2015 Sepang MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Rossi vs Marquez, Clash Of The Titans

The pre-event press conferences held on the Thursday ahead of each MotoGP round can vary a good deal in interest. For the most part, they are full of pleasantries and platitudes, both riders and journalists doing their best to look interested and not start playing with their phones. After the utterly entrancing race at Phillip Island four days ago, we expected this to be one of the less interesting ones, the only mild interest being the dismal air quality in Malaysia.

How very wrong we were. Yes, there was the discussion of the obvious, of how the championship chances of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and of Danny Kent in Moto3 would play out. But there was also an explosion of interest once Rossi made accusations that Marc Márquez was trying to help Lorenzo win the championship, accusations he pressed home further once the press conference finished.

It first livened up once Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi were asked what they thought of the abuse which had been plastered all over the Facebook and Instagram feeds of Iannone after the race at Phillip Island, where Iannone finished ahead of Rossi and took valuable points in the championship. Iannone shook it off, saying that 90% were positive, and the rest were "just an opinion."

Rossi was much stronger in his condemnation of the behavior of people calling themselves his fans. "I think that in reality they are not my real supporters," he said. "Is a great shame, because these people are very stupid. Unfortunately, this is the time of the social network where everybody can say his idea, even if it's a very stupid idea. The people like to speak bad about other guys that are more lucky than them, with more talent, and more happy, because they do with their life what they want." Rossi pointed out that he held no grudge against Iannone for beating him. "He just did his race, and is normal that he try to beat me."

Beware the wrath of the fans

It is a theme that runs though motorcycle racing, and all forms of media. Fans, in their passion, in their enthusiasm, and in the anonymity offered by an online identity, throw themselves into debate with fans, and interaction with the stars of the sport they follow. They forget that on the other side of the conversation is a human being, a person of flesh and blood, someone who has feelings and passions and insecurities just like them.

Even when they are elite athletes: at least one MotoGP rider has told me that they have stopped posting on social media, because they were getting sick to death of the constant barrage of abuse they faced. When that happens, everyone loses. Social media offers a chance for fans to genuinely interact with their idols. When people abuse that and scare the riders or athletes (or writers or pop stars or whatever) off social media, then everyone loses. The stars are more reluctant to interact with fans, and social media becomes more of an echo chamber, fans reliant once again on second-hand opinions from intermediaries such as journalists.

It is worth bearing in mind that passionate and unreasonable reactions by fans is hardly something new. In Ancient Rome, charioteers wore colors to allow the spectators at the Colosseum to be able to distinguish one from another. Fans flocked to each color, to the Red, to the White, to the Green, to the Blue. Violence between the factions, as each group of fans were known, was commonplace, getting worse as the factions grew in importance in society. At the end of Empire, in Byzantium, the rivalry grew so great that it almost provoked a coup to overthrow Emperor Justinian, who in turn provoked a riot between the Blue and the Green, backed by the military. When the dust finally settled, 30,000 lay dead. Things are not quite so bad between fans nowadays.

Tossing in a hand grenade

The press conference really ignited once Valentino Rossi was asked a question about the race at Phillip Island. Could we see a repeat of the thrilling race in Australia, came the question. After noting that it was indeed a great battle, the Italian produced a curious claim. "If we can see another race like this, especially we have to speak with Márquez," Rossi said. "Because during the race, was more difficult to understand, but after when I saw the race later, it was very clear that he play with us very much. Because mainly I think his target is not just to win the race, but also help Lorenzo to go far and try to take more points on me. So I think from Phillip Island it is very clear that Jorge have a new supporter that is Marc. So this change a lot, because for sure Marc have the potential to go away alone, and maybe can for sure be another type of race."

Both Lorenzo and Márquez looked on in a mixture of surprise and bemusement. Could Rossi really be implying that Márquez had deliberately assisted Lorenzo? At first, they didn't seem to take it seriously. When asked if he thought that Márquez had helped him, Lorenzo played along with what he thought was the joke: "Yes! Mainly in the last lap, a lot." That was the lap Márquez passed him and took the win.

Marc Márquez' initial reaction was to go back to the question about what a great race Phillip Island was. It took a supplementary question from one of the keenest journalists in the room to bring him back to the subject. Márquez was clear about whether he had played with Iannone and Rossi in an attempt to help Lorenzo win the championship. "Of course not." He had ridden his own race, dictated by the conditions and his tires. He pointed out the inconsistency of Rossi's charge. "If I want to help Lorenzo, I wouldn't pass him on the last lap, and I wouldn't push to the limit, and I wouldn't take the risk."

Márquez went on to repeat exactly what he had said after the race itself: that he had been struggling with the front tire overheating when he made his charge forward in the middle of the race. "In the middle of the race I try to push and I try to open a gap, but was not possible," he said. On Sunday, he had explained it as follows: "In the race, the temperature was coming up, and in the beginning it was difficult to find especially the front feeling. But then I come back, I try to catch Jorge, I overtake him, I try to push but then I saw that the front tire was moving a lot with this temperature and then I say OK, it's time to cool down again, and try to manage to the end. But always [the front] was closing, I had some moments, but my plan was on the last three laps try to push a little bit more."

Doubling down

If anyone was in any doubt that Rossi was serious, when he spoke to the assembled Italian media, he went on to repeat and expand on his claims. To add weight to them, he produced a set of timesheets from the Phillip Island race, complete with his annotations. The entire transcript of what he said is up on the official MotoGP.com website, but it boils down to a number of claims: that Márquez clearly had the pace to beat everyone, but held back to hold up Rossi and Iannone, while allowing Lorenzo to escape; that Márquez kept overtaking him on the straight, knowing he would struggle against the Ducati of Iannone; and that Márquez was doing this on purpose to spite Rossi.

Why would Márquez do a thing like this? Here too Rossi had his reasons lined up. Márquez is angry at him, Rossi claimed, because of what happened at Argentina and Assen. Márquez believes he intentionally moved from his line at Argentina, Rossi said, causing him to crash. Márquez believes Rossi stole victory from him at Assen, the Italian said, when Márquez hit him in the side and forced him to cut across the dirt.

More than that, Rossi claimed, Márquez was motivated by ego. He does not want Rossi to win the championship because he has been unable to win it this year. He is aiming at Rossi's record of championship victories, and if Rossi doesn't win in 2015, that is one less title for Márquez to win in the future to match him. As an example for this claim, Rossi pointed to Laguna Seca in 2013, where Márquez cut across the inside of The Corkscrew to pass Rossi, an echo of Rossi's iconic pass on Casey Stoner in 2008.

The case for the prosecution

Is there any merit to Rossi's claims? Without knowing the exact details of when and where he believed Márquez was slowing up, it is hard to judge. And the chances of any journalist actually sitting down with Rossi to analyze the lap and sector times, and the race, and get his perspective of it are zero.

What we can do is analyze Rossi's claims and Márquez' response. Márquez' race was indeed peculiar, his times bouncing up and down, from the slowest lap of the leaders (a 1'30.943 on lap 6, as he got involved in a dogfight with Rossi and Iannone) to a string of low 1'29s, culminating in the lap record on the final lap. From lap 13, Márquez chased down Lorenzo, finally overtaking him on lap 18. He led for two more laps, before being caught again by Lorenzo and giving up the lead. Márquez rhythm was unusual, the Spaniard usually much more consistent once he gets to the front of the race.

Márquez says the variance was down to the front tire overheating. "We saw on the data with the team that the Honda is pushing a lot the front tire. This race, this was the softest compound that we have, but it was the only tire that we had able to race," Márquez explained. He had pushed in the middle of the race to catch Lorenzo, but once he got past, the tire was moving around too much, and he had to back off a little.

Was it really the tires?

Is the tire claim credible? It is true that the Honda RC213V loads the front tire a lot more than any of the other bikes on the grid. This is down to the lack of engine braking available, the engine too aggressive to manage it properly. Riders have to use the front tire only to get the bike stopped, and that uses the front a lot. Though the situation has improved immeasurably in the second half of the season, the first half saw Honda riders crashing out left, right and center, the front giving up the ghost once it had too much heat in it.

