2015 Sepang MotoGP Round Up: Heroes Who Have Feet Of Clay

Seven days ago, we were talking about how the 2015 MotoGP season will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, with the Australian Grand Prix as its glittering highlight. A week later, we saw its low point. There were some truly remarkable and admirable performances in all three classes. Dani Pedrosa confirmed his return to form with a formidable victory, his second of the season. The arm pump surgery has been a huge success, and if Honda can resist the temptation to build an unrideably powerful engine, Pedrosa will be back in title contention again next year. Johann Zarco proved once again he is the class of the Moto2 field, stalking Tom Luthi all race and riding to the very limit of physical endurance to snatch victory from what seemed like a foregone conclusion. And Miguel Oliveira demonstrated that he is capable of dominating the second half of the Moto3 season the way that Danny Kent dominated the first half, denying the Englishman the title and taking the championship to Valencia.

The trouble is, those stunning performances were overshadowed by one of the ugliest weekends of racing we have seen in a very long time. The tragedy may not have been physical this time, but it was tragic nonetheless. Three great champions let their masks slip at Sepang, revealing the egotism, spitefulness and petty rivalries that underly their success. And the fans added insult to injury, booing at a result they did not like.

So we shall skip past the victory by Dani Pedrosa, failing to shower him with the praise which he deserves. We shall overlook the stunning ride by Jorge Lorenzo, passing riders at will and subduing everyone but Dani Pedrosa. Instead, we must focus on the battle for third, the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez. On the breathtaking battle that went sour, after Rossi finally lost his cool at Márquez' provocation and unwillingness to surrender, and precipitated Márquez' crash.

The pocket rocket

Pedrosa got away at the start, and once he was into Turn 1, he was basically gone. The Spaniard did not pull out the kind of gap that Jorge Lorenzo does on his first lap, but he still went faster than anyone could follow. His teammate tried, but it was clear from the start that he could not match him, Márquez struggling with an unwilling front end and a full fuel tank. Behind Márquez sat Valentino Rossi, close on the Spaniard's tail, but never able to threaten him. Rossi's Movistar Yamaha teammate was on his way forward, putting a brilliant pass on both Ducatis at the same time at Turn 4. A lap later, Lorenzo was outbraking Rossi into Turn 1 to take third. Rossi tried to come straight back, but Lorenzo had the line, held on, and pushed away.

Lorenzo was on a charge, and he had only Marc Márquez between him and Dani Pedrosa. Márquez had lost touch with Pedrosa, while Lorenzo was coming up hard from behind. Going into Turn 4, Márquez made a mistake on the brakes and nearly ran wide, skimming along the edge of the rumble strip and nearly hitting the dirt. Lorenzo slipped easily past into second and went charging off to chase Pedrosa.

Here is where the madness starts. Where truth becomes indistinguishable from conspiracy theory. Where naked facts are used as building blocks to construct vast, sprawling narratives that may or may not have any correspondence with the truth. Where fans and observers fill in the blanks the unknown motivations of riders occupy. Normally, if a rider misses a braking point, it is seen as exactly that: a rider making a mistake. But not at Sepang.

Down the rabbit hole

An alternative narrative had been launched on Thursday, when Valentino Rossi came to the press conference armed with a timesheet and an agenda. The Italian had run through the Phillip Island race in his mind and come to the conclusion that Marc Márquez had deliberately got involved with the battle for second, to hold Rossi up and allow Jorge Lorenzo to escape, in a bid to help Lorenzo win the championship. Or more accurately in a bid to ensure that Valentino Rossi lost the championship. Up until that moment, we had all been basking in the glory of one of the most exhilarating races in over a decade, and perhaps the best race of the MotoGP era. Now, though, the seed of doubt had been planted, and with Rossi's green fingers behind it, planted in fertile ground. Rossi's theory quickly spread far and wide, people starting to claim they had been suspicious of Márquez' race all along. Though curiously, they only raised their concerns after Rossi had expressed his.

From that moment on, every meter Marc Márquez rode on a MotoGP bike would come under suspicion, every time that Valentino Rossi rode near Marc Márquez came under scrutiny. Practice sessions were pregnant with meaning, no stone unturned, no incident unexamined. The pair ran across each other in FP3, then again briefly in FP4, and the Internet filled with claims of "mind games". Marc Márquez left pit lane first, Jorge Lorenzo lining up behind him, and again, the cry was "See! Márquez is giving Lorenzo a tow!" The fact that several other riders followed Márquez out at the same time was irrelevant, as was the fact that as a tow, it wasn't much good, Márquez putting in a mediocre lap at best.

Is there merit in Rossi's claims that Márquez had actively tried to hold Rossi up, and help Lorenzo win the championship? I did not believe so on Thursday, and I do not believe so now, as the evidence seems to be lacking. But it is impossible to prove a negative, and so we must allow that we cannot prove that it is not true. What is certain is that Rossi believes it is true, and this would come to play a key role in the race at Sepang.

Treachery and old age

Rossi, seeing Márquez go wide and Lorenzo pass the Repsol Honda with ease, must have suspected the worst. He was quickly with Márquez, but passing the Spaniard was not as easy for Rossi as it had been for Lorenzo. This, too, would be key later on. It took Rossi nearly a lap, the Italian getting through on Márquez at Turn 4, the corner where the Spaniard had been struggling all weekend. Márquez was not about to simply roll over and let Rossi past. He planned his counter attack, but was having to ask a lot of his Honda RC213V, the rear sliding and stepping out when he did not want it to. Márquez looked at Turn 15 but ran wide, got past at Turn 1, but allowed Rossi to get back underneath. Márquez tried again at Turn 4, but at his weakest corner, he could only get past at the cost of leaving himself open for Turn 5. Rossi was straight back again.

From this point onwards all hell broke loose. The crowds lapped it up, as Rossi and Márquez swapped places several times a lap. The pair were pushing each other to the limit, striking back as soon as they were passed, making passes in improbable paces. The risks being taken were evident. Three times Rossi's foot slipped from his footpeg, as he saved the bike from a near crash. Rossi grew increasingly frustrated, at one point turning round to look at Márquez and waving his arm in the air, as if to ask, "what the hell do you think you are doing?"

On lap seven, Rossi finally cracked. After a couple of close passes through the section leading out of Turn 9, Rossi took the inside line through the long right hander of Turn 13, slowing and pushing Márquez ever wider as they approached Turn 14. The act of slowing caused Rossi to adopt a jerky motion, Rossi turning a little and sitting the bike up a little, turning and sitting up. Márquez was taken entirely by surprise by the behavior of the Italian. Forced off line and out, he kept trying to make a judgment as to when Rossi would turn in for Turn 14. He judged it wrong just as Rossi pushed him wide even further, and Márquez leaned in as Rossi moved out, the pair colliding. Márquez helmet collided with Rossi's kneeslider, knocking his leg off the peg, which collided with his handlebars. Márquez claims Rossi kicked his bars, causing the front wheel to lock. Rossi denies this, says Márquez' handlebars hit his leg. Race Direction say they have no conclusive footage to prove the case either way.

Duped by data

That hasn't stopped the Internet from coming to two entirely opposite conclusions on their own. Many video clips are circulating, one allegedly proving that Rossi kicked Márquez' bars, another allegedly proving that Márquez' headbutted Rossi's knee. Both sets of video clips suffer from the problems faced by anyone trying to investigate situations like these: by focusing in on the tiniest of detail, the bigger picture gets lost. You can indeed clearly see that Márquez appears to headbutt Rossi's leg, but you can only accept it as a headbutt if you ignore the previous five seconds of footage on the way into the corner. You can also clearly see Rossi's leg come free, and touch Márquez' bars. But again, what is missing is the second or so before, the moment when the two bikes come together, and Rossi's leg is knocked off the pegs, and his boot gets caught behind the handlebars.

From Marc Márquez' perspective, it is entirely understandable that he should believe that Rossi kicked his handlebar. Márquez found himself caught up in a situation he hadn't expected, with Rossi sitting up, looking at him, and pushing him wide. The next thing he knows, he sees Rossi's boot swinging past, and he is on the floor. Is it likely that Rossi kicked Márquez' bars? Given that the Italian was focusing on pushing Márquez off the track and into the dirt, there seems no real need for him to do so. His aim, the Italian admitted, had been to slow Márquez up, get him completely off line, so he could try to get away from the Spaniard. If you are trying to push a rider out into the dirt, there is no real need to kick his bars. The collision with Márquez' head seems much more probable.

Was it Rossi or Márquez who initiated the contact? From the video, it seems that Márquez leaned into Rossi as the two touched. Of course, that does not mean that Márquez is at fault for the contact. The Repsol Honda rider was taken completely by surprise by the situation, and was not expecting to be pushed out wide by Rossi. He was trying to judge the right moment to turn in, something which proved to be impossible. At some point, he had no choice. If Rossi had been aiming to take the corner, instead of pushing Márquez off the track, there would have been no contact. Race Direction judged that this was Rossi's fault. Márquez claimed it was Rossi's fault. Rossi admitted he had been trying to push Márquez wide. He had not been trying deliberately to make Márquez crash, Rossi said. But it was equally clear that it was an inevitable consequence of his actions.

Cracking under pressure

What had brought Rossi to this point? The Italian claimed that Márquez had been trying to hold him up, slowing in the corners and not opening the throttle fully on the straights. If Márquez was not opening the throttle on the straights, then it must have been down the back straight only, as the lap charts show that Márquez' top speed on the laps when he was ahead of Rossi were pretty much in line with that of Dani Pedrosa's (327 km/h to 326 km/h), and Rossi's top speed was only a couple of kilometers down on the speeds he would reach after the crash, when he was circulating on his own (321 km/h to 324 km/h). The lap times were undeniably slower, lap five a second slower than lap four, and lap six a couple of tenths quicker again. Was that Márquez slowing Rossi up, or the inevitable result of the two swapping places several times a lap?

Race Direction, having access to lap times, data, and every possible camera angle at the circuit, including some which the TV feed does not show, believe that Márquez was doing something, acknowledging that the Spaniard was getting in Rossi's way. "What Rossi said about Marquez deliberately slowing down the pace and affecting Rossi's race also had some merit to it," Mike Webb told reporters. The problem was that Márquez' behavior is not illegal. From the outside, it looked just like Rossi and Márquez were engaged in a thrilling battle, fighting for third position in every corner. That is the prerogative of every rider on the grid, as long as they are both contesting the same position. There is no rule – or at least, not a written one – that a rider who does not have a shot at the championship should not race against a rider who is. As long as they do so without causing the rider chasing the championship any danger, then they are free to try to hold their place. And given the premium (and probable bonus) placed on a podium position, you would expect the battle to be even harder.

History repeats itself

It is not even unique to this race at Sepang. The example which sticks most in my memory is of Phillip Island in 1990, when Dutchman Hans Spaan went to the last 125cc race of the year trailing Loris Capirossi by just two points. Spaan started from pole, and all he had to do was finish ahead of Capirossi to lift the title. The problem was that Spaan lined up ahead of a gaggle of Italians, all of whom were out of contention for the title, and were working together to help Capirossi win. The scrap that developed became legendary, Dario Romboni, Fausto Gresini and Bruno Casanova all blocking Spaan at every pass and trying to push him wide. In the end, Spaan lashed out at Gresini, trying to punch the Italian out of sheer frustration. The plan of the Italians worked, Spaan finishing fourth and Capirossi taking the crown in his rookie season, an amazing debut.

Was it the Italians' fault that Spaan was robbed of the title? There is nothing in the rulebook about helping other riders, or trying to slow them down, as long as it is done safely (a word open to interpretation). But you could turn that question on its head: was it Capirossi's fault that Spaan was not quick enough to shake his pursuers off? What happens out on the track is racing, and any result, any motive is a valid one. The primary goal of racing is to finish ahead of your rivals. Sometimes, though, the reason you want to finish ahead of someone is more than just the position on the grid. The rulebook says nothing about motives.

Spaan had his fate in his own hands in the same way that Rossi had his fate in his own hands at Sepang. If Rossi had had the speed to hold off Lorenzo for third, he would not have got tangled up with Márquez. If Rossi had had the outright speed to leave Márquez behind, he would not have had to slug it out over several laps. Without the speed to do either of those things, then collecting sufficient points to get his hands on the championship was always going to be difficult.

The master meets his match

This, perhaps, is the source of Valentino Rossi's frustration. The Italian senses that this is his best, and perhaps his last chance of a tenth world title. Yet in the three races prior to Sepang, he was beaten in a direct duel twice. At Aragon, Dani Pedrosa produced some brilliant passes to shake off Rossi and take second place. Two races later, at Phillip Island, Rossi found himself losing out to both Marc Márquez and Andrea Iannone, forced to settle for fourth, and lucky that Márquez could pull a blistering lap out of the bag and beat Jorge Lorenzo. In both cases, afterwards, and in private, Rossi sought out the other riders involved to ask them why they had put up such a fight. According to the leading Spanish newspaper El Pais, after Aragon, Rossi went to find Dani Pedrosa to ask him why he had put up such a fight.

At Sepang, he once again found himself losing out against a younger rider in a direct battle. And fighting with Márquez is even worse than battling Pedrosa, Lorenzo or Iannone. Márquez has always said he was a Valentino Rossi fan, and the one element of Rossi's style which he has copied and improved upon is the counter attack. Any time Rossi is passed in one corner, it is a racing certainty that he will try to pass straight back, either at the next corner or on the exit of the turn he was passed in. Márquez does the same, but he brings his own extra tools to the skills he learned from studying Rossi. One of the reasons Márquez spends so much time practicing flat track is to be comfortable around other riders, and finding ways to try to pass them when it does not seem possible. Marc Márquez has found a way to beat Valentino Rossi at his own game. And Valentino Rossi does not like that one bit.

