“No great genius has ever existed without a touch of madness”
We all make mistakes, because we are all human. A bad judgement call. A rush of blood to the head. We mess up, and afterwards we try to make amends or move on. Racing drivers are no different. When I say racing drivers I do of course mean all racing drivers with the exception of Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo the Moto GP Metronome who hunts down apexes and lap records like The Terminator hunts down John Connor.
Rossi is not like Lorenzo. He is the most successful rider ever to grace the sport and this season he is within touching distance of the Holy Grail. 10 titles. La Decima. Even without that it is impressive reading. 6 no Moto GP, 1 no 500cc, 1 no 250cc, 1 no 125cc. 9 Titles. Yet he is also prone to controversial moments. A rider has not made it in Moto GP until they’ve had a run in with Rossi. Biaggi, Gibernau, Stoner. Some of the most memorable moments in Moto GP history. My favourite? THAT move against Stoner in the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca. Controversial? Maybe. Spectacular? Definitely.
These are the moments that only Rossi can provide and watching Marquez as he clashed with riders at 125 and Moto 2 level this was what interested me most. How would Rossi respond to the style of Marquez? It’s one thing cutting up a fellow rider in the lower levels as your otherworldly pace meant you were thinking ahead to the next corner, the next manoeuvre, but it’s would be quite another proposition to carry that style into Moto GP.
If Lorenzo is the Metronome then Marquez is the more compelling character. Cheeky and charming off the track. Unpredictable and almost unsustainably fast on it. If there is an heir to the throne or somebody to capture the hearts of Moto GP fans when Rossi retires, for me, it is Marquez and not Lorenzo that fits the bill. Is that why Rossi targeted Marquez rather than Lorenzo as the title headed for a showdown? Only Rossi knows. This as he will no doubt be aware is probably his best shot at the magic 10, and yet rather than dealing with the unflappable Lorenzo Rossi has turned his attention to Marquez.
After Phillip Island Rossi attacked Marquez’s riding and motives. As Rossi saw it The Spanish Armada was conspiring against him:
“I think his target is not just to win the race, but also help Lorenzo to go far and try to take more points from me.
“From Phillip Island it’s clear Lorenzo has a new supporter, which changes [things] a lot because Marc has the potential to go away alone and it can be another type of race.”
Surely the easier thing for Marquez to do was not to have won the race, at least that was Marquez’s viewpoint:
“If I wanted to help Lorenzo, I wouldn’t have passed him on the last lap and I wouldn’t have pushed to the limit and take the risk”
Marquez’s motives though could well be simpler than Rossi was suggesting. The Spaniard could very well feel aggrieved at losing the win at Assen to a motocross inspired Rossi at the final chicane. It’s not even the first time the two have clashed this season with Marquez running Rossi into the gravel before retiring from the Argentine GP after contact with the Italian’s rear tyre. The problem Rossi has is that he has two insanely gifted riders looking to dethrone him at the same time.
Marquez and Lorenzo. Red and Blue. Fire and Ice. It was fire that Rossi targeted prior to the Sepang GP:
“He would prefer Lorenzo to win,” said Rossi, whose points lead over Lorenzo was reduced to 11 in Australia. He is competing with me.”
“I want to win as many World Championships as I can. If I win another title, then he knows that he will have to win one more to overtake me.
“If instead Jorge wins, then they have more or less the same.”
Whatever the intention was behind Rossi winding up Marquez it seems to have had the opposite effect. At Sepang the unstoppable force and the immovable object went at it again. Marquez passed Rossi and the chopped him up, slowed him down. It couldn’t last. It didn’t. On lap 7, after laps of swapping places Rossi clearly had enough. Between 13 & 14 he stood up the bike, stared at his rival, and forced Marquez out wide.
It was a moment that egos clashed. The apprentice refusing to back down when the master attempted to make him do so, and in the haze of ill-tempered and ill-judged manoeuvres Marquez joined a prestigious list of riders that have clashed with Rossi, but things were different this time.
This time the crowd wasn’t behind Rossi. They booed what they perceived was an injustice. Maybe failing to grasp that this was the flash point of a season of antics between the pair. Regardless of all of that Rossi had caused Marquez to crash out. Race Direction had to make a call on it and they did. Rossi kept his third place, behind the impressive Pedrosa and his title rival Lorenzo. The twist being that while Rossi carries a 7 point lead into the final race at Valencia he will do so from the back of the grid. Maybe they felt that Marquez having a DNF was punishment enough but the Spaniard was not blameless in this race, nor has he been blameless all season. Only Rossi’s skill kept him from a Marquez induced DNF in Argentina.
So we head to Valencia. Delicately poised and with tensions raised. Please don’t bring your pitchforks. Step away from the On-Line petitions. Racers make mistakes. Invariably egos clash and they suffer a rush of blood to the head. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that when observing from the sidelines.
At Valencia, Lorenzo will no doubt start on the front row of the grid. The Moto GP Metronome will probably do so at lap record pace. Rossi will start at the back of the grid and he’ll need a miracle to claim his 10th title. He’ll need Pedrosa to carry on his impressive form, and he’ll need Marquez to do him a favour. For if Lorenzo wins, Rossi will need to finish 2nd. If the Hondas can beat Lorenzo and he finishes 3rd, Rossi will need 6th to take the title by 1 point.
Coincidently 2006 was the last time Rossi came to the final race needing a result to win the title. He dropped the bike and finished 13th. Nicky Hayden won the title for Honda. That was at Valencia too. That time Rossi had an 8 point lead on Hayden and started on pole. Proof that anything can happen in Moto GP.
The dream continues but Rossi has made life harder than it needed to be, but then again no great genius has ever existed without a touch of madness.
UPDATE. Rossi Appeals FIM Stewards Decision:
The sanction imposed by the Race Direction at the , is suspended for now, with a final decision expect Nov. 6th.
On the basis of Article 3.4.2, para 3 of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix Regulations, Mr Valentino Rossi has filed an Appeal against the decision taken by the Race Direction of the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang, penultimate round of the FIM MotoGP Grand Prix World Championship, and confirmed by the FIM Stewards, to award 3 penalty points to Mr Rossi following an incident on Turn 14.
In appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), Mr Rossi seeks annulment or reduction of the penalty. He further requests stay of execution of the decision in accordance with Article R37 of the Code of Sports-Related Arbitration.