The combination of tires and temperature actually worked against the Honda at Phillip Island. Bridgestone's asymmetric front tire was a brilliant solution to a complex problem, finding grip at a track with wildly varying temperatures and an awful lot of very fast left handers. To cope with that, and learning lessons from last year Bridgestone used extra soft rubber in the center of the tire and on the right, saving the soft rubber (one step harder than the rubber on the right) for the left edge. This meant that the front did not cool down too much in the straights and in the couple of right handers which grace Phillip Island, while still being able to withstand the loads placed on it by the long lefts.

That extra soft rubber in the middle was the part causing he problem for Márquez. Braking extremely late into the Honda Hairpin and MG Corner, or the fearsome right hander of Doohan at the end of the straight, puts a lot of stress on what is very soft rubber. If the temperatures had been a degree or two colder, or the wind had been a fraction harder, that may have cooled the tire enough to keep it perfectly within its operating range. If the temperatures had been a little warmer, then the Hondas could have considered running the symmetric soft tire, giving them a little more support in braking.

Is it possible to overheat a tire and for it to come back? As long as you don't totally cook it, you can. Bradley Smith did the same at Brno back in August, after pushing too hard on a softer tire. After dropping back for a few laps, he could push on again, the tire coming back to him

And the motive?

Those are the facts from the race, but what about motivation? Rossi is absolutely correct that Marc Márquez has turned against him this year, what seemed like a master-pupil relationship quickly going sour. Rossi puts the start of the decline at the race in Argentina, though to outsiders, it was not that visible. Assen, though, was different: Márquez had been lining up the move he tried to pull on Rossi all through practice, and when he and Rossi arrived at the GT Chicane together, he believed he had the race in the bag. He was bitter about having the victory taken from him, unable to understand that the move had failed to come off, and believing that Rossi should have been penalized for cutting the chicane.

Rossi is also right to note the scale of Márquez' ambition, though it is also true that every time he has been asked about the record books, Márquez has denied that they mattered much. The only thing that matters to him is winning races, Márquez says, and winning championships by winning races.

It is precisely this characteristic that renders Rossi's claim that Márquez was trying to let Lorenzo get away and take the win so improbable. Marc Márquez loves winning, or to put it more precisely, he hates losing, despises it with every fiber in his being. Márquez is always able to put a positive spin on losing, celebrating a great race as vigorously as anyone else. But you can be sure that the feeling is very different indeed, if he ends up just behind another rider, instead of in front.

One incident comes to mind that illustrates Márquez' attitude to winning. At the first Superprestigio in Barcelona, at the beginning of last year. Márquez had tried to prepare for victory. He invited American dirt track champion Brad Baker over, and the two trained together and got along very well. The final came down to a straight duel between the two, Baker and Márquez the quality of the field. But Márquez lacked the experience of the American, and crashed trying to keep up with him. On the podium, they were both all smiles, and Márquez expressed his disappointment, but said he was happy at having been competitive.

Losing really sucks

Behind the scenes, it was a very different story, however. One of the people involved in the event told me afterwards that after Márquez rode his bike back out of sight of the crowd before the podium celebrations started, the young Spaniard was fuming. Furious at himself for having made a mistake, but above all, furious at having lost, at the event he organized, in front of the crowd which had come to see him win.

He took that loss very seriously. He changed his training routine, modified the bike, and at the following Superprestigio, he was faster than the Americans he had invited. He was helped by the fact that Brad Baker managed to crash and injure himself during the heats, but he still beat Jared Mees. He was not going to lose again.

Remember the image of Márquez after he crashed at Aragon? Standing over his bike, screaming abuse at it in frustration, because the front end had let him down again. Márquez believed he could have beaten Jorge Lorenzo there. But he crashed.

Would Marc Márquez let anyone else ever beat him? "I will only help if it's my teammate," he said in the press conference. "If it's not my teammate, I will push for the victory."

That is what he did at Phillip Island, in that final lap. Is that lap proof that Márquez had something up his sleeve? Clearly Márquez had something, but perhaps what Márquez had was just an outright willingness to try to win or crash trying. The Repsol Honda man described it as "a qualifying lap," and that is exactly what it looked like. He pulled it off, and so we speak of his stunning victory. Had he crashed – which he could very easily have done, especially as he came out of the hairpin and headed up to the Hayshed, the bike getting very unstable indeed. The fact that Márquez' mechanics quickly covered his rear tire in Parc Fermé, to prevent others looking at it, is perhaps a sign that there was something strange about it.

A blast from his own past

So no, I am not inclined to think that Marc Márquez was prepared to countenance letting anyone else win a race if there was anything he could do about it. Given the incredible level of the championship at the moment, with four, maybe five riders racing at levels we have never seen before, and the differences between the two absolutely minimal, it is hard to believe that anyone on the grid has anything in reserve that they can use to play with others during the race, and attempt to hold them up. It is also an incredibly risky strategy, with no guarantee of success.

Rossi is no doubt looking back to his own past, the early part of his career, when he could do exactly that. Just how much margin Rossi used to have in the early years of MotoGP became apparent at Phillip Island in 2003. Punished with a ten second penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag, Rossi dropped his pace from mid 1'32s to mid 1'31s, lapping consistently around a second faster than Loris Capirossi, the man who he was chasing, and the man he had to finish ten seconds ahead of. His lead at the end of the race was over fifteen seconds. It was perhaps the best race he has ever ridden. But it also spoke of just how superior he was to the competition of the time. It also helps explain how he managed to switch to Yamaha the following year, win the first race, and win the championship at the first attempt on a different bike.

Such a feat would be impossible now. Races have on occasion been won by big margins, but only under exceptional circumstances. The biggest margin of victory in the dry this year has been less than six seconds, and all of those wins have been taken by Yamaha riders, either Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo.

Why has Rossi brought this up? It was clearly a deliberate ploy by the Italian, as he came armed with timesheets to the press conference, intending to raise the subject at the first opportunity. He went on to repeat and further explain his theory, first to the Italian press, then to a number of TV outlets, including UK broadcaster BT Sport. He was at pains to explain that Márquez had done nothing that was against the rules, but that he was disappointed in what he felt was unsporting behavior by Márquez.

Mind games, but whose mind?

What is he trying to achieve? Frankly, it is mystifying, even to Marc Márquez. "I don't understand it," Márquez told the Spanish press. "Normally, Valentino always takes indirect shots at you, but once which you understand perfectly are aimed at you, but this time, I don't understand. He is very good in press conferences, he always knows exactly what to say at any time, but this time, he is trying to put pressure on me. But the person he has to beat on the track and in the championship is Jorge. That's why I don't understand."

Márquez knew that Rossi believed he had helped Lorenzo, because the Italian had told him so after the race at Phillip Island. He had been surprised, Márquez said, because he had passed Lorenzo on the last lap and taken a lot of risk to do so.

Why is Valentino Rossi trying to put pressure on Marc Márquez? Could it be that he wants to pressure Márquez into going out and trying to win races? If there is one rider that needs no encouragement to do just that, it is surely Marc Márquez. As noted above, Márquez hates losing, and is prepared to take a great deal of risk trying to win. So much risk, in fact, that if he had perhaps backed off a fraction and accepted the occasional fourth place instead of crashing out, he would still be in with an outside chance of the title. He could not help himself, like the scorpion who hitched a lift from a frog in the parable, it is his nature to risk everything to try to win.

Is this perhaps a roundabout way of attacking Jorge Lorenzo? It is hard to see how. Lorenzo looked bemused more than anything, surprised by the turn of events. Saying that Márquez wants Lorenzo to win is hardly going to change Lorenzo's attitude to the race. He knows he has to take points from Rossi, and that the championship is out of his hands. That leaves him riding without pressure, especially after giving away points at Misano through a silly mistake. "We just can win it, we cannot lose it."

Ironically, the pressure is on Rossi, despite having a lead in the championship. With a lead of eleven points and two races left, the title is Rossi's to lose. At the same time, an eleven-point lead in the championship is not a comfortable one at all. Danny Kent, also in the press conference, leads the Moto3 championship by forty points, and he is having a nasty case of the wobbles in the last few races. As Julian Ryder wrote on Superbike Planet earlier today, the championships Rossi has won have been with huge points leads. The last time Rossi was involved in a championship that went to the last race, the Italian crashed out at Valencia, handing the title to a deserving Nicky Hayden. That is not a memory Rossi cherishes.