So Rossi faced a rival capable of beating him at his own game. He also faced a rival who he had spent the whole weekend goading, after his outburst in the press conference accusing Márquez of trying to help Lorenzo. It was not as if Márquez needed much encouragement: the clash at Argentina had not sat well with Márquez, but the incident at Assen had infuriated him. Márquez believed – utterly wrongly – that he should have been awarded the win at Assen, when he slammed into Rossi and forced the Italian into the gravel, unwittingly handing him victory. Those two incidents had bred resentment, and Rossi added another twist speaking to Italian media. Márquez' manager, Emilio Alzamora, had told him that Márquez believed that Rossi had knocked him out of the championship, because of the crash in Argentina and second place at Assen.

When Valentino Rossi sat in the press conference at Sepang and accused Márquez of helping Lorenzo, it merely enraged him further. Whether or not there was any truth to Rossi's accusations of his behavior at Phillip Island, at Sepang, it was inevitable that there would be at Sepang. Márquez was determined that if he could not win the race, then he was going to do whatever it took to make Rossi's life hell.

Beserker

The clash on the track was inevitable, once Márquez could not stick with Pedrosa and Rossi could not hang with Lorenzo. They were destined to meet, and once they did, their mutual hatred and rage was destined to blow up into an incident of historic proportions. Both men lost their minds, and all sense of perspective. Rossi allowed himself to get tangled up with someone he had no business being concerned with, and Márquez got involved in a battle out of petty spite and anger, giving vent to frustration at a year when he could not be competitive on the bike Honda had given him.

Was Marc Márquez' riding fair? He has every right to fight for his position on the track, but it is deeply unsporting to get involved with a rival with other priorities, unless you can beat them simply. There is nothing in the rules about being sporting, though, just about not being dangerous. Márquez' passes were legal, but they were extraordinarily aggressive for a battle for third place just five laps into a twenty lap race.

Ultimately, though, it was Valentino Rossi who lost out most by losing his cool. Throughout his career, Rossi has been known as a master of psychological warfare, of intense mental strength, as someone who can withstand any setback which fate can throw against him. After his outburst on Thursday, we started to wonder if cracks were starting to show in what had until then seemed an impregnable wall. A strong qualifying on Saturday seemed to remove those doubts, but the race proved that our eyes had not deceived us. Andrea Dovizioso put it bluntly. "He is really the best to control every situation, every sensation," the Ducati rider mused. "But not today. He fights for something important, the tenth title, but everybody knows Lorenzo is faster." All that anger and frustration came boiling to a head at Turn 13 at Sepang, ending with Marc Márquez on the ground, and the reputation of both Márquez and Rossi in tatters.

Heroes unmasked

For neither man came out of this well. Márquez showed himself up as a petty man, driven by spite to try to prevent another rider from having something he could not. Rossi showed his weakness, his fear of being able to match Lorenzo in a straight fight, and his willingness to go to extreme lengths to achieve his goals. The Teflon layer which had always allowed accusations of foul play to slip off him, shrugged off with a joke and a smile, was irrevocably damaged. For once, he did openly what he had previously kept hidden. Both men remain great champions, and the finest motorcycle racers of their generation, but if you wanted to see the underlying truth of how bitter and ugly elite sports can get, Sunday at Sepang was the proof. Rossi and Márquez share the same ambition, ruthlessness, and blind hatred of their rivals as every other elite athlete on the planet. If they did not have that hunger, they would not go to the lengths they do to achieve success. They give up everything – friends, lovers, family, time, starving themselves to lose weight, training themselves to exhaustion – just for the sake of a shiny piece of metal with their name on, and the satisfaction that they triumphed over others.

The question is, why was the situation allowed to get so far out of hand? Did no one sit Valentino Rossi down and ask him whether it was a good idea to launch an attack on Márquez at such a crucial time in the championship? Did no one point out to him that his main rival is on the other side of the garage, not down at Honda? Did no one take Márquez to one side after Rossi's attack and tell him to behave with dignity, that if he wants to race Rossi, he should do so fairly and cleanly? Did no one from the organization take the pair of the riders aside, and tell them to behave themselves?

They did not. There was a role for management to play here, and management did not step up and play it. Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told reporters that Rossi had told him of his opinion of what Márquez had done, but he had not expected Rossi to actually express those concerns in a press conference. If Rossi's claim is true, that Alzamora said Márquez blames Rossi for taking Márquez out of the championship, then someone at HRC should have been monitoring that situation, and spoken to Márquez. But HRC appear to have entrusted care of Márquez to his manager, Alzamora. Alzamora has very different priorities than Honda, and HRC should have realized this, and taken steps to prevent it. After the clash on Sunday, HRC, Yamaha and Dorna were left to pick up the pieces, to clean up the mess their riders had created for them.

Judge and jury

Though two riders were at fault here, only one has been punished. After the race, Rossi and Márquez were called in to Race Direction to review the footage and give their version of events. It was an ugly affair, with bitter words spoken between the two. "Honestly, I prefer not to say what he said in Race Direction. I have always had a lot of respect for him, and I prefer not to comment on what he said to me," Márquez said afterwards. Rossi admitted he had spoken to Márquez in the meeting. "I told him what I think of him. But it was personal." No doubt Márquez had some choice words for Rossi too.

In the meeting, the two men stuck to their version of events. Márquez believes Rossi kicked his handlebars, or at least deliberately took his foot off the pegs and nudged his bar and brake lever. Rossi said that Márquez was trying to hold him up, and he had grown tired of being harassed by Márquez, deciding to push him wide and try to make him lose time. He had not meant for him to crash, Rossi said, but that when Márquez and he collided, Márquez' handlebar hit his knee, and that is what caused Márquez to crash. To get the full account from both sides, see this story on Crash.net for Rossi, and this for Márquez.

Race Direction ruled that they could see no clear evidence for a kick, but that Rossi's actions had caused Márquez to crash. Mike Webb told reporters that Rossi had pushed Márquez wide, and that was what had caused the crash. They believed that there was some fault on both sides of the argument, but that all of Márquez' passes had been clean and with no contact. They understood that Rossi had been provoked, but said that his reaction had gone against the rules, causing the contact which brought Márquez down. Causing contact which brought another rider down – whether intentionally or not – had to be penalized. Rossi was handed three penalty points, and because he already had one point he had picked up during qualifying at Misano, he will be forced to start from the back of the grid.

Mike Webb explained the justification for awarding three points: though Rossi had sought contact with Márquez, Rossi had stated he had not intentionally brought Márquez down. They had a precedent from earlier in the year, when Karel Hanika had caused Juanfran Guevara to crash after the flag at Jerez. At that time, Hanika had admitted he had intended to make Guevara crash, and had been handed five points. Without intent, Race Direction could not hand Rossi more points than Hanika, or disqualify him completely. The penalty had to be severe enough for Rossi to feel truly punished, while not being more severe than the points handed out to Hanika. To read Webb's full explanation, see this story over on Crash.net.

Grab the pitchforks

Immediately after the crash, there was a storm of debate as to whether the penalty was either too lenient or too harsh. Carlo Pernat, prominent rider manager, said in the press conference that he felt Rossi should have been immediately disqualified, or given a ride through penalty. At Le Mans in 2011, Marco Simoncelli had caused Dani Pedrosa to crash, and been awarded a ride through penalty a few laps later. Surely, many said, there should have been an immediate sanction, instead of waiting until the race was over?

Webb's version is that they knew this was an incredibly important incident that would have a major impact on the outcome of the championship. They did not want to impose a penalty before examining all of the facts, and in the middle of an active MotoGP race, they could not devote the resources to giving it the attention it deserves. That meant waiting until the race was over, which would also allow them to bring the two riders in and speak to them both, and allow them to explain themselves.

Would it be better to issue an immediate judgment? Instant justice may be a lot more satisfying for the fans, but it creates a situation which cannot be reversed. Should closer scrutiny reveal that the penalty was too harsh, or the crime merely a figment of Race Direction's imagination, then they have no way of making amends. As with the death penalty, exoneration after the fact becomes rather meaningless.

On the other hand, a ride through penalty may not be the punishment it would seem. With the incident coming on lap seven, the earliest Rossi could realistically have been handed a ride through penalty would be lap ten or eleven. He then has three laps to come in and pass through the pits. It takes approximately 27 seconds to ride through the pits at Sepang (at least, that is the length of time Ant West took to perform a ride through there in 2007). Rossi would have reentered the track as twelfth, and with the pace he was running at the time, could have fought his way to the battle for what would have been sixth. Sixth place gives ten points, instead of the sixteen points he got for third. Rossi could have been heading to Valencia still leading the championship by a single point, and with no penalty to serve. Holding on to the sixteen points he got for third at Sepang, and being forced to start from the back of the grid is likely a more severe penalty.

Et tu, brute?

In the press conference, Jorge Lorenzo expressed his disgust at the penalty handed to Rossi. After a brilliant ride that could be a big step on the way to a third championship, Lorenzo added his ugly reaction to the ugliness of the incident between Márquez and Rossi. He had received a race ban for a similar incident in 2005, so why should Rossi receive such a light penalty, conveniently overlooking the fact that Lorenzo had earned a reputation as a wild and dangerous rider at the time, something he refers to himself. It was not fair, Lorenzo said, the look on his face one of utter disgust. If someone in Moto3 had done the same thing, they would have been penalized more heavily, Lorenzo claimed. Rossi was getting away with because of who he is. "His name is very important for the championship," Lorenzo said. "If another rider did what Valentino did today, he would do minimum a ride through, minimum a black flag, minimum a race of penalization. But it didn't happen, and I'm disappointed, very disappointed."

Lorenzo had wanted Rossi disqualified, arguing that his teammate should have exactly the same points as Marc Márquez, the man he had caused to crash. Allowing Rossi to continue had meant Lorenzo had been forced to push hard and take some amount of risk to ensure he finished ahead of Rossi and scored points. He could have crashed because of the risks he was taking, Lorenzo argued, and been left with no points at all. Starting at the back of the grid at Vaelncia was not as harsh as it seemed, he argued. "If Valentino starts in last position, maybe it is raining, and in one or two laps he is there at the front. If it's dry, he will have more problems, but he can champion. This is not fair know what happened today on the track. So if this happens, for me he will not be a fair champion for this championship."

It was a petty reaction, as petty as the reaction by Marc Márquez that had caused him to engage Valentino Rossi, and as petty as the behavior of Rossi in pushing Márquez wide and causing him to crash. Lorenzo had a chance to look presidential, to look dignified, like a worthy champion. Instead, he sat and blamed Race Direction for not handing him the championship. He was not happy at having secured a podium, he was only bitter. It was unedifying.

In his defense, he had some reason to be disgruntled. He had come off the bike feeling exhausted, drained by the heat at Sepang. At the podium ceremony, he was greeted with boos from the crowd – yet more ugliness on a bad day for racing, though nothing compared to the torrent of abuse which has followed among fans on social media and forums since – walking off early claiming he was feeling faint. We have to take his word for it, but being booed for finishing ahead of another rider is not going to make anyone feel invigorated. After the podium ceremony, and the obligatory TV interviews, Lorenzo and Pedrosa waited in the small TV room for Valentino Rossi to return from Race Direction and join them for the post-race press conference. They waited the best part of an hour, tired, dirty, drenched in sweat, but mainly bored. Sat waiting for a man who is notorious for keeping others waiting at the best of times, but who was very much persona non grata at that point in time. In the end, Dorna decided to go ahead with the press conference without Rossi, as he showed no sign of making his return. That would have tried the patience of a saint. But Lorenzo had a chance to make a good impression at Sepang, a chance he completely blew.

Dignity defined

The only rider to come out of this with any dignity was Dani Pedrosa. In addition to riding a peerless race, his comportment in the press conference was thoughtful, composed, and honest. "First of all, a very weird press conference," were the first words he spoke, summing up the occasion perfectly. He talked about his race, expressed his happiness at being able to give his team the reward they deserved after what has been a very tough season, the Spaniard having missed so much of it after his arm pump surgery.

He then gave a clear, concise and considered analysis of what had happened between Rossi and Márquez, which captured the events perfectly. "I don't think it's a good thing. I don't think it's good for the championship. It's not good for any of us. I don't think it's good for Valentino, for Marc, for Jorge or me, even though I wasn't involved. It's not a good thing to be happening in this late part of the championship.

"From my point of view, I can say that the battle has been there from the first laps, sure heated up from the press conference and practice sessions from them. And they get together and they start fighting quite early. The maneuvers were OK until then. Sure, Valentino wanted to have a more calm race and maybe try to catch Jorge for second, but Marc maybe wanted to stay on the podium, of course, because Marc is always fighting, he has a fighting spirit, and he has quite a good way to manage the bike and do special overtaking.

"But what I can say from the last maneuver, I think when you have the inside, you can go as wide as you want, because the guy on the inside has the preference always, so normally the guy on the outside should cut. But I can see that the speed at this time was already going very slow, so Marc understood that, and close completely the throttle, waiting for Valentino to turn. And then there is one moment where I can see Valentino's leg moving, and Marc crash. I would like to see more times the image of this moment, but I can see that I don't understand why this leg is moving there, and why Marc is crashing out. Unfortunately, not a good thing, and really disappointed about it."

Pedrosa also pointed out that Rossi had been quick in the past to excuse behavior such as that displayed by Márquez. No doubt colored by his experience with Marco Simoncelli, Pedrosa pointed out that Rossi had been quick to defend the Italian when he was accused of being dangerous. "Always Valentino was saying, well, this is racing, and racing is like this, and we should fight," Pedrosa said. "And now he is changing his comment to what I was saying before. But a little bit of contradiction at this moment of what he said then, and what he is saying now. "

Pedrosa's behavior was a ray of light on a dark day for racing. He may never have won a MotoGP championship, but he behaved like the great champion he is. In the last few years, Pedrosa has matured and developed, become more human, more approachable. He can still be surly in press debriefs, and talking to the press is still something he does not take much pleasure in. But he also has a wry wit, and can give precise and detailed analysis of events and bikes when he feels like it. Which sadly, is not often enough, to my liking.

