Rossi v Marquez at Sepang MotoGP – Lap times, three look backs & ”That leg movement”

By Martin Thompson

Much has been said over Sunday’s clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at the Sepang Malaysia round of the Moto GP World Championship, with social media going into meltdown.

Much emotion has been spouted, unsurprisingly, the Rossiratti being perhaps the most vehemently emotive and less surprisingly, abusive, of any opinion other than their own.

I have been subjected to claims of bias, amongst other things after my previous article, which I fully expected. No matter which side of the debate I took, or, if I had done as some journalists have, simply sat on the fence, one side or the other was always going to take offence.

Personally, I don’t write articles to either placate nor antagonise readers. I write to inform. My feelings for any of the riders are always put to one side when writing, as it is simply not relevant.

My writings are based on what happens on track, what riders do, or don’t do, and not some objective summation filled with emotive rhetoric to prove a point which isn’t actually fact.

So what is the best way to adress all this?

To remove the emotion from the discussion?

There is only one way and that is to look at the facts in the cold light of the day. Using the information available to all and sundry. Lap times and video footage.

There are three major claims from both the Rossi camp, and the rather vocal and emotive Rossiratti, who by the way have already attempted to use social media to enforce their wishes by creating a petition to have the results of the race direction reversed. Even purporting to have people ban the purchase of all merchandise and remove all support for any company or persons who do not support their cause. Even going as far as suggesting that Yamaha should not allow either Rossi or Lorenzo to compete in the final round to ensure that their wishes of Valentino receiving (Not achieving), his tenth title.

The first is that Marc Marquez was deliberately slowing Valentino up in order to harass him.

The second being that the contact between Valentino Rossi’s leg and Marc Marquez’ bike, was a result of Marquez leaning his helmet onto Rossi’s foot.

The third being that Marquez leaned the bike over onto Rossi’s bike.

So let’s review each claim to try and remove any of the emotion, and to clearly examine the facts in an attempt to remove personal feelings for either rider from the equation.

The first claim, from both Valentino and his team, is that Marquez was deliberately slowing to attempt to tangle with Rossi.

The MotoGP site has listed the lap times from the laps prior to, and including, the lap on which the clash between Valentino and Marc occured.

I have anylised the lap times of all the first four riders, being Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi & Marc Marquez, in an attempt to draw some conclusions based on the facts at hand. I found a few of the stats very interesting to say the least.

The lap times of Rossi and Marquez were, naturally enough, very close to each other. The lap times of both Pedrosa & Lorenzo also are very close to each other. Fastest laps compared to both Rossi and Marquez show that both riders were lapping at very similiar lap times, with only a couple of tenths here and there seperating the two, a tenth here and there.

But, it was obvious that once the full tank front end handling problems, that Marquez has struggled with so much this season, levelled out as some of that fuel was burned up, Marc was going to pull away from Valentino in the later laps.

If you are an avid viewer of MotoGP, you will know that many times where Valentino has been slower than riders behind him in parts of the race, be it early laps, mid race or at the final few laps, Valentino has made them pay, by finding areas where he can slip in under them, interupt their momentum, perhaps even frsutrate them and then make a gap so that he may be triumphant at the chequered flag.

It also shows, that the only times that Marquez lap times dropped significantly, was where he made an error, lifting the rear wheel of the bike while trying to enter a corner to keep up with the leaders, or in the case where Jorge Lorenzo slipped underneath him, where he struggled to retain the front end grip with a full tank of fuel, running very wide as a result.

At this point, he had no idea if the bike behind him was Valentino, Jorge or any other rider. Apart from this, there was no obvious slowing of Marquez at any point which would indicate an attempt to fall back to Rossi in order to justify Rossi’s claim of Marquez deliberately tangling with him.

The lap times do not show in any way, that this was the case. So let’s put that one to bed. Below is a table of the lap times to show in clear statistics what was happening each lap with the four riders, and the fastest laps that each rider achieved, and on which lap. It shows that at no stage did the lap times vary enough to suggest that slowing to tangle with Rossi was even on Marquez radar.

Facts are, I think at worst, all Marquez wished, was to beat Rossi and take vital points away from him. Furthermore, his responsiblity as a rider, is to his team, his sponsors and to garner as many points he can. To suggest that just because the rider behind was fighting with his team mate in front for the championship, the he should simply allow him to pass is ludicrous in the extreme. If he had done this, he would have lost respect from fans, sponsors and most importantly the team and manufacturer he rides for. Anyway, I will spare you the blow by blow positions and passes, and just list the laptimes below so you might draw your own conclusions.

Please note I have highlighted Valentino Rossi’s fastest lap of the race, which, was still slower than the fastest lap that Marquez achieved with his Honda suffering from the well known full tank of fuel front end problems.

rid positions-Marquez, Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo.

• Lap 1:

Pedrosa gets off to a good start, with Marquez and Rossi in hot pursuit. Lorenzo loses ground off the start, but soon enough commences displaying his immense cold tyre riding ability.

