Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Márquez vs Rossi: the best tight fight ever?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


Márquez vs Rossi: the best tight fight ever?

Valentino Rossi has been through them all. He’s the ancient prize fighter who has taken out Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and the rest. His premier-class duels go so far back into racing history – all the way back to 2000 – that they cross generations. The same time span of 16 years would’ve had John Surtees taking on Barry Sheene, Mike Hailwood comparing genius with Freddie Spencer, Kenny Roberts doing battle with his own son, Wayne Rainey having a go with Casey Stoner and Mick Doohan with Marc Márquez. Hard to believe, but do the maths; it’s true.

The first racer who caused Rossi a real problem was Stoner – finally here was someone who had the sheer talent to beat the old master. Now there’s Marc Márquez.

But Márquez is different from all the others. We’ve seen Rossi happily resort to getting physical when times get tough. None of his old rivals enjoyed returning the compliment, at least not on the racetrack. At Catalunya in 2001 Biaggi waited until after the race to get physical. He had just been made to look silly by his young upstart rival, who had come from way behind to steal the glory that should have been his. So on their way to the podium, Biaggi landed a head butt.

Gibernau, Stoner and Lorenzo never wanted to lock handlebars or land head butts, they just wanted to race bikes. Rossi’s determination goes deeper, so deep that everything and anything can be countenanced in pursuit of victory.

Rossi’s attitude coincides with one of the greatest writers of the 20th century: George Orwell, author of Animal Farm, 1984 and Homage to Catalonia.

‘Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play,’ wrote Orwell in 1945, after witnessing football matches in various far-flung countries. ‘It is… war minus the shooting.’

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Total votes: 24
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Comments

This will be great to witness for sure. VR is the master at applying pressure, and as you noted most collapsed to it. I believe MM is game for it though as he is akin to it himself, even more so possibly than VR was in his beginning. I just hope it does not become to destructive to either as I am a fan of both of them.

Total votes: 12

"At Catalunya in 2001 Biaggi waited until after the race to get physical. He had just been made to look silly by his young upstart rival, who had come from way behind to steal the glory that should have been his. So on their way to the podium, Biaggi landed a head butt."

What Max Oxley fails to reference is Rossi was not afraid to put hands, (physical altercation), on Biaggi either. That tussle in the stairwell after Max Biaggi messed with an older man in Rossi's entourage left Biaggi with a mark under his eye at a press conference. Rossi is not just a mind game player. He will be as rough with racers as they are with him. In fact, he does not even seem truly inspired without mind games to drive him to push himself to a higher plane of speed.

Marquez is brilliant at a young age. He has more talent IMHO than I saw in Rossi at the same age. Anyone would be wrong in assuming he does not have the talent and drive to find another gear and leave Rossi to be another page in history.

Both Rossi and Marquez at a young age ride like old veterans. Rossi however played tricks and made moves during races that retired champions wish they did to other rivals looking back in hindsight, which is 20/20 when it is over. But Rossi has always proved to be a rider that seems to do things in the moment while racing his rivals that show that his mind is calculating and his emotions are in the background. Marquez has shown on more than a few occasions that his emotions can rule his decisions too much. Hence the barging of other bikes so hard he breaks them causing accidents and other issues like he himself crashing out. He may state he is learning from Rossi. But Rossi is also learning from him. Marquez has more talent, but Rossi's greatest talent has been to learn how to beat someone better than him any way he can. It is a perfect concoction for a thrilling year between the two

If Rossi can maintain his current form and increase it, which seems to be a HIGH possiblity at this point, we may not have witnessed the greatest fight yet between these two. The greatest fight will be when they both can fight for a full race without going down with a gap in front of everyone else and the championship on the line. And you can best believe EVERY single clean and dirty trick in the book will be laid out against each other in that or hopefully those races.

Total votes: 31

I agree with the above about great moves and the exceptional talent of each. I think some people are missing or forgetting that this year so far, Rossi has been quick if not quickest in two out of three so far including a lap record. Something he hasn't done in a long, long time.

It makes the prospect of a year long title charge from Rossi much more poignant. It can't be said that he's only won two races this year because of extenuating circumstances.

Total votes: 11

that we get the masters of two epochs properly battling it out. I've never thought of Rossi's age as a real barrier as a motorcycle racer, in some sports where physical punishment is a requisite like rugby or UFC sure, but Rossi has managed to stay pretty healthy throughout as apposed to someone like Doohan. We just missed out on Rossi v Doohan due to Mick's injuries. We did get to see Mick vs Rainey for a season or two, but arguably not with Doohan at his peak. Rossi vs Biaggi or Gibernau was never really a contest. We saw Rossi vs Stoner but that contest was always tainted by the Ducati factor, for both riders. Rossi vs Jorge was only really a thing for 1 season, circumstances have stopped them from being competitive at the same time. With Marc vs Rossi I think we get to see two guys relatively close to their peaks thanks to Rossi's incredible will to keep winning, with both guys on undeniably competitive machinery. This season with Marc having to make up a points gap he's going to HAVE to go for Rossi's jugular at every opportunity. And Dovi/Ducati are the dark horses if they can keep improving the bike over the course of the season, though that's not traditionally something Ducati are good at.

Total votes: 16

Obviously the table is set for a terrific season between MM and VR. Both riders are immensely talented and have a love of racing that make them the incredible competirors that they are. The mutual respect they have was highlited by the comments MM made during a recent PR event in Spain regarding VR and the Argentina incident (see posting on the MotoGP site). This kid has a maturity way beyond his age, and it is one of his great strengths. Let's enjoy that noble rivalry while it lasts, Vale won't be racing forever...