This is not as bad as it looks

This is a dark and sordid tale, which has exposed the unpleasant side of racing, and of racers. I have had harsh words for the protagonists involved, but I should add that this is just one side to their character. Off track, Valentino Rossi remains a man of unfailing charm and wit, who retains an incredible calmness and dignity in the face of being almost constantly surrounded and harassed by fans. He cannot step outside his motorhome without being mobbed by fans, and he diligently and patiently signs caps, posters and shirts, and poses for photos with as many as he can, while still attending to the business of racing. If he did not turn some people away, he would never actually find time to race his bike during the weekend.

Rossi has a passion for racing, and is putting his own money into helping to bring on the next generation of young Italian racers. He acts like a mentor for these young riders, and treats them as equals, never showing any signs of arrogance toward them – unless, of course, they should have the temerity to try to beat him at his dirt track.

Marc Márquez is similar, always finding time to sign things and pose for fans. He gives much of his time to charity, and is witty, charming and intelligent. He never has a harsh word for the media or fans, even when we ask stupid questions or try to goad him into an ill-judged response. He treats his mechanics with the greatest of respect, eating dinner with them every evening and joking and laughing with them all the time.

Even Jorge Lorenzo, the strangest of the bunch – hardly his fault, robbed of his childhood by a father determined to turn him into a world champion before Lorenzo had a chance to make the choice himself – is at heart a good man. He too supports charities, but not just by donating money, but by putting time and effort into it. The work he did with Ana Vives, a woman with Downs syndrome who is an artist and represents the Downs syndrome community in Spain, went well beyond the patronizing stance so often seen. The pair worked as a partnership in designing Lorenzo's helmet and his number, and have worked together for a good cause.

So to paint these men as flawed and tainted is an unfair and incomplete picture of such complex characters. But underlying them all is an ambition which drives them to succeed. They hate losing, are prepared to do almost anything to win, and believe without question that they deserve to succeed. They are indignant when riders challenge them on track, incapable of understanding how another rider could have the temerity to get in their way. It is a peculiar mindset, to put it mildly. But indispensable if they are to succeed at this level of racing. Normally, such unpleasantness is kept hidden by circumstances, the participants putting on a brave face. What was unusual about Sepang is that three of the greatest riders in the world all let the mask slip on the same day.

We will overcome

In the aftermath of Sepang, fans and media are engaged in writing the sport off, declaring MotoGP to be dead, killed by Race Direction for either being too harsh on Valentino Rossi, or not being harsh enough. Headlines talk of fallen idols, of shattered illusions and broken dreams. Analogies abound, though no one has so far ventured to bring Milton into it, and draw parallels with Lucifer before and after the fall.

Most of that is melodrama, though, a natural consequence of the nature of professional sport. It is, as darts promoter Barry Hearn put it, soap opera for men, a genre characterized by inflated emotions and overwrought responses to events of lesser significance. The intense passions of MotoGP fans can explode in unexpected directions, but once the bikes hit the track again, the trauma of the previous race is forgotten. Big words are being spoken with great passion, but the same passion is what keeps us coming back for more. The Sepang MotoGP round of 2015 will be spoken of for a very long time in the future. But it is just a single chapter in the never ending story of the sport. Valencia awaits.


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Comments

FP/Q is like a mini-race unto itself. I guess I'll need to pay Dorna next season. Post Q2, it was interesting that Lorenzo gaffed, cut his engine expecting to be in PF, and then having to be pushed back to the pits. Meanwhile, MM taps VR on the rear and VR returns the friendly gesture by tapping MM back on the shoulder, so I thought that they had an accord of some sort.

It made what happened at Sepang during the race all the more shocking as it unfolded. Post-race, I hopped here. Its strange to think of a website as a "place" and I'm not yet on twitter, but your tweets and re-tweets were timely, informational, and sometimes funny - "We're going to need a bigger internet."

Total votes: 26

Great write up David, it's a pleasure to read coverage of all angles in a considered tone that avoids stoking the flames just for clicks. I agree for the most part with what you're saying and would add the following:

DP - Came across as absolutely presidential in the presser. He has arguably had the toughest season of anyone, minus the weight of expectations, and has come out no worse for wear. He's a great example of how people at the top of an elite sport should handle themselves.
MM/VR - The pressure of this season has gotten to both of them, and they both made errors of judgment in this race. MM succumbed early on and his championship fell apart, Dani (as with Hayden in the past) showing what the Honda is capable of (though they have had a season to sort it out.) Which means that MM's issues this season cannot all be blamed on the bike - his temperament is showing itself to be a liability more and more. As for VR, I was wrong in my earlier assessment, it's obvious that the pressure has gotten to him - he handled it better than anyone for most of the season, but losing his cool and making this mistake is a clear signal that Rossi has finally had too much. It happens to lots of riders and manifests differently in each one. It's sad to see, as a VR fan, because one of the things I like about him so much is his composure and concentration. But you're right that we're going to move on from this, and furthermore, champions making mistakes are still champions. That goes for MM too. Though I do think the way he approaches things goes beyond the typical "these guys really want to win" mentality. Ultimately, if he can't control himself, he's going to be a liability for Honda, and bad for the sport. He has the right stuff, but needs better guidance. You can look at VR has finally cracking, but for MM, this kind of behavior is just how he is, and Honda, as with all their champions, have done a horrendous job of handling him. The biggest distinction between VR and MM, in this regard, is that VR had the sense to leave the organization.
JL - Honestly, the biggest loser of the weekend. VR starting from the back of the grid gives JL a 90% chance of locking up the championship with comparatively little risk and effort on his part, at a track that VR hasn't won at since, what, 2004? JL was, for all intents and purposes, handed the championship. He came out looking so angry, and I was sure he was going to finally support VR in something, and say that perhaps the penalty was too harsh. Imagine my shock when he took that particular time and place to bemoan the lack of a stronger penalty - effectively complaining about being given a 90% chance to win the championship instead of just being given the crown outright. It is, without a doubt, the most classless thing I've ever heard a rider say. I have no love for JL, but this was so unnecessary and unsporting that all I can say is I look forward to him retiring. His presence in MotoGP is, for many fans, utterly joyless.
Race Direction - This is probably one of the worst jobs in the world and I have no clue why someone would want to do it. They had to know that waiting until the race was over would effectively end the championship. That doesn't mean they didn't make the right call, but it's ultimately disappointing for the fans, since Valencia is not going to be the ultimate conclusion we had all hoped and wished for. The championship is effectively over. This, to me, is the saddest thing about the entire Sepang experience. The championship, which had been one of the best ones in history, is now effectively over, for the worst possible reasons. I'll still be watching Valencia, hoping at the 1% chance of Rossi pulling off the greatest upset in history, but that's what it'll have to be, and I'm not expecting much. Looking forward, they need to come up with some kind of consistent way of dealing with MM. He always seems to be at the center of these kinds of altercations throughout his career, and usually walks away with no consequences for his actions from Race Direction. The longer this goes on, the more it will upset fans of other riders, not just VR.

One final note that MUST be addressed, that you did not mention: JL passing under yellow with no penalty. And when he was quizzed on this at the presser, having the audacity to shut down the journalist inquiring, using Rossi's failings as a shield for his own. That was pathetic. David, what are your thoughts on JL passing under yellow, can you shed some light on this scenario and what happened there?

Thanks again David. Looking forward to renewing my subscription.

Total votes: 53

To see if anyone was going to comment on this. I don't have much to add concerning the clash - many excellent points have already been posted. My position on it is simple - plenty of blame to go around and the only man in that front group to walk away untarnished is Dani. An incredible ride that will likely go mostly unnoticed because of the foolishness that took place behind him. Also, the great battle that occurred between the 2 Suzuki team mates needs to be called out. Amazing stuff that finally caught the director's eye, so we at least got a little taste of it. Those 2 showed how a spirited battle should be waged on track. Bravo to those 2 men!

Now, back to the matter of Lorenzo passing under the yellow... I thought something didn't look right there but no one said anything about it! I suppose it has to go down in the spilt milk section. Race direction obviously missed it - I doubt they would give anyone a free pass in that situation. And really that is about all you can say. I don't know that there is much else to it really at this juncture.

So Valencia it is - And if all of this drama wasn't enough, it looks like Mother Nature is going to make an appearance on race day as well, which should thicken the plot even more!

Total votes: 19

I don't have the link handy at the moment, but in the midst of the twitter barrage that followed the Sepang race I saw a few links to an interview with the race director (Mike Webb?), who said that Lorenzo did not pass Rossi under a yellow flag. The flag was being brought up for an incident that happened behind the yamaha riders, and was quickly removed after the incident proved to be minor. Apparently it was a matter of fractions of a second. The photograph that CormacGP got of the pass with the flag shows the precise moment when the flag was being raised, and shows that it was behind the duo.

Be that as it may, the incident was reviewed by race direction, and deemed irrelevant.

(edit to correct Mike Webb's name)

Total votes: 36

I meant to mention this in the article, but missed it. My friend the Israeli TV commentator Tammy Gorali contacted Mike Webb about this, and he said that there was no infringement. They had to go looking for the video, because no marshal had reported that Lorenzo had passed under a yellow flag (marshals act as the eyes and ears on the ground).

Here is what Webb wrote:

"Now I have the video, it shows Lorenzo passing Rossi into Turn 1 with no yellow flags. After the pass is completed a rider behind them makes a mistake on braking and runs wide into Turn 1, the marshal lifts the yellow flag and when he sees that the rider does not go into the gravel or crash he drops the flag again. The still photo we have all seen shows the flag just as it has been raised, both Lorenzo and Rossi are past the flag point and it definitely was not displayed when the pass was made. The flag was up for about 3 seconds only. Incidentally, the same flag was raised 10 seconds later when Baz crashed, but by then all the lead riders were well past this point."  

Total votes: 33

That makes a lot more sense then. Fair play to Lorenzo then, no wrong-doing on his part, other than the churlish way he handled himself in the presser. But clean racing on the track.

Total votes: 27

The flags went up after JL passed or were waved in error by the marshal - have read both explanations and think the former has been settled on.

But you raise an interesting point in relation to JL's response to the journalist, which in turn leads to questions about the MotoGP press conference.
As it turns out, the journalist who asked about the yellow flags didn't have his facts right and could probably have done his homework before putting the question to JL but JL's indignation about the question being raised in the first place when he thought that the VR-MM clash was the only thing worth talking about shows that he has no idea what a press conference is for. That's really not a surprise given that the MotoGP press conference is a ridiculous farce.

How on earth was it possible on Sunday for Rossi not to have known that the PC had been delayed and was going ahead after his meeting with RD? Who thought it was okay for the press conference to go ahead without Rossi being there? Who thought it was okay for questions to be asked about the clash when it was clear there was a major dispute about what had actually happened and neither of the two protagonists was there to give their side of the story? Right, MM had no place at that podium pc but anyway, but with neither of the two protagonists there, questions about the incident should have been off limits.

Every answer JL gave about the incident was based on his having viewed footage "once" by his own admission and on his firm belief that Rossi had kicked MM. How on earth he wasn't debriefed by Yamaha press handlers and told to bite his tongue, I don't know. At what normal press conference do you see a journalist being given the mic and being allowed to hold forth on what he thought should have happened to Rossi as Carlo Pernat did? And what proper journalist does not try to get to the bottom of something and establish the facts before taking a position on it?

The Sepang podium press conference was the natural point for MotoGP to reach and unfortunately it looked like something organised by a travelling circus. Race by race we are treated to the spectacle of Spanish journalists asking Spanish riders questions in English and Italian journalists doing the same. The level of English varies from journalist to journalist and from rider to rider and so very little is gotten from these exchanges. When the cameras stop rolling, they go and speak to them in their first languages anyway.

From time to time, an English-speaking journalist asks a good question but then has to sit there silently nodding as the rider answers a different one because he didn't understand it but has to pretend he has. It was very entertaining to see Andrea Iannone helping Bastianini through his first pole winners press conference reeling off the platitudes for him to parrot but the moment also highlighted the stupidity of insisting that the riders do everything through English.

Yes, DP's English is great. He took an interest in in it a long time ago and it's been impressive to watch him improve. But even he had moments on Sunday when he couldnt express himself the way he wanted to. A commenter in one of the threads here recently said that he was worried about Rossi because he didn't seem his normal self in the video of him talking to the Italian press. But had this commenter ever seen Rossi informally chatting to his compatriots in his mother tongue before? Because that's arguably a better insight into him than when he's speaking English - assuming you can understand Italian, that is.

At a recent press conference there was interesting moment when a rider was answering a question and the camera was trained on Lin Jarvis, standing there leaning against the wall and listening. Jarvis sensed he was being monitored and looked up. It was a really weird moment because it added a dimension to the press conference that is not supposed to be there.

Bottom line: the MotoGP press conference is a shambolic affair being run by people who know nothing about anything other than putting on a show. The ridiculous insistence that only English be used basically neutralises it and turns it into a complete puppet show. The fact that it went ahead without Rossi on Sunday and that riders fielded questions about the clash between VR and MM shows that the MotoGP media heads are clueless. Sure, we got great insights into JL and DP as a result but any professionally run organisation would never have allowed JL to be given so much rope to hang himself with. #motogpfail

Total votes: 26

It may be worth noting that where Pedrosa clapped while Rossi received his third place trophy, Lorenzo gave a continuous thumbs down motion. As the next person to receive his trophy, he was then booed.

Total votes: 41

Lorenzo makes some bad moves when he was in contention in 2013. Even after chastising MM. Marquez looks young and innocent but so did Freddie Spencer. Ask Kenny Roberts what he thinks.