• Lap 2:

Jorge Lorenzo      2m 0.606s
Dani Pedrosa       2m 0.795s
Marc Marquez       2m 0.818s
Valentino Rossi   2m 1.268s

• Lap 3:

Dani Pedrosa      2m 0.822s
Jorge Lorenzo     2m 0.894s
Valentino Rossi  2m 1.361s
Marc Marquez      2m 2.003s

• Lap 4:

Jorge Lorenzo      2m 0.932s
Dani Pedrosa       2m 0.972s
Valentino Rossi   2m 1.127s
Marc Marquez       2m 1.360s

• Lap 5:

Jorge Lorenzo     2m 1.174s
Dani Pedrosa      2m 1.247s
Marc Marquez      2m 2.107s
Valentino Rossi  2m 2.363s

• Lap 6:

Jorge Lorenzo     2m 1.335s
Dani Pedrosa      2m 1.408s
Marc Marquez      2m 1.938s
Valentino Rossi  2m 1.937s

Fastest race laps

1. Jorge Lorenzo     2m 0.606s (lap 2)
2. Dani Pedrosa      2m 0.795s (lap 2)
3. Marc Marquez       2m 0.818s (lap 2)
4. Valentino Rossi   2m 1.127s (lap 4)

The second claim, is that Rossi made no attempt to kick Marquez’ bike, or Marquez himself.

This one, while a little less subjective, can still be clarified by watching the various footage of the incident taken from several angles. The best angle to see this is the shot from the helicopter.

After viewing the slow motion footage from the aerial shots, it is impossible to infer any other opinion than that Rossi’s leg, moves out towards Marquez and Marquez’ bike, at or perhaps slightly prior to any movement of Marquez Helmet moves towards Rossi or Rossi’s bike.

From the slow motion, it is crystal clear that Rossi has lashed out at Marquez prior to any contact of the two. If you don’t agree, then I suggest you take a good look at the slow motion aerial footage a few times, as it is clearly evident that Rossi makes a strike with his leg, prior to either of the two bikes or riders making any contact.

What can skew the view slightly, is that Marquez, seeing that he was running out of track and that every attempt he made to slow enough to get behind Valentino was failing, saw no other option than to then open the throttle and attempt to go around the long way.

It was also at this point where Marquez lean angle increased slightly to match the increase in speed after throttle application and attempt to stay on track, simultaneously, Rossi stood his bike up even further to again ensure that he ran Marquez off the track.

Be pragmatic, view and review the footage and you will see this for yourself. Some Rossi fans will refuse to believe it, but they appear to lack the ability to remain arbitrary in any discussions regarding their hero.

The third claim is that Marquez should have had the sense to close the throttle to come behind Rossi, and perhaps then gain a better drive to the next turn, or to patiently await another opportunity to pass Rossi again.

This footage is perhaps the piece which is the most telling. There has been much comment made of the three look backs which Rossi made at Marquez while riding through the turn. Again, I took the time to watch as many different angles of this and as many slow motions of the incident as I could find. The facts are, that Marquez did in fact close the throttle in an attempt to get behind Rossi.

Marquez was obviously aware that Rossi would attempt to hang him out to dry on the outside of the turn.

Again, I stated in my first article on this issue, that to me, that’s racing. You don’t make it easy on the rider you have just passed, to pass you back on the next straight or turn. You attempt to alter their rythymn and baulk them, to slow them and to take them off the racing line.

This Rossi did and I have no issue with it, to a point. So Marquez, closed the throttle and stood his bike up in an attempt to avoid a clash. Rossi then looked over his shoulder and became aware that Marquez was attempting to drop behind. So Rossi slows even further, and extends his attempt to push Marquez even further off the racing line. At this point, Marquez can see that Rossi is not just going to take him off the racing line, but is going to run him off the track if he continues in his attempts to slow. So Marquez then takes the only option now available to him. He opens the throttle again, in the hope of getting around the outside of Rossi before running out of track. Rossi then turns and sees what is happening and picks his bike up at the same time Marquez is getting back on the throttle, and attempting to turn on the outside of Rossi. It is at this very point, where Rossi’s foot leaves the peg, tangles with Marquez handlebar and brake lever, and down goes Marquez.

I maintain rubbing is racing. Without some elbow on elbow action, without the exchange of paint on occassion, then it’s really just a run to the shops to pick up the milk, and no sports fans want to see anything so boring. But, again, I maintain, that in this instance, Valentino had lost all ability to be rational and he simply blew a gasket, resulting in an instinctive and pugnaciously arrogant kick, to ensure that Marquez would no longer be on the bike for the remainder of the turn. Watch the footage carefully, it is clear that Rossi, at all times, attempts to keep Marquez on his outside and at best run him off line, but preferably run him off track. The throttle is opened and closed multiple times to maintain his parrallel with Marquez.

There are no winners from this incident.

If Jorge Lorenzo wins the championship, it will always be claimed he didn’t win it on merit. That he only won because Rossi was penalised.

Rossi loses the championship, and potentially some loyal fans, along with some heavy tarnishing of his reputation as a sportsman and rider.

Marquez loses as he gets the blame for being the cause of the incident by doing nothing more than Rossi has done his whole career…..fighting for every position.

To my mind, the cause stems back to Rossi’s completely illogical rant at the pre Sepang press conference….what Capirossi and Stoner had to do with it was beyond me.

MotoGP fans lose what could have been one of the most thrilling conclusions to the season in what could have been the race to end all races for the 2015 MotoGP world championship at Valencia.

Perhaps the most dissapointing outcome is for Dani Pedrosa, who is all but forgotten after taking a brilliant race win from flag to flag.

However, there is one person who you should never write off………and that is Valentino Rossi.

All this media hype, social media meltdown, accusations from teams, team mates, officials, competitors and fans alike might well be what the mighty Valentino Rossi needed to play into his hands, to make him dig deeper than he ever has and produce the greatest comeback of all time from the back row of the grid, at a circuit he is well known to not count as one of his favourites, and go on take the 2015 MotoGP title in adverse of circumstances.

Remember that time penalty at Phillip Island all those years ago? And the totally on the edge ride to overcome it, to win against all odds.

Only time will tell, but I for one am looking forward to seeing how it all plays out at the final round in Valencia.

Martin Thompson