Champagne and Sour Grapes In Pit Lane | Events
Say what you like about Marquez and Rossi, between the two of them they don’t leave much room for other riders to get any attention.
It seems every fortnight, when I’d really like to change the subject, something else outrageous has happened. And it’s back to Marquez and Rossi.
You could ask Jorge Lorenzo about this. He won four GPs on the trot and moved to within a point of surprise title leader Rossi. Still wasn’t the main story. Perfect though he may be at executing every corner, Jorge just doesn’t command the attention and respect he so clearly deserves. At Assen again Marquez and Rossi seized centrestage on the track as well as off (in every possible sense), in a race with a climax that will go down in the annals of motorcycle racing history, with a video clip of pure gold.
A brief replay: race-long dice, Rossi leads, Marquez waits, passes … but can’t get away. Rossi leads again, with two laps left. All perfectly polite so far. High-class racing at its best, at a challenging track steeped in history that’s still special, in spite of having been emasculated. Last lap, Rossi has a slender lead.
Through the last section, Marquez gobbles it up to arrive at the final right-left-right Geert Timmer Bocht chicane in position to dive inside Rossi at the apex. He’s not actually ahead when he gets there, and both wheels are sliding. But for him the outcome is clear. He will bash into Rossi, forcing Valentino to either lift or crash. It was all mapped out – he’d practised it the day before, and again in morning warm-up.
Now Marquez is a marvellously creative rider, adapting instantly to changing circumstances. There’s just one person better at it than him: the one he bumped into. Rossi was indeed pushed off into the gravel trap. He adapted, opening the throttle to keep the rear spinning and the front light so he didn’t bog down. Spewing stones like a flat-tracker, he recovered from the blow that should have scuppered him, to win the race. Assen has a great tradition of last-corner attacks, failed and otherwise.
One of the most plangent was in 2006, when Colin Edwards tried too hard and lost it there, pushing Nicky Hayden across the gravel in the same way. And the gravel guy won, while Edwards fell, within sight of the flag that would have signalled his first – and only – GP win. The result was equally crucial for Hayden.
It was one of just two wins that year, but the 25 points were vital in defeating Rossi for the World Championship, by just five. It may turn out that Rossi’s 25 points are just as important this year. But let’s turn to the last-corner history shared by the two adversaries of 2015. Consider just the last turn at Jerez, where Rossi bashed into Sete Gibernau on the final lap in 2005.
Victory for Valentino, everlasting resentment for the Spaniard. Fast-forward to 2013. This time the battle is for second, the protagonists Marquez and Lorenzo. The older guy had it buttoned … until Marquez copied Rossi’s move, batted his rival into the gravel, and stole second. Lorenzo’s accusations of dangerous riding that should be penalised, fell on deaf ears.
Did Marquez crow? Well, just a bit.
And now to 2015. He has already played the same tactics against Rossi in Argentina, at the end of the back straight. Didn’t work. Rossi didn’t budge. Then Marc fell off. Something similar happened at Catalunya with Lorenzo and Marquez fell off again. Has a lesson been learned? Obviously not.
Marquez’s willingness to do it again to Rossi was punished, with an outcome that nobody except the Spaniard could possibly find unjust. That he did so does not reflect well on him. A loser is just a loser, and to compound it by being a bad loser only makes it worse.
This article appears in AMCN Vol 65 No 01