes, dropping of pace of a few that did not manage tires so well. With all that fighting from the start how the heck did that left side of the tire hold up? Fantastic job Bridgestone! Unsung heroes.

From the early stages to about the halfway mark I was worried that AI29 or MM93 would take one of the factory Yamahas out losing control in one of the many bold maneuvers. Especially Iannone, he looked a bit wild. Perhaps maniacal, and finally his name is ok with me. Maniac Joe it is then.

Ducati power! Wow. They had it to spare. IA29's double pass was a GEM. And his ability to grab the inside line and nick the apex of the following left looked MASTERFUL. How did the GP15 get into that corner like that?!

Vinales and the Suzuki deserve praise. Both. Down on power, no seamless gearbox, no seamless Gigi eyebrow, no seamless Honda budget, and a young rookie. AE41's talent is well established. Vinales's performance was REALLY impressive and I expect to see more.

Honda and track surface - interesting that the unwieldy and snatchy nature of the Honda power delivery was muted by the decrease in adhesion on the PI track surface. The motor's edgy character was subdued, and it's furious power gained purchase even though it spun. It seemed to do so predictably.

A moment of silence for seagull pate' - first viewing it looked like Iannone had butted it with his head. His helmet design has a "bird reticle" front and center, and I imagined a bullseye. Nope, hit the fairing. Which is good. That can hurt. Iannone did well to hold concentration and his line. At that rate of speed that is a LONG time to duck (seagull?) one's gaze.

Thank you SO much for such a wonderful experience! Very content and inspired. My oh my!

Rumour has it that DORNA plan to move all the championship rounds to Phillip Island next year...

Het TF,
That would be fantastic, but I'm not sure I can budget for what, 18 entries to PI...??? Shheeesh, that's more than I spend on beer in a year...
Mind you, the MAJOR events, Mugello, Misano, Jerez, Valencia, Catalunya, Brno, Silverstone, Assen etc., could make it a tad difficult with their own claims on certain dates...
Plus, that'd mean we'd see they 'MotoGP stars' every other weekend...and the Queenslanders would come to appreciate Melbourne's "weather", rather than bagging the "unknown" at the Island...and could you imagine all the riders with permanent suntans??
I like to think I go to "church" once a year, head down to PI n see the 'gods' do their thing...n that's the way we like it, especially after many late nights catching the Euro rounds...

Ha :-) I lived in Melbourne for 13 years.... About 13 too many :-)

I would have liked to have gone to P.I., but, a 3,600 km return drive is just a bit too far for me now.

Great race though.

To summarize,

Reasons for Ducati's Top Speed advantage;
1. Winglets.
2. Desmo valves.

Definitely not 2 extra litres of fuel and more engines to blow through the season.

There's really no point in praising at the best race of this era, almost everyone already did it.

I do have a vision, in a distant future (say 15 years) Marc will retire and at a press conference somebody will raise a question "Who was the greatest Rossi or Marquez?", a smiling Andrea will answer "Tough to say, but I do remember smoking both of them in a single pass" :D :D :D

The beauty of this WC is that everyone is continuously upping this game. The top 6 rider both went beyond what expected this weekend, and every time someone raises the bar ... the others follow!

I think the heat resistants hampered the performance of yamaha too much. They were spinning in the last corner heavily and losing crucial drive on the straight. Rossi said "last year they were faster" but slower this year. Dani, he was the worst affected. Always struggling for more weight on the rear, the stiff tyre was too stiff to grip properly, and lack of required weight made problems worse. If the standard tyres were brought here then the story would have been a lot different. Marc had a mitigating effect on his performance due to his riding style and less dependance on tyres, so he was benefited as others suffered.

Yamaha seriously needs an engine upgrade next season. Weakest point of the yamaha, and they should also stress on braking improvements. I hope dani to come back in sepang and with the normal tyres & seamless downshift, yamaha should perform better than last year.

