Oct 27, 2015

Posted by in Bikes

The Yellow Letter – The Madness of Sepang

The Yellow Letter – The Madness of Sepang

A Note That’s Not Really Long Enough to Call a Foreword – Many people have read, and commented, the first two parts of my Rossi series of articles, Doctored, and I thank you for that.  The final part was due to be published following the season, and will be edited further following the events of today.  However, given what took place at Sepang today, and comments I’ve seen made, and discussions I’ve had on Twitter in relation to today and this series of articles as a whole, I feel like we needed Part 2.5.  I will be referring back to the other articles though so please take the time to read those as well if you’ve not already.  This, like the others, will no doubt anger a lot of people on both sides.  The comments will be moderated.  Discussion, debate, agreement and disagreement are encouraged but flat out abuse won’t be.

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true”.  So said Nathaniel Hawthorne in his masterpiece, The Scarlett Letter.

I have been a fan of motorcycle racing for almost as long as I’ve been alive.  And for the last decade, writing about it has also been part of one of my jobs as a freelance writer.  I have seen great riders come and go.  I have seen the highs of incredible victories and the desperate lows when we have lost riders to this sport.  I have seen feats of skill beyond imagination and I have seen stupidity that beggars belief.  And yet Sunday took the cake.  A few days ago I witnessed the most disgraceful thing I have even seen in Grand Prix motorcycle racing.  Because it was not just about one incident in one corner.  The whole thing, as I tweeted at the time, was a quote-unquote fucking disgrace.  Let me tell you why.

I’m not going to rehash the issues I, and many others, have with the near God like status that the fans (Part 1), the media (Part 2) and Dorna (Coming in Part 3), have bestowed upon Valentino Rossi, or why that is, or whether it is earned or not but obviously it goes without saying that that feeds into this whole debacle.  And whilst Valentino is at the centre of all of today’s events, pretty much no-one has covered themselves in glory today.

ti33811But first, let’s have a positive shall we?  Dani Pedrosa rode flawlessly in Sepang.  That’s going to get forgotten probably.  But he rode as good as he ever has.  And for all the doubters that say he no longer deserves a full factory bike, just watch the last four races.  He is still as good as anyone out there on his day.  So kudos of the highest order to Dani.  But let’s move on to the juicy stuff shall we?  Sorry, the utterly bloody depressing stuff.

Let’s wind back.  Not to Thursday.  Not to Phillip Island.  Not to Assen.  But back to Qatar.  Round 1.  To my mind, that’s where this started before any of us even noticed it had.  Until now.

In 2013 and 2014, Marc Marquez dominated MotoGP.  Jorge Lorenzo got close to him in 2013 but last year, daylight was second.  He was on another planet.  And in a fair fight, Lorenzo seemed the only one capable of beating him.  But then in Qatar this year, Rossi beat him.  Fair and square.  He beat everyone.  The Ducatis filled out the podium and Jorge and Marc were off the box.  Suddenly, as every media outlet rushed to tell us, Rossi was back.  Properly back.  He beat Jorge again in Texas.  And then came the first ‘coming together’ with Marquez in Argentina.  Marquez got a bit over excited, they touched, and Marc went down.  He would later say it was merely unfortunate and that Rossi was his idol, and his reference, so he hoped to learn from it.  But Rossi had already started the mind games.  He said Marc was too aggressive.  That he was too much all or nothing.  And that he knew that he was faster than Marc so was not worried.  This was new from Rossi.  He had started to feel like he could win, and win regularly again, and so went to the well that had served him alright, to varying degrees, in the past.  He started with the mind games.  The subtle belittling of his opponent that had worked with the likes of Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau in years gone by.

The problem is, it didn’t work with Marquez.  Like Casey Stoner before him, one of the key reasons Marquez was crashing so much this year was not because Rossi had broken his brain, it was that he was fighting a bike he wasn’t getting on with.  And he refused to bow to the king.  And he was still quick.  He was trying to bend a bike to his will to varying amounts of success.  There were wins and there were crashes which meant there was little consistency.

Then came Assen.  That time it was a racing incident and I personally didn’t think anyone had anything to answer for in that case, but Marquez felt aggrieved.  And Rossi, to my eyes, couldn’t believe that Marquez dare such a thing.  The move nor the accusation, and from then on, it was war.  Rossi, rightly or wrongly, had decided Marquez was out to get him.  He used the same tactic against Stoner, trotting out time and time again that since Laguna, Stoner had it in for him.  And here was that plan again.  It didn’t really work against Stoner, and it hasn’t worked with Marquez either.

Because instead of subduing Marquez, putting him in his place, it fired him up.  It now wasn’t just a neat trick to beat his idol.  He was now a rival and one that must be crushed whenever possible.  All the while, they both kept smiling those winning smiles while they built the voodoo dolls in their motorhomes.

101815-motogp-phillip-island-results-f-633x388Then came Phillip Island 2015.  A race that most people described as one of the all time classics.  A flat out dogfight between four of the best riders in the world on three different manufacturers.  After a sensational last lap, Marquez passed Lorenzo for the victory just as Andrea Iannone passed Rossi for 3rd.  It bridged the championship gap to 11 points between Rossi and Lorenzo and we were all excited for the final two races.  This is a fact that must be kept in mind.  A hard, but clean, fight right to the end. Almost every person who saw that race thought it was a classic.  I say almost.

Fast forward a little to this past Thursday at the press conference for Sepang when, quite literally out of nowhere, Valentino Rossi starts claiming Marquez was deliberating trying to mess him up to help Lorenzo.  That Marquez was pissed over Assen and Argentina.  He didn’t say Marquez was cheating, but he might as well have.  It was unprecidented.  Many a journo who’d been around a while, Matt Oxley springs to mind, suggested Rossi knew what he was doing.  A new level of mind games.  A warning to Marquez perhaps.  If you fight with me this weekend, people will think it is because you are ganging up on me.  I’ve planted that seed now…

When Lorenzo was asked if he thought Marquez was helping him he responded, quickly and quite brilliantly by saying, yes, he did.  Particularly on the last lap…

At the time I didn’t think Rossi was playing games.  I thought it was a sign that the mask was slipping.  He had never been under pressure like this before in his career.  The Jaws music was coming for him, not the other way round.  He knew that his grip on a fairytale 10th world title, and 8th MotoGP title, was loosening.  Lorenzo had been quicker than him for most of the year but had made too many mistakes or, as Jorge would have it, fallen foul of some bad luck.  In all honesty I don’t think Lorenzo has been unlucky this year, rather that Rossi has had the most incredible run of no bad luck we’ve seen in some time.  When he was struggling for pace in the dry, it rained.  Or Lorenzo had problems with tyres or helmet decisions.  Or just the fact that the 2015 Honda was a right mess at the start of the year.  That is not to say Rossi has lucked into the championship lead, he has earned it with his consistency.  Ironically, should Rossi win the title this year it will be very similar to Nicky Hayden’s win in 2006, where he was not the fastest man all year, and he won’t have won the most races, but he has been the most consistent.  And that’s how you win titles.  Most of time.