There's a saying in the US. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. MM was playing with Rossi. He isn't a rookie and he knew where Rossi was going to fight. If MM wanted a legitimate pass after so many previous attempts he would have set Rossi up better as he planned to do at Assen.

Rossi's biggest error was his sloppy block pass. He didn't sell it. He had clearly be riding at his limit to keep up with Marquez but in the slow corners neither had the advantage. But in this case both riders where playing stupid games instead of racing. Rossi should have raced the race and at worst come in 4th.

Our part is many of the fans were eating up this "man soap opera". We lose because we get at tainted championship. Lorenzo wins due to no fault of his own, Rossi starting at the back, if at all.

Total votes: 30

The perception David has of Motogp is why motomatters is my first choice for insight on the subject. His comprehension of motogp is outstanding. Davids Craft of journalism is like how Dani Pedrosa conducted himself this past weekend. Professional

Total votes: 29

Been a 46 fan forever. So, so disappointed in him for this. So very unlike him. Don't really care to watch the finale. He ruined a fantastic season. God, Vale, what in the world were you thinking?!

Total votes: 37

I really hope VR and MM have calmed down by Valencia but I wouldn't be surprised if MM just slots in behind JL and hangs there for the race. Lets hope not.

Total votes: 27

Like an other poster said: "what I need to read".

Less drama, intelligent, equal ... well that's what we all need I suppose.

This doubt on Marquez attitude (PH + Sepang slow down ? , Sepang only ? , none of them ? ) is still running in cache in my head.
I hope I will know the real truth from him one day (Rossi believes, he doesn't know)

Cheers

Total votes: 30

My brief gut feeling analysis overview of the Marquez / Rossi incident is as follows-
The passing / overtaking fierceness escalated with each pass and re-pass. They touched, Rossi almost lost the front, then Rossi puts in a great block pass with the body language like- "You serious, dude? You're gonna chop my nose off like that over and over? Well then, lets see how you like it!". Then Rossi once past lifts his left foot off the peg and sits up and looks backwards towards Marquez and holds his hand up motioning "You want to play that hard? Ok, I'll play that hard then! Whilst Rossi still has it WFO. Marquez then cuts a way tighter line into 4 and overtakes Rossi. Rossi gets in front of Marquez at 10, then Marquez freaking dive bombs Rossi from the outside at 12 cutting Rossi's nose off on a wicked fast leaned the hell over turn with onboard video showing almost no space between the M1's front tire and the rear tire of the RC213V. It looked like that move by Marquez on Rossi, really chapped Rossi's hide... So he was like, ok, you want to ride that dangerous???!!!??? Let me help you get the best line for this corner, ok? Ok? Whoa! don't lean on my bike! Marquez didn't back off one bit and ran out of real estate while trying to get back to the flow of that corner. Conspiracy theories are abound and readily abundant, lol...

Total votes: 31

Very nicely written. Best blow by blow recount of the clash I've read. Subjective as it nevertheless is, it's a very compelling version of events.

Total votes: 23

I think docking Rossi some championship points probably would have been a fairer (if stranger) penalty. Rossi was battling for 3rd / 4th - so perhaps dock him half the difference. Marquez also deserved some kind of sanction because the reality is that he did indeed hit Rossi. Yes Rossi was running him wide but so what? Rossi himself has been run off track before (on a high-speed straight) - I think by Biaggi - and this was the 4th time Marquez has hit Rossi this year, and the 5th time he's hit another rider (the guy at Qatar he took out) this season alone.

Rossi could have avoided crashing by simply grabbing the brake. Marquez persisted in holding station with Rossi, behind him.

It was disappointing to see Rossi finally crack mentally - I think that this is probably the 2nd time in his career (Valencia '06) - but RD on further consideration probably should have slept on this.

Total votes: 37

Thanks for the excellent analysis and comments.

I still have a lot of respect for Rossi for everything he has achieved, but I am hugely disappointed with him. I can only blame his moves on an overinflated ego, in reaction to Marquez being his toughest opponent ever. He had to be faster, not to kick him off the track. The penalty he received was fully deserved.

I am not convinced that Marquez actually played against Rossi. He always races hard, doesn’t he ? Maybe he dreams of ultimately upsetting Rossi as greatest of all time, but I doubt he thinks that far ahead. I think he is a very young and hugely talented hothead.

As for management, they really messed up. Rossi’s strategy of accusations had to be downplayed, Marquez had to be calmed down. The bosses thought it would be good for the show, but they should have seen it coming.

I feel sorry for Dani Pedrosa after his superb performance; I hope he wins the next race and next year’s championship. I also feel for Lorenzo; he has proven himself as the fastest, but this championship that I hope he wins will be tainted. Finally, I am sorry for all the fans who, like me, had their party spoiled by a disgraceful turn of events.

Total votes: 38

I am adding also my thanks for your excellent article.
I would like to add one correction and one comment:

Correction:
“Rossi's theory quickly spread far and wide, people starting to claim they had been suspicious of Márquez' race all along. Though curiously, they only raised their concerns after Rossi had expressed his.”

I watched that race on “Swiss TV” (http://www.rsi.ch/la2/)
Both commentators during the race expressed the surprise and made lot of comments about MM racing behavior.
They kept saying “why is MM slowing down? he is driving very strange". At a certain point (round 11) they even saw a sign of encouragement (or provocation) from Mark to Valentino to do more and pass him… At the end of the race (after MM final pass and win) they even expressed a concern about Marc’s choice to put a win on stake in order to slow down the opponents.…

Comment:
As disappointed as I was soon after the race, after reading your article I think what happened can actually turn into positive:

- The way the incident happened wasn’t nice. BUT there was no physical injury (only some verbal offense)
- Now it is explicit that also sport champions are NOT super-men. They all have weaknesses and they must live with them (just like us)
- We (spectators) may stop/reduce idolatry and may be more realistic about setting expectations.
- All this is a great chance for every one (including teams, organizers, spectators) to de-escalate. We want to see hard/fair competition but this was turning very ugly. Money, glory, pride, popularity…. None of this can justify a war.

Bottom line. Sepang might be the best chance to taker a moment to reset before it is too late: “the show must go on”.

Total votes: 31

...I would take issue with just one point.

I think Rossi might have been able to run the pace of Lorenzo. Might. We shall never know. To say that "If Rossi had had the outright speed to leave Márquez behind, he would not have had to slug it out over several laps" misses a key point of motorcycle racing, which is that a slightly slower rider (in terms of lap time) can still block pass a slightly faster one, and hold them both up. In the three laps that Rossi and Marquez were battling, they lost 3 seconds to Lorenzo. Rossi definitely was not a second a lap slower than Lorenzo.

I think the professional, mature thing for Marquez to do would have been to sit behind Rossi for a few laps, and see if he had the pace to catch Lorenzo. If so, let them battle. If not, then pass Rossi again if he could.

Total votes: 34

And of course often who has the faster pace changes towards the end, how often we've seen that this year. All we can say is that Rossi 'didn't have the pace' at that point in the race (probably what David meant).

The fast guy earlier is not at all necessarily the fast guy later. So the pace between MM VR and indeed JL could have changed, had there not been this incredible slowing fight for 3rd so early in the race.

Total votes: 29

In fact, we do know. Rossi was only faster than Lorenzo on one lap the rest of the race. So no, Rossi did not have the pace to catch his teammate.

Your last paragraph is precisely the problem with bias. You got it completely the wrong way around. Let's put it correctly:

"I think the professional, mature and best for his championship thing for Rossi to do would have been to sit behind Marquez for a few laps, and see if he had the pace to catch Lorenzo. If so, let them battle. If not, then pass Marquez again if he could."

Makes a lot more sense doesn't it?

Total votes: 33

I fully agree with that opinion. The reason why that couldn't happen was that Rossi was fully convinced that MM was slowing down in front of him to stall his progress.

MM's laptimes don't seem to agree with that assessment. If JL was pulling slightly ahead of the pair at that point, it's because that's what JL does (put it fast early laps) every single race.

Total votes: 31

Only that DORNA will have to send all parties involved (maybe the whole field) into a seminary with a professional team of psychologists to work out the personality issues, and make them good friends again.(as good friends as they can be, being rivals) I don't think it's a good idea to start out 2016 with several riders holding grudges all over the place.

These folks need group therapy to be able to work again and be functional. Anger management, teamwork, motivation, etc etc.

Total votes: 23

I wrote a pretty long comment about how much I disagreed with David's analysis but apparently it wasn't approved.

That's a shame.

In any case, my point in short: Marquez did absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever except do what he's supposed to do: race. Rossi went bonkers on Thursday and continued this throughout the weekend. He is to blame for everything and I mean everything that made him lose this championship.

This is not a dark time for MotoGP at all. It's a dark time for Rossi and his legions. Not for me. I will enjoy seeing Lorenzo take that deserved crown immensely.

Total votes: 43

As you may expect, moderating all of the comments on this article is time-consuming. I am doing it in batches every few hours, as it is the only way to make it manageable.

So please, be patient if your comment does not appear immediately. It may take some time for me to read it and approve it.

Total votes: 31

First of all, thank you for you in depth, even handed analysis. Like a lot of people, I was shocked and surprised by Vale's press conference on Thursday. I couldn't fathom what result he was expecting. If true that Marquez was in engaged in a long game proxy war to claim the GOAT title in another decade, when Rossi is a commentator for Italian TV, and racing rally cars for kicks, what difference would Vale's claims make? It seemed a desperate move, but we have all been told a thousand times that he is the master of the mind games, so I assumed he saw some advantage that I was not picking up on. Now that we hear he hasn't been sleeping well as the season winds down, with the pressure of the championship, seeing maybe his last, best chance slipping away little by little, I think his decision making has been deeply flawed.
The passes between VR and MM in Sepang seemed hard and certainly didn't allow VR to get his rhythm, but did not seem to be outside of what we've seen from MM in the past. He was almost on the floor 2-3 times on his own. I did not feel he was capable of much more, and clearly VR was pushing harder than he usually does, feet off the pegs at least twice. The big question I have is what did Vale hope to accomplish by pushing MM wide? If VR wasn't gonna crash MM, they were both gonna lose more time than when they were racing hard. On first viewing, I saw a kick. On second viewing, I could buy the incidental contact/foot slip theory. On third viewing, I see the knee move out with intention. It is a Rorschach test. What you see is more indicative of the viewer than the event. Rossi's actions up to that point on the pivotal lap were verging on bizarre. In the context of him looking over his shoulder, hand gestures, and brake checking while pushing MM almost off the track, a kick seems plausible. He was already far outside of the norms of on track behavior. Even without a kick, it was clearly an intentional move, that was designed to disadvantage Marc, even at Rossi's peril.
I am a lifelong motorcyclist, but have never raced. I don't follow any other sports, but went to Laguna Seca with friends in 2008. I was at the Corkscrew for The Pass, and have been hooked ever since. Vale was hard not to like then, and impossible not to respect for how he handled himself at Ducati. I have been a fan of the sport, but not a partisan. Rooted for Marquez in his first year. This year I have been unabashedly rooting for Valentino. The comeback was too sweet. Now I almost don't care who wins. There are no good guys left. Valentino has gone to the Dark Side, Marc is a Machiavelli who is plotting to eclipse his mentor, Lorenzo is an eminently punchable twat, who almost managed to come off looking worse than Rossi. Dani, as many have mentioned, looks like a rose growing in the fertilizer, and I would love to see him get a title... how many times have we said "maybe next year?" But he's just not a compelling enough hero.
The question I'm left with is; Are all the tight races manufactured? Phillip Island was what we tune in hoping to see. 4 fantastic riders on 3 different machines trading places on almost every lap, the outcome of the race in question from start to finish. Rossi tells us this is only true because Marc was sandbagging, hoping to get Iannone in the mix. Same story for the first 7 laps at Sepang, MM holding up VR. Think back to the last race with close action with a number of riders at the sharp end... Valencia 2013. JL was playing the same game, sandbagging to try to get 4-5 riders in a scrap that would hurt Marquez, JL's only chance to win the championship that year. If those are the only conditions under which close racing happens at the front, I may have to pay more attention to Moto3... Or WSBK.

Total votes: 30

Everything has been said about Sepang and David's article I believe - but a worry I have is what the safety is of having one of the fastest riders of the bunch starting behind everyone else. Rossi (if he shows up...) will probably be considerably faster off the line than most that are directly ahead of him, and will undoubtedly be passing many riders in the next couple of laps - if there are no incidents due to the speed difference. Marquez's charge through the field in Qatar, where he took out Bautista, is a good example of what might happen, and it could be a lot worse. To me this form of punishment may indeed be hard on the rider involved (as intended) but will also create a potentially dangerous situation if that punished rider is one of the top factory dogs.
On the other hand, something like a championship points penalty wouldn't really matter to the guys at the back of the field... So wouldn't it be better to give race direction both possibilities, to be "awarded" at their discretion?

Total votes: 24

David,

Great write up amidst all the brawling. I feel privileged to be part of of your community of more educated motorcycle racing fans.

The Clash makes me have a go at a post here. Though I share your and the view of many that all of the four protagonists except one, Dani Pedrosa for whom my spect is rising rapidly, have behaved undignified in their own special way, I am still somewhat puzzled.

In a number of articles I have read that Marc Marquez commented that Valentino Rossi had clipped him and in doing so made contact with the brake lever of his bike which ultimately made him crash. Here is my puzzlement: since the Capirossi / Gibernau incident at Catalunya 2006 all racing bikes have a brake lever guard fitted to prevent happening what Marc Marquez claims has happened to him. Obviously I can not be sure Marc Marquez actually mouthed his claim. Perhaps you or someone else in your community can confirm of elaborate?

Total votes: 30

All MGP racers have to have a brake lever guard. But I don't believe that this is able to strictly "prevent" contact with the lever but rather to reduce the chances that it can happen. It is, IMHO, a pretty good guard (see, for example, http://superbikeplanet.com/image/archive/caseysbikeindy2012/1.htm).

