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MotoGP | Marquez vs Rossi | Whose side are you on anyway?

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(Left to right) Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo & Dani Pedrosa at Valencia Grand Prix, Valencia, 8th November 2015

The final round of the 2015 MotoGP season took place on Sunday and while the racing was excellent, the post race drama was anything but. We are going to take a look at some of the things that have been said over the last couple of days and see if we can’t figure out what exactly is going on.

The Race

Jorge Lorenzo earned himself his third MotoGP championship title at the final in Valencia over the weekend. Lorenzo ran a lights-to-flag victory without any real challenge. Rossi put in an excellent ride, coming from the back of the grid all the way up to fourth for the finish. Marc Marquez hung on to Lorenzo’s back wheel waiting to pounce but never got his chance, finishing second and Dani Pedrosa rounded off the podium in third.

Lorenzo led every single lap from the beginning of the race until the end, showing the world the pace and skill that he possesses. Although he was in the lead for the entirety of the race, he was faced with rising pressure from the two Hondas of Marquez and Pedrosa behind him.

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(Left to right) Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo at Valencia Grand Prix, Valencia, 8th November 2015

The front pack stayed in this formation for the majority of the race, however, towards the end of the race the Hondas were actually beginning lap faster and catch up to Lorenzo. With nine laps to go, Marquez was right up on Lorenzo and in a position to make a move. However, Pedrosa had significantly upped his pace and was not about to let Marquez keep second without working for it, so with three laps to go, Pedrosa found himself in a position to make a move on Marquez. The Honda rider passed his team mate but unfortunately failed to hold it and ran wide in the turning, immediately letting Marquez through again.

Rossi had been relegated to the back of the grid following his penalty for clashing with Marquez in Malaysia, something he could certainly have done without for the final and deciding race of the season! Despite starting back in 25th, he rode hard all the way up to fourth but was powerless to do anything about the trio in front of him. His only hope was for Marquez and Pedrosa to pass Lorenzo to reduce his points gained but unfortunately for the Italian rider, they were unable to do anything about it. It is because of this that Rossi has spoken out, claiming that there is an element of foul play taking place.

So Why Is Rossi So Upset?

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Valentino Rossi at Valencia Grand Prix, Valencia, 8th November 2015

It was not until after the race that Rossi spoke out, claiming that Marc Marcquez, who finished second, was riding as Lorenzo’s bodyguard, hanging behind Lorenzo but never really making a move to pass. This allegedly stopped third place finisher, Dani Pedrosa, from making any kind of move for the lead and ultimately handing Lorenzo the points to beat Rossi in the championship.

“I am sad that Marquez acted as bodyguard for Lorenzo. I had already said on Thursday, I was convinced that they would go to the end, I was sure they would have conspired against me, as happened in football.”

Rossi is convinced that the two Spanish riders have colluded against him to deny him his tenth world title, he has even gone as far as saying it is because they are both Spanish that they are working together. “I don’t know if Marquez protected Lorenzo because they are both Spanish, but it’s sad he chose to be his bodyguard. Lorenzo has never done what Marquez did. But for his behaviour after Malaysia he deserves to be treated like Marquez.”

The final race has only compounded feelings that Rossi had already mentioned, referencing the controversial collision between Rossi and Marquez in Malaysia. He even goes as far to mention the ‘Nordic Fix’ in his press conference, wherein Sweden and Denmark apparently worked together to knock Italy out of the Euro 2004 football tournament.

This all sounds a bit too ‘tin foil hat’ for my liking. Rossi will of course be extremely disappointed; to be leading for such stretch of the tournament only to lose by five measly points in the final would be crushing, no doubt. Also, I am not saying that there is not some merit to what Rossi is saying but seriously? Two riders, riding for different manufacturers, going against their own teams to gang up and stop you from winning the championship? It might be time for a trip to The Doctor (I am so sorry). Rossi is actually partly right, Lorenzo has said that he feels Marquez might not have been pushing him as hard as he could because they are both from Spain. However the same would be, and has been, true of Italian riders allowing Rossi to breeze past them without a fight.

What is all the fuss about?

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Marc Marquez & Jorge Lorenzo at Valencia Grand Prix, Valencia, 8th November 2015

Marc Marquez rode his race like he has done on many occasions this year, he stuck to the rear tyre of the person in front and played a long waiting game until the last portion of the race, when he would make his move. A tactic he regularly employs. He bided his time, waiting for the opportune moment to attack but before he could his plans were foiled by Dani Pedrosa trying to overtake him.

Why wasn’t Marquez more frequent and aggressive with his attacks then? Well, there is an unwritten rule in MotoGP, and a lot of other motorsports for that matter, that racers who are not in the running for the championship should not interfere with riders that are. Marquez would be in all sorts of trouble if he accidentally took Lorenzo out making a risky pass, ruining Lorenzo’s title shot, much better to play it safe until the perfect opportunity comes up.

