November 5, 2015

The Moto GP Melodrama explained...

It's a soap opera the likes of which has never been seen before and it will come to a head this week end in Valencia, the final race of the season.

You probably read about the Moto GP drama in the past week or so but unless you are a rabid fan, you might have missed some of the crazy nuances of this epic confrontation so, let Axis help:

The Players:

Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo

Valentino Rossi isprobably the most successful racer of the current century. Only the legendary Giacomo Agostini has more championships, 15 won in an era where riders competed in multiple classes in the same years.
Rossi has grown from 17 year old brat 125cc. Champion in '97 to elder statesman of MotoGP, leading the championship in 2015 aged 36.

2015 has been an incredible year for Rossi, after a disastrous two seasons at Ducati and a return to a Yamaha dominated by Jorge Lorenzo,  the Italian rider has had an incredible season that has seen him lead his rivals going into the last race of what has been arguably the best MotoGP season of the last 20 years.

...but it's not that simple.

Marc Marquez is the most exciting rider since, well, since Valentino Rossi.  Marquez's idol as an up and coming rider was Valentino, whose career Marc shadowed through the junior classes. His dream is to best Rossi's 9 championships.   That was the trajectory after two consecutive MotoGP championship onboard the Repsol sponsored Honda.
Unfortunately, 2015 would not be good year for Marquez, the Spanish rider came up against his idol first in Argentina...

and then in Assen...

What happened in Assen?    Rossi, 20 seasons of racing and many similar moves under his belt, knew Marquez would try on the final corner and put himself in a position where Marquez could do nothing but bump him.   In essence he played the youngster for a sucker, humiliated him and got the win.

This is the root of the current saga.

Marquez has been resentful ever since, his riding in 2015 has been inconsistent,  his championship hopes evaporated. The Spaniard has been plotting his revenge:  Rossi would not win his 10th championship,  Marquez would do whatever he could to help fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo catch and beat "the Doctor".

Last month at Phillip Island, Marquez put his plan into action. He let Lorenzo go and started slowing Rossi and Ducati's Andrea Iannone.   Lap charts showed Marquez riding consistently 1 second a lap slower than his usual pace when in front of Rossi and Iannone, only to speed up when behind.
On the final lap, he was able to pass both Iannone and Lorenzo with ease. The reason why he did not let Lorenzo win?   A number of past GP riders have said it was not to give away the game.

Rossi, saw all of this coming and launched the accusation on the eve of the Malaysian race. "Marquez will deliberately try to help Lorenzo".   Headlines across the planet.

In retrospect not the best move for Rossi because it only helped to provoke Marquez and make Spanish media bristle.

Come race day, Valentino's predictions come true, Marquez after letting Lorenzo go in the lead does everything he can to stay ahead of Rossi. At this point Marquez is not in contention for the championship any longer so his manic riding has only one goal.

The insane battle between Rossi and Marquez culminated with a frustrated Rossi leading the Honda rider wide, Marquez responding by leaning into him with his helmet and body before falling.

Rossi was penalized, three points taken away and condemned to start the title deciding race this week end from the back of the grid.  

These pieces of film have been subjected to Zapruder level of scrutiny in the past weeks.  Most commentary has not been kind to Marquez.  It's obvious from overhead shots Rossi did not kick him as claimed and that Marquez leaning in was the reason for the fall.  

It has not stopped much of the Spanish media from losing the plot or Repsol from issuing statements about quitting MotoGP sponsorship if Rossi was not punished and Honda claiming it had proof Rossi kicked Marquez' front brake lever causing the fall (even though there was a brake guard in place!).

But possibly worst of all, Jorge Lorenzo first gave his teammate the thumbs down on the podium and later asked for stiffer punishment.    Very convenient.

The internet has not been kind to Lorenzo and Marquez, the Spanish duo becoming the subject of many unpublishable homoerotic memes.   Rossi has never been a saint but Marquez and Lorenzo probably lost the respect of a large number of fans.

If Lorenzo wins the championship,  and it's hard to to imagine how he will not,  the biggest loser will be MotoGP.    By issuing the penalty they did,  a fantastic season has been destroyed.  

Unless Valentino pulls off a miracle...  pass the popcorn.

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