I also keep in mind that there are fingers on the lever much of the time and contact with another bike/rider could also pull the arm/hand back and that could do it too. Or even sudden contact of the handle bar turning the front end more than the tire can handle.

Total votes: 22

Great, fair and impartial write up.
It's hard to see that out there at this moment.

I think it'll be difficult to get an honest (and personal) take on the subject from any current rider or team/worker in the championship - it is their current place of work afterall. Meaning, voicing in such way may put one in an uncomfortable spot.
But why quoting some opiniated bits from Dovizioso in the matter and not his others?
For instances, and not sure it's from same enterview but, this is a quote from him:

"It makes no sense to run slower (in the race) than in the warm-up lap, but I don't know what is the Márquez strategy. When I go to the track I just think about my race and having the best possible outcome, as this is an individual sport. Marquez was fighting for the podium, but also to annoy Rossi. It was ugly to see."

(NOTE: translated from
http://www.motoracing.pt/2015/10/26/marquez-correu-para-irritar-rossi-do... )

Also, you mentioned Carlo Pernat "prominent rider manager". Why not quote (also or instead, whichever fits) someone with direct and better experience, professionals who have raced in the category, who did show a very different opinion in public (on twitter)?
For instances, I've noticed that J.McWilliams, M.Laverty, and even Ben Spies, all disagree with the view and decision of the Race Direction. And I'm sure I certainly missed others.
I also notice that there are some (known) journalists disagreeing as well.

Regarding Rossi's penalty...
I believe that for any motorsports category the issue with placing fast riders (or drivers) at the back of any grid is that it is pretty dangerous.
And if you put a championship title at steak in such event, it certainly becomes even more dangerous. It may even trigger serious injury.
I think that particular decision was really poor. There was no need to make things worse than they already were.

Another point I was hoping the article would pick and probably extend a bit was something that Pedrosa brought up in the conference - the rules book and its current faults.
In this particular incident, it seems the Race Direction (through Mike Webb) seems to conclude that "Marquez was deliberately slowing down the pace to affect Rossi's race", yet no sanction is given to him simply because "the rules don't cover that".
Well, come on gentlemen, how about starting to work on that? ...like, straight away?

Untill this weekend, I believed this sport, like any other, covered the situation in which an athlete exploits the rules-book for whatever malicious or petty reasons, to cheat or simply to make a rival's life harder.
I believed that was covered by "ethics", "principals" and "sportsmanship" morals, practiced by any sport. Call it a naive unwritten rule if you will, but it is one that you do not break. It seems it has no meaning afterall.
Rossi was penalized, he must had been. But Marquez should have been as well, there are not buts of ifs.

Lastly, the 1990 P.Island 125cc race was mentioned.
Curiously, on that same day, in the 250cc race, John Kocinsky (the lone Yamaha Works rider, and American) had to face the whole Honda + Spanish mob that went openly against him, so that the title would go instead to Carlos Cardus on the Repsol Honda Works NSR250 (heck, the Spanish newspapers even enticed that then).
Fortunately, the better rider won the title, and that's why those memories are dismissed today.

Honestly, I understant that the jornalists, and the riders, and everyone else who makes a living from this sport, have to chose their words very carefully, as to not hurt feelings or provoke wrong perceptions from those in the power, but I like to believe that some things should not be circled, nor should they be shut.
The plain known fact worldwide for any fan, or any intervenient of this sport, is that this is a sport rulled by Spanish people, with a lot of Spanish riders (too many), racing on far more Spanish circuits than any the other countries hosting races.
For once DORNA and the Race Direction should consider that some decisions may (and will) be seen (again, rightfully or not) as purely biased by plain nationalism and business, when they should be based purely by plain facts and fair judgement.

Total votes: 34

>>I believe that for any motorsports category the issue with placing fast riders (or drivers) at the back of any grid is that it is pretty dangerous.

They are all pros. The rear of the grid is within 107% of the pole so the speed difference is not extreme. Yes, it will take care to cut through them all but if it didn't it would not be a penalty.

>>Untill this weekend........to cheat or simply to make a rival's life harder.

Marquez was not cheating. He was making a rival's life harder. Isn't that the entire point of lining up to race? Rossi's fastest race lap was done before Marquez crashed. If Marquez was holding Rossi back then it would make sense that after Marquez was out of the picture Rossi would start lapping faster. He didn't. That seems to indicate that if anything he was getting a tow along the straights which pretty much demolishes Rossi's explanation of the entire situation.

Chris

Total votes: 36

The fact that the grid is within 107% of the pole doesn't mean that the speed difference is not extreme. Sure, you can try to illustrate your personal opinion on that with a "Marquez Moto2 Valencia 2012", but one could easily put a "Pedrosa MotoGP Misano 2012" to counter that as well then.

As for Marquez not cheating... I don't see where did I wrote that he was(?).
What you can't ignore is that he is, by far, the most physical rider, as in "contact-prone", in the recent history of MotoGP.
Doesn't matter wether you like him or not. That is fact. We've seen that much:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwoJBaTCNi0

For all those nasty contacts presented in that video, only twice he's been penalized, none during the actual races (make of that what you will).

Riders are expected to defend their position on track, and they should fight for upper positions, sure. But where do you draw a limit? ...and to personal grudges?
Marquez gets away with it because the current rules book doesn't cover such practices. As was the case last weekend in Sepang.
And the rules book doesn't cover it probably because there was never a previous need for it, as there was no other rider ever going to such lenghts, as extensively or harsh as Marquez.

You could say "that's not cheating", and it isn't, but it can surely be considered as continuous on-track harrasment tactics and therefore, to some extent, an exploit of the rules.
For instances, just because in Football (Soccer in the USA) you don't have a clear rule mentioning that you can not spit on your adversary, it doesn't mean that one should. If has to be explained why one shouldn't, then perhaps a look at the definition of "bullying" should be placed in the tasks list.

There was an analogy made with this incident in Sepang... the Zinedine Zidane headbutt.
A superstar, multiple winner, respected veteran of the sport, who has lost his cool in that game of the 2006 World Cup Finals.
Like Rossi, Zidane went beyond the acceptable, and was punished.
Where this probably differs is that, later on, Materazzi would admit guilt of harassing Zidane, and ask for apologies on public.

Anyway, and to end this (already too long) post, I just find it funny that you mention Sete Gibernau (certainly one of the most bitter rivals of Rossi).
He wrote an "open-letter" on the Sepang incident: http://www.motocuatro.com/moto-gp/sete-gibernau-expresa-su-opinion-sin-n...

Allow me the translated quote:
For many years, that the figure of the mother and the father, those who most love their children, are not fulfilling their roles effectively, with its alleged obligations within the family of motorcycling.
For many years, that those responsible for ensuring the safety and the interests of those who they most love, have given the keys of education and training to those who should have been only and exclusively, masters of their own talent and apprenticed to what is unknown.
What happens today is nothing else but the consequence of what is not taught.
With the aggravating circumstance, for me unjust, that the one who is now judged, criticized and lynched, is not the responsible, but the child, who is filled with illusions and talent, who was never, ever, told that what he was doing should never, ever, be done.

Without rules, without a regulation to clearly define what is right and what is not, you can never teach the pilot what can be done and what can not.
In a sentence, without clear rules, there is no education possible.

And it happens that I (fully) agree with Sete Gibernau.

Total votes: 30

>>The fact that the grid is within 107% of the pole doesn't mean that the speed difference is not extreme.

Actually, yes it does. That is the limit that race direction chose to ensure that there were not dangerously slow people on the track.

>>As for Marquez not cheating... I don't see where did I wrote that he was(?).

You included the word 'cheating' in your post which is what I quoted. Its a tired old technique: 'I'm not saying he's a cheat.......' is the best way to make people wonder if someone is a cheat.

>>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwoJBaTCNi0

If you had the time to make a video of Rossi barging past people it would be much longer. But so what? Rossi was penalized for a clear cut violation of the rules which even his team manager admitted was a rule infraction. The penalty points system is relatively new so going back a few years and pointing fingers is not relevant, especially since they are still setting precedents on how many points for what.

>>Riders are expected to defend their position on track, and they should fight for upper positions, sure. But where do you draw a limit?

Great question. Race Direction answered: when your actions cause another rider to fall. If Rossi had not sat up and looked back 2 or 3 times I think he would have gotten no penalty.

>>and to personal grudges?

Which usually cause great racing!

>>continuous on-track harrasment tactics and therefore, to some extent, an exploit of the rules.

Its hilarious how you somehow want to make hard racing against the rules! LS2008 was harassment all race long and it was great. Motegi '10 was more really hard racing between teammates, one of which was out of the title race yet that didn't stop him from putting harder passes on his teammate and then laughing about it later. Again, more great racing. Why is it only Rossi that expects special treatment?

>>For instances, just because in Football (Soccer in the USA) you don't have a clear rule mentioning that you can not spit on your adversary, it doesn't mean that one should. If has to be explained why one shouldn't, then perhaps a look at the definition of "bullying" should be placed in the tasks list.

Stop building straw men. And I'm not sure if you can actually bully while in highly controlled and regulated competition. Then it's called getting into your opponent's head, something Rossi used to do constantly.

>>He wrote an "open-letter" on the Sepang incident

Maybe it was a bad translation but it was one of the most incohesive things I've ever seen. However, I think he was referring to the situation when Rossi used him as a berm.......

Chris

Total votes: 30

I've been around here long enough to acknowledge that you are (indeed) an anti-Rossi. You said that much more than once, and I respect that honesty.
Just don't let that anti-stance get in the way of reading things, misinterpreting others as Rossi fanboys.
I'm not interest in circular logic, Chris. It never gets anywhere.

This past weekend, I saw two idiots, one with everything to lose, and another without nothing to lose. One went down to the level of the other. And only one was caught with the guns in his hands.

The RD concluded that Marquez was riding like a total idiot, but that they couldn't prove anything to convict him. As in "we know you've effed'up, but we can't prove it by the book." They said they couldn't conclude that Rossi kicked Marquez, but imediately penalized him for dangerous riding, completely ignoring what the other one did.
That clearly means that we have a problem in the rules book - that was my point.

Whether that should brought before, like in the LS2008 race (Stoner vs Rossi), or Motegi 2010 (Lorenzo vs Rossi), it doesn't matter. If that much, it just means then that the problem was already there (and never taken care of).
Wheter Rossi went down as low as Marquez "nth" time ago means very little.
Being true, that would only exacerbate my initial point - that there are privileged people in the GP paddock. For which rules and judment are based on a "they're all equal, but some are more equal than others".
All going around what's in the passport, the sponsor(s), and the fanbase. Flawed perception of a sport.

And that is exactly what Gibernau is trying to say (sorry if you don't undertand what he wrote - it was clear to me).
The problem with not knowing what is effectively the limit to what you can do and not do (the supposed "limits") is that there aren't black and white rules for others to take a note in their minds before even atempting the sort of crap Marquez pulled on Rossi.
It opens precedents and a path where all crap is a go untill it isn't. Untill excrement hits the fan.

Marquez tried to slowdown and intimidate Rossi. In the process they went slower. The gap to the Lorenzo and Pedrosa increased ten fold.
Lorenzo pulled a similar trick in Valencia 2013, just without the intimidation bit.
Racing is supposed to be a game about being the fastest, not bullshiting.
That's anti-racing.

If by great racing you mean bizarre maneuvers with overly harsh (consecutive) block-passes, brake-test and near misses with borderline agressive overtaking, and all that at just the 4th lap (Bayliss said it best - that was never going to end well), for the sake of "ego clash" for the fans, then we have a very definition of what is great racing.

Please rewatch WSBK Imola 2002.
Probably the best motorcycle races in history.
That race should be rubbed in the face of every knucklehead with an ego bigger than their brain, in any sort of motorcycle road racing.
Two highly competitive riders riding as hard as they can, without ever losing the respect they had between each other. There were no grudges, no animosity. No villains, just heroes. We all won that day.
...this weekend? We all lost.

Total votes: 25

you say racing is about being the fastest? Racing is about finishing in front of who you need to finish in front of and that will obviously depend on whether you're racing for a championship or just a race win. Doing it involves using all your guile and skill. What Lorenzo did in 2013 when he tried to slow the race down was exactly what he needed to do at that point to win the championship and it wasn't anti-anything. Just plain smart. Following your logic, the best races of this seasons were the four in the middle that JL won and the best championship in living memory must be 2007 for you!

Total votes: 28

Luc never said Marquez was cheating. Quite the opposite, he made a clear distinction in his statement: "... to cheat OR simply to make a rival's life harder".

Frankly the "when did you stop beating your wife?" argument doesn't apply here.

You're right that Motegi 2010 was spectacular racing, and so was the Marquez vs Rossi in Sepang up until the incident, but the point is spectacle doesn't mean sporting, and Luc is right to point out that sportsmanship still means something. This incident has made me re-think Motegi 10, and Rossi is being hypocritical.

But there should never be a written rule to try to penalize intentionally slowing
to settle a tiff, simply because it'd be too hard to prove definitively. Judgement has to be used, and in this case, was. Marquez wss screwing with Rossi, but he didn't stop racing and look over at his opponent like Rossi did, and that's why, as you point out, Rossi wss penalised and Marquez wasn't. Although Marquez falling was it's own penalty.

I don't see any point in looking at Rossi's lap times after the clash. He didn't really have a chance at catching Lorenzo at that point, and he wasn't under threat from behind. He was racing alone, which means he wasn't racing.

All being said and done, I think everyone would have liked to see Marquez and Rossi race smart by running to catch the front group then let them battle the last few laps, assuming both had the pace to do so, but we'll never know now because instead they had the battle at the start of the race.