593905And that move by Rossi on Thursday, to me, showed up something most people rarely see in Valentino but are quick to point out in any other rider.  The raging ego and the intense hypocrisy.  It’s true of most top riders to be fair, without that ego you cannot succeed.  It’s the hypocrisy that gets me.  And I’ll get to that in more detail later.  But on Thursday a number of people, both fans and objective journos took a step back to question Rossi’s motives.  And whether it was a smart move, or a foolish one.  Was it calculated, or knee jerk?

To quickly touch on Phillip Island for a second once more, do I think Marquez was helping Lorenzo?  Personally, no.  Not at all.  And as stated, neither did anyone else.  And then Rossi speaks up and suddenly a lot of people, Rossi fans on social media primairly, start to say they thought that at the time too.  Because if there’s one thing sports fans do well, it’s show restraint with their opinions on Twitter.  Here’s what actually happened at Phillip Island.  A fantastic MotoGP race.  There was no second shooter.  There’s no inconsitencies with the shadows.  And the steel didn’t need to melt.  Move on.

Marquez is clearly not a person that is easily rattled.  Just look at his career.  How Rossi thought a few ill thought words at a press conference would do anything other than fire him up god alone knows.  And since he most likely doesn’t exist, the simple fact is, no-one knows.  It was a ridiculous move by Rossi that can only be put down to one thing.  Through the mounting pressure on him, he actually believed his own bullshit.  He believed his own theory.  Maybe he’d been on Twitter.

Most would have you believe Rossi is the king of the PR game but it’s not something I’ve ever bought into personally.  His personality and such are dynamite for the show and marketing, when mixed with his obvious talent, but when he feels hard done by, when someone dare disrespect the king, it comes crashing down.  His treatment of Gibernau, Biaggi and Stoner in the press was fairly amateur at best.  He actually hit Biaggi once let’s not forget.  Then there was the desire for a wall at Yamaha and he and Jerry Burgess’ claims of how they’d fix the Ducati.  I’m not saying this behaviour is exclusive to Rossi, of course it’s not, but he’s the centre of attention this week.  And he’s long got a free pass for it because of his record.

And Marquez wasn’t taking a step back.  The whole thing seemed to baffle him.  And piss him off.  And a pissed off Marquez is not something you want to deal with.

And so to the race.  Rossi had qualified on the front row, Lorenzo the second.  Lorenzo knew he needed a good start.  He didn’t make one.  But then he pulled off one hell of a move passing both the factory Ducatis in one go.  He made his way past Rossi.  Now.  Right.  A number of photos emerged that seemed to show Lorenzo passed Rossi under yellow flags but subsequent investigations proved this not to be the case.  The flag was out for an incident that took place behind them, with Iannone running wide.  It wasn’t ignored.  Race Direction did look into it.  And dismissed it very quickly. An over keen marshall and the angle of the photos made it look like Lorenzo had gotten away with an illegal pass, but it simply wasn’t the case no matter how many times Rossi fans wish to scream blue murder.

So Lorenzo set off, without much avail, in pursuit of Pedrosa which left Rossi and Marquez to duke it out for third.  And here’s where it gets complicated.  For ease, let’s break it into some bullet points.

1) Was Marquez deliberating slowing up to mess around with Rossi?  We’ll never know. The lap times would indicate that may well be the case but then lap times are always slower when there is plenty of passing involved.  Marquez says otherwise naturally.  He says he was faster than Rossi but was slower because of the battle.  The point here is that every one of Marquez’s passes on Rossi was clean.  Hard, sure, but clean.  And vice versa until the incident.  Later Race Direction would say that they felt Marquez was trying to effect the pace of Rossi.  If he was, I’d argue it had nothing at all to do with helping Lorenzo and all to do with paying Rossi back for the disrespect he’d shown Marquez earlier in the week.  You know, like something Rossi would do to someone else and get a parade for.  What was Marquez supposed to do?  Rossi essentially accused him of rigging the race in Phillip Island.  He’s not supposed to react to that?  Well, no, maybe he shouldn’t have.  That would’ve been the grown up thing to do but we’re not talking about grown ups here are we?  He reacted to provocation, as did Rossi on Lap 7.  The difference in how they reacted though was leagues apart.

Even so, elsewhere, others felt like Marquez was doing nothing of the sort, Randy Mamola being one vocal proponent of this.  The overarching point here is that we can’t ever prove if Marquez was deliberating slowing up Rossi for revenge.  Personally, I think it’s 50/50.  I think if Marc could’ve caught Dani and Jorge, he would’ve run off.  When he realised he couldn’t match the pace for the win he decided to hang back and ‘have some fun’ with Rossi.  It’s arguably a dick move, and it’s a bit petty if so, but then so were Rossi’s comments.  And, here’s the key, he did nothing outside of the rules.  He did nothing dangerous. Every overtake was clean or fair.  Moves multiple riders have pulled off all year and we’ve applauded.  And if it had been as obvious at the time as some people seem to think it was, there was no mention of it in any of the multiple live commentaries I’ve checked.

I mean, was Marquez supposed to just let Rossi win?  Why didn’t Rossi just pass Marquez and clear off if Marquez was deliberately riding so slow then?  Because, on this particular day, he did not have the pace to do so.  That is the truth.  And that, again, is a difficult fact for some to accept.

