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MotoGP at Phillip Island: In which a long hibernation is broken

I have a confession. There are a couple of reasons why I haven’t written in such a long time (Don’t worry, I will keep it short). One is the inevitability of a regular, soul-sucking job. The other is the disappearance of my muse. And the last, and one which will perhaps elicit the maximum sniggers, is the fear that I will jinx my most favourite rider of all time. Now, now don’t roll your eyes.

Reason enough for this self-imposed hibernation to survive it all – Valentino Rossi’s charge, Jorge Lorenzo’s comeback, Marc Marquez’s injury, and even Dani Pedrosa’s born-again competitive spirit that had taken a hiatus longer perhaps than my hibernation. Then, along came Phillip Island and shook me out of my reverie.

After all, even self-imposed hibernations kow-tow to a classic, heart-thumping, finger-crossing, stomach-churning and television-screen-yelling race. For the Australian Grand Prix had it all. Seriously!

Take all the races in the past few years. All of them. Take their best moments, those best god-fearing moments, and that my dear is the 2015 Australian Grand Prix. Right up there with the big ‘uns.

In fact, words will probably do it complete injustice. For nothing, absolutely nothing, can replicate the sheer heart-thumping power of those 27 laps, where every single minute changed the fortunes of the race and the championship. It was a race where heroes were born, where the young fought tooth and nail, and the old gave it as good as they got. The battle was fought till the very end, until each one of the front-runners wrung every little bit of power out of their motorcycles.

The battle began right off the bat with Marc Marquez, Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi fighting for position. Image courtesy Honda Racing Corporation; editorial use only

The battle began right off the bat with Marc Marquez, Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi fighting for position. Image courtesy Honda Racing Corporation; editorial use only

There were four main protagonists in this story. There was Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, the teammates, the rivals and championship contenders. Each was vying for a point, any point and every point that would fill the championship jar. Then there were the surprise attackers, Marc Marquez and Andrea Iannone, who had nothing to lose and just about everything to prove.

“At the end I overtook Iannone and Valentino and I had a great last lap; I don’t know where I pulled that time out from, but it was what made the difference for us!” Marc Marquez

It is a dangerous game they play where the stakes are high and everyone is on the limit and then some.

Rossi had lost his advantage during qualifying. He was down in 7th place with Marquez at the helm, Iannone at 2nd and Lorenzo in 3rd place. It was going to be a long run to the top. And the struggle began away, as the lights went off and the racers shot off toward the first corner. Iannone made an early charge blocking Lorenzo’s attempt to take the lead, and the two battled hard. Rossi was stuck behind a stubborn Cal Crutchlow and Pedrosa. The Italian would have to wait to awhile before he could squeeze past the two riders and join the battle in front.

Iannone's unfortunate seagull moment cost him the lead! Image courtesy Ducati; editorial use only

Iannone’s unfortunate seagull moment cost him the lead! Image courtesy Ducati; editorial use only

Meanwhile Iannone, the Ducati Demon, had given Lorenzo some heart burn, battling with the Spaniard and holding on to the lead as best as he could. It was an unfortunate tête-à-tête with an errant seagull (that also left a huge hole on his front fairing) on the second lap that saw him lose his lead to Lorenzo.

“On the second lap something really unusual happened, because there was a seagull in front of me trying to get out of the way: I hit the poor thing head on, but in the end it was like a good luck kiss!” Andrea Iannone

Lorenzo tried to escape. He had snatched the first position, and was now trying to build a gap. But that was not going to be easy play today. The three riders behind him were at the top of their game; powerful, strong and determined, and they were not going to give up.

Heart-thumping close racing! Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team; editorial use only

Heart-thumping close racing! Image courtesy Yamaha Racing Team; editorial use only

What followed was incredible racing, the sort you hear stories about. Marquez, Iannone and Rossi changed places, once, twice, thrice, and then again. Lorenzo, who thought he was making a getaway, was caught off-guard on lap 18, as Marquez attacked him and snatched his comfortable lead. Lorenzo snatched it back and Marquez fell back fighting a charging Rossi and Iannone. The three changed places faster than people could tweet. You wouldn’t have been able to call a winner, no matter how hard you tried.

“It’s a really good feeling to close in on Valentino in the championship.” Jorge Lorenzo

The tension was high right down to the penultimate lap when Marquez, now at 4th, passed Rossi to take third. The last lap saw him strike, taking Lorenzo’s first place in a smooth pass and took victory by .249s. Lorenzo trailed in 2nd place. Meanwhile, Iannone snatched Rossi’s 3rd spot, powering down the start-finish straight. The four riders had all crossed the line with barely a second separating them.

Stealing the lead! Marquez and Lorenzo battle. Image courtesy Honda Racing Corporation; editorial use only

Stealing the lead! Marquez and Lorenzo battle. Image courtesy Honda Racing Corporation; editorial use only

This was it then, the race of the season. It is the sort you want to see again and again just so you can bask in the sheer bliss of pure racing. The Vale fan within cried. But the racing geek rejoiced. After all, they never said it would be easy to break Giacomo Agostini’s perfect-10 record.

“We already said that race results was going to be important ten rounds ago, but now it’s really important and it will be very tough until the last race.” Valentino Rossi

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