Both were unsportsmanlike, but Rossi is older and should know better especially since he's the only one with anything to lose. He played the whole weekend poorly, starting on Thursday. He never should have aired his opinion publicly, but should have spoken with MM privately. Instead, he backed Marc into a corner. Again, should have known better.

Which wss basically the whole point of Sete's letter. More experienced people in the sport failing to teach younger riders about what you should and shouldn't do.

I read it in Spanish, and never once did the word "berm" enter my mind.

Total votes: 25

Firstly I have to say that you wrote the very best article with very good analysis of all the drama that happened on last weekend GP. I agree with almost all what you wrote because everything is well thought and justified.

Especially the part on Dani's press conference answer. I remember I was saying myself (after Dani was asked what he thinks about the incident during the race) : how the hell can he respond in a good manner given the fact that he was racing ahead of the 2 riders involved ? He didn't see anything, he saw images of the action only once as he said. I saw them maybe ten times at this time and I wouldn't have made an answer that half worth his.

Unlike JL who didn't lost a chance to blame his teammate, Dani was very smart and said what every rider at this level of competition should think in his mind : just don't blame one rider or the other but analyze the facts and ask yourself the right questions.

In my opinion on this day, he was by far the best on track and off track. That's for sure.

Total votes: 34

if anyone has seen the f1 race that same day. First corner, exactly the same move that Rossi pulled on Marquez happened between Hamilton and Rosberg. I don't see anyone complaining, no penalty points. Marquez was on the outside, he had the option to slow down or run off track but he chose to run into Rossi. Marquez himself has pulled this move on several others in the past! Controversial? I can't see it, or have the rules suddenly changed?

Total votes: 39

The key distinction here is that it was deliberate, and Rossi did not care to disguise it out of frustration.

Total votes: 29

This is great reading about great drama! Thanks to all of you who have contributed to a well controlled discussion and have chosen not to pour out emotive bile.

Total votes: 28

After an interesting discussion with someone I had to go and look. Valle hasn't won the Gp championship on a 4 stroke by less than a 45 point margin. The last time the points were close at the end of the year an unforced crash ended his chase for the championship.

If this is considered inappropriate in this thread feel free to remove it.

Total votes: 22

The day that riders start getting out of the way because their rivals are in a championship fight is the day I turn off the TV. Every point in every race matters and the riders we see now are as ruthless and determined as I have ever seen. Surely that's what we all want as race fans ... the best riders giving it all they have, all the time. People questioning why Pedrosa tried so hard or why Marquez involved himself in the championship fight bewilders me. That's what they do. That's what is expected of them and that is the only way you can function and succeed in their world. Are we to believe that Rossi would have avoided fighting with MM if the roles were reversed? He is probably the most ruthless of them all. You don't win that many championships by being a nice guy.

Before Thursday, everyone was claiming PI as the race of a generation. One press conference later and Motogp is divided by talks of dirty tactics in that MM deliberately held up Rossi to help Lorenzo win the championship. Despite lacking any real evidence to back up this claim, it seemed that people just accepted it as fact and cried out with indignation.

The world has loved Rossi's racing prowess and persona over the years. I personally loved watching him in the 125 and 250 classes. Even then he did whatever he needed to do to win. He has blocked, bumped and most importantly, raced his way to every championship and the world has loved it. His tactics against Stoner in 2008 and Lorenzo in 2009 were lauded and I have no problem with it. I just don't want to hear him or his legion of loyal fans crying about it now that the shoe seems to be on the other foot. If you can dish it out then you can take it. The penalty seemed fair and appropriate and we all need to move on from it. The reaction from all sides has been a bit hysterical.

https://motomatters.com/report/2008/07/22/2008_motogp_laguna_seca_race_r...

Nobody came out of this looking good except Pedrosa and that was just because he was fast and lucky enough to stay away from the 3 guys behind him.

It is everything to them but it should only be bike racing to us.

Total votes: 40

Nice piece. The only question now is: What awaits in Valencia? It is by no means a foregone conclusion. I, for one, am bracing myself. May the best man win.

Total votes: 21

First, I have got to give you props David. Reading your write up was just as exciting as watching the race. You hit every angle, and made it well balanced without missing anything negative or positive. You are so right about the ruthlessness that lies inside of all Champions.

Rossi and Marquez have both always been good at covering up the vicious monsters they are inside that drives them to do anything to get wins and titles. From what I have seen Marquez was more of an action kind of mental player. From when I watched him in Moto2 do things that would piss off other riders, actually make them lose their focus. He would stay the same and even seem to get better. Even when Lorenzo was trying to mess with him and complaining about Marquez riding in a press conference. Marquez was asked what he thinks and he said it was good joke...(lol).

Rossi on the other hand has been known for actions and words. He has battled on and off track with multiple world champions over the years and is normally calm. All his career he has made moves on track in the heat of battle like his mind was accessing the knowledge of all the World Champions of the past and what they would do if they were in the situation he was in at that moment on that track.

Those are their strengths. Titanic monsters of mental fortitude. Marquez has learned from Rossi and has his own tools as David wrote, but both have mutually cracked under the pressure they have each applied to the other.

Marquez looked at Rossi as the aging Champion that was slow until this year. He was easily and handily out running Rossi in the previous years. This year, Rossi has sped up, he may not have the top outright speed of Lorenzo, Marquez, or Pedrosa. But when he is there, he is there. The first time Marquez saw that was in Argentina. Rossi was in front and Marquez was pushing hard to get back past him. All the riding that he normally was criticized for came to a head. He got up on the back of Rossi too close, but like he has done many riders. But it was an on form Rossi, and he is good and switching up when in front of someone to throw them off. Rossi changed direction before Marquez anticipated, which resulted in Marquez front tire hitting Rossi's rear tire sending Marquez to the tarmac. Then in Assen, Marquez went in hot, Rossi lay in wait and jumped off the track at the touch of Marquez bike and crossed the line first. No one has done this to Marquez before. Taken advantage of what most just complain about. Rossi happily used it to his advantage.

Then there is Rossi. Aging and no longer the young superstar. No longer the person that can get a 10 second penalty and make a 12 second gap at will not he person riding in 2nd. I cannot prove that Marquez has a thing against Rossi but looking at Argentina and his reaction at Assen, I would not bet that Marquez does not have something against Rossi. Rossi did not help matters by making the statement he did at the pre event press conference. Rossi is now the elder statesman of the sport. Funks and beefs are for the young, and this beef he has may be something he needs in his own mind to get another step in drive, but it has also backfired in his face. Rossi cracked in this race. Mentally. I have only seen him do that one time before. The only other time when his World Championship came down to the last race. 2006. He crashed out on his own, it was not the tires, the bike, it was him. Right now he is clearly feeling pressure. Rossi of old would not risk throwing everything away to just get into it with a rider hindering him. Because it is not the first time that has happened. He would do some tricks in the race and get away. But now he is older, running out of time, and not the fastest out there. It show that his mental is no longer as ironclad as it was. There are some severe cracks.

Did not mean to write this long but that was brilliant drama and this is as short as I could get my thoughts. Still reading through comments, but had get this out. At this point, I do not even care who wins the Championship, 2016 is probably going to be just as drama filled if things keep going like this. I see Rossi getting faster again, and Marquez being a lot less cordial about Rossi vocally. :))))

Cheers!

Total votes: 34

Ok, in the article you link...

Ianonne - Marc was riding too slow (+VR)
Bradley Smith - Marc can do what he wants (+MM)
Pol Espargaro - MM was messing with Rossi, Rossi shouldn't have reacted (Neutral)
Petrucci - Some football analogy (Neutral)
Stoner - +MM
Fogarty - +MM
Spies - "both riders are at fault" (Neutral)
Josh Brookes - +VR
Bayliss - Neutral
McWilliams - +VR
Edwards - +VR
Laverty - +VR
Agostini - +MM

Neutral - 4
MM - 4
VR - 5

The only change I'd make is of those that aren't neutral, most lean towards Rossi.

Total votes: 34

MotoGP fans have craved for a season with the highest level of competition. We have all craved for mad, last lap clashes. We have craved for the Aliens knocking seven bells out of each other in a cut-throat contest for the championship.

I would say we have almost all we asked for this year, and I would also say the level of competition is too high because there is too much at stake with ineffective rules and governance to control it. These Aliens have shown themselves to be very human and Sics death should remind us of that. We all bay for blood but complain when we get it.

And so before us we have the collateral spread out before us, like a motorway pile-up, trying to make sense of it all. Thankfully no-one has been hurt, but the championship has been tainted.

Be careful what you wish for.

Total votes: 23

First off, I'd like to thank everyone at MotoMatters for putting out such great content. The quality of the journalism here has made this my go to site and finally prompted me to become a subscriber. The detail in the reports very often fills in the gaps of TV race coverage, giving a much more complete picture of the weekends two wheeled events. Seriously, well done !
And so onto Sepang... Professional sport in the modern world is undoubtedly a pressure cooker for those involved at the top level. Money, reputations, personal pride (and some might say the antiquated notion of "honour") are all at stake. Despite fans deifying their heroes, they remain merely men. Men who misspeak, make mistakes and succumb to the powerful egos that make them such driven competitors. The confrontation between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi was always going to happen, it only remained as to the the how, when and where. The fact that it happened at the penultimate round, causing one to crash and the other to be penalized, has only damaged MotoGP as a whole. Neither man is blameless and more importantly, neither man "wins". David makes a pivotal point in his analysis of the situation by highlighting that a predictable problem was not preempted. Perhaps advice was given on both sides and simply ignored; we cannot know for sure.
Having said that, I make the following comments with some trepidation...
After sampling the general consensus online after the race, I am in awe of the power behind the cult of personality that is Valentino Rossi. When a successful, seasoned veteran of the sport can verbally goad a younger (perhaps more impetuous) rival, then run him off the track when he puts up a fight, yet still be held up as the hero of the piece by hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide, I find this slightly disturbing. Alternately, I hear "not what you'd expect from a nine times world champion" or "I thought he was better than that". "Chickens coming home to roost" and "reaping what you sow" are also thoughts that I have come across. An online petition some 360,000 signatures strong demanding the cancellation of Rossi's penalty and Valentino himself threatening a boycott of Valencia (although unlikely) somewhat complete the picture.
When a racer and his legion of fans believe they can hold an international championship to ransom, has the idea of fair play gone completely out the window ?
Once again, I make this remark with some reservations, but : Perhaps it's time that MotoGP moves out from under the shadow of Valentino Rossi ?
P.S. Apologies if I have caused offence to the many sincere VR fans here.

Total votes: 47

I think it would be interesting if there were a rule that essentially stated:

"In the event that a rider who has not been mathematically eliminated from securing the championship incurs a penalty to be implemented during the final round, a secret ballot will be conducted among all riders in the class to provide an opportunity for the penalty to be waived and/or deferred to the first round of the following season."

Many are complaining that sending Rossi to the back of the grid is too harsh of a penalty for the incident at Sepang. Implicitly, Race Direction agrees. The three-point penalty alone would not have resulted in a back of the grid start had Rossi not already had a point from Misano.

Many also agree that, while Rossi should be punished, it is unfortunate that the potential impact on the championship is so extreme. This rule would provide an out. The rules could still be enforced objectively by Race Direction and the people most directly affected by the decision--the riders--could accept or reject the more extreme consequences.

Penalty points carry over from one season to the next (they expire after 12 months) so the rule wouldn't allow any rider to totally avoid the consequences of their actions by relying on the good will of their peers. Equally valuable, all riders would have strong incentive to gain and retain the respect of their competitors.

Total votes: 27

Winning the championship is the reasult of a season's worth of decisions and performances. There is no sense at all in saying 'since you've gotten so close we'll overlook any mistakes until it does not really matter.' Might as well just suspend the rules altogether.

MotoGP and this title are not damaged. Whoever wins it will have won it. Lorenzo sounded a bit bitchy saying that Rossi deserved more of a punishment. So what? Its not like RD heard that and added a penalty. If Lorenzo wins why would it be a false title? No reason. If Rossi wins it will be him overcoming a fairly applied penalty to triumph and again, a completely valid title.

Rossi wants 10 titles. In all likelyhood Marquez wants one more title than Rossi. They both are completely entitled to their desires. What I don't understand is why people think Marquez should make it harder for himself to achieve his desires by giving in and letting Rossi achieve his. While they are racing each other in the same race. Who here would do that? Nobody. Marquez has no stake in Rossi's success and has every reason to fight as hard as possible to beat Rossi in order to eclipse him in the long run. Its not being petty, its 'I'm finishing ahead of you', also known as racing.

This is why I can't understand why some people, David included, somehow fault Marquez for fighting as hard as he did. If course he was trying to keep Rossi behind him. They are both active riders who will be comparing records for a long time to come.

One more thing. This unwritten rule people keep metioning is being quoted wrong, I guess one drawback of being unwritten. You don't knock down a title contender while dicing with them but you most certainly do not just let them by. Its only being misconstrued by a certain portion of the fanbase in this case because numerically Lorenzo needs someone to finish between him and Rossi to win, therefore the race should only be between Rossi and Lorenzo. In my meager experience club racing most people weren't willing to give up any places, they wanted that little wooden plaque, dammit! Me included. I could only imagine how it is when there are millions of dollars, worldwide fame, and pressure from your employer at stake. Like someone above said, HRC would much rather two bikes on the podium than one.

Chris

Total votes: 36

I was really more thinking out loud rather than advocating for a change. I agree that the championship will still be legitimate regardless of who wins, and I also find little to blame Marquez for in the last two races. I do think his approach at Sepang reflects some immaturity, but not because he didn't have the right to hassle Rossi. It's just often not the best strategy to engage in a fierce battle in the first few laps when you have the pace to latch on and apply pressure later.

My thinking was more around the fact that the impact of any given penalty has a lot more weight depending on when it occurs in the season. As you say, that's not unfair. You win a title for your performance over a season. But aren't there cases where having an opportunity to modify a penalty might not be a bad thing?

