Jorge Lorenzo punished an incredible blunder by Repsol Honda and Marc Marquez in Australia yesterday (Sunday) to give his hopes of retaining the MotoGP crown a massive boost.
The Spaniard claimed a 50th world championship victory to move within 18-points of rookie sensation Marquez, who was disqualified for missing a mandatory pit stop slot in a shortened 19-lap race at Phillip Island.
For the first time in history, a dry flag-to-flag format was introduced after Bridgestone suffered a PR disaster, with none of its tyre allocation suitable for high ambient temperatures and high grip levels from a new surface.
The tyre wear issues meant each rider was given the opportunity to pit at the end of lap nine or 10 to complete the race on fresh rubber.
A terrible miscalculation though by Marquez and his HRC crew meant the 20-year-old stayed out for one lap longer than the rest of the field and he was black flagged and expelled from the results.
The blunder was a surprise gift for Lorenzo that the factory Yamaha gratefully accepted, though if Marquez scores eight points more than him in Japan this weekend then the title race will be over.
Lorenzo said: “I have been very lucky because without what happened to Marc he would have been in second or first place because as always he was so strong. Now the championship has changed so much. Before the race we almost didn’t have any options. Maybe my chances were two or three per cent maximum. Now we have 20-30%. But Marc is very competitive in all the tracks and if he keeps in second or third place he can still win the championship.”
Lorenzo said all he can do is try and win the final two races to see if Marquez crack under pressure, having seen his advantage shrink so dramatically in Australia.
He added: “We have to try and win in both Motegi and Valencia and then see what can happen. There are a lot of laps left in both and anything can happen. We have to push every lap to the limit and go fast. That’s the only thing we can do.”
Lorenzo though did admit that he prefers to win fair and square and not benefit from the bad luck of his rivals.
Marquez had started yesterday’s 16th round of the campaign with a commanding 43-point advantage and Lorenzo said: “I like to win without fault or anything and being the fastest on the track. But this year we are struggling with two riders going very fast, especially Marc, who has have a very good bike.
I have had very bad luck in two crashes that I’ve broken my collarbone twice and today compensated a little for that bad luck. But not completely because I lost four or five races. I like to win the championship without any trouble and being the fastest but as we have had bad luck it has come to Marc.
I think to beat him the championship was impossible because without that mistake he would have been second or first and he was very fast it would have been very difficult. This mistake means my chances increase a lot.”