2) Rossi was rattled.  Not Marquez.  Of this, I have no doubt.  And it’s not something we’ve ever really seen before.  Watch the race again.  The passing is hard and desperate which is fair enough, they’re both riding for a podium.  But have you ever seen Valentino gesturing so much?  Looking around, looking back, making motions with his hand.  Telling Marquez to piss off.  Trying to swat him like an annoying little mosquito.  You could say it was because he was worried about Marquez running into him but I’d say that’s bollocks.  Marquez and he, and he and many others, have had closer battles than this many, many times before and I’ve never seen Rossi act this way before and I’ve seen every single one of his Grand Prix at least three times.  Rossi didn’t act this way towards Pedrosa in Aragon and that was harder racing than this was  No.  Marquez was in his head.  Rossi wasn’t used to dealing with these sorts of tactics.  And that’s because they were his tactics.  Tactics of passing and repassing Marquez had learnt from him and was now serving back.  Rossi had convinced himself Marquez was going to do something silly.  He had convinced himself Marquez was deliberatly going slowly and messing with him.  True or not it was clearly in his mind whilst riding round.  That’s what Rossi used to do to others, not this way around.  And it got to him.

3) Marquez broke the unwritten rule of motorsport. Oh, just fuck off.  I’m sorry, but the number of people I’ve seen going on and on about how Marquez should’ve stayed out of it because he wasn’t part of the championship race.  In that case, should every other rider have stayed home for the last three races and we can just have two guys on track?  Just fuck off.  Should we cancel every Moto3 race then?  Just fuck off.  In the entire history of the sport not once has anyone ever been penalised for racing with someone in contention for the title.  Not once.  Not even at Phillip Island in 1990 when Hans Spaan had to fight off every Italian on Earth who owned a motorcycle.  And to just to make sure of this I checked with the guru of MotoGP history and statistics, Martin Raines.


And it’s happened every single year.  What often happens in motorcycle races is that people on motorcycles race each other.  Other than the odd ‘accidental moment of running wide’ between team-mates everyone wants to beat everyone.  There is pride, and sometimes bonuses from teams and contracts, on the line.  It was Marquez this time copping the abuse, but Iannone got his fair share from Rossi fans post Phillip Island.  In expressing that opinion, as a supposed fan you are literally saying you do not want to see a race.  You want to see your guy be allowed to win, whoever that may be.

Oh, and just one little extra thing for the Rossi fanboys, and even the man himself, going mental about this very thing with the sort of hypocrisy that has right done my head in.  Motegi 2010.  That’s all that really needs to be said about that.  So shut up.  Please and thank you.

And one final, edit, added footnote to that, I’d just like to include some words made public by Ant West just now on his Facebook page.  He says, “To all the people who keep asking me and other riders to “let” Rossi pass us off the start…. No I’m not going to let any rider pass me I don’t care if it’s Rossi or not. I give up my life to be on that starting grid. I don’t see my family or friends. 10 month of the year. For the last 16 years! I live alone in Europe with no girlfriend or friend just so I can race in MotoGP. Rossi takes millions to ride and I’m riding for €0 to makes these 3 races.  I’m broke and just trying to survive to make it to each race. And you want me to just pull over and not race? No way! Never will I do it after I give my life to be here!”

I’m not a religious man, but amen to that.

4) The crash itself.  Ok, so, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it now.  And I now present my view on it.  I’ve attempted to be as objective as possible in my viewing of the actual incident although my view on how it should’ve been dealt with is, naturally, entirely subjective though paced on the facts and precedent.  So, to just the events that took place in Turn 14 on Lap 7. The first point to bring up is the kick.  A lot of headlines suggest that Rossi kicked Marquez, or booted him off.  That much at least is entirely not true to my eyes.  Did Rossi’s foot come off the peg in Marquez’s direction?  100%.  But was it what caused the crash?  No.  Almost certainly not.  From every angle that appears to be a much more basic reactionary movement or simple physics at work than intended malice. Marquez was already on the way down by the time Rossi’s foot leaves the peg.  In the heat of the moment it may have looked different and certainly felt different to Marquez, but in the cold light of day, the kick just doesn’t seem to be there.  In that, Rossi is in the clear to me.

For everything else, well, not so much.  Or, you know, at all.

It is painstakingly obvious that Rossi intends to run Marquez wide in that corner.  Rossi admits as much later.  But he’s not doing it in any shutting the door kind of way, but rather in a malicious way.  Not to cause him to crash, but to run him wide.  Real wide.  Like, wider than the Grand Canyon.  Wider than the World Wide Web.  Wider than even your mum.  And he does so.  And he looks over to see where Marquez is.  He knows what he’s doing.  Maybe he’s eyeballing him, maybe he’s trying to avoid actual contact, maybe he’s seeing how far he can push him.  At this point, realising Rossi has left him no room, Marquez sits it up, forced to concede.  That’s where the move should end.  If Rossi had done that, deliberately sat him up and nothing more, that’d be the end of it.  It would a dick move yes, but he would’ve sent a message.  There’s probably one penalty point in it, but that’s it.  But he didn’t stop it there.

After Marquez was sat up your natural instinct then is to concede and get back on the racing line knowing the guy up the inside of you will now drift back in towards the apex.  Anyone who’s watched racing for more than five minutes will have seen this over and over again.  But as Marquez sits it up, so too does Rossi.  And he looks back at him again and again.  All of this very clear from the overhead shot.

did-rossi-or-didn-t-he-kick-marquez-out-of-the-race-at-sepang-101371_1Rossi has no intention at all of cutting back to the apex.  He is straightlining the corner.  He doesn’t accelerate.  He rolls off.  He is no longer trying to run Marquez wide.  He is running him off the track.  On purpose.  A rider of Rossi’s experience knows that if he straight lines were he does Marquez’s only option is sit it up a second time and run off the track.  And that’s what he wants to do to him.  But Marquez isn’t expecting that because why would he be and so he’s already turned in again expecting Rossi to move back to the racing line.  He ups the pace again just as Rossi has slowed even more and so Marquez crashes.

This is not Marquez refusing to give up the corner.  This is not, as many have claimed with selectively edited YouTube clips, Marquez turning into Rossi on purpose to initiate the contact.  It is not Marquez headbutting Rossi’s leg.  This is a man deliberating trying to run another off the track.  Not necessarily to make him crash although again, at this point in his actions, a rider of Rossi’s experience knows this is a possibilty.  He kept looking at him.  He knew what he was doing.

When Marquez hit the deck, Rossi looked behind, saw him on the floor.  You’d pay a lot of money to know his thoughts in that moment.