Take the current scenario. No one can win the championship but Valentino or Jorge. If the riders voted to impose the penalty at Qatar, who would be harmed? Would forcing Valentino to start from the back of the grid at Qatar really be overlooking his mistakes until it does not really matter? Wasn't winning at Qatar in 2015 essential to getting Valentino to where he is currently? If anything, wouldn't that give more riders an opportunity to benefit from Rossi's penalty, as compared to the current scenario where only Lorenzo stands to benefit?

You could also make such penalty modifications fairly rare by applying a high threshold for the vote. Requiring the vote to be unanimous or nearly unanimous would mean Race Direction's rulings would almost always go unmodified.

Anyway, really just a "what if" musing on my part. I don't really have any problem with the rules as they are.

Total votes: 19

in ALL involved. Rossi, for the Thursday press conference, Saturday's asinine move on Marquez, and skipping the post-race press conference. Rossi's fans, for booing Lorenzo for no reason other than having the audacity to beat Rossi. Lorenzo, for acting like a spoiled brat in the press conference (and, if reports are to be believed, behind closed doors in Race Direction).

And Marquez. Here's the thing: I completely agree with you that Marquez has every right to and should want to finish ahead of any rival, championship contender or not. I agree that he should have pulled out every stop necessary to make sure he finished that race in front of Rossi--all the hard but fair passes in his arsenal included. Why I don't at all buy his, "What, me? I'm just racing hard like I always do" line is that this fight began on, what, lap four? Five?

That their fight was in neither of their best interests when it was going on suggests that one of both of them had motives for fighting outside of a desire to finish as highly as possible in the race. That Marquez suddenly lost a sizable portion of his speed from practice come race time is peculiar. And if it was a matter of just needing the fuel load to drop and the front tire to come in, making nine passes back and forth with Rossi on lap seven while the leaders disappeared in the distance would be such an unforgivably stupid race strategy that I refuse to believe Marquez had any intention of moving forward in the race.

For Marquez to be completely innocent of harassment, an unlikely set of circumstances would have all had to stack up on that same day:
1.) Sudden loss of pace on race afternoon.
2.) That he had zero hope of recovering over the course of the race.
3.) And he believed that Rossi would lose an insurmountable gap to Lorenzo were he to tuck in behind and use Rossi as a tow, so tucking in would be of no benefit.

When have we ever known Marquez to have no belief in his ability to win a race after dominating practice? That notion just strains belief. Giving up a second per lap fighting with Rossi that early in the race was a horrible strategy if actually fighting for the win was even remotely on his mind.

I was enjoying the duel right up until Rossi lost his mind, but I still saw it for what it was: two guys airing their grievances on the track. Did Rossi deserve it? Probably. Was it illegal? No. Does that absolve Marquez for being petty in front of the world? Not in my book. He's right there in the D-bag club with the rest of them.

On a completely separate note, I notice you no longer post a link to your Moto 2 build thread. I used to check up on that all the time, enjoying every update. I know that bike will never be legal thanks to the spec engine rules, but is there a plan to ever finish that bike? If so, I hope you post an update so everyone can check it out.

Total votes: 25

Steller write up....as expected!

I wont comment, or offer an opinion, even though I have a strong one, but I have a few questions:

1) With all the heated comments, barbs, accusations by MM, VR, JL, during the season, and the WC coming down to the short strokes, where the hell was HRC, Yamaha, Dorna & RD prior to this race? Dont they have some responsibility in pulling their 'employees' in and talking about the race? As in the do's & do NOTS! It was almost like they were 'hoping' the combatents (!) would play nice.
2) I've read comments from a few ex-racers about this race. Any from the the current riders? Love to hear from Schwantz, Rainey, Doohan, Spencer, Roberts, etc.

Total votes: 27

I registered just to say what an excellent article, thank you. I'm a huge VR fan like so many, not just for his talents on the bike but also because he is who he is. That hasn't changed. The fact that I had him on a pedestal is my problem :)

Total votes: 22

Firstly, many thanks to David for resetting my account password! It was frustrating not being able to throw my two bobs worth in!

Secondly, many thanks again to David for the excellent write up and keeping this site from descending into the white holt melting pot of incandescent rage that has spread across social media like a lava flow.

My two bobs worth…

Assuming that Marquez was trying to slow Valentino in order to lessen his chances of securing the championship (and it seems just about everyone outside of HRC believes that to be the case), is this not a huge insult to all of the fans that pay their hard earned money to follow MotoGP and who simply wanted to see a straight out fight for the championship?

The riders are in a very lucky position of being extremely (in some cases, obscenely) well paid to do something that they love. The majority of people who follow MotoGP do so to escape their working life, spending their days doing jobs that they do not enjoy anywhere near as much as the riders (and that’s not even bringing money into it). Therefore to see Marquez deprive the millions of people watching around the world from seeing the straight fight conclusion to the championship that it deserved left a very sour taste in my mouth. Rossi may well have been punished by race direction, however it is the fans that will suffer.

If, as expected, Lorenzo wins the title in Valencia, there may well be the unique scenario of a newly crowned world champion being booed (probably on the podium) in his home country. The internet will boil with hatred – as it has over the last few days and the bitterness and ill feeling towards him (and Marquez) will most likely remain well into next season. Both will be added to the long list of rivals that are detested by Rossi’s fans; one need only look at the reaction Stoner’s comments attracted to see how long their collective memory is.

If Rossi should defy the odds and somehow win his tenth title, then Lorenzo and his supporters (and Rossi’s detractors) will claim that he should have been more harshly punished and that he should not have won the title.

Whatever the outcome of the 2015 championship, it has been tainted, and it seems unavoidable that the sport of MotoGP will suffer as a result. In short, no one will remember 2015 as the great championship everyone wanted and that it has been before last weekend, it will forever be overshadowed by the incident at Sepang and that is a terrible shame. None of the parties involved – or their supporters, will either forgive or forget.

As I mentioned earlier, the strong feelings that have come to the fore since Sepang will likely continue well into next season and beyond. Marquez, once widely expected to be the person who would take over the mantel of the popular face of MotoGP is at this point in time probably the most hated man in motorsport, with Lorenzo not far behind. Even if he should go on to beat Rossi’s records, it is unlikely he will ever be anywhere near as popular, something that Dorna must be devastated about.

For the future, expect more booing, cancelled/no show public appearances (as with Stoner at the “Day of Champions” events), scripted press conference statements and dull uncelebrated podiums with riders walking off with full uncorked bottles of champagne.

With the likely discord in the garages and warring factions in the stands, MotoGP will shine a little less brightly next year.

Total votes: 30

I think I read almost all the comments on the site (and many more elsewhere) regarding this incident and I think I may be in the extreme minority. How the protagonists in this saga behaved is not all that surprising to me. Disappointing and deflating yes, but not surprising.

I WAS surprised by Rossi's gaffe in calling out Marquez the way he did and sealing his fate for the Sepang race. Part of the reason for his success (besides his skills on a prototype) has always been his masterful manipulation of the media and fan perception when it came to his rivalries; hence my characterization of him as "the politician".

I am not sure if he received bad advice or if he truly believes that he is bigger than the sport itself. His attempt to control another rider through an accusation of unsportsmanlike behavior has to go down as one of the worst decisions of his career (along with going to Ducati when he did). I am not saying that he is wrong about Marquez being unsportsmanlike but that is part of the game at this level (rightly or wrongly). MM93 is not the first to do this and will not be the last.

Speaking of "the gangster" Marquez, has he ever been one to give way to anyone? I don't recall him doing so and I have been following him since I saw him (in person) ride an underpowered KTM to 6th place at Indianapolis in 2008. He's been the reckless ranger throughout his career with only one goal in mind - be the best that ever was at any cost. Just look at how many crashes and close calls (pushing the extreme limit of man and machine) he has had and that tells you all you need to know about his mental make up. He is impervious to mind games and being controlled.

What wasn't so clear until now was how Rossi would handle a rival with similar drive, ambition and unwillingness to bend. Others may have challenged him in the past but they wilted on the track to his superior skill. With Marquez, everyone knew this day would come. The day when the (supposed) pupil would strike at the master. We all relished the idea of that confrontation because we expected it to be a civilized warfare with the spoils going to the eventual champion. I don't think anyone expected this kind of drama to erupt. Still, when push comes to shove, like most gangsters, Marquez did not go down (literally) without a fight. He also will not stay down and that is where the problem lies.

The bad blood between these two is seemingly beyond just a professional rivalry. Makes me wonder what else happened between them that we don't know about. This became too brutal too fast to think there isn't something more to it than meets the eye. Then again, who knows. Their tempers might be as fast as their riding. lol

Dani behaved the way we expect a sportsman and champion to act but he was no angel in the past either. He was Marquez in 2006 after all. It is easy to remain calm and balanced when you have no championship at stake and no one gunning for you specifically on the track. For him to be the only one to talk sense that day was not so surprising.

There is a fine line between love and hate and that line has been trampled by the clash of titans. The Rossi haters came out in droves, happy to be able to say that the politician has finally been exposed as the bully he always was. The Lorenzo haters were fed the ammunition necessary to fuel their disgust of his self-righteous, selfish and self-pitying attitude and the Marquez detractors given all the justification needed to classify him as the underhanded villain of this story. A sad reflection of humanity's failings.

In the end, I found myself wondering how to move on from what I saw. The race result lost meaning to me after the clash with only sympathy for all the riders with excellent performances. I felt hollow at seeing the sport's iconic symbol reduced to a mere mortal and the next icon exposed as the immature, vindictive child he is. If that weren't enough, I also lost all respect for JL99 after his press conference performance. So much so that I tossed the Lorenzo's Land banner I had flown for him at Austin in 2013. I just can't support someone with such terrible judgment regardless of his riding skill.

As long as Rossi and Marquez are still in this together, the rest of the circus is just the sideshow. One which I will watch through clenched teeth and while cringing ... but watch I will. I just hope no one ends up getting seriously hurt or killed in the process.

As Kropotkin aptly thought out loud ... sometimes - "it is better to keep the red mist at bay".

Total votes: 30

>>This became too brutal too fast to think there isn't something more to it than meets the eye.

In a way this all subtly started when Rossi became a front runner again at Yamaha. Seems to me that if he kept getting the fourth place finishes he would have been happy (or at least come to grips with) handing his crown to upstart Marquez instead of dour Lorenzo. Now that he can compete for the win again he'd rather keep the crown for himself and whatever chummy relationship he had with Marquez was destined to go bust when push came to shove. Rossi was supposedly good friends with Gibernau before he hexed him over the grid position farcus. Melandri says Rossi is your friend until you start beating him. Its not an unreasonable approach for a sportsman at the top of his game. I'm sure Marquez felt wronged by Argentina and Assen, he's a racer, not a logician! He wanted to beat Rossi, for third, second, hell, if they were both lapped he'd be putting on a hard pass. And Rossi wants the title. The difference from years ago is that Marquez can put up more of a fight than anyone Rossi's butted heads with before.

In many ways the clash was inevitable and in many ways it was much less consequential than it could have been. Yes, Rossi got a penalty but if he had gone down he'd be behind Lorenzo on points and have to beat him at Valencia, a very tall order. Rossi did not get hurt, nor did Marquez. In my opinion it was a pop gun shot heard around the world.

Chris

Total votes: 36

>> Melandri says Rossi is your friend until you start beating him.

... or you get in the way of him beating someone else apparently. lol

Total votes: 18

Interesting thoughts. However, it is the observer/fan's shortcoming to think they understand how these men think & operate. These ferocious competitors are far too highly strung, eccentric, extreme, intense and driven of individuals to react as average people do, and never will do to the events in their own surreal worlds (which only those who have actually done what they do can truly understand). What we common folk must comprehend is that to attain the level of success multiple GP world champions have, it is often actually the red mist sprayed into their combustion chambers that acts as the special fuel which gives them the power to drive forward at the astonishing rates they can, and to accomplish what they do. These are not normal people, and as such cannot be easily understood by the rest of us. They are all a bit mad at this level, and all a bit out of (normal) balance too. They live their lives occupying the extremes. I agree with a lot of what you have said, but for these men, sometimes more gas is the only way they can avoid a big crash that has the potential to ruin them - and driving forward harder is (counterintuitivly) the only way out of sticky situations encountered in their own specialized experience - regardless of whether we the outside observers deem that to be right or wrong according to our own standards. We must refrain from judging them according to everyday standards for these are not everyday people pursuing everyday lives. They are extraordinary people living extraordinary lives, and are almost always reacting to extraordinary circumstances which we do not fully understand. Nothing they ever do will be what an ordinary person might expect. That's one of the reasons why we love them. May the best man (on any particular day) win.

Total votes: 24

Good going David. It was a very smart move on your part to put comments on hold for a while.
Right now, I'm personally neutral.
Rossi should have been black flagged and Marquez should not have provoked the fireworks given the the title chase considerations. Marquez' race was clean and he answers to HRC, not Yamaha's rider title aspirations.
Rossi and he came to the race with a personal vendetta on the agenda which has its roots in Aragon when Rossi was beaten in a head to head with Pedrosa.
The paranoia was further compounded in PI when, in what was easily one of the greatest races of the decade, Rossi was not part of the podium.
Lorenzo would have done well by keeping his mouth shut post Sepang.
Race direction called it 100% right.
As in 2011, the crowd in Sepang came to see Rossi, 90% at any rate.
The Sepang crowd would have been dismayed had Rossi been black flagged and robbed of the Rossi spectacle yet again.
Race direction imposed the best appropriate penalty post race and allowed the Rossi spectacle to continue.
The outcome is that whether black flagged during the race or banished to the back of the Valencia grid, he finally got his just deserts.
The championship is still very much alive and if anyone can pull a rabbit out of a hat on the day it is Rossi and he goes to the bull ring with a 7 point lead.
Many points permutations in the offing.
What Rossi needs to do to get a 7th premier class title is to put the whole Spanish conspiracy theory out of his head and focus on the grand finale to what has been an epic season.
Lorenzo's biggest mistake has its roots in welcoming Rossi back to the Yamaha fold in the first place. He should have hung him out to dry to look for a sattelite ride post Ducati.
I guess pressure from the Spanish (would you believe?), Dorna outfit, needed the Rossi factor, so Lorenzo's input was by and large irrelevant back then.
Right now, it is what it is and complaining about a non title contender racing him on the same lap is a bit rich coming from a bloke who always says he loves a fight.
Fight on his terms....Yes.