As a race fan of old (as opposed to an Old Aged race fan!) I have to say that I have seen some incredibly amazing races, but very few that have been better than this!
For me, this has been a season to remember, rivalling that of 2006 where I was fortunate enough to attend several rounds!
The protagonists this year have all shown flair and brilliance in equal measure but rarely has it lasted an entire race.
Lorenzo is a rider I admire tremendously! The word "Metronomic" could have been coined for him!
Rossi has a great history at Phillip Island, who can forget the time "I closed my eyes and went for it" to turn a 10 second penalty into a race win of 5.2 seconds?
Marquez and Iannone? Neither has particularly great history at PI so they could be counted as wildcards in this game!
That they both played such a part is testament to the level of maturity and race-craft that both have gained!
To sum up this race in one word, Wonderful!

I should also add how delighted I am to see the old guy on #46 mixing it at the front and giving a great many journalists cause to eat their words! Just two short years ago they had written him off, now they're forced to reevaluate and ask for a little gravy to put on the humble pie! ;-)

---- and yes,! I am a self admitted Rossi fan who would probably bleed Yellow if cut -- but it doesn't blinker me regarding the other racers out there!

if really is desmo valves plays a huge role on ducati's top end, i wonder why honda not using it on their engine. since they considered to use it back in 2006 or 2007 if i'm not wrong and decides to use pneumatic. maybe they will have a greater top end than ducati if they use desmo valves instead.

It matters not if the desmodromic system is more effective, it is very unlikely that the Japanese factories would ever adopt it. Pragmatism comes a distant second to face, a perfect example being the NR500. Ducati will continue to deny that the system has any merit other than tradition while the Japanese factories will ignore that it even exists.

is the desmodromic valve system truly better than the pneumatic one? are desmodromic valvetrains used by any formula 1 teams?

In theory, the desmodromic valve system allows for more precise valve closing, (this can spill over to piston crown design) but there might be constraints related to friction and valve timing tunability (rotating mass, packaging, etc) so it might be a wash.

While Suzuki enjoys additional fuel for this season, they may not be taking advantage of the benefit with their 2015 engines. Possibly with an eye on 2016?

The desmodromic system adds a lot of complexity and a certain amount of weight. It works well for Ducati, but pneumatic valves work just as well in most cases. They are also a lot better in terms of engine packaging: there are a lot of moving parts involved in a desmo valve package, with rockers to both open and close the valves.

Getting a desmodromic system right takes a lot of knowledge and experience. The complexity means it is easy to overlook minor details which could cause catastrophic failure. Ducati is just about the only company that actually has that experience. Pneumatic valves, meanwhile, are ubiquitous, and most engine designers have experience of them. Much easier to get right first time, and so F1 engine designers take the (for them) better option. The differences in performance between the two are so minor as to not be worth risking the complexity.

every race could have the variables that led to this incredible spectacle.

Everyone in the top 4 had a reason to keep passing and so they did ... because they could ... and some needed to if they wanted to stay in the fight.

JL99 - wanted to lead from the front as this is where he runs his best perfect Yamaha lines and he desperately wanted to win that race for maximum points.

VR46 - wanted to minimize the number of bikes between him (or even beat Lorenzo) knowing that what his team found in the warm up was capable of dealing Jorge's championship hopes a near fatal blow.

MM93 - he has this inherent need to beat everyone, everywhere, all the time and he was fastest this weekend. "If I can just get ahead of Jorge, I can get away." The guy is just an animal and loves to dice and slice through the crowd. :-)

AI29 - did Iannone feel like he needed to stay in front of everyone else in order to have a chance at the podium (for fear that the Ducati would not have the goods later in the race to stage a Rossi like comeback if he fell behind)? Thats what I was thinking but he seemed as though he and the bike were on it the whole race.

The Duc and Honda were able to put the power down better than the Yamahas which could make up for any shortcomings they had in edge grip while Rossi has always been a better late braker than Jorge; whose outright pace is usually his advantage over everyone else (though not this weekend). Advantage us.

This is why I watch ... for moments like this.

