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Old heroes and new aliens

Old heroes and new aliens

History has a tendency to repeat itself, a fact that is true even in motorcycle racing.

As the summer break draws to a close all eyes turn to the second half of the season as the hunt for the title closes up. With nine rounds to go Lorenzo and Rossi are clear favourites, but no doubt both Marquez and Pedrosa will be in the hunt for wins and perhaps even an outside title challenge.

The early 2000s saw Valentino Rossi dominate; winning five back-to-back premier class titles, but never has he had to battle with so many riders on such a similarly high level. In those years there were only one or two riders who could take the fight to Rossi on a race-by-race basis: Sete Gibernau, Max Biaggi and in 2005 Marco Melandri. Now if Rossi wants to win his tenth title he’ll have to face Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Marquez as well at the Factory Ducati pair, who can produce flashes of brilliance when the stars align, almost everytime the lights go out. Not since the 1990s has the MotoGP field been so competitive at the top.

1991 through 1993 were perhaps the most competitive seasons of the 500cc class and saw legends such as Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Rainey and Mick Doohan all battling for the title. While Rossi, Lorenzo and Marquez sat at home doing their homework these greats of the sport were doing battle on some of the most vicious machines ever put on tarmac. The nature of 500s meant that no win was ever guaranteed as even the briefest lapse in concentration could result in a rider being sent skywards.

For years these three fought for the title, 1991 being a particular close season with Rainey winning the championship by just nine points from Doohan, Schwantz a further 20 back. Much like today these riders were at the front race in race out and even the slightest mistake was detrimental to their championship challenge due to the high level of competition.

 1992 saw Doohan make a start to the year the likes of which would not be seen again until Marquez’s run of wins at the start of 2014, but unfortunately injury would end Doohan’s title chance. Even with Doohan missing from almost half the season Rainey was unable to easily runaway with the title as Criville, Lawson and Gardner all took victories, Rainey finishing as low as fifth on occasions.

The competition was fierce and the racing close, much like in 2015. Throughout the 90s riders like Luca Cadalora, Eddie Lawson on the Cagiva, Daryl Beattie and Doug Chandler were able to produce stunning rides and take sporadic wins, very similar to the factory Ducati pair this year. These riders may not have challenged for the title at the time, but certainly played a key role in choosing the eventual winner.

In many ways the ‘aliens’ of 2015 have characteristic similarities to the heroes of the 90s; Schwantz and Rossi both wow crowds with their aggressive styles, flashes of neon yellow flinging themselves down the inside of other riders at the last corner and leaving their braking as late as they dare. Doohan and Marquez both race for the Honda factory team with unique styles, coming in as rising stars and immediately asserting themselves into the established order. Meanwhile both Rainey and Lorenzo are inch perfect, their consistency giving them an edge over their competitors. Just as the heroes of the past battled it out together for multiple seasons, so too have the top riders in MotoGP, all four able to contender for the title, or at least top three in the World Championship, no matter their circumstances. It is this ability to run at the front so consistently that has earned the likes of Lorenzo, Rossi, Marquez and Pedrosa the title of ‘aliens’

Throughout the 90s it would be injuries that unfortunately decided many of the titles, since then safety has increased dramatically within the World Championship and serious injuries are seen far less. If injury can be avoided then the end to 2015 looks set to be a classic with the factory Yamaha pair going head to head while Marquez does his best to claw back points lost after a disastrous season start.

MotoGP, 2015

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