The last hurrah

Is the pressure getting to Rossi? Valentino Rossi has a reputation for both incredible mental strength and his ability to put pressure on his opponents. His subtle – and sometimes not-so-subtle – digs at other riders are legendary, and helped him more than once plant the seed of doubt in the minds of his opponents, which would one day sprout into mighty oaks and fell them when they heard the bark of Rossi's engine behind them.

What is less well known is his strength, his ability to endure and still keep pushing. The dignity with which he comported himself at Ducati was a remarkable thing to behold. While he suffered through two long years of failure, at least once a weekend, Rossi would be asked exactly the same question: Casey could win on this bike, why can't you? Not once did he lose his cool, or snap at the questioner. Every time, he gave the same calm, collected reply. "Casey rode in a very special way. I cannot ride like that."

For me, that period was Rossi at his greatest as a racer and a human being. To endure, to concentrate, to try to work and figure things out, and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to borrow a phrase from the bard, and come back for more. To come back to where he is today, competing for the championship, at the ripe old age of 36, winning against two generations of riders who grew up with his poster on their walls, and knowing they had to be better than him if they wanted to be champion. To do that is a mark of greatness, a mark of real fortitude.

And perhaps it is also starting to wear on him. It's been a long season, not just in terms of MotoGP, but in terms of the preparation which Rossi has had to endure to get to where he is. He runs, he rides, and he has worked continuously at his riding style, working through the winter and into the start of the season. He has pushed every race, managing the gap, seeing his lead ebb and flow, hoping to win the title, but never in a position to be certain. An early lead of fifteen points at Le Mans evaporated to just a single point at Barcelona, two races later. The lead was back up to thirteen points by the Sachsenring, and gone completely at Brno two races on. Another two races, and he held a twenty-three-point lead over Lorenzo, leaving Misano with the championship clearly swinging his way.

At Aragon, he lost a crucial battle to Dani Pedrosa, taking third instead of second and giving away nine points. At Motegi, he took four points back from Lorenzo, only to give seven more away at Phillip Island, after being beaten in a face-to-face battle for the second time this year, this time by Andrea Iannone. He has been on planes, in hotels, and chasing from place to place for two weeks without a pause, and faces his third race in fourteen days. This is mentally an incredibly tough time for everyone in the paddock, and especially for the riders racing in the championship. To have the weight of the championship battle added to the normally stressful flyaways is not an easy burden to carry.

Then there is his age. Rossi is still fit, and riding better than ever before, but he must know that the number of championships he can still win is very limited. When one comes within his grasp, he has to seize the opportunity, not let it slip away. When he lost in 2006, and even 2007, he knew he could get his revenge. Even though he has a contract for 2016, winning another title will be incredibly difficult. Honda have to bring a more competitive bike next year, meaning Márquez will be harder to beat. Lorenzo will be even more determined than before, work harder and focus more to try to take another championship. The Ducati GP16 may make the extra step that Andrea Iannone needs to get into the mix. If the Suzuki is much better, then Maverick Viñales could be a threat. After 2016 there is Alex Rins on the way, Fabio Quartararo, and more riders who may surprise us.

The time for Rossi's tenth title is now. To have achieved what Rossi has achieved, and know that this may be your last shot at a championship? That is a very, very heavy load to carry. Perhaps cracks are starting to appear.

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but incredibly disappointed in the comments made by VR. Sure it "spices" up the Malaysian round, but after witnessing the greatest race ever these comments cast a damp veil over the spectacle we just witnessed last week. Even if this is simply a ploy to get inside MMs head in the hope that he does something rash, these mind trick dont have any traction on MM or even JL I'm afraid. Big sour grapes in my mind, Rossi should just shut his trap and go out there and try and beat JL in the race rather than storm the press conference with lap times at the ready

This just smacks of desperation on Rossi's part. I think some part of him might be coming undone here. It's sad to see really.

Very strange of VR, to say MM helped JR is ridiculous. MM actually helped VR by winning the race on the last lap, I don't know how he failed to see that. I was hoping VR win the championship this year. After today, I don't care who wins. GOAT does no need silly mind game to win races.

What do you think what kind of mind games Iannone is playing? He said the same thing, and it was a strange race, more so when you see it later, and anybody who says different is not very into this sport. For me, the clear indication that something is going on is the same statement that Marc said in press conference as he said it after the race. He had the time to come out with some credible explanation about his race, but he didn't do it, as it is some kind of prepared statement that should cover for something, almost like he was scared that someone would notice it, but he could not hide it, everybody saw it. I don't know the reason why he rode the way he did, and i am not saying Rossi explanation is right, but something happened in that race and, probably, only Marc knows what and why it happened.

Front tire. MM said it after the race and on the press conference, his pace during the race was dictated by the overheated front tire. He needed to back off to cool it before going fast again.

the whole Honda team on this? they schemed this whole thing up before the race to help JL. MM spent 26 laps to slow down VR... but took the win! It just doesn't make sense. see an excellent article written by Julian Ryder over at SOUP.

...and that's also why it's making all the headlines in the specialized press.

Think about it. Honda has direct access to the data. They know what happened (probably during the race).
It wouldn't be the first time (nor will be the last) that in motorsports a rider or driver is hinted by his team to use this and that argument for the perfect excuse.

We haven't seen any evidence from Marquez to defend his case after being accused. Nor will we see any, because he's DORNA's poster-boy and so it's simply "better" to just see this stuff go away.

Funny you say that, because I am sure it is still Rossi that is MotoGPs biggest star and Dorna's favourite rider.
Not to bring any discredit to Rossi, as he is having a fantastic season. But come on.. let's be honest here.

Yeah, but that's why I said it was something strange. For me, that is a technical explanation and it same for me to believe that or not to believe it. I don't know much about that, but there is this other thing, the two riders that was battling Marc in the race said that he slowed down on purpose couple of times during the race, but every time someone passed him he came back immediately and usually very aggressively, at least with Rossi, which indicates that he wanted to be in front of Rossi, but also he wasn't worried too much about the gap to Lorenzo. So, there is two things that is possible, for me, one, the tire explanation, or, two, there was some kind of agenda, reason for slowing down other riders, which, maybe, is not entirely sporting, but I don't think is forbidden. I don't know about helping Lorenzo, on purpose, or otherwise. He could of said that he didn't want four way battle on the last lap, and he wanted to slow them down by little, but still felt confident that he could catch Lorenzo, but I also think that he wouldn't be too much disappointed if he didn't win that race, I might be wrong, but it's just my feeling and everything else I said, the body language of Marc, I don't know, all of this factors, for me, it's more on the side that something was going on in that race, but what, I don't know, every thing I wrote is only my opinion. Rossi's points in this story are not entirely unbelievable, maybe he's right, maybe he's wrong, but, generally, it's not very good for the end of the season, but we will see soon enough.

I'm more or less lost for words about this entire situation! I don't think I could possibly comment better than you did right here David and I thank you very much for writing this. I certainly agree with your final statement about this being Rossi's last chance to get a title. Things of course won't get easier from here and for the sheer sake of nostalgia I'd love to see him win a 10th. However this behavior is incredibly strange and I personally wouldn't even begin to attempt to psychoanalyze it.

Thank you again David for all of your hard work and exceptional journalism. I guess we'll just have to wait for Sunday (or in my case Saturday night as i live in California) and see what happens.

To be fair, at Philip Island Marques and Rossi were both catching Jorge at 3 tenths to half a second a lap at around the mid point in the race. At the time Rossi was probably quicker than Marques. They had both dropped Iannone at this point who was about 7-8 tenths back and out of reach of Vale on the main straight. At this point Marc knew he had the pace to catch Lorenzo again but potentially not the pace to drop Rossi and dropped around a second from his lap time, I believe to drop Vale back into Iannone so that they would start battling. At the time I thought that this was just to get rid of Rossi to try to make it a straight fight between himself and Lorenzo which although as a Rossi fan was frustrating I thought it was quite clever and fair play to him. I'm not sure if it is a personal thing, probably not but I wouldn't completely rule it out.

indeed, what of Ianonne backing it up though?
And a lot of talk after the race was about Marc's strange pace, although the motivations where not apparent. Rossi's called him out

I don't understand the motive, though. Calling Marquez out for what? For being so fast he can toy with the rest of them? Why would he even want to bring it up? I see no tactical advantage.

maybe he's trying to force Marc into another unforced error. ;) Marquez has crashed several times this season already. Maybe Rossi is playing on his pride and drive to win. By calling him out on his "sandbagging" maybe he hopes that Marc simply won't slow down next time and will end up crashing or burning out his tires instead. All conjecture to be sure, but Rossi's tactic here is so bizarre that it's the only sane thing I can think to attribute it to.

