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The battles lost by Rossi and Doohan: when the outsider wins the title

In its 79-year history, only three times in the final head-to-head has the rider trailing by points won the world championship. Here's what happened in those epic battles with Nicky Hayden and Wayne Rainey

The battles lost by Rossi and Doohan: when the outsider wins the title


How difficult is it to win a world championship starting with a gap of 21 points in the world championship?

The answer is: very difficult, even if today thanks (or unfortunately due to) to the Sprint Race there are 37 points available.

Even so, it will be very difficult for Jorge Martin to make up the disadvantage he has against his brand-mate Pecco Bagnaia. After all, in the 74 years of history of the premier class, only three times has the rider not leading the championship succeeded in becoming world champion.

The one that we all remember is Nicky Hayden's achievement in 2006 when, lining up at the start of the Valencia GP with an 8 point disadvantage against Valentino Rossi, thanks to a crash by Valentino (even there, it seems, due to a non-performing tyre, or so Vale has always believed) he won the world championship with a third place behind Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi..

There are some facts, however, from that championship that need to be interpreted: the first is that Kentucky Kid arrived at a disadvantage in Valencia because his new teammate in Honda, Dani Pedrosa, had torpedoed him in the previous GP, at Estoril. Seen in this way, the last world championship for an American rider seems fully deserved.

And this is one of the three times in its 79-year history that the world championship has been decided in the final round.

Another, this time decidedly more controversial, was the one in 2015 when Rossi arrived at Valencia with a 7-point advantage over teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Vale started from the back due to the events in Sepang, which it is pointless to remember, Jorge won the race and fourth place wasn't enough for the Pesaro native to take home the famous 10th title.

The third occasion in which the world championship leader did not win the title, however, goes back a long way and has legendary overtones.

In fact, when Mick Doohan took to the track at Kyalami with a lead of just 2 points over Wayne Rainey, the two were all he had left of the 65 points advantage he had accumulated before the terrible accident at Assen which almost cost him the amputation of one leg.

Thanks to the intervention of Dr. Costa, Mick had in fact managed to turn up at the start of the penultimate Grand Prix, in Brazil, at Interlagos, but had to be helped to get on the motorbike. He almost couldn't walk, the wound was still bleeding under his leathers and those who know the mighty Australian appreciated his greatness precisely thanks to that ordeal. Rainey won and the Honda rider managed to bring home some points thanks to a 12th place. The two points were all he had left of a world championship that, before the Dutch GP, he had dominated.

So in the final decisive battle Rainey only needed the points for third place, with Doohan sixth, to win his third consecutive title, finishing at +4.

History then went on to say that Mighty Mick won five in a row.


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