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I’ve been struggling to recall an incident in MotoGP that has split opinion as much as this clash between Rossi & Marquez...
With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the motogp.com team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.
Since 3pm last Saturday, I’ve been struggling to recall an incident during my time in MotoGP that has split opinion as much as the last corner clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez in Assen.
I know entire families divided by what happened at the final chicane.
The history books will show Rossi took his 111th career win from Marquez by 1.242s. But that doesn’t come close to telling the story of a battle that has already secured a place as one of the greatest in history.
Not surprisingly, Rossi and Marquez have completely contrasting views of how the drama unfolded.
Rossi felt he had the right to the racing line as the leader, and he had only been forced to cut the track because of the bump from Marquez.
Marquez, who had rehearsed his move numerous times prior to the race, believed he executed his plan to perfection by holding the inside line under Rossi on the brakes. By running off the track and cutting the chicane, Marquez believed the 36-year-old had gained an unfair advantage and a penalty should have ensued.
Firstly, was Marquez reckless by making contacting with Rossi?
I don’t think so. Rossi was ahead in every phase of the braking zone but this was the last corner on the last lap and Marquez had the right to try and lunge up the inside.
There was contact, but this was a rider desperately trying to win a race rather than being deliberately erratic and malicious. It is a move we have seen hundreds of times before in races, even from Rossi. And not once did Rossi seek to chastise Marquez for the contact.
The flaw in the pre-race plan of Marquez was he’d rehearsed the move entirely on his own. He could not have predicted the outcome should there be another rider defending the racing line, as Rossi legitimately was.
And he should have been aware that any contact with Rossi had the potential to send him on a trajectory across the gravel trap or worse.
Did Rossi deliberately invite the contact knowing full well he would be picked up to cross the gravel trap for a shorter run to the finish line?
Without the contact Rossi would have negotiated the chicane on his normal line.
He was only in the gravel as a direct consequence of the nudge. By running into the gravel, Rossi’s defence would have been he had no choice but to run off the track, thus avoiding sanction for cutting the chicane.
Rossi is the most intelligent racer I’ve come across in my time in the paddock. But to invite contact is playing with fire in the extreme. He did close the door on Marquez, but not even Rossi could have predicted how hard the contact would be, or where on his body or bike it could have come. I can’t see Rossi taking such a risk when he knew the lead in the World Championship was at stake.
Was Rossi escaping punishment for cutting the track unfair on Marquez?
Race Direction called it a racing incident and I can’t see how they could have reached a different conclusion.
Without the contact, Rossi isn’t forced off track and he wins the race. And at no point did Rossi deviate from his line to excessively squeeze Marquez.
Had the roles been reversed, there is no way in the world that Marquez would have adopted different tactics to those employed by Rossi. And Rossi would have definitely attempted the same overtake.
It all comes down to the fact that at no point was Marquez in front of Rossi. His move was miscalculated by just half-a-metre, and the onus is always on the rider in pursuit to make a pass clean and safe. Had Marquez got in front of Rossi and Rossi then runs off through the gravel to win, then it puts a completely different complexion on the incident.
Marquez nearly pulled it off, but his failure to do so pushed Rossi into a mistake and the only way he could correct it was to run off.
Coming out second best in a battle is not something Marquez is accustomed to.
For want of a better phrase, he got his Assen kicked. Next time around, the boot might be on the other foot.
This time though, The Doctor gave him a taste of his own medicine.
Check back tomorrow (July 1) for the final instalment of Matthew Birt's three-part #RossiVsMarquez Assen analysis.
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