Provoked or not.  He deliberately tried to run someone off the track.  That is the cold hard fact of the matter.  And no matter the circumstances, no matter how many #46 stickers you’ve got on your double ring binder, that is indefensible behaviour. 

As it happened I could not believe what I was witnessing.  It was like live coverage of someone’s complete mental breakdown.

It was early morning in the UK as I watched it live and as such, my non MotoGP watching wife was half watching the race as well, with a bowl of museli, and as it happened she said, and I quote, ‘What the fuck is he doing!’  Quite, my love, quite.

It was the most disgraceful thing I’ve ever seen in MotoGP.  Because of who it was, because of why it happened, because of what was at stake, because of where it was too lest we forget.

It was in that moment that a lot of people who had worshiped the very ground Rossi walked on took pause for a second, and they too said, ‘What the fuck is he doing?’

5) Marquez brought it on himself and got what he deserved.  Setting aside the fact that no-one, no-one, no-one deserves to be deliberately ran off, this is the bit that makes no sense to me.  It’s Schrodinger’s conspiracy theory this one.  Marquez brought it on himself even though Marquez was only duffing up Rossi because he was pissed at Rossi because of what he said on Thursday.  That makes no logical sense now does it?  Now, let us suppose for just a second Rossi was provoked.  Does that make his actions justified?  Of course not.  ‘But he was picking on me sir’ never got anyone off anything.  In Race Director Mike Webb’s own words, “As I said to Rossi, it doesn’t matter what the provocation is. You can’t react in a way that causes a rider to crash”.

6) The penalty did not fit the crime.  Now, a lot of people will agree with this statement one way or the other.  Many Rossi fans have said he deserved no penalty and now the championship has been ruined by Race Direction.  Some of them even set up a petition to ask if Rossi might me placed above and beyond the rules that apply to everyone else please if you’d be so kind.  That petition is just ridiculous by the way.  That over a quarter of million people are prepared to put their name to something that is basically a massive whinge that their favourite rider isn’t going to win a motorcycle racing championship beggars belief. As if those online petition sites weren’t laughable enough…  

Anyway, the championship was not ruined by Race Direction.  Nor Marc Marquez.  Rossi ruined his own championship by his actions on Thursday and Sunday.  That is the hard to accept fact for everyone.  I personally still cannot believe he has brought this on himself in such a manner.

But, to the penalty.  At the time I said on Twitter that he ought to be black flagged instantly.  And there is precedent for this too.  Again, thanks to fact checking with Martin Raines, we look back to Mugello in 1999 and the 250cc race.  In that race, right after the start Loris Capirossi took out Marcellino Lucci by riding straight into the side of him.  It was clearly irresponsible riding that resulted in another rider crashing, which is exactly what Rossi did to Marquez.  In that instance Capirossi was black flagged and suspended for one race further.

In 2003 Makota Tamada was disqualified for a very hard pass on the last lap against Sete Gibernau.  Now, this was on the last lap, where everything was on the line including a home race podium for Tamada.  The move was hard for sure, and he squeezed Gibernau for room but it was far less deliberate than what Rossi pulled on Sunday.  Again, Tamada was disqualified.

In that same race, in the first turn, a very over ambitious John Hopkins skittled a number of riders in the first corner.  It was a ridiculous move that was never going to work but at the end of the day it was a mistake by a young rider in his second year that unfortunately ended the race for two other riders.  There was nothing deliberate about it is the point.  Hopkins was suspended for a race for reckless riding.

Valentino Rossi deliberately tried to run another rider off the track on Sunday, which caused that rider to crash, and yet he still stood on the podium at the end of day.  After the hearing, he still kept his points.

Race Direction gave him 3 points on his license.  Bare in mind he already had one from a qualifying incident at Misano which brought him to a total of four meaning he will start the final race from the back of the grid.  However, what this is saying in truth is that race direction did not feel that the incident on Sunday, measured just by itself, warranted any penalty in the real world.  Three points means nothing.  If not for Misano, Rossi would’ve gotten away with it.

That, to my mind, is an utter disgrace.

But is it perhaps unfair to compare it to incidents in the distant past?  And if so, was the penalty fair under the current system?  Well, he has received the same, or less of a penalty than incidents involving other riders that were far less serious and unintentional.  Look to Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans in 2011 or Alvaro Bautista at Misano in 2012 and you could certainly say no, Rossi’s penalty was not fair.  But the other argument is that whilst not fair, it is consistent within a fundamentally broken system.  And if that is the case the sport is saying that deliberately running a competitor off the track is a three point penalty which carries no actual real world penalty unless you later, or previously, do something else wrong.  And that is all sorts of wrong.

It is the equal most absurdly lenient penalty I’ve seen in the sports history, up there, ironically, with Marquez’s obliteration of Ratthapark Wilairot on a slow down lap at Phillip Island during his Moto2 days.  That incident was not a deliberate attack on another rider by Marquez but it was irresponsible, reckless and dangerous and warranted much, much more than a relegation to the back of the grid.  They are entirely different incidents in many, many ways but are entirely similar in that Race Direction set a terrifying precedent by handing out two desperately lenient non punishments.

Many have proposed the argument that it has ruined the championship and people want to see the title decided on the track, not in Race Direction.  It was decided on the track when Rossi ran a competitor off it.

Race Director Mike Webb (and you can read his full statement here, which for the most part at least makes logical sense even if he and the FIM completely lost their bottle when handing out the penalty) said he had to judge it on a similar incident concerning Karel Hanika from earlier in the year.  This is of course discounting all the previous incidents.  And the question needs to be asked, if it were the other way around, and someone else, anyone else, had done this to Rossi, would they have received a harsher penalty.  To my mind, it’s not even a subject for debate.  Yes.  Yes they would’ve.  This was echoed by many a former rider, not just us writers, after the event from Casey Stoner to Carl Fogarty and Ben Spies.

In this decision, it is of my opinion, that Dorna and Race Direction offered a ‘one rule for one, another rule for everyone else’.  They effectively said, one man is bigger than the sport.  And, sure, at the end of the day, it’s only motorcycling racing but, quite frankly, it sickens me.  It is a decision that calls, not just 2015, but the sport’s entire integrity into question.  Is it really just Valentino Rossi’s world, and we’re allowed to live in it?