PS I have been a fan of Maverick Viñales since before the time he left his Moto3 team in an impetuous tantrum over the lack of capable machinery and/or lack of commitment to winning. The closer he gets to the front, the more I forget to cheer for anyone else. On a Suzuki or elsewhere ... He is coming!

That looks like fun, or does it?

A lot can change in the meantime, hopefully.

Just great great racing. Rossi and Iannone were not expected to be so much competitive on the race day but that is exactly what an added bit of motivation can do. My only concern by looking at the slow top end of the YAMAHAs is, and perhaps David can answer this, "how long has it been already for both Lorenzo and Rossi to be using their 5th engine of the season?" It might be more of an issue for one opposed to the other and it might be a key factor in the last 2 races. No predictions now, just waiting for another great race on the next Sunday.

Also, it is a pity that we have such a talented pool of MotoGP riders at the moment (read Vinales, Iannone, Alex Espargaro, Crutchlow, Redding) who do not have the top notch bikes they deserve. Hopefully, the next season will solve that problem to some extent and we will have great great racing. It will be interesting to see what Iannone, Vinales and Redding can do to Marquez once they have competitive bikes.

Another thought is that it is probably the last "real" chance for Rossi to win a championship. Age does take its toll whatsoever and given the immense talent pool we have in MotoGP right now, it will be near impossible for Rossi to win a championship in future. But then again, come the race day, and you cannot rule "The Doctor" out!

Interesting point. How many of those motors are completely out of the equation and does each guy have one fresh one left if they are on number five?

It's interesting at how much pressure is on these two and how they have to weigh the risks they take one lap at a time. Either could've forced the issue with the last overtakes that settled the finishing order and it could've went horribly wrong for them. Yet they have to push at the limit to keep each other in sight. Must be stomach turning for them.

As far as Redding and Crutchlow being mentioned in that category, I'm not so sure that's correct. Redding has not made the most of his bike and Crutchlow is very up and down. Not even sure I'd rank Aleix in there.

I think you have those 4 aliens with a couple applicants waiting on their status to be confirmed. Not even so sure about Pedrosa anymore. The more he is beaten into the dirt by his teammate, eventually the drive will go. He's sort of in the same situation as Tom Sykes is in.

Again, this is just my opinion.

I think I may have covered this elsewhere, but just to reiterate. There is very little drama with engines nowadays. The factories have reliability down to a fine art. It is absolutely incredible, given that they are doing something like 2,200 km on each engine, and those engines are producing somewhere north of 260hp at the crank.

But for the record, the two Repsol Honda riders both took their fifth engine at Motegi, as did Crutchlow. Redding used his fifth at Phillip Island for the first time. Worth noting that Marquez lost an engine at Austin (still listed as active, but unused), after just 10 sessions of use. Most engines get used in 35 or so sessions.

Rossi took a new engine at Misano, Lorenzo took one at Aragon. What is interesting is that while Honda have simply been using two engines each weekend, Yamaha have been using three engines, swapping the older engine out on Friday night. Lorenzo raced on an engine with 37 sessions on it, Rossi raced the new engine he got at Misano, which he has used in 13 sessions. Worth noting that a "session" merely means that they did at least one exit with the engine. An engine with 37 sessions on it could have been for a bunch of very short exits of 4 or 5 laps. There is no way of checking.

Thanks so much for the insights as usual David!

"Iannone pushed on, challenged and harried by Lorenzo at every turn, who in turn had Marc Márquez snapping at his heels, along with Dani Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi and Aleix Espargaro."

Are you sure it was Aleix, and not Maverick?

Also, I wanted you to know how much I appreciate it when you split up commentary on the MotoGP race vs the Moto2 and Moto3 races. I often only have time on Sunday to watch the first, and the next day I want to read your commentary but often have to do so with one eye closed trying to not spoil the other races for myself before I watch them hahaha!

Wow... couldn't breathe.. almost wanted to run away. What a race. Much has been said already. I was just wondering if that last lap showed us MM's true potential and speed? I can imagine him holding back a little because of what happened this season so far.. And if he does.. I hope he keeps holding back a little like this.. ;-)

and to say he's not scared to push over the limit is being polite. So yeah it's Marc's true potential but it's also the purest definition of win or bin racing. Yesterday it was a win.