Total votes: 41

Dave,
You wrote it right in the story; "Here is where the madness starts. Where truth becomes indistinguishable from conspiracy theory. Where naked facts are used as building blocks to construct vast, sprawling narratives that may or may not have any correspondence with the truth."
And I didn't understand you were telling us what was to follow! This emotional story showed me you were a true, if somewhat disgusted, fan. I struggled to understand where you were going with this article. You reversed course at the end and brought things back to a positive conclusion but it was some ride. Totally understand why you are letting your paying customers comment 1st as on other sites the responses have been huge. Don't expect you to post this, just wanted to express my thoughts to you on this piece.

Total votes: 25

I still find it disrespectful that you continue referring to Valentino as a "9 time world champion" yet insist on ignoring everyone elses' championship haul in the lower classes.

Lorenzo is a four time champion - chasing five.
MM is a four time champion - chasing five.

This isn't something new and it has been mentioned many other times right here in the past. Intended or not, a Rossi bias is present - otherwise surely your journalistic integrity would have kicked in and you would have rectified the error, and stuck with it.

Total votes: 38

I have frequently referred to Jorge Lorenzo as a four-time world champion. Referring to Rossi as a nine-time world champion does not mean I haven't give the others the credit they are due. He has won nine titles, just as Lorenzo and Marquez have won four, and Pedrosa has won three.

When I refer in the same article to Rossi as a nine-time champion and Lorenzo as a double champion, then you will have a point. I have not done so here. In fact, I have not even referred to the number of championships Rossi has, except in this comment here.

So it seems a little strange to be accused of lacking journalistic integrity for something I haven't done.

Total votes: 40

Just as upset/disappointed with what happened at sepang like everybody else.
I just wish Vale 'endured' the race, trusting in racing fans to make up their own mind post race with regards to Marc's supposid shenanigans.
Unlike the majority I kinda think it was the right thing to do on Thursday (sorry) to raise and highlight what concerns he had. Had he done so when the championship was wrapped up it would indeed look to be sour grapes seen by all on an industrial scale (if he doesn't win), and it also allowed scrutiny of rider's actions pertaining to Meddling with championships/personal vendettas etc. This however didn't pay off of course, because Rossi gave in to his frustrations on the track. But unfortunately we now know (with hindsight) this approach ultimately backfired as the desired effect wasn't achieved which we understand to be hopeing for Marc to re-focus more upon the race rather than the individual. Never mind, what's done is done.
On a separate note were my eyes deceiving me when I saw what looked like Jorge giving gladiatorial 'thumbs down' whilst on the podium when Rossi was receiving his trophy? Or did it coincide with the booing fans...
I also didn't really enjoy the post race press conference particularly, where both Dani (who was amazingBTW) and Jorge were told and held the belief that categorically Rossi kicked Marc which still remains to be seen. When asked by the press, they had only seen the incident in relative isolation and in no doubt they also had the views given to them by their respective crew staff.

Oh well, there' slight at the end of the tunnel...lets just hope it's not a F&@?#N train coming the other way!!!!

Total votes: 26

Ive watched the entire internet over this - the only thing I cannot get clear in my mind is what caused MM to run wide and let JL past. Id love to see some movement from his body or bike to show he had an issue, but I cant see it.

Someone prove me wrong.

Please.

Total votes: 22

Thanks David for such brilliant article. I don't have a circle to chat about the sport I love most with so I rely on your amazing writing for perspective and the comments of the readers/members of this site for their interesting points of view.

I just wanted to say honestly that I have simply felt sad the last two days. Not since Sic have I had such a feeling of remorse. I'm still relatively new to the sport but in my six seasons of never missing a race this was the only time I asked myself why do I waste my time watching this stuff. Why do I wake up at four in the morning on a Sunday to watch a motorcycle race on the other side of the world when I don't even have anyone to talk about it with after.

This article brought me back from the darkness just as your writing after Sepang 2011 brought much needed solace.

I will watch Valencia of course but regardless of what does/does-not happen there, memories of the 2015 season will forever include this bruise. Hopefully it will end on some kind of high note - this season deserves at least that.

Total votes: 25

In 38 years of GPs I felt elated, desperate, happy, blue, even indifferent but I was never disgusted, at least not until last Sunday. I felt it mounting during the week preceding the race: the tones, the accusations, the lies... I knew something bad was about to happen but I was not prepared for what unfolded.

David used the term "petty" six times in his analysis and I find that it perfectly describes most of the actors involved. Most of the pilots, managers, organizers, and sponsors showed not to be able to see a yard beyond their short-term interests.

This sport deserves better! Pilots should know better, professionals should be at the top of their game, and organizers should manage the circus with vision, inspiration, and responsibility.

Let's hope everyone involved in this ugly story learns something and learns it fast. Enough already with all this chatter that nothing has to do with the spirit, passion, and madness of racing.

Total votes: 26

If Rossi had ridden it a bit smarter he might have gotten away with it. Without glaring over his shoulder like that, at length and repeatedly - making it perfectly clear what he was up to - he could have argued that he just went in too bit hot.

And if he'd turned it in a bit sooner to complete the turn he still would have 'checked' Marquez without having left him with nowhere to go, which is what caused the crash (Marc had no alternative - he turned at the last possible moment, and if he hadn't, would have run off).

It seems a legal (if bullying) tactic to run a rival wide to disrupt his rhythm - probably no worse than what Marquez was doing in seeking to tangle Rossi up. Rossi could have admitted he was doing exactly that without it being an admission of outright wrongdoing. But he went too far.

Thanks for a good piece David. Think you might have gone a bit too far in seeking to spread the blame, and have been too hard on Marquez and Lorenzo. As far as Lorenzo's remarks go, I would have thought any journalist would rather the talent said what he actually thought, rather than just give a PR-minded, politic answer.

Total votes: 30

I will be upfront, I am a Rossi fan, but more so I am a MotoGP fan. I like many of the racers in the various classes. Also, I am a Marquez fan and I was hoping he would prove to be a winner with an enjoyable character. Someone fast and fun. A position Rossi was soon to vacate and one Dani and Lorenzo seem to be unable to fill. So, this race tore at my soul.

A large number of people who saw the race and race direction feel Marc was trying to hinder Rossi. I understand this is not against the rules, but it devalues the sport. I watch to see one man on one machine compete against others in a fight to see who is the best each weekend, and ultimately who will be crowned best of the season. I have heard valid points made on all sides of the argument. So I will not beat that very dead horse.

My point is this, I do not watch MotoGP to see a motorcycle version of "Survivor", where the one that makes the right alliances wins, and vendettas decide who is taken out.

So here we are. Dorna, who likely never saw this issue coming, has no rule against Marc's behavior. However going forward they need to find some way to handle this, because, if MotoGP is going to become about what Marc is trying to do, I am DONE! It is not racing; it is bull spit.

Total votes: 35

Like others, my F5 print almost disappear. :p, my fav "Book" since internet started.

All these recent racing is what got that us really glued to watching it. Thank you MotoGP for bringing the best of motorcycle racing. Being a sportsman myself no way in a world class level) I believe it's quite predictable as what happen in Phillips Island & Sepang after all year long race between Rossi and Marquez. You don't expect this competition to be an affair only for those fighting for Championship. Like in football, we don't expect a non-contender to be letting the championship contender have it easy. Pardon me for my English. My guts tells me both are just racing to be the best and nothing more; that's why they're in MotoGP in the 1st place. I'm sorry for my poor command of English. This are just my thoughts. I support racing that's all as someone quoted. (Player changes while the game remains) - Bring it on. Ouh I really love racing!

Total votes: 20

I must say, I was very impressed with how Dani handled the press conference.

For someone who normally doesn't have a heap to say, and has been noted as hating to talk to the media, his comments were thoughtfully considered and poignant. He refused to discuss or berate Valentino (he should be here to speak for himself), raised real concerns with the grey areas in the rules and reserved judgment on the details of the incident to a considerable degree.

I really hope he finally has a decent season in 2016. He's the only one of the top 4 (Jorge, Vale, Marc and Dani) to actually act like a world champion last weekend. He finally seems to be fit for the first time in years.

I think that he will perhaps get along better with the Michelins than a lot of other riders (in particular, Marc).

I just hope 2016 is free of mechanical failure and injury for him.

Total votes: 34

First, thanks for putting my mind at rest a little more with this article.
I was extremely disappointed with Rossi, did not think at this stage of his career he would lose his cool like that. I can understand his frustration, but I think he should have just raced Marquez till he end or till Marquez would have fallen off ( which he did quite often this year). But I guess when he saw Lorenzo disappearing in the distance he lost his cool, just like Lorenzo did in Italy after changing to slicks.
Penalty well deserved, but I still felt very bummed about this.
Marquez is an incredible talent, but should get away from the influence of his family. Another commenter on here aptly described Marquez' dad as the soccer-dad from hell. These are the people that shout abuse at referees at their kids games, suffer from road rage at the slightest perceived incident in traffic, throw temper tantrums when things don't go their way etc. No wonder, with this influence, that Marquez truly believes Rossi is to blame for his being out of contention this year.
And then Lorenzo! He could have done wonders for his popularity if he would just have taken the high road here, as you described very well. I already have mad respect for his riding, now all he had to do was say: Yes I think Valentino deserved a penalty, but I can also understand his frustration a little bit. And I think the Race direction is perfectly capable of handing out the right penalty, so I'm staying out of that discussion. If he would have said something like that, I think almost everybody would think: hey, this is the deserving champion.
Lastly about Pedrosa, and don't get me wrong, I am very happy for him and hope his arm problem is really in the past. But it is a lot easier to be dignified and humble when you are in a situation where there is no pressure on you anymore and you and everybody are just happy that you are racing at a high level again, especially if you are also winning races. If he were in the situation Marc, Valentino and Jorge are in, I think this dignity would be a lot harder to find. I do hope he's back better than ever next year, hopefully with the arm problem mostly gone. The more riders challenging for victory every race, the more exciting the championship.

Total votes: 28

I still do not approve in Rossi that he did and I think he deserves the penalty, but I want to mention something in favour of him.

I see a few comments that state that Rossi just found his match with Marquez putting in a dog fight with aggressive overtakes to beat the other rider, similar as Rossi has done to Biaggi, Gibernau (Jerez '05), Stoner (Laguna '08), Lorenzo ('09 season, Motegi '10), so basically, Rossi shouldn't complain.

There is a huge difference between de incidents, actually all of them but one (Motegi 2010), Rossi was fighting for the championship with his direct title rival. As for Motegi is a bit of a debate, but, Lorenzo's lead was huge and didn't need to finish in front of Rossi, it was his pride against Rossi's. In last events, Rossi needed every single point so he was basically with his back against the wall, fighting Marquez who had no saying in the title anymore, matter of respect.

And another thing, the fact that Rossi's fastest lap was in a fight with Marquez and when he rode alone at P3 he didnt gain into Lorenzo, doesn't simply mean he couldn't catch Lorenzo at the first place. He lost a couple of seconds with Marquez and the incident, in my opinion he just brought the bike home and not giving his 100%. It actually makes no sense to put the fastest lap from a race in such a dogfight, I think it just shows there was a lot more to come.

Only dreaming what could have happend when Marquez and Rossi would have teamed up to catch Lorenzo and maybe Pedrosa, PI part 2! It wasn't ment to be...

Total votes: 27

I don't know what other people here are thinking. I certainly don't know what MM & VR were thinking, but I have a much better idea of what VR was thinking during that race.

The important things here are peoples intentions and that is why unsporting behaviour has been referred to.

I suspect that the fact that Yamaha have made the veiled allegations they have about MM's actions , put together with Rossi's (who has never complained about tough racing before - I believe, but I'm no racing historian either) that makes me think that Rossi is more right than wrong.

I agree that everyone is entitled to run their race. However, as with back-markers who make extravagant efforts to get out of the way when blue flags are waving for the race leaders, 'good' racers (should) also consider the 'bigger picture'.

MM is out of the WC, but it does seem he is intending to spoil VR's championship. I will not speculate why, because the possibilities are legion, both short and long term.

I cannot agree that 'racing' includes messing-up someone else's championship. That it is an 'extremely negative' attitude (just as JL sought the cheapest possible advantage from the situation) is the most diplomatic way I can put it.

Rossi was wrong to react the way he did (he is usually much more subtle) but I don't doubt his racing intentions and, apart from a few famous race-winning instances, no-one accuses him of being a 'dirty' rider either, as Lyn Jarvis said. Hard yes, dirty, no. I hope karma is on his side in Valencia.

Total votes: 30

Surely this has been covered in so many places already?
I've seen numerous comments and explanations for this but the one that seems to fit best (and I stand to be corrected here!) is that it was an overzealous Marshal preparing to react to something that didn't eventually happen!
The actual pass is said to have happened BEFORE the flag and not after it!
Race Direction seem to have covered this quite adequately!

OR - (tongue firmly in cheek!) - to add to the conspiracy theories - it could have been a Rossi Fan waving his Fan Club flag!!

Total votes: 25

One word to describe Rossi's sense of humour and wit. If you have seen his new official Facebook picture.

He should change from The Doctor to The Joker.

Expect a suitably appropriate helmet design at Valencia.

Indifferent as a fan, but love his sense of humour.

Total votes: 19

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