Now, the counter to this is of course that the punishment has cost him the championship so then it is ‘fair’ regardless.  I’d argue it’s not.  Firstly, it hasn’t cost him anything yet.  Don’t forget, he is still 7 points clear in the championship and anything can happen in Valencia.  It’s made the championship difficult, but by no mean’s impossible.  And further to this, it’s a matter of principle.  Of integrity.  Here the FIM and Race Direction had an opportunity to say that right was right regardless of the situation or the people involved.  And they failed.

Some have suggested if this occurred in Round 3, maybe he would’ve been black flagged.  That sort of thing makes my blood boil.  Right is right regardless of the time or context.  I’d suggest that the fact it happened when it happened makes it even worse if you want to look at it that way.

7) The backlash, the wash up, and the mountains of hypocrisy.  Look, the only person involved that actually comes out of this looking good is the man that dominated the race, Dani Pedrosa.  His comments in the press conference were spot on, measured and calm.  He said that today the sport lost.  He was right.

Jorge Lorenzo might now have one hand on the title but he didn’t come off great on Sunday afternoon.  Yes, what he said was correct.  That anyone other than Rossi may have gotten a more severe penalty.   That he was banned for a race for something similar back in the day.  But if he’d sat there and said that which Pedrosa did, and then simply gone to Valencia and wrapped the whole thing up it’s hard to see how he comes out of it looking bad.  To be fair to him, he was probably in a foul mood anyway given he was exhausted from a hot as hell race and had just been booed for once again having the audacity to beat Valentino Rossi.  Because it was just the actions of those involved on track that showered themselves in shit on the weekend, the fans did as well.  Particualry those in Malaysia who seemed to take a leaf out of the British fans book on Sunday.  It’s vile to see.

Marquez hasn’t really done himself any further favours or further disservice post race to be fair.  He’s called it as he’s saw it, exaggerated a few things here and there and said he’s going to try and win in Valencia.  At the end of the day, even if he was slowing down on purpose, he’s not going to admit it.  Again, he did nothing wrong in the eyes of the rule book.  He did nothing that other riders haven’t done for years.  He’s pissed off and he’s acting like it.  It’s not entirely pretty.

press-conference-motogp-sepang-2015Rossi on the other hand really needs to put the shovel down at this point.  Not turning up to the official press conference was unprecedented.  I can remember only one other time that a podium finisher didn’t make it to a press conference and they had better excuse than having a tantrum.  By which I mean they were in the medical centre.  And that was Wayne Rainey at Donington Park in 1992 when a fan squished his leg after a post race track invasion.  He didn’t even make it to the podium.  Even Casey Stoner managed to get the press conference after Catalunya in 2009 when he looked like he might actually keel over at any second.

So not turning up was childish at best, disrespectful at worse given he made Pedrosa and Lorenzo wait and wait and wait until it was clear he wasn’t coming.

Then when he finally spoke to the media, he accepted no blame.  He tried to protest his innocence further.  And then had the audacity to say Marquez has won because he cost him the championship.  No Valentino.  You cost yourself the championship.  And I think you know that. 

rossiThe most telling thing to me in that conversation with the press is the face of Neil Hodgson standing at the side holding the microphone for BT Sport.  I’ve never seen Hodgy look like that before.  It’s a man who can’t believe what he’s listening to.  Earlier, at the Maruqez presser, Hodgson asks how is Rossi allowed to have points after today.  That he has never seen anything like that in his many years in the sport.  And there he stands next to Rossi, a man he has openly admired as his own GOAT, with a face like a man watching his idol crumble right before his eyes.  And this is not just a fan.  This is World Superbike champion we’re talking about.  It’s an incredible image.

And then, today, Rossi has emerged again, tweeting that he is thankful for the support of his fans and it has helped him overcome the bitterness.  By now you have to wonder if he’s drinking his own Kool Aid.  If he had come out on Monday and simply said, in his own way, ‘I’m sorry.  I made a mistake.  I messed up’ then at least some of the respect he’s lost this week could come trickling back.  Be the bigger man, apologise for your part in this whole sorry affair.  Own up to it, move on.  But Rossi is not a man that readily admits he is in the wrong.  There are always caveats.  Imagine if in 2011, Casey Stoner had crashed into Rossi, taking him out of the race and then went into his garage after and half heartedly apologised without even taking his helmet off.  Imagine such a thing.

And this is where Valentino Rossi has entered into a world of hypocrisy usually reserved for his diehard fans on forums and social media.  For years Rossi has said he loves a battle and he loves a fight under any circumstances.  But not now it seems.  Not when it’s not on his terms.  There are many reports floating round that after Aragon he approached Dani Pedrosa and asked why he fought him so hard in that race.  If that is true, then it is incredible.  Valentino asked a fellow competitor why they did not lay down for him?  Could it be so?  As I say, these are only unconfirmed reports that a week ago I would’ve dismissed as nonsense but now, I’m not so sure.

The moves Marquez put on Rossi during that race were no harder than moves Rossi put on him.  They were less aggressive than moves Rossi has pulled on other people his entire career.

Since Thursday Rossi has done nothing but complain that things are not right.  That things are unfair.  That he is being ganged up on.  Over and over and over.  It is just a shame his surname does not rhyme with Moaner I guess.  It is preposterous that in many circles Jorge Lorenzo is getting more flak for leaving the podium early, where he was getting booed, than Rossi is for not even turning up to the press conference.  I’m not sure if he has been fined for this yet but, according to the rules, he must be.

And, because it bares mentioning over and over again at the moment, Motegi 2010.

And now he and his fans feels the penalty is too harsh.  Because of course he does.  

A Valentino Rossi fan could read this article and see it as an attack on Rossi.  An unbiased love letter to Marc Marquez by a man who hates Valentino Rossi.  That is the ‘feedback’ I expect.  But it could not be further from the truth.  It is simply how I see it.  And how a rider for whom, on the track at least, I had an immense amount of respect for.  But all that changed on Sunday.

And all of this leads me to my final point that will probably be a little more than one point but if you’ve got this far…  For me, on Sunday, MotoGP died a little. And not because there’s some grand conspiracy that Lorenzo and Marquez are trying to rig the championship or because there’s a Spanish Mafia or anything else that is complete nonsense.  It’s because of a few things actually.