One of the things I wanted to mention, but didn't get around to doing it. You could see how hard Marquez was pushing by the number of times he ran wide at Turn 1. That was a combination of the front tire getting hot and the engine braking problems they've had all year. 

Of course, if they solve the problem for next year, it does make you wonder just how fast he will be again.

Said at the beginning of the season, Ducati's 22L of fuel and 12 engines had the potential to screw up the championship. And indeed that has happened at Philip Island, there is no way Ianonne stays with those guys without the factory-concession advantage that Ducati has, bursting down the front straight with the extra 2L and 9th engine. Rossi should be ahead by 14 points now, but got screwed by the rules that make Ducati 'competitive'.

Every time Ducati has placed in front of the contenders, Rossi/Lorenzo/Marquez, they have unfairly syphoned off championship points. If Ducati is racing under different rules, then they should be on a different points system.

I said in the forum that it was a great race with a frustrating middle as a Rossi fan.

You can't take anything away from Iannone, he raced with what he had. It was frustrating for Rossi that Iannone's speed advantage on the straight kept him in it and took away his chance to jump the gap to Lorenzo through the middle section of the race.

Because each time Rossi got into a position that, ordinarily, would have seen him perhaps reel in Jorge, one or other (or both) of the others came back at him and they spent the next lap fighting amongst themselves.

That's not meant to be a sour grapes justification for my disappointment at seeing VR coming 4th; I think this was one of the fairest (and best) races I've ever seen in Motogp and the final positions were well earned by each rider, albeit in the context that all 4 of them deserved the win.

The Ducati rules advantage is not difficult to understand. They get 22L of fuel per race vs 20L for Yamaha/Honda. Extra fuel is a huge advantage for creating horsepower.

Ducati can also use 12 engines per season vs 5 for Honda/Yamaha. Since Ducati's engines do not need to last as long, Ducati can run their engines in a higher state of tune than Honda/Yamaha. Ducati is also allowed to develop their 12 engines during the season whereas Honda/Yamaha's 5 engines are sealed at the beginning of the season; no engine development allowed for Honda/Yamaha. This is another big advantage for Ducati.

Anyone saying that the current rules between Honda/Yamaha vs Ducati are fair are really not paying attention or don't understand racing. There is no way Ianonne walks away from the Yamahas and Hondas on the front straight of Philip Island if these three manufacturers are competing under the same rules. Ducati's power advantage due to these rules clearly had an impact on the Philip Island race and others, and thus these rules to make Ducati competitive are in fact affecting the championship points standings. It doesn't matter if you are a Lorenzo or Rossi fan, this season has been tainted.

Ducati was faster on the straights for a long time. Long before engine advantage. In the days when Stoner was champion on Ducati the rules ware the same for all. So why did Ducati slam everyone on straights then?

While this may be advantage in theory....in reality Honda and Yamaha wanted those limitis (because they knew they can get maximum out of them). Reason why is Ducati faster now then 2 years a go lies in better rear grip, better stability, and better grip under braking. Now they can use that top end power. 12 engines have little to do with that (accept maybe that they can develop them in the season).

Next year Ducati, Honda and Yamaha will be under same rules.

You want to bet that Ducati will not eat them on the straights?


The reason I consider it fair is because none of the four were able to escape. Their bikes, whatever the rule differences, were so closely matched overall that it came down to who could find that sliver of difference to gain an advantage.

Rossi was in good position to win fight with Iannone in last few corners. And in that fight through the corners 22L of fuel and 12 engines did not give Iannone no advantage. Do not go out blaming that fuel and engine advantage instead of Rossi incompetence. Iannone was better in those final corners then Rossi. And that is it.

You can argue that in the last few corners, especially the large sweeping curve where horsepower and grip become king, are down to rossi not making a pass and having it stick. However, its another story completely to say that AI would not have been in that position at the end of the race if Ducati were reqired to have 20L and 5 engines.