Maybe to make sure that Marc, to remove all doubt, does whatever he can to beat Jorge. Rossi might realise that as long as he finishes directly behind Jorge then he will win, and the person most likely to get between them is Marc. Rossi doesn't care if he finishes third for the next two races as long as Jorge finishes second.

I think Rossi's intention was calling him out for being "unsporting." I'm not saying that Marq was or was not being unsporting, but I think that is what rossi was attempting to call him out for. I think the motive is plausible. Marc absolutely has the ability to one day be considered the greatest of all time, but If Rossi was to return from exile to snatch the trophy yet again, at his old age, against the most ferocious, talented and hard working generation we have ever seen, while in their prime… he would be a legend among legends and that would be a mighty long shadow for Marquez to step out of. If Marc wants to be considered the greatest of all time, and why wouldn't he, then there is only one guy that he has to compete with. Again, I think it is plausible, but certainly not proven. If Rossi truly believes that Marc is trying to help jorge out, and Marc doesn't really want to do it openly, then Rossi shining the spot light on this behavior would definitely make it harder for Marc to continue helping jorge without it being obvious.

I must admit I was surprised to hear Rossi's theory, but then Iannone, who had a pretty good view of the situation, expressed that he also thought it was possible, although he couldn't say for sure.

Yet again, I don't think this whole theory is proven or necessarily true, but I think it is worth thinking about a little further instead of just saying "I don't understand, therefore Rossi is cracking."

Please excuse the run-on sentences.

I think whether or not Rossi's accusations are true (I'm personally skeptical) is a separate matter from why Rossi would make such a show of making his accusations so publicly. I think this move may benefit Rossi in a few ways.

First, it's just plain distracting. It's a curveball. I'm sure Marc expected to be mostly a supporting player at this point in the story--totally out of the running, while the world's most popular rider leads his teammate by 11 points with two races to go--yet suddenly he's accused of trying to manipulate the outcome of the championship.

For Jorge likewise, it must be confusing and insulting to be treated as almost an afterthought in the championship he still very much has a chance of claiming. An insult that would be particularly difficult to shake, as he knows that he does in fact need somebody's help to clinch the title.

Had Rossi taken any swipes at Lorenzo, direct or indirect, it would have been a non-event. No one, least of all Lorenzo, would have particularly noticed or cared. By taking aim at Marquez instead, Rossi may simply be hoping that his actions are inscrutable enough to cause one or both of the men most likely to cause him trouble over the last two races to lose focus just enough to ensure he preserves his lead.

hmmm, a few other people have mentioned that this is a mind game to distract JL and MM, but I don't understand how it would be so distracting for them that their performance would suffer. I don't think this is a mind game. I think Rossi truly believes that Marc has it in for him and I think Rossi has enough evidence to make people stop and consider the possibility that he is right. I don't think it is enough evidence to prove anything, but we shouldn't just dismiss the whole thing as if it was baseless.

I don't think it's "baseless" in the sense that you can find evidence to support Rossi's theory if you look for it. I just think that evidence points much more clearly to Marquez's strategy for winning the race (his job), than it does to any attempt to help Jorge win the championship.

As it was, Marc's stunning last lap made the difference between Jorge regaining some control over his fate or not, but that was also partly due to Vale ceding third place to Andrea. Marc had no way of knowing how the battle for third was going to turn out, so--if his true aim was to manage the gap between the two Yamaha men--he'd have to assume that Valentino would take third. In that case Marc's passing Jorge would have meant the difference betweening Vale taking a 9 point lead to Sepang instead of 14.

With two races to go, that's a huge difference! Marc was six tenths back when he passed Andrea. If he really wanted to help Jorge, no one would have questioned his finishing second. Rossi's theory of Marquez intentionally holding him up and keeping Iannone in the mix works fine in the context of this race, but Marquez's last lap really cripples the idea that Marc's conspiring to give Jorge the title.

What if Rossi had tried to talk to Dorna about this and they said: "Hey.. he did nothing illegal, You have to call him out on this".
Then Rossi did that, called him out so everybody understood what happened ( or what Rossi claims happened ).

If Marquez does this again then the followers of Rossi would turn against Marquez. This is something Dorna cant let happen. After all 60-70 % of all who follows MotoGP does it because of Rossi and if they turn against Marquez there is a big chanse they will leave MotoGP when Rossi does. I have no problems in beliving that Marquez should have won this easily and since Rossi had 9, count them NINE, laps faster than Lorenzos fastest lap I also think Rossi would have been no 2 in this race and it would have been game over for Lorenzo.

Rossi just did what he had to do, making sure that everybody rides his own race and that the championship will be decided more fair... It is afterall a championship in MotoGP and not your friendly bet at the pub.

Maybe he's just trying to generate media attention for the sport? Ludicrous assertions like this always do well in the press. That's about the only motive I can think of that makes sense other than assuiming that Rossi has in fact completely lost his mind. That seems unlikely since the stuff he said about Iannone and social media is very laudable.

I'm with Lorenzo, sitting back watching with a bemused grin on the face. That was very entertaining, and the best is yet to come surely. I'll be watching this comments section like a hawk!

It was clear that MM was riding at 10-10 in the final laps... remember he had said '...have nothing to loose'.

Rossi was just being conservative - better to finish than crash.

VR has a subtle sense of humor that may be hard to appreciate by some.

He loves to play in the press conference.

On the track he is all business and is in control.

Imho Rossi has a delusional disorder of some sort. In the MOTOGP picture you can see Marquez is laughing at this idea put out by Rossi. He thinks it's a hoot, which it is.

There's not just a few of us out here that think Rossi was towed around the circuit all day long and if he'd lost the tow he'd been toast. Riding behind another faster rider is worth a couple of tenths a lap imho. Sorta like Innanone qualifying behind Lorenzo was.

he was being towed around, yet he caught that group? Interesting concept.

I don't agree with your assertion Rossi was being towed. His fastest lap was a 1:29.369. It was the second fastest lap of the race and nearly .4 faster than Lorenzo's best(and less than a tenth off Marquez's fastest lap). To me it was clear Rossi had the pace to outrun his teammate, unfortunately for Rossi he didn't have the horsepower to avoid being swallowed on the straight. As to whether Marquez was intentionally trying to help Rossi....only he knows that.

Appears to be projection on Rossi's part..he is projecting his own motivation, the things he would do and think, onto Lorenzo. Still pulling for him.

Ja. Interesting to see you discussing something that clearly oposes the very quote from Rossi on your article.

Here, read again:

"Because mainly I think his target is not just to win the race, but also help Lorenzo to go far and try to take more points on me."

Rossi said several times that he didn't thought Marquez was willing to let Lorenzo win, just make sure he couldn't catch him.

I just saw the race again. Every time the chasing group got close to Lorenzo, if Marquez was leading then they all bunch up together fell back again.

Rossi was right. He said what he said to prevent Marquez doing it again.

Why on earth would Marquez change what he does because Rossi says something about it? If Rossi complains about Marquez wanting Lorenzo to win, and Marquez really does want Lorenzo to win, I would expect Marquez to be even more determined to help Lorenzo. Why would Marquez change his behavior?

You mean win the race or win the championship? VR46 said MM93 wanted to win the race and wanted JL to win the championship.

The thing is that now, if MM93 does something similar again, the press and the fans will grill him about it, it will seem like VR46 was right and MM93 will look bad. VR46 wants to make sure MM93 tries his best to defeat JL99 but without bringing other slower rider to the party.

Of course, this is all just an opinion.

If Rossi is right, and Marquez is doing everything he can to allow Lorenzo to win the championship, why would he care what the fans and the media think? As long as he gets the results he wants, the rest wouldn't matter.