Firstly, because what has been a fantastic year of racing will now be reduced to a footnote to this incident.  Whoever wins the title in Valencia will receive criticism suggesting they did not deserve it because of the actions of two riders who should’ve known better.  As I have said before, it is of my opinion Rossi should have been disqualified in Sepang or suspended for Valencia or both for his part in the affair.  It should be noted, loudly, that Jorge Lorenzo had nothing to do with the whole thing.  He was two seconds up the road minding his own business. 

PA1823739.0008-1Secondly, to my mind, one of the sports true greats has now left a massive mark on his legacy.  In a moment of sheer madness he deliberatily made another rider crash.  It’s the sort of stain that hangs over people like Senna and Schumacher in F1, for all their greatness.  It was, of course, and at best, an unecessary, momentary meltdown by a human being under intense pressure.  It was at worst a dangerous act by a child used to getting his own way.  In truth it’s probably somewhere in the middle.  But it’s now something that will sit with him for his entire career, regardless of his achievements.  Like Zinedine Zidane, this is now a part of the story.  Incidents like this are not forgotten.  And to see one the greats reduced to that is depressing to say the least.

This week, for the first time publicly, Valentino Rossi completely lost his mind.  Even Ago thinks so.  I thought he’d gone a bit nuts on Thursday but no-one could’ve predicted the events of Sunday.  When in one moment Rossi showed what he is capable of when pushed to his limits, not of his talent, but of his mental steel.  For his actions over a few seconds on Sunday left those of us capable of seeing passed blind adulation, asking, ‘Who is the Valentino Rossi that might be capable of this?’  Are we, like he, like the minister of The Scarlett Letter, bewildered amongst his own now evident hypocrisy?  Can the real Valentino please stand up?

You could argue that it’s a result of years and years of everything I’ve said in the previous two articles and will go into in more depth in the next one.  That he’s a victim of his own success and hype and over protection.  Maybe he believed he could get away with it?  That whatever happens, I’m Valentino Rossi.  Everyone will be on my side at the end anyway. Maybe a bunch of complete idiots will start a petition and get over a quarter of a million people to sign it…

Because at the end of the day, one undisputable fact remains after Sunday.  Valentino Rossi undertook a deliberate action, under racing conditions, against a fellow competitor that resulted in them crashing.

That is dispicable.

That is desperate.

And entirely depressing.

All photos are copyright of HRC and Dorna except for Motegi 2010 which is copyright Martin Heath.

  1. Get on with life says:

    Blah, blah, blah, blah.
    That is all.

  2. IMO, You missed one thing. I find this Article very objective, but one thing about VR penalty points. Dont You think he would get more than 3 if he hadnt had 1 from misano before?
    Im sure he would get 4 or more then and finally still start from the very end in next race.
    And isnt it like this, if VR would have crashed then MM would get penalty? I mean the one that stays on the bike is guilty and the one on the ground is free of responsibility? I think so. RD made it looking like it.


    • I too felt that they would have given him 4 if he hadn’t already had one but hadn’t considered the dangerous message it sent. That the actions he took didn’t solely deserve the resultant penalty of being sent to the back of the grid.

  3. Tom Stewart says:

    “He deliberately tried to run someone off the track. That is the cold hard fact of the matter.” There’s no evidence to support that. It’s pure supposition on your part, not a “cold hard fact”. VR deliberately ran MM very wide, (at the point of contact there was about 1/3rd of track width remaining), but NOT “off the track”.

    • Which is why I went on to say that after he ran him wide, after that deliberate action was completed, Rossi did not return to the racing line. He sat it up again, slowed down and continued to push Marquez even wider at which point the only option was for Marquez to run off the track or crash.

      • Hi and thanks for your article. I find it interesting, even if it sounds very personal with too many f*ck even for somebody like me.

        Could you agree that when the 93 run into the 46, Rossi is not looking at Marc and he’s already trying to curve? Does this not change your prospective? Sepang is – if i’m not wrong – the widest track in the calendar and the tarmac was not over in 30cm or so…

        To me it sounds like you are looking very carefully at some details skipping others. And it’s really hard to know what really happened. We can only suppose certain details. They know – and they know only what each has done as they cannot absorb every detail in that context. There are clear facts (Marquez on the outside, Rossi keeping him wide, the slow pace…) and then there is the judgment of people with better tools and bigger experience than most of us (I would say all of us).

        I also would like to remind you that many incidents and reaction in racing are punished only if there are consequences. During the Australian GP of 1990, Hans Spaan punched Gresini for being obstructive the entire race. No consequences. And there are many more examples like this. I think people that have watched motorbike racing for some time all know this. So let’s Race Direction do what they are paid to do. I know you want to express your opinion, but I would recommend to respect also what others – probably more expert than us – have to say. They are paid to do so after all…

        Thank you and regards.

  4. Matt (C4Racer) says:

    I”ve watched the last 2 races multiple times and I can’t see anything from PI that reflect Rossi’s accusations. Look at the gap times from 93 to 99 not just lap times.

    Thank you for writing such a great piece. 100% agreement here.

    Sad weekend for the sport.

  5. Martin Sliž says:

    This article is incredible. The best I’ve read since Sunday. It is very long, you’ve done so much work, I still have to finish reading the last part. Thank you.
    The parts I disagree: 1. Rossi didn’t try to run Marquez off the track. There is no evidence for that. He tried to run him very wide but always left him space. 2. Rossi wasn’t out of his mind or going crazy when running him wide. He did it with a cool head. He meant to surprise Marquez, make a strong point to him and gain an advantage. It was a hard and unussual racing move. Maybe something he does as a joke on his dirt track in Italy. If Marquez didn’t panic and didn’t turn into him, nobody would fall. 3. The incident is no tragedy for the sport or the world. What is going on with you, journos? You in your article say things like fuck you several times, but then you moralise about how the world will never be the same. Far more worying is Marquez’s inability to give Rossi a break and leave them fight it out with Lorenzo. That’s a bit unprecedented and psycho.

    And yes I am a Czech Rossi fan since 1997 🙂

  6. Sorry, your article is a little biased. Unfortunately it’s impossible for it not to be, as it is human nature. Everyone has an opinion and your’s is duly noted.

    These two racers both made mistakes. Marc is young and has much to learn, the other is older but let the younger one get him agitated on race day. Rossi does have a long history of being a fairly well behaved rider on the track. In the the shorter time Marquez has been racing he has shown a keen sense of being disruptive and borderline dangerous. If Marquez does not change his ways we may have another tragic event occur in MotoGP, of which I hope never happens.

