GP Rivalry A Look Back At The Biggest Biffs! | Events
As we wait for the explosion that will inevitably be Valencia, let’s look back at grand prix racing's most explosive rivalries!
Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada
The final round of the 1998 250cc Grand Prix title was arguably more controversial than the penultimate round of the 2015 MotoGP. Aprilia teammates Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada were separated by four points going into the final round.
It was the last corner of the last lap of the last race, Harada was in second place, Capirossi was in third and if it was to remain the same, the pair would be equal on points and Harada would be crowned world champion on the countback.
Capirossi made a desperate move up the inside of his teammate which ended up looking more like a deliberate t-bone and sent Harada sprawling. Capirossi hung on to his bike and his world title, but not his ride. Aprilia gave him the boot in the off-season.
Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi
While Capirossi and Harada’s rivalry culminated to one corner, the rivalry between Max Biaggi and Valentino Rossi spanned five seasons both on and off the track. It sparked at a restaurant well before Rossi reached the 500cc class Biaggi was riding in and, in many ways, came to head in the podium stairwell at Catalunya in 2001.
A few races before Catalunya at Suzuka, it was Rossi’s second year in the premier class, and Biaggi elbowed Rossi on the straight which sent the young Italian into the dirt. Rossi recovered and repaid the favour a lap or two later, flipping Biaggi the bird as he took the lead into the first corner.
Nick Harris later referred to that race as a commentator’s dream.
It was also Nick Harris who found Max Biaggi alone in the press conference following the Catalunya Grand Prix podium. Enquiring as to the cut above Biaggi’s eye, clear evidence of the suspected stairwell kerfuffle, Biaggi simply responded with, “It’s a mosquito bite.”
Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey
The year is 1993. It’s Wayne Rainey versus Kevin Schwantz, America versus America, Yamaha versus Suzuki. The pair clashed in the domestic American series in the early 80s, they both entered Grand Prix racing the same year in 1988 and the pair hated each other so much, they openly admitted to deliberately bashing into one another at race pace.
Come 1993, and with Rainey having three titles under his belt to Schwantz’ none, the Suzuki rider was never more hungry to beat his bitter rival.
Schwantz drew first blood in the season opener in Australia, then Rainey nabbed the next two. Schwantz retaliated with victories in the following two races. But the season began to go pear-shaped with five rounds to go. A recovering Mick Doohan took out Schwantz at Donington Park on the first lap and the next race, still spooked, he couldn’t do any better than fifth as Rainey ran away with the victory.
Eerily, Rainey described the win as “empty” for the next time out at the Italian Grand Prix at San Marino would be the three-time world champ’s last-ever ride. After posting the fastest lap of the race he crashed heavily severing his spinal cord.
Schwantz became the 1993 World Champion but Rainey’s injuries played heavily on the Texan’s heart and he retired from the sport just 18 months later. The pair quickly put their differences behind them and remain great mates to this day.
Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner
The wonderful thing about Casey Stoner is that he said what he meant and he meant what he said. He could back up his talk on the track and while Rossi is very good at dealing with rivalries, it was the combination of Stoner’s talk and talent that inevitably got under the Italian’s skin.
Casey arrived in the 2008 season as world champion. There was no love lost between the two but the Laguna Seca round, and the battle that ensued between the pair in which Rossi was victorious, carved out a deep dislike between them that continues to this very day.
During the dominant days of the Stoner and Ducati match-up Rossi talked up the ease of taming the bike that none other than Stoner could seemingly ride. So when Rossi switched to the Italian bike in 2011 and recorded lacklustre results, the already bitter rivalry got fierce. Probably the pair’s most famous stoush came at the second round of the 2011 championship at Jerez.
Very early on in the race Rossi lost the front of the ill-handling Ducati but took out pole sitter and race leader Casey Stoner in the process. What got up Stoner’s nose was the marshals all helped the Italian get back in the race and claimed none helped him. After the race, cameras followed Rossi into Stoner’s pit who wanted to apologise to the Australian. It was here when Stoner very famously quipped, “Your ambition outweighed your talent.”
Stoner went on to win the 2011 world title and retired at the end of the following year. And still doesn’t mind speaking out against the Italian these days when the opportunity arises.
Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene
“The only reason I get out of bed in the morning is to beat Barry Sheene,” said American Kenny Roberts. Sheene was a two-time world champ and his off-track antics had made him a superstar when a young upstart named Kenny Roberts turned up and started stealing the limelight. Not only did he steal the limelight, but in his rookie year won the title Sheene was desperately trying to defend.
But their most memorable race came the following year at the 1979 British Grand Prix in Silverstone. Dubbed at the time The Greatest race of the Century, it was actually a race-long three-way battle between Sheene, Roberts and Dutch rider Will Hartog. The three riders battled hard and swapped positions countless times, but in the closing stages of the race when Hartog dropped back, Sheene looked over his shoulder, took his leaf hand off the bar and gave the closely following Roberts an up-yours V-sign behind his back.
Roberts’ retaliation was to win the race from Sheen by the narrowest of margins. He also went on to become the 1979 world champion ahead of Sheene, too.