But, Ducati played to the rules handed down from above, and the rider gave it his all with whatever advantage he was provided. He run what he brung.

A drinking buddy who owns modest property in China told me a truthful joke as said by his realtor:

"In America, you guys are afraid of the Shark. In China, the Shark is afraid of us."

It seems like MM likes Shark Fin Soup.

MM decided to trade position in corner sections that favored his Honda, and conceded position to Ianonne and Rossi in corner sections, conceded the straight to Ianonne, and then repeated the process until his overheated tire cooled down enough so he could keep JL within meters until the final lap.

And then he attacked when JL was vulnerable on corner exit and on the short portion of the long straight where his Honda's acceleration could not be countered.

Simultaneously, Ianonne attacked Rossi at the same ime and succeeded.

Magnanimous Rossi says that he will remain friends with Ianonne even if he loses the championship by 3 points. Magnanimous Lorenzo says mission accomplished.

All I have to say is to not lose sight of the tit because you're focused on the nip. (hope this passes NSFW criteria).

There is so much to racing at the MotoGP level that it's like learning to peel a new glass onion every race even if you're just a spectator or a fan.

Anyone have a spare glass cutter?

A few peak RPM samples from the weekend.

This is a small sampling, not to be taken as anything more than "suggestive".

16,300, VR Q2
16,360, VR Race
16,300, JL Race

16,650, MM Race and Q

17,800 AI, Q.
Couldn't find a good onboard race sample. Will keep looking...

Yamaha has dropped ~300 RPM since last year.
Honda was running at ~17K on occasion last year.
Are these teams saving the engine, gas, or both?

In the meantime, the Ducati has picked up ~300rpm.
Throw in extra available fuel and ...

AMAZING race... no need to say more

However, two things that I would like to comment on:

a) we're no longer seeing Lorenzo dominate from the moment the lights turn off. At the beginning of the season we would see JL99 lead coming into Turn 1 and from that point forward it was game over, 'Lorenzo-Zone', boring race and just wait to figure out who would come in 2nd or 3rd. Last two races we've seen his lead disappear and get beat by a Honda. I can only imagine this to be worrying Lorenzo as we head to the last two races of the season.

b) Iannone = wow, always like the guy and his way of racing but I must say, having the balls to make that pass on Rossi and Marquez... wow, indeed. One thing I don't understand is how is it that we've seen so much difference throughout the season between 'Desmo-Dovi' and The Maniac. Is Dovi over-thinking and making simply too many changes to his setup? Every time they seem to glue another piece of cardboard to the fairing hoping that the quadruple winglets make a difference. Glad to see IA being competitive but trying to understand where Dovi took a wrong turn.

Certainly can't wait for this weekend, sucks that the race is a 2am for me but ohh well...

As always, David and MotoMatters delivers a great read!

When Lorenzo approached Marquez in parc ferme, he made a circular motion with his finger. I believe he was saying he was spinning up.

It's no secret that they were struggling for grip out of the corners at PI. The Yamaha isn't known to punch out of corners, but it's been pretty good all year - certainly better than the PI performance.

While there is no doubting the fact that his particular race at Philip Island was definitely the most engaging race in the premier class for a long time and was really good is that most of the time it was clean with passes that were brilliant but not threatening the safety of the riders involved. I had a great time watching it and reading David's review of it as well.

However, me being the old fogy that I am, I remembered a great race in the year 1993 perhaps, but I could be off by one year and I cannot remember the name of the race track (if someone can help me here I will be grateful) there was this amazing race in the premier two stroke 500 cc class which saw six riders fighting it out for the first place. The racing then was closer perhaps than it was in this race and the riders involved were Shinichi Itoh, Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey, John Kocinski, and Daryl Beattie. I mentioned Shinichi Itoh first because he was the privileged rider in that race who had a fuel injected Honda while all others including Doohan were on carburetted bikes. Itoh went on to win the race, but the tussle was monumental and after the race Wayne Rainey commented that being in the slipstream of Itoh ensured that he was getting upto speeds over 200 mph which he said his bike was otherwise incapable of attaining. That whole race was about being in the slipstream and overtaking the rider in front. Brilliant race, where Rainey said if it was not for the slipstream he would not have finished on the podium.