Total votes: 4

I've read and re-read this article several times and i am not sure what exactly Mat is trying to say. I think he does a somewhat poor job setting table for the reader.

Without sounding like a total fanboy, i feel he paints Rossi uneccessarily as a bully. While i will grant the move on Sete, there was no touching at Laguna other than CS27 rubbing Rossi (granted some break checking done to disrupt rhythm) and at Catalunya, i remember JL99 routinely hitting and provoking Rossi, then complaining when VR46 reciprocated. JL99's time in 250 was well documented and he was also a 'nutter' and MM93 was over the edge numerous times.

I normally really enjoy his work but think this one needs some revision.

Total votes: 20

I think MM93 has bullied many riders out of the track since his arrival at the top class (Bautista at Qatar the last example) , it was about time someone put the kid in check and who better than Rossi.

Total votes: 19

IMHO Marquez doesn't have the sort of patience which Rossi seems to have...and I'm not referring to the age factor here.

Even back in the day, despite the odd harsh move, Rossi was rarely short on patience. He reserves his antics for the last couple of laps or for those very special case situations where he just cannot allow a faster rider to take the lead.

Marquez, on the other hand, doesn't seem to have any sort of patience when it comes to making progress through one or more riders in front of him. And that's despite him usually having half a second or more on the field.

He has no problems biding his time when things are normal and he's in second place or so and waiting for the last ten laps or so to make a stunning pullaway, but when there's a tinge of emergency in the air, he shuts down patience shop and opens the barge-through one.

Another simple arithmetic factor being 3 laps to go versus that 10 laps to go. Rossi used to specialize in sitting behind somebody until there are 2-3 laps to go before pulling the plug. With Marquez it's almost always around 10 laps before he pushes through and disappears.

Total votes: 8

To be fair to Marquez, the pressure for him to win is higher compare to that of Rossi. Marquez is the reigning champion, No. 1 rider in the team, on a arguably better bike, and he is assumed physically more capable (younger).

Rossi on the other hand may have a bigger drive to win, but definity is under less pressure. Before season starts, Rossi was not even the sure No. 1 rider in the team. Even after 2 wins i. 3 races, Rossi can still continue to enjoy his under dog status. I strongly believe Lorenzo is under even bigger pressure to perform in the Yamaha camp.

Total votes: 8

Yes, the pressure on Rossi is absolutely nothing when compared to the expectations on Marquez. To be fair to Rossi too, he's been exactly there so very many times before...

Despite his antics with Biaggi or Sete, or those post-race celebrations etc, Rossi has in general always been an 'old soul' sort of chap who has never been very impulsive, but (for good or for bad) Marquez has always been exactly that - very impulsive.

That said IMHO it's not exactly good news that Marquez makes so many mistakes in his 3rd year (and towards the end of his 2nd year) of racing at the highest level. Perhaps the last 2 years supplied him with a rather distorted/diminished view of the intensity and quality of the competition.

It will be interesting to see how he fast Marquez recovers and how fast we can see a vicious counterattack from the Marquez camp.

Total votes: 7

MM ran into the back of VR and crashed out. The racing God's have spoken. Go watch Cluzel get punted in WSS so at least we can hear about new griping.

Let it go already!

Total votes: 9

Fair enough Motoshrink, this clash has been reported to death on every MotoGP site...

But I think it's far more than just a racing incident between 2 riders in a MotoGP race. There are so many stories created by this incident than just a "clash between 2 MotoGP riders"...

Marquez not quite as dominant as he has been these last 2 years (why?) Rossi seemingly proving he is as great as many thought he was and many (but fewer, mainly journalists) dismissing him in his elder years. Lorenzo in a slump and being trounced by Rossi yet again (who thought that would happen in 2015?) who admitted he could not match Rossi's pace (never been a problem before). Jorge has issues, yet another story.

Marquez is such a great, passionate racer who loves his racing. Like Rossi, he has a history of questionable moves on riders. Rossi has had his fair share too, but Marquez's talent has moved it onto another level. He seems to think he is invincible when it comes to barging people out of the way. I wasn't sorry to see him go down (after it was clear he was not hurt!) Not because it was against Rossi (could have been ANY rider and I would have felt the same), but because it hopefully proved that he AIN'T invincible when he tries to barge his way past people. That incident was totally his fault. But the great thing about amazingly talented young riders like Marquez is, he will learn from it and add it to his race craft. Lorenzo did!

If Marquez is still racing 5 years from now in MotoGP, he will have amassed a great skill-set to face his opponents, figure them out and control his emotions and his race-distance pace. Just like Rossi has done through years of racing the best in the world.

That coming together of Rossi and Marquez meant so much more than just a "bump" between 2 racers!

I hope 2015 continues in the way we have seen so far in MotoGP. It's compulsive viewing!

Total votes: 12

Well said 1050 and 4 stars.

Rich consideration is great. There is also a history here of reductionist self indulgent criticism of riders and readers both around such things. Rossi - Stoner Laguna battle for instance.

I love insightful consideration like yours. And the end of the "polite era" of Jorge and Dani flinching and griping and such. This is a racing incident amongst two that hold the other in highest esteem. I am watching with curiousity, appreciation and awe.

Total votes: 2