Mmm... Marquez is no Casey Stoner. He likes being liked (remember the tax incident). And people would like him a lot less if they thought he slowed Rossi on pourpose.

Everyone cares about what other people think about them. Even the people that claim they don't care. Why else would they be so damn bitter about it? People don't want other people to see them doing something wrong, or "unsporting." This leads them to either hide what they do, or to try and justify it.

I'm still not completely convinced that Marc is trying the help Jorge, but I am convinced that Marc does indeed care about being the greatest of all time, and he would have an easier time achieving that without Rossi winning the championship.

Maybe for some people, it doesn't matter what the fans and the media think if they allow jorge to win the championship. Because they doesn't care about fans and media think. But for some other people, it does matter and care about the fans and media think.
In my opinion, marc want to be liked by people rather than hated, specially by the most motogp fans who is largely rossi fans.
If rossi is right about his opinion, lets see on sunday, is marquez doesn't care about fans and media think and slowed down to make race more difficult for rossi?

"Why on earth would Marquez change what he does because Rossi says something about it?"

I think the answer to that is pretty simple: Race Direction. *IF* Marquez was intentionally slowing Rossi -- and that's a pretty big if but I concede it is at least possible -- then Marquez has to know that in the next races Race Direction will taking a very close look at his lap times, particularly if he's in front (or near) Rossi.

I don't think there's any way that Marquez will NOT change what he does. If he does pass Rossi, he'll be thinking that he needs to clear away if for no other reason than he doesn't want to hear Rossi bitching about it again. But also quite possibly he will have those thoughts because he doesn't want to have to face Race Direction with potential penalties/sanctions.

You can be sure that Dorna, if they believed *any* rider was interfering with the Championship, would take that very, very seriously.

You can also be sure that Mike Webb and others have taken a second look at the Phillip Island timesheets since the press conference and will be keeping a *very* close eye on them the next 2 races.

Final thought: When I first heard about this brouhaha my initial inclination was that Rossi was spouting nonsense OR was playing some kind of indecipherable mind game. But after hearing Ianonne agree that he also believed Marquez was playing with them, I'm starting to believe that Rossi may be right. To paraphrase Neil Hodgson during FP1 who made a very insightful point: "From the outside looking in, you can't tell if a rider is slowing. But as a top rider facing other top riders, you KNOW when something is going on."

Race Direction have no interest in whether Marquez is intentionally trying to slow other riders up or not. As long as he does not create a danger for other riders, they don't care. There is nothing in the rulebook about team orders, or helping a teammate, or engaging other riders to slow them down. The only rule about on-track behavior is 1.21.2

Riders must ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit-lane.

At no point did Marquez endanger other riders at Phillip Island, or at least, no more than Rossi, Iannone and Lorenzo did. As a consequence, Mike Webb, Javi Alonso, Loris Capirossi and Franco Uncini are prepared to allow Marquez to try to hold up whoever he likes, as long as he does so in a safe and responsible manner.

If you remember Valencia 2013, Jorge Lorenzo tried to hold up Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa in the hope that Valentino Rossi would get involved. Rossi couldn't, and so Lorenzo cleared off for the win. Race Direction were perfectly happy with Lorenzo's behavior. They may have taken a look at a couple of passes, just to make sure they were safe, but that is it.

As for Dorna taking interfering in the championship seriously, you can bet they do. They see the money-spinning opportunities. For the MotoGP.com website to translate and post Rossi's post-press conference debrief with the Italian press tells you all you need to know about their attitude. This is helping to sell the series.

I think Rossi's translated comments make the strongest case for the idea that he's trying to shame Marc into staying out of his way. If we take at face value the idea that Marc's professed lifelong admiration for Valentino is sincere, Rossi's comments seem clearly designed to exploit this sentiment. He calls Marc "childish" and questions whether Marc really did have a Rossi poster on his wall as a child. It's pretty brutal.

Many have focused on Marc's concern about public opinion, but I think Rossi has honed in on a more potent truth. Marc cares deeply about what Rossi thinks of him. How could he not? Despite Rossi's insinuations, there's plenty of evidence that Marc has idolized him since he was young. Marc has raced motorcycles since he was a small child and he was seven years old when Rossi entered the premier class. Who else would his hero be?

I really think Rossi's goal was to raise the stakes for Marc. Everyone has been saying for weeks that Marquez has "nothing to lose." Rossi has now threatened to take from Marc something precious: the hard-earned respect of his idol. That may be enough to shake Marc up and allow Valentino to focus on Jorge.


Excellent comment.

If your supposition is correct, probably Rossi sensed, via personal interactions over the year, that Marc still looks up to him in some ways and hence that he (Vale) can use that to warn Marc away from making his life difficult in chasing Jorge on track, then this is indeed a master-stroke of mind games from Vale. :)

Every motorcycle racer I know would take a win over being seen as sportsmanlike. If they can have both, they'll take both. But nobody ever changes their behavior because they are accused of being unsporting. Too much at stake.

Javi, I agree with you.
We all were amazed by the Phillip Island race. It was different from all the other races this season, and even in recent previous seasons we have never had a race quite like this, with riders being dropped and then joining the front again time and time again. Lorenzo not running away forever once he has a gap is very unusual in itself. The pace of several riders being so inconsistent (in steady weather conditions) is also very unusual in this age of electronically optimised performance, and the sheer professionalism of the riders.
What also was unexpected was that Marquez did not take a dominant win, like most people anticipated after his consistent speed in all practices.

Rossi's theory explains it all. Marquez easily had the speed to win, so he could afford to mess with Rossi, as long as Lorenzo did not get too far away. That's why he upped his pace to almost catch Lorenzo again when needed. But he wanted Rossi to be slowed and get into a fight with Iannone, maybe even hoping an error would occur.
Everyone was massively impressed by Marquez' miracle last lap. That too is explained if Rossi is right. He had this pace all along, but only showed it when it was time to take the victory - which of course he wanted most of all.

Rossi's theory is a bit like quantum theory. It seems to be unbelievable and not logical at all, but IF we assume it is right, we can explain everything. The results fit the theory.

I think Rossi is completely right. And wants it to be seen by all.

The lap chart also shows that for mm93 explanation to be true, te tire would have to cool down with a single lap only within 1 seccond of race pace. And he would have to have overheated those tires 4 times, then those extra soft 4 times overstressed tires would have to have enough life left in them for a lap record on lap 27.

One question i would like to make is, did any other honda rider reported tire issues?

Firstly excellent piece David! This quality is why (for all who read and enjoy it) I encourage the readers to join the club and chip in to support David's work (he's often too shy to ask). This is top notch journalism and it costs money to deliver it.

We couldn't explain on Sunday why the guys seemed to be on elastic and commented during the race as to why MM93 seemed to lose pace after doing so well, then to blitz it again.

MM was clearly extremely miffed after Assen and seemed to make veiled threats about reprisals. So I don't think Rossi's assertion is necessarily 'baseless'. Whether he should have gone public about it is another matter, he usually handles the PR very well, this has not looked good. Perhaps he calculated that by calling him out he would stop him doing it again? MM clearly had the best pace and I was surprised he didn't disappear earlier.

Overheated tyre? Maybe, why on earth did the team cover the rear like that in parc ferme - strange.

Anyway, what we all want surely is some brilliant racing from these excellent competitors the last two rounds, and an unhindered battle in Valencia!

Rossi could be playing the odds. He's known as a master of mindgames for a reason.

If Lorenzo is faster than Rossi in these last two rounds it's fine for Rossi's championship as long as no one is between them. Marquez as been the only rider constantly fast enough to be with them. These allegations could put pressure on Marquez to not be between them, either in front or behind. It may not work, but Rossi is taking any advantage he can. As he should.

Love the drama!

The question is always a little red herring. The reality is, Casey won a single championship on the bike. And casey didn't ride the 2011/2012 in a race.

Every single year afterwards his performance dropped backwards - close but no cigar.

The bike was not improving, even for the only person who could actually ride it. Casey left and instantly won the championship again.