    Let us hope both racers learned a valuable lesson and won’t repeat their mistakes in the future.

  7. You are right in every regard, Trunkman. It isn’t a matter of opinion when even Rossi tells Race Direction he was showing Marquez the way off the track, it is fact – he deliberately ran Marquez off the road. He should have been black flagged and banned from the next race.

    I’ve been a Rossi fan for years because, somehow, he always seemed the cheeky, daring underdog, even after becoming the grand old dame of motorcycle sport, even when nerfing Gibernau off the track or clattering over the kerbs at Laguna and damn nearly taking Stoner out.

    I love the chutzpah that Rossi has espoused, but as the oldest guy on track, he’s become tyrannical. How dare Pedrosa race him? What? The Thursday press conference rant? Absolutely bizarre. Running another rider off the track? Beyond belief.

    Don’t you just love the theatre of it all? For a couple of days I’ve been bemoaning the damage it’s done to the sport, but actually, this is why we watch it. Schwantz/Rainey, Fogarty/Chilli, Rossi/Stoner and now Rossi/The whole world.

    No question, Rossi’s having a very public nervous breakdown. He’s just buried his legacy in exactly the same way Schumacher did. The Greeks couldn’t have written a better tragedy.

  8. Great article and hits the nail on the head in every respect. I am not a Spanish, Lorenzo, MM or VR fan, just a long time motorcycle racing fan. I feel that the only way forward for this sport is for the FIM to step in, disqualify Rossi from last race and make this the last year that Dorna runs the sport but putting in a temporary multinational team to run the series. I am also surprised that Dorna make so much money from the sport but don’t employ mediators for their Facebook page to combat the hordes of abusive Rossi supporters against anybody that doesn’t support their fallen hero.

  9. Matt (C4Racer) says:

    Serious question…What happens at Valencia if Oliveira decides to run Kent off the track early in the race then goes on to win? 3 penalty points and a Championship?

    Or Kent crashes out on his own and Oliveira is in a 2 rider battle on the last lap but decides to stare him down and run him off for the win?

    As a racing fan this precedent is crazy.

  10. Trunkman, UR in my will brother. All the other Gurus with any MGP affiliations have not expressed their true opinions. They have stayed painfully neutral on this foul play from 1 player. Repercussions perhaps? U put ya nuts on the table n said it loud n clear man. Best article I have read. I’m gonna read ya other stuff now. U got a follower n a Gold Star from me mate, BUT please drop th “F” bombs. I want my MGP fan daughter 2 read this as well. Gd work. Hope U read this Carmello !

  11. George Large says:

    Brilliant piece. Many thanks.

    Not a fan of either rider – more a fan of MotoGP in general, but what Rossi did was appalling.

    Hanika did the same, but admitted his guilt and got 5 penalty pts.

    Rossi denies any wrong-doing but is found guilty and gets just 3 penalty pts.

    MotoGP is the loser in this sick episode.

  12. George Large says:

    Brilliant piece. Many thanks.

    Not a fan of either rider – more a fan of MotoGP in general, but what Rossi did was reckless and dangerous – appalling.

    Hanika did the same, admitted his guilt, and got 5 penalty pts.

    Rossi denies any wrong-doing but is found guilty (even after appeal) but gets just 3 penalty pts.

    MotoGP is the loser in this sick episode.

  13. Great great article, well written sir! This is almost unprecedent in motorsport, this “fan” reaction, absolving Rossi of any wrong doing, its disgraceful…

    • ElephantSwill says:

      I think a large part of this reaction in favour of Rossi is in response to the fervent rush to condemn him, and place the blame entirely at his feet.

      If you do that, then really you are no better than the the Rossi fans who claim he is completely innocent.

      He isn’t, but then neither is Marquez. The cold hard facts are that while Rossi ran Marquez wide, Marquez has, this season, initiated contact with Rossi on three occasions. The fact that he’s came off second best in those encounters shouldn’t hide that fact.

  14. ElephantSwill says:

    “Valentino Rossi deliberately tried to run another rider off the track on Sunday”

    This is all you need to read to know this article is just another attack on Rossi.

    He slowed Marc down and took him wide. Are we all agreed Rossi is a smart guy? Are we all agreed he is skilled on a bike? If he’d wanted to run Marc off the track he’d have found a way to make to look like a hard pass.

    Troy Bayliss said it best, “All I will say is 46 and 93 would not have been able to continue to race like that all race, I’m happy it happened at slow speed”

    Anyone that thinks Marquez isn’t holding a grudge for Argentina, and Assen isn’t engaging their brain. All the signs of Marquez messing with Rossi are there. The crypic comments, latching on to his wheel during qualifying in Brno (can you imagine Stoner’s reaction to that?), and disappearing up the road on the last lap in Australia, after “playing” with Rossi and Iannone.

    To summarise; Rossi ran him wide. It was naughty. Marc leaned on him, fell off and lied about the kick. Also naughty. They should have been sat down, read the f**king riot act by race direction, and allowed to go to Valencia.

  15. First off, I’m not a Rossi fanboy. I have watched Grand Prix motorcycle racing for a very long time. I watched it before Rossi arrived on the scene, and I will continue to watch it long after he retires. I watch it because I enjoy the racing, and I have no wish to see anybody move over and let a rival win.

    I do however have an issue with a lot of what’s been said / written about last Sunday’s race. Not because Rossi is receiving criticism, but because everyone with access to a keyboard is suddenly qualified to provide an opinion on his state of mind based purely what they’ve seen on TV or the Internet. He is undoubtedly under pressure, as is Lorenzo. Lin Jarvis said as much in his TV interview with Neil Hodgson. They are team mates battling for a world championship, so of course they are under pressure. But please, let’s leave the psychoanalysis to the professionals.

    Your view on him deliberately running Marquez off track has no real supporting evidence. There was still plenty of track left, and Marquez could have easily picked his bike up to avoid a collision. Would Rossi have continued to run wider and wider until they finally ran out of Tarmac? We’ll never know, and any suggestion that he would have is pure speculation. One thing that is certain is that with no championship to fight for, Marquez could afford to indulge in a bit of fairing bashing and risk a DNF, whist Rossi could not. Finishing behind Lorenzo would not have been terminal to Rossi’s title bid, but crashing almost certainly would. Why then would Rossi instigate a collision, which could have easily seen them both hit the deck? A point that seems to have been overlooked by virtually everybody who’s had their say.

