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Real Respect for other riders | Columns | Gassit Garage

You don’t go GP racing to respect your rivals … you go there to beat the hell out of them, surely?

Guys you meet in the pub are a notoriously unreliable source of information and opinion. Legendarily so.

This was a little different. These guys included two GP racers, one a world champion, plus at least one national champion and several lap record holders. And almost all disagreed with me.

They all thought that Marc Márquez needs a good lesson, a basic grounding in the three Rs: Real Respect for other Riders.

The topic was the Austrian GP, and Márquez’s desperate last-corner attack on winner Dovi. A moment that will surely be replayed for years to come. Here’s a quick rewind:

Dovi had the corner that ended the final lap. Márquez wanted it. Badly. So much so that he pushed past inside Dovi. Got ahead, for a few metres, but ran wide onto the painted kerb, then used his transcendental skills to avoid crashing.

Had Dovi been a lesser rider, he might have fallen for it. Or fallen, anyway. Maybe both of them. Or maybe Márquez would have bounced off the Ducati before it skittered away, and won the race, which was doubtless his preferred option.

Afterwards, his no longer quite so choirboyish face glowing with elation, he said: “This is MotoGP. I had to try or I would not have slept quiet tonight. And next time I will try it again.” All the while Dovi looking like a disapproving schoolmaster, but so pleased with winning that he couldn’t really be cross.

And I agreed with Marc. He had to try. That’s what he’s like; that’s what racing is like. And nobody got hurt. It was pretty close. He could easily have taken them both down. That he didn’t was to a large extent because Dovi is very, very clever, and anticipated perfectly.

I thought it had been a great ride from both, and that Márquez had done the right thing.

The GP winners were the under-rated Alan North, his career cut short by injury, and 1980 350 world champion Jon Ekerold, the last-ever privateer to beat factory teams (his account is a minor classic; if you haven’t yet read The Privateer you should waste no time). Both came from a tough era, when GP riders had to do money-making races in between, often on very dangerous street circuits, on seize-prone two-strokes. Ekerold had a reputation as the hardest of the hard men.

But the pair led the chorus of shocked admonishment. Marquez’s move – the words echoed round the table – had been outrageous. The same comment came from almost all: “You have to have respect for the other riders.”

This rocked me back a bit. Respect? But you don’t go GP racing to respect your rivals … you go there to beat the hell out of them, surely? Starting with your teammate, and working outwards.

That’s what the fans want. It’s not exactly blood lust. Nobody in his right mind wants to see riders get hurt. But we want to see a proper fight.

There was another echo: Rossi and Gibernau at the last corner at Jerez in 2005. Rossi made a very similar move, hit Gibernau, bounced off and won. He admitted later that he probably wouldn’t have made the corner otherwise. Gibernau didn’t fall, but was clear that he had been robbed by unfair tactics.

And you know what? Nobody paid any mind to him. Rossi was the hero of the day.

It was the same in 2013 when Márquez did something similar to Lorenzo at the same corner. Lorenzo made no secret of his disapproval, and expressed his view that Márquez should be punished. And everyone made fun of him for it.

Working on the basis of believing the last person I spoke to, I must now obviously change my mind. Naughty Marc. Sort yourself out boy, before there is some blood shed.

And yet…

By Michael Scott

Dovizioso and Marquez, last corner, last lap, Austrian MotoGP 2017