To me that race was even more entertaining because Rainey made sure that he remained very close to Itoh in the bends and when came to the straight he was always close enough to make use of the slipstream. All other riders were doing this and the end of the straight in most instances it was three riders abreast arriving and it was upto the canniest rider to get into the second position. Wayne Rainey whose unabashed fan that I am, was really the thinker who could outfox all others. More than twenty years later we had this race, albeit with only four riders, but it was a race that I will remember for a very long time.

Though that sounds like an awesome race, according to http://www.motogp.com/en/riders/Shinichi+Ito Shinichi never won a GP.
Now you've got me hunting through the MotoGP archive trying to find the race where they were all involved.

Suzuka 1993, perhaps? Although Kocinski was racing 250 that year. I'll go and watch the archive now on MotoGP.com, and see if I'm screaming at the screen as much as I did on Sunday

Thanks Stopadoodle for pointing out that there are problems with my previous post. I am writing totally out of memory and so there could be goof ups. The correct facts are 1. There were 6 riders in that scrap. 2. Shinichi Itoh was riding a Honda with fuel injection and led most of the race. 3. The race was the German GP at Hockenheim. 4. I now remember that Alex Criville on a (Honda Pons perhaps, because it was Mick Doohan, Daryl Beattie and Itoh who were on Rothman's Honda machinery) and Luca Cadalora and Doug Chandler on a Cagiva were involved and Cadalora faded away. Daryl Beattie won the race after a titanic struggle with Kevin Shwantz (who finished second) and Shinichi Itoh took third place, after almost stealing second place from Schwantz. Alex Criville finished fourth, Wayne Rainey finished fifth and Doug Chandler finished 6th, benefitting from the retirement of Doohan due to a rare mechanical failure. If I am not mistaken his Cagiva team mate was Matt Mladin (did Mladin replace Eddie Lawson? I am not sure of this or is it the other way round?) and he finished 7th and Luca Cadalora finished 8th. This should be accurate, though again I am relying on memory. The 200 mph speed was achieved by Itoh and Rainey in his slipstream on the long forest section straight of the Hockenheimenring. If I am not mistaken (this could yet again be wrong), Rainey and Cadalora were using Dunlop tyres as against the Michelin tyres that were being used by all others. The Dunlop tyres faded away much faster than the Michelins and the next year Yamaha went back to Michelins.

I think Beattie deputised for Gardner while he had his broken leg in 92, he then rode for Rothmans the next year and got third in the title but was not hired the following year. Tough crowd.

It was 1993, Beattie's first win. He only did two races in 1992 on Gardner's bike. Schwantz got 2nd and Itoh 3rd.

Hockenheim was one of my favorite circuits and created some absolutely epic races. Bernie and Herman should be tried in the Hague for ruining it.

This was the kind of race the fans hope to happen every week. Got to say one of copy and paste comments of if you have a problem with this race and feel it was not a good race go find another sport to watch.

Marquez last lap was amazing. Iannone is coming into his own Ducati advantage or not. There were no other Ducati's near him. Have a feeling if he was not racing this line would pop up, "Our bike is still 20 seconds behind the leading bikes. We need another step." That race result for Ian none came down to racecraft. He is improving in Motogp. And he is still the only rider I really remember beating Marquez heads up more than once in Moto2. That has to show something of the man's talent.

Lorenzo was streaking away at first. Then I thought he was controlling his pace as saw the rider racing for second gain on him every time one of them took the lead. Then towards the end, it became clear he was at maximum. Rossi dug in and did his level best. Fighting hard for position. Today he could not do anymore than he did. If he gets this championship he may go into a coma from all the energy he is having to dig out of nowhere.

Then lastly, Vinales. VERY impressive. He is wringing more out of that bike than anyone believed there. He seems to be a future Alien. Good day of racing. Brilliant write up David.