Marquez is in a bit of a pickle then when you think about it, it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t kind of situation. If he pushed Lorenzo hard he would be interfering with the championship, slowing Lorenzo down or even causing a crash. When he decides not to push and patiently waits for a safe opportunity to attempt a pass he is labelled as a cheat for ‘bodyguarding’ Lorenzo. What Rossi really wanted was for Marquez to do like virtually every other rider on the grid and just let him through so he could catch Lorenzo, but that just isn’t racing. It seems a bit unfair that Rossi is calling Marquez out for not properly challenging Lorenzo, when Rossi expects to be given the red carpet treatment by every other rider all the way to the front. It’s one set of rules for Rossi and a different set for the rest of the grid.

What might really be going on here?

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Jorge Lorenzo at Valencia Grand Prix, Valencia, 8th November 2015

Jorge Lorenzo absolutely deserved that win, he rode hard and he rode well, he also won more races than Rossi over the season and honestly I don’t believe that Rossi would have passed even if he had the chance. He had an excellent race and certainly reminded us what he is capable of but if you look at the lap times, he wasn’t even on pace to catch Lorenzo or Marquez who were hitting lap times of between 1’31.5 and 1’31.9, while Rossi was behind at 1’32.1 and 1’32.2. Not being able to keep up with the leader pace put Rossi in a position where a victory for him could only come from both Hondas passing Lorenzo. So Rossi placed all of the responsibility on the two Hondas to beat Lorenzo when it is not their job to help him out, in fact it is quite the opposite. Rossi’s actions in previous rounds of Grand Prix put him in a position where his own racing skill would not be enough and that is no one’s fault but his own. Rossi actually said himself that a podium finish would be impossible starting from the back of the grid, the result then should come as no surprise to him.

The big question is still whether Marquez intentionally made life difficult for Rossi. There is a case for both sides of this argument but neither of them involve conspiring with Lorenzo to foil Rossi’s title shot, that just didn’t happen. Rossi is unfortunately having another two year old moment and throwing his toys out of the pram because he came close to winning the season and is disappointed he didn’t clinch it. Now he is pointing fingers at everyone trying to find someone to blame.

Quite frankly it is unfair on Lorenzo, he rode well and won because of it. Now his victory is being questioned because of something a rider from a different team might have done, brought on by allegations from a respected person in the sport who should know better.

It begs the question, why is Rossi making such a big deal about this? When you strip it down, Lorenzo was the fastest, Marquez rode for the win but could not stick it when Pedrosa got involved and Rossi just was not fast enough this time. Motorsport is full of upsets and there are countless racers who have been left feeling hard done by but it is one thing to be disappointed in a result and another thing altogether to start cooking up conspiracy theories. Rossi’s accusations are a smoke screen to hide the fact that he ruined his own chances at the title, it’s that simple.

It makes me wonder whether Rossi is beginning to feel like he might be coming toward the end of his career, 36 is quite old in the world of professional athletes. 2015 could very well have been his last real shot at making it a nice round ten world titles. It would be understandable for Rossi to be uncomfortable with the idea that his reign as king of MotoGP could be coming to an end, it’s just a shame he is reacting the way he is.

The Biggest Issue of Them All

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Valentino Rossi at Valencia Grand Prix, Valencia, 8th November 2015

The thing that should be worrying people the most out of all of this is the way Rossi has tackled the situation. Even if it were true that Marquez wanted Lorenzo to win, was it the right thing to do to publicly attack him after the race? No, it doesn’t do anyone any good and it makes one of the greatest riders of all time come across as a petulant child.

Rossi probably doesn’t realise it but he could be seriously damaging his reputation here. It would be a huge shame if one of the giants of the sport spent his last few years bitter and twisted thinking that everyone was plotting against him. With Rossi’s record he could bow out now and forever be a legend in the sport, if he keeps up the childish attitude he will end up being remembered as the guy who can’t take a loss.

The situation is detrimental to the sport as a whole, it takes away not only from Lorenzo’s win but actually from the entire season. Rossi has a lot of die hard fans and now that he has essentially said the final race was rigged, many of his fans will disregard the entire season. In fact many of his fans have already taken to Twitter and stated that Rossi is the people’s champion. That isn’t fair at all, not just on the other riders but the other team members and everyone else that put in the effort to make MotoGP what it is. What right does he have to devalue their season and everything they worked hard to achieve.

More than anything though I think this situation is a bit sad, it spoiled what was an exciting and impressive final round. It’s strange because Rossi said that what Marquez did has damaged the whole sport but actually, I believe it is what Rossi has done and said based on his own personal opinion that is causing the damage at the moment.

A bit of heated rivalry comes with the territory, it can help people to get the best out of themselves but there is a point where it becomes ridiculous. We have reached that point. Pack it in. 

Would you like to see some examples of good sportsmanship in motorsport? Well you’re in luck! Sportmanship in Racing – The Mark of a Champion

Image Source: Movistar Yamaha MotoGP

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