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Surprises and disappointment

Surprises and disappointment

The Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix continues to throw up surprises on and off track, some riders left out in the cold.

One of the draws of motorcycle racing is that anything can happen. Even the best rider can crash at a moments notice, a wet race can produce a totally unexpected winner, riders can launch scalding accusations against former close friends. All of these things happen on occasion, maybe four times a season in a 'good' year but the Malaysian GP has so far been a collection of some of the most dramatic moments in recent years.

Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez continued their very public disagreement from Thursday. During FP3 Rossi was clearly unhappy that Marquez was following him, a slow speed game of cat and mouse ensued as they both waited for clear track. This was then followed up by Rossi cutting in front of Marquez during a practice start, was it on purpose or simply a start gone awry? Most of Rossi’s attention seems focused on Marquez while another Repsol Honda rider rules the roost.

The last few rounds have been some Dani Pedrosa’s best, his thrilling battle with Rossi in Aragon and his expert charge through the field in Motegi highlights of recent years, now the trend continues in Sepang. The 1’59.053 which Pedrosa laid down in Q2 was an almost impossible challenge for the other riders, Marquez the only one with half a second. Overall 2015 has seen times, especially in Qualifying, be incredibly close, Pedrosa’s lead of 0.409s in Q2 the largest since round five in Le Mans where Marquez beat Dovizioso to pole by just over half a second. This was truly one of the biggest surprises of the day as both Lorenzo and Marquez looked to have the one lap edge.

As Pedrosa was surprising many, Jorge Lorenzo was forced to swallow the bitter pill of disappointment as his title rival knocked him to the second row. Unfortunately Lorenzo only became aware of his loss as he attempted to enter Parc Ferme. While being just a couple of metres back on the grid is not a huge disadvantage, especially for a strong starter such as Lorenzo, it may have a great mental impact. There have been several incidents in the last few rounds where Lorenzo has been agitated by Rossi. In Aragon the pair had several moments while practicing bike swaps and on Friday in Malaysia Rossi shot past a stationary Lorenzo as he prepared for a practice start, almost touching him. Both incidents saw a heavy shake of the head from the Spaniard who was unimpressed.

In the Thursday and Saturday press conferences Rossi made it clear he was trying to play with Marquez and lure out some sort of reaction be it on or off the track. It’s a tactic Rossi has used countless times before with the likes of Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau and Casey Stoner. While it’s impossible to tell if Rossi did deliberately cut Lorenzo off in the pits in Aragon or did purposely roar past dangerously close in Sepang, it’s clear Lorenzo has noticed the incidents. Will the thoughts linger on Sunday when the lights go out?

With the 2015 MotoGP™ World Championship on the line both Rossi and Lorenzo have a lot more to be potentially disappointed about if Sunday’s race doesn’t go to plan. Rossi has his first chance to take the title and with just 11-points splitting them, Lorenzo has a chance to take the momentum back. But neither Pedrosa nor Marquez can leave Sepang as disappointed as either of the Movistar Yamaha riders, a crash or bad result for Marquez or Pedrosa would be less than ideal, but it would be just another blip in a difficult year. Both the Hondas have a huge potential to surprise, but has Rossi focussed his attention on the right one or will he too be surprised?


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