    You cite a number of respected sources who have condemned Rossi’s actions, but ignore the others who have supported him. Virtually every ex-racer with a social media account has commented, and from what I’ve read, opinion is very much divided. They’ve all called it as they saw it, you have simply selected those that support your arguements. Although Stoner was a quite brilliant rider, as an ex-rival of Rossi’s and former Honda employee, I doubt he could be regarded as an impartial observer.

    Generally you make some valid points, but your whole article is very one sided and makes no attempt at balance. As a result, it comes across as a personal attack, rather than analytical journalism. I haven’t read your other pieces, but I assume the tone will be similar, so it’s unlikely I will bother.

    I find your language structure too informal and your repeated use of profanity really weakens the piece. I’m no saint, believe me, I swear as much as anybody, but there’s a time and a place. You describe yourself as a freelance writer. If you are using your website to promote your work, I would suggest this is not the place.

  16. Phil Robinson says:

    Up until last weekend this was building up to be one of the “great” seasons, that would be remembered fondly for many years. 2 riders going for the title, 2 different personalities and styles locked in a close hard-fought but fair battle with the outcome unpredictable and heading for a fantastic climax. No matter whether the overall victor was Jorge or Valentino the great sport of Moto GP itself was going to be a winner. I, and I’m certain I’m not alone, was looking forward immensely.

    And now what do we have? A fantastic Championship de-valued no matter what the outcome, whoever wins will be “tainted” no matter which. So, ok, some of Jorge comments after the race may not have been the most sensible, but did Jorge play any part in the antics on the track? None whatsoever. And I now hope that Jorge wins both the race and the title next weekend, if the “yellow army” don’t like that – TOUGH!

    Such a shame that like Zidane, Vale’s great career ( for it has been just that and for a man of 36 years to able to genuinely challenge for the title is outstanding, ) to be forever tainted by the stupidity he displayed at turn 14 on lap 7. Because I totally agree with you MR Trunkman, Valentino is ENTIRELY responsible for his own downfall here.

  17. It was the best of the championships, it was the worst if the championships…

    Nice article. I’ve enjoyed reading it, especially your comments about the ‘unwritten rule’ , haha.

    I agree with most of it, l disagree with a couple of points as well… ( I think Rossi did kick, he waited for Marquez, looking behind until he had him close enough and then he kicked down. From Rossi’s onboard especially, looks like a deliberately kick to me) Either way, it was shocking to see. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it happened. I’ve never seen anything like it and, maybe naively, l would have never ever expected it from Rossi.

    Another thing that l can’t understand is the amount of riders and others that have come up on twitter actually justifying or excusing Rossi’s actions and somehow blaming Marquez for it. Incredible.

    What l’m finding the hardest to understand though is what is going on inside Rossi’s head. I think he actually believes that Marquez has been plotting to ‘make him lose the championship’. I think he believes everything he said on Thursday, even that he’s not sure if Marquez had posters of him when he was a child. He believes Marquez was trying to slow him down in Phillip lsland. He actually believes everything. Then he is not apologizing, he doesn’t think he did anything wrong, he is going around thinking he didn’t deserve any penalty for deliberately pushing a competitor off track, he thinks he is the aggravated party. I honestly think he’s gone mad. Literally. I don’t think the man is in a healthy state of mind. I feel a bit sorry for him in that sense, and l fear he’ll do something bizarre in Valencia again.

    Anyway nice writing. The way things are going, you might have to write part 4, part 5 and part 6 of the series…!

  18. Great piece of enlightening writing. Thanks for this and your willingness to take on the opinions of the yellow horde.
    One fact I’m constantly seeing thrown around is that Marquez had plenty of track left!
    Can you please point out to them the Marquez Watson the edge of the track next to a very slippery metre and half of AstroTurf, reportedly sloppier than real grass itself. No wonder the lad tried to get away before he was run onto it!

    • Watching It says:

      When we are leaning to right hand and want to change it to stand up or lean into left, we need some more room in front not left side itself (that if me eyes serve good its blocked by valentino’s bike). I’m sure with MM skill, he could calculate instantly if he have no room left to change manouver. Or another option only stopping his bike to zero speed instantly, of course the result is the same (fall down). I’m pretty sure MM unpredicting valentino’s abnormal move (on purpose refer to RD), when he leaning the corner as it has to be. then he realize valentinos’s bike blocking his line but its too late to safe. Note: little unpredictable touch (kick or not kick or others) to handlebar (brake lever is there) when leaning could fatally down the bike instantly.
      Normally, MM will continue to race since his bike have not really damage, but his decision later is to pit in. I understand his decision since he realize the incident no longer within the rule. But the other party (valentino) keep his race till the flag

  19. Great article and agree 100%. Have always been a fan Rossi as he is the best racer Ive seen, but he lost the plot at Sepang. Quite sad really. Ive been following the comments of a lot of the “yellow” army and a majority of them are clearly demented – also quite sad – I seriously worry about the safety of MM and JL

  20. The method by which you construct an argumentis impressive.

    You did say this was your perspective. It is well displayed.

  21. Calvin Lunsford says:

    -The loudest voices are almost always the least objective- (proven daily on the internet)
    Very interesting article. I am a motorcycle racing enthusiast (road racing, motocross, supercross and dirt track)if it is motorized 2 wheel competition I love it. My favorite is road racing and my son and I watch every GP and World Superbike event life through the wonderful world wide web! I admire “The Doctors” talent and great accomplishments. However the incident at the last event in Sepang was very sad to see. It was clear the intentions were to at the least put the young upstart in his place and let him know he was interfering with the Moto GP god, at worst the guy totally lost it and had no idea what he was doing. Worst part this same strategy has been used by Rossi against others in the past (Stoner Laguna 2008). At that time I honestly applauded him for being so tough as to not give up when faced with a bike and rider combination that on paper had a clear advantage. Imagine the praise he would have received for sticking to the rear of Marquez till the end and maybe beating him. That would have gone down in the books as an epic race and we the real fans would have woke up the neighborhood with our excitement.

  22. Anthony Stevens says:

    This is request for specific information number three; I’ve asked elsewhere. Please direct me and others not interested in the ramblings of commentators, to the specific rule of racing that VR contravened. Again, no self satisfying ranting please, just the rule. Thanks in advance,


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