In his final year on the ducati, he won 3 races and had 5 dnf during a race. (3 more than rossi ever won but... ) those 5 are important, as the bike did not behave, and in order to get hte best from it, the front end had to be overridden. Casey was phenomenal at it, but the bike was not. Rossi is older, never ever overrode anything, so like melandri, nicky, loris before him, could not or would not achieve on that bike. its not as though loris was incompetent on a normal ducati.

Even casey being one of the greatest of his time could not beat three other phenominal bikes ridden by pretty damn good riders. The next year on a bike that worked, he wiped the floor with them.

Rossi and team spent two years trying to turn Ducati into a yamaha, but never got there. Now Ducati seems to have made a change with Gigi, but its also impossible to where would they be if they were on the same rules as the top guys.

Wasn't that the reason why rossi said Casey rode in a special way and he couldn't ride like that. It's pointless speculating what rossi could've done on a ducati at a younger age. Ducati needed a whole different kinda talent to put the bike on podium and win that championship and Casey was that special talent, not rossi. I am a rossi fan rough and hard, but doesn't believe that rossi could've ever got a championship on ducati. And the beloved Vale accepts that. As for the history, Casey will be the sole gladiator that tamed wild ducati and rode it to the mount Olympus. It is well documented how much he had to ride around the problems of the wild monster he had to do it. Nuff said.


Rossi's performance at the presser shows just how much pressure he is under. Nicky did win the title but I don't think Rossi ever really felt threatened by him. For Lorenzo, who I think Rossi views as the person who 'pushed' him out of Yamaha, to claw back a points deficit and beat him will be much harder to swallow.

That said, I am in awe at the level of his riding this year. At all their levels, but damn, he's 36!


He's even starting to fall for them himself! Hilarious! Having already fallen in quite a few races this year it's not hard to understand why Marc was worried when the front started to slide mid race. Its becoming clear just how bad Rossi wants this title!

Whether this happened "for sure", my guess is that noone will ever know.
But, strange as it sounds, it may be plausible.

First, there's the "hot" moments of clashing that happened this season between Rossi and Marquez. How the former came victorious over the latter, on both of ocasions (Argentina and Assen). We've also seen the reaction from Marquez.

Then there's last weekend's P.Island pre-race sessions (QP and FP), showing Marquez with such a pace that the question was more about "what'll be the margin of his win", rather than if he can win.

The race was extremely entertaining as we all remember it (that was certainly one for the history books) ...BUT... if you saw the race (more than once for some us here, I guess!), then you too noticed how Marquez laptimes would flutuate here and then, how he could not only reach Lorenzo once, but twice. Even after falling back and mix (again) with the two riders that followed (Rossi and Iannone). Both of which were actually easily (too easily?) taken care by Marquez at a certain point, when just moments before he seemed to be fighting so hard for his position, and for laps on a string.

Now -and this is a big "IF"- let's just consider for a moment if this theory is true.
That Marquez was just sandbagging and making sure Rossi was loosing enough time with the positions swap during the fight, with the race lines crossed and blocked by the riders, etc. Who knows, maybe even fall, considering the fight was pretty tense (if very enjoyable!), which also included Iannone (known to be a fighter, agressive, and especially hungry for good results).
All so that he could not reach Lorenzo (and therefore loosing more points). As to say, creating more difficulties for Rossi in the way to the championship title.

"Why then did not Marquez just followed Lorenzo, and simply (and subtly) let him win?"
This has been the most common and confused reaction to this.

In my perspective, that's has a two-fold response:

1)- As David wrote so well above, and like any other rider, Marquez does not like to lose, certainly not when a victory is at his grasp (and it clearly was, as shown during the whole P.Island weekend).
In this particular case, at the last lap of the race, Lorenzo was already (too) ahead of Rossi, so if there was the described intention by Marquez, then "the job is done".
The victory would be a golden seal to a perfect race in this perspective, I guess, so passing Lorenzo for a win is logical.

2)- Honda would be extremely pissed, and probably severe enough to make Marquez's life hard, had they found in all their own info from telemetry data (and etc) that he came in second place on purpose, sandbagging behind Lorenzo.
As the events unfolded, even if Marquez "messed up" during the race, Honda will certainly excuse that - he brought them a victory afterall.

As side note, and not relevant but, after the 2003 season, (and just like Marquez) we know Honda and Rossi are not exactly "in love" with each other, are they?
My guess is that, if this whole speculation happens to be true and, who knows, actually known by Honda, it would be privately applauded in the box office (pat in back followed by "genious" stuff, the type of mustache twirling crap! HAHA).

Finally, the speculation that this is just the "good old mind games from Rossi".
The thing that I think surprised everybody in this whole speculation is that it was done and brought up in the press conference by probably the least expected guy.
In all these years, Rossi was never the kind of rider to bring controversial stuff like this, even less the kind of stuff for which he would actually bring papers to back up the argument, like he did.
Think about it. The "image issues" that could result from that. To risk being called a fool with silly accusations and loosing face (probably Rossi himself would laugh his arse off if in another position).

....why would he risk all that, by bringing this up, if it's just mind games and he doesn't believe it to be true?
....and why would Iannone -himself was there in the action- back him up in that controversy as well?

Anyways, this is all just plain speculation which, yay or nay, I think we'll never see a clear conclusion.

I never thought about Honda being mad at Marc if he didn't win when he could have. that would suck for his whole team if they worked their asses off to give him a bike capable of winning and he didn't use it.

The claim bandied about by many commenters in this thread that MM would have let Jorge win the race if he'd really been trying to help him is silly, regardless of whether it comes from JL (what he implied in his immediate response in the presser to VR's statement), MM or a commenter on this forum. What Rossi said was that MM was delaying him and Iannone. If he's correct, as one or two commenters in this thread have already said, MM just wanted to make sure VR didn't catch and overtake JL. Is MM good enough to do that and win the race? Well he certainly had the pace that weekend and is MM supremely confident in his ability to pull seemingly impossible feats off? Yes.

I don't know if VR is correct but saying he isn't just because MM won the race is silly. Also, suggesting, as Julian Ryder has, that this is a sign that the pressure is starting to get to Rossi, is probably underestimating him. The last time Rossi dropped a bombshell was when he let JB go. Nearly every journalist who reported that opined that Rossi was on his way out and was looking for excuses for his poor performance. How wrong they were!

Rossi is probably just playing his final cards regarding mind games. It's bemusing to see him delve so deep into this theory, no doubt - he is usually high above any such criticisms, but this fact alone might lend some support to his argument indeed.

Whatever the case however, the truth is actually of little real, practical concern: Even if Marquez does indeed want to help Lorenzo, there's nothing anybody can do about it, if Marquez - or anybody else for that matter- plays by the rules and races fairly. Marquez could simply continue doing it, finding all sorts of resourceful excuses to cover it up, if he even feels the need to do so. And what would Rossi then do? Blemish his biographies with cries about a conspiracy against him? This is so un-Rossi.

So, regardless of the amount of truth in this claim, as far as the purpose of all this is concerned, I think that its real aim boils down to an effort to disrupt his oppontents' concentration. The riding level is so high and the differences so subtle, that this factor alone might make the required difference to allow for a significantly better chance of winning. The huge controversy this is causing may just cost some brain cycles to Lorenzo at a moment they shouldn't or perhaps anger him a little bit, maybe just enough to create a crack on his panoply of Doohan-esque focus.

And let's not forget, this is Sepang, one of Rossi's best tracks, and then Valencia follows, one of his "not-so-best", against a fully hammered-up Lorenzo. So I agree with David - Rossi is probably kind of desperate, feeling the pressure of his probably last shot at a championship (but let's see how Michelins change things - we might be in for a surprise) and willing to play every little trick that he can come up with in order to gain even the slightest of advantages.

You could be on to something. Then again, maybe he has seen times from other riders on Michelins.

I never ever thought I would see the day when Rossi was a sore loser, but that is just how this theory of his makes him look.

He stated his objective before Phillip Island - "I have to finish ahead of Jorge at least once in these final three races". PI was a great opportunity to do just that so is it just his frustration boiling over into a mild case of paranoia?

Like all great consiracy theories there is a grain of truth in there - Marquez's varying lap times. After all he was within a chance of beating Lorenzo only to have his rhythm messed up by Iannone and Marquez due to the Yamahas top speed deficit (he even said it was slower than last years bike, oh to have been a fly on the wall in his post race debrief with Silvano).

I don't believe for a minute that MM was playing with Rossi or deliberately trying to mess up his race to give advantage to Lorenzo, even if that is what in reality did occur as a result of MM tyre managment strategy and late race burst of speed, the heat of battle and Iannones bravery. I am sure in Rossi's mind he had the pace such that if these two had not been there, he felt could have caught and gapped Lorenzo, or at the very least battled with him "mano a mano" on the last few laps.

I think this public "attack" on MM is a little more subtle than it is bemusing, that just by creating the issue in the mind of the worlds motorcycle press he is warning MM and every other rider:

"Do NOT get in the way of this battle for the championship".

Dani Pedrosa will remember what it is like to be vilified by the world after his take out of Nicky in '06, and some still have not forgiven him nine years later!

I just don't see the motivation for Marquez to help Jorge in this fashion. Marc Marquez is all out, all the time! This data suggests to me a front tire that was giving him problems, so he had to try and recover them. Problem was that when he did recover them there were two more riders in the mix that have not been there all season! So it was a new set of circumstances for him, which he navigated through like a Boss, pulling a last lap like he had nothing to lose, because frankly he didn't. I can see how Vale may think like this, but in my opinion he is off base. This has been an epic championship fight, and he comes to Sepang perhaps a bit tired, while he sees his rivals come in strong and determined.

But it's all speculation, isn't it? No matter what any of us think, Vale has an 11 point lead. This means he still controls his own destiny. He knows the Honda and maybe even the Ducati might just have the advantage on this track. He is thinking about this for sure. The pressure is building, so it's time to throw down a little psychological warfare out there and try to throw your rivals off balance. Whatever it takes! He is so close he can taste it, and he knows if he doesn't do it this time, he may well not get another chance.

11 points. 2 more races. Things are still in his control. But he is going to have to earn this one the hard way; he will have to race for it. Ride like he's never ridden before. Want it like he's never wanted it before. Can he? Will he? How lucky are we to be witnessing this chapter in MotoGP history.

Rossi wants Marquez to help him beat Jorge by Marc winning the last 2 races over Jorge or by Marquez crashing out and taking Jorge with him! If Marc is winning then Rossi only has to worry about Jorge! The Old Divide-and-Conquer routine! If Rossi can make the other riders battle among themselves for the win, Rossi only need to worry about finishing next to or in front of Jorge! Rossi doesn't want Jorge to win the last 2 races while he battles in the pack with Maniac Joe, Dani and Marc which will cost him points! The Old Doctor is pushing the game pieces into places he wants/needs them to be in order to get the title!! He's clever, he's gully, he's going to be the 2015 Motogp Champion unless he chokes like he did in 2006 with Hayden!

Marquez definitely wants Lorenzo to win the championship instead of Rossi and is riding accordingy.

See my comment/prediction from a few races ago here:


My interpretation seems to be bearing fruit.

I reckon Marquez passed Lorenzo at Phillip Island because with the pace he was carrying, he couldn't credibly have stayed behind him. Back in the garage, the team bosses would have been able to review the data and see that he had been deliberately reining in the horse - which would have led to some serious questions. Dorna might have been entitled to ask questions as well.

why on earth would Dorna ask questions? say this ridiculous assumption that MM was toying with the field hold true, MM is allowed to do what he so wishes as there is no rule against "sandbagging" is there? or have we forgotten how rossi easily used to manipulate the races pre2007?


All MM has to say is, "The front felt a little too vague. I didn't dare push any harder."

No one is going to question the rider's decision. At all.

I agree with DaveLamb - Rossi loves to have fun with the media, the fans and the opponents - He might be feeling a touch of believing this is happening - I mean JL & MM are both Spaniards, no? But, really - why not rev up the circus - He's produced tremendous interest - even my casual-observing friends will be glued to the set for the final two races.

Not that he hasn't deserved it with every paragraph ever, but David has finally squeezed a little money out of me. Brilliant in-depth coverage for any sport - this just happens to be the one I follow fully. Thank you sir.

MM and JL may both be Spaniards, but local rivalry is also a thing. You could just as easily claim that MM doesn't want his "local" rival to win the championship when he couldn't. Which would explain his desperate last lap heroics, where he bridged a 0.8 second gap while setting a lap record to make sure his local rival didn't maximize his points advantage.

We know that Marquez has that youthful tendency to want want it all.

Is it possible he tried to slow Rossi down to keep him from passing Lorenzo and pushing him into Iannone's clutches so that he could then go for the win and and know that Rossi would still lose two places worth of points?

Then he would get to have his cake, and eat it too, which is exactly how it worked out. For him, it was a double "win".... A three cushion bank shot that sinks the last opponent's ball and then the 8 ball, putting the icing on the cake, with a little cherry on top.

It does look like almost every slowest lap by Rossi near the end was shadowed by a slower lap from Marquez.

If that was the case, Marquez is even more diabolical then we thought, and Rossi can see right through him.

Maybe it takes one, to know one.

Good use of that line "takes one to know one." I'm sure both Rossi and Marc are more diabolical than we know. That is often the only way to be the absolute best.

David, I think you've hit on the issue: Rossi has aged, he's feeling unexpectedly weary at the end of a long year, he's playing around with a bunch of kids, and I think we're seeing a bit of cane-waving.

Tactically anything that shames MM away to push up near Lorenzo and disrupt JLo's speed-away is valuable, but I don't believe this is off-field war. I think Rossi is quite genuinely annoyed and, as MM noted, he's not interested in being indirect anymore.

I don't know how much is known about the changes in competitive personalities during early middle age, but speaking as a non-racing 36-year-old, his tone doesn't surprise me. Getting a little paranoid and disparaging younger generations comes naturally these days. Games? No. This is a "get off my lawn" moment.

I won't criticize either side, considering that these guys do more amazing things before breakfast than I do in a year.

When JL had built a significant lead in early race. MM looked at Rossi and pointed towards Lorenzo. BT Sport commentators also picked it up. He was suggesting Rossi to stop fighting and follow him so that he could tow them (VR and AI) to JL.

Then there's the fact that if Rossi had made the podium, MM would then be "helping" Rossi (5 points between 1-2, 4 between 2-3) in the championship.

As much as Rossi's fans want to push the "MM is team Lorenzo" narrative to be true, all the evidence supports otherwise.

I might go back over the actual footage as i said to my wife when we were watching it looked like he looked back at rossi and signaled to follow. It didnt seem like he just ripped off a visor strip. He seemed to look back at the same time. My memory isnt the best though so ill have another watch tonight.
At any rate if he was toying with rossi he did it exceptionally well, timed it to perfection. To mess up someone running in third/fourth and still in the last lap scramble for the win was impressive. I would have thought though if winning was everything to marc he would have made that charge a little earlier to sure it up. I have no idea if he did or didnt mess rossi up intentionally, so i wont pretend that i do. but lorenzo and marc have had run ins before maybe a couple more than rossi and marc have. So it is bizarre that marc would take vengeance for an incident that happened a while ago and let jorge be the first spaniard to win three WC. And why would rossi bother brining it up? I know its not his style. Hell if it were jorge making these claims the motogp internet world would melt down with the whole jorge needs excuses to justify losing. But i guess if rossi truly belives it, he has called him out to stop doing it now and also put in jorges mind that if you win it is only because someone helped you. I dont know this whole thing is weird.

Apologies. I checked the race and it was the same photo. It was the way he turned his head that made me think otherwise on race day.

I thought Rossi was above this kind of stuff. All that should matter is who is faster this weekend between rossi and lorenzo, and dodge the rest of the maniacs in the process. If it is some kind of psychological strategy, it is very poor as it seems to make him look weak and does nothing against his main rival. If it's not a mind game.... As the rock group The Kinks would say, "Paranoia self destroyer!

While watching that intense battle I did say and feel Marc was blocking. So I think there is some credibility to this PI handbags stuff. But, in cases like this, I have learned many times, the truth is in the middle. You can't 100% agree with Rossi but you also cannot believe this is baseless. Lap times and that chart do seem odd from Marquez. Put that with what I saw, the blocking and slowing things down, makes you think and ponder...

But at the end of the day, all moves were completely legal so I don't understand this from Rossi even if it's 100% true. Let your riding do the talking. Why handbag it now? Maybe he thinks it is necessary so it isn't repeated behavior I dunno. Gut tells me Rossi did this to rev himself up. Get pissed off, fired up, because he needs the extra motivation. Who knows the truth? Lap times seem sketchy but this is childish and on par with Marquez having a small tantrum in the post race press conference at Assen.

Iannone rode an outstanding race @ PI and those calling him out are indeed "stupid." Glad I don't and have never twatted, Fakebooked, or Insta-crapped. Hashtags, and the big social networks are vile. Even the you-boob comments I have read are pure vitriol.

"Gut tells me Rossi did this to rev himself up. Get pissed off, fired up, because he needs the extra motivation."

Same feeling.
Becker / Connors / McEnroe / Maurice Green etc. etc. style.

He lost 2 dogfights recently, and in the last one, with not so much "ifs" and "would", he could have more than 20 points more than Lorenzo, especially in a "zone" (the combat) he has ever excelled... more frustrated than he showed for sure, somebody has to be guilty to really feel the rage back.

For sure, the guy is on pressure, a lot of pressure.
For sure, Lorenzo relax face in press conference is only a mask.
The two of them lost their only close-to-the-last-race championship (2006, 2013), we all try the "nothin to lose, only to win" attitude in our life, and it works well (I teach it to my children ;) ) but let's face it, even for Jorge, at one point, it doesn't work anymore :)

And by the way, I trully think Marquez is innocent, during the last five races, he had 2 DNF, 1 injury and 1x4th place ... he just didn't want to lose the damn front to soon once again no ? And why risking to be 3rd in the beginning of last lap, 8/10 behind Lorenzo, the "job" he's accused of was already done before that...

..That was possibly the best motomatters article I've read. It was heavy, like when you read a novel and really feel the characters. The climate presented by motogp.com is so light-hearted, and rightfully so I think. But this article and the subject matter cast such a dark tone on the sport. I dunno, i sort of like it for a change? Not condoning VR's comment here, but I feel something different.

A couple other things Mr. Emmett - I particularly like how you have added the bold headers above your changes in subject matter in the articles. It splits up the content nicely. Keep that up.

Also, your analogy of the oak tree and then using the word bark later in the sentence but different context, well, that just made my day.

Rossi just lighting a fire under Marquez. Rossi knows he only needs to finish behind his teamate to wrap this up. Rossi feels he can deal with an aggressive Marquez better than Lorenzo, or Pedrosa, having got the upper hand in those incidents he conviently reminds us of in his rational here.

Rossi dose not want Marquez to step aside and not be as aggressive as normal for fear of altering the outcome. Marquez already opined before PI he wouldn't do to Jorge what he did before and touch him. And during the race he kept his word and raced hard and fair without runnig into anyone in the closet battle we've seen him in. It was clear Marquez had adjusted.

This worries Rossi, and right when he can use Marquez's usual aggressive nature to help unstable things, and just like at PI to continue to drop Lorenzo back to second. That is Rossi's best chance at beating his teamate, we all know it, and so does Rossi.

Wind up Marquez enough that he does something rash, makes a mistake, and takes himself out of the equation. Rossi knows that he needs to eliminate Marquez, in order to make sure Lorenzo's task is as difficult as possible.

He fired Jeremy Burgess..... turns out I was wrong.

Not sure If I should again consider Rossi Crazy but the man knows his craft... on the other had MM and JL are fast as Sh%T so..... I am happy to watch it all unfold. I hope the old dog prevails... but I wouldn't bet on it...


Rossi wanted Marquez to stay away off the battle between him and Jorge. If Marquez ran away at the front, Rossi could concentrate on dealing with Lorenzo. If Rossi finishes right behind Lorenzo in the two remaining races, he will get the crown, but if Marquez finishes between them, Lorenzo will get the crown, that's why Rossi uses this mind game as a message for Marquez to get out of the way. That is one possibility, the other is that Rossi is cracked by the pressure of how hard he wants the title is. Rossi is a fast rider, very talented and superior, but I'm not a fan of him, and never will. Bringing chart and lap times into the press conference to support the accusation (I think) is really stupid.

I think another twist, that I didn't see mentioned from the press conference......was Iannone agreeing that Marquez was "playing with us" when asked by a journalist. Andrea agreed and said as much. Did he say this and agree because he is friends with Valentino or because he also believes it? Inquiring minds want to know. FP2 in 40 minutes.....

I would have liked David to address/mention/comment on the following:

1. Iannone backing Rossi's theory.
2. How valid is Marquez' claim of trying to cool down his tyre, when he chooses to battle with a fierce Italian duo?
3. If he believes Marquez did harm Rossi's race result albeit more unintentionally that what Rossi thinks.

Point 3 for me is a given, but it's not clear if David acknowledges the effect of Marquez' inconsistency on Rossi's results (it was not clear in the Sunday's round up either). By seeing the lap time chart above, it is clear to me that Rossi's lap time was capped by Marquez and NOT by Iannone with whom Rossi spent most time battling with.

I believe it is plausible. Being plausible is different from being true, but still.

As for Iannone, I should imagine that if he saw Marquez drop him, then drop back, then win the race, he might believe it too.

However, as someone pointed out on Facebook, the last-lap pass that made the real difference was in Rossi's own power, the pass by Iannone on Rossi. If Rossi beats Iannone, then what Marquez does is irrelevant. The only way Rossi does not suffer a greater points loss is by not passing Iannone. If he passes Iannone, then every other possible outcome is better, regardless of what Marquez does with Lorenzo.

Given his talent MM only obstacle to earn all the attention is VR. He has the ambition to brake all VR records.
Many of MM race mistakes happened behind VR, just because he simply refuses to settle for second when the opponent is VR, and his agressive and impatient moves on him shows just that.
Only MM knows if VR acusations are true, but you cam be sure that all of the arguments are absolutely spot on.

It would not surprise me if Rossi wins the chanpionship by less than the 5 points that Marquez took off Lorenzo on the last lap at PI.
Given this Rossi's claims seem tenuous or irrelevant.

that having watched the conference that there are a lot of old women talking over the garden fence here and elsewhere.
Is it not possible that as, as we are told, they are good mates and he was just having a wind-up?
I saw nothing malicious in it. Mischievous, yes.
And he's spot on about the keyboard warriors.

...in your articles David. I'm glad that we have such a great journalist in our time, as riders has Rossi in their time. Yeah we saw maybe the worst from him yesterday but oh boy did we also saw a heck of a great moment's in the past and I hope in the near future as well.

I don´t remember who said it (I believe it was Mat Oxley),
but "Rossi has the outstanding abillity to stand beside a burning car and somebody else has the smoking matches in his hands".
MM93 on the other hand just lacks this trait and was troughout his career catched with the smoking matches in his hands.

Now Vale takes it to another level,
because he sees himself confronted with a possibly decisive tactic:
He now pours the gasoline and choses the man who holds the matches ahead already of the next conflict, i.e. the Malaysia race.

And that is in line with maneuvre warfare and the OODA loop concept
(the thinking process everybody allways goes through in life)
that is the basis to ALL conflict: Observation,Orientation,Decision,Action.

He is cycling through the OODA loop faster then his opponents.
His orientational skill is a databank filled with over 20 years of GP-racing and he also knows his opponents better than journo´s ever can.
That is speeding up that part of his OODA loop so much, that he is faster in making a decision during a given conflict than his rivals.
This leads to winning it and he has been in a winning situation at the end of a season 9 times already and managed to outfox everybody.

Nobody ever could have predicted this move from Vale...a huge surprise, which loads up the OODA loop of those trying to defeat him...JLo included.

The basics tactics in the past of VR were always like this:
#1)Be so friendly with your biggest rival, that they hesitate in a dog fight to show their most evil maneuvre and win at the end by that advantage.

If that tactic does not work, the #2) is:
Be so hard to them in a race,
that they will never try again to attempt a hard dog fight risking a crash.
Because that would only add more humiliation to their defeat.

Even MM93 who is very resistant to #1) got his fair share of #2) in Argentina and has now obviously tried to get his revenge with the called out tactics at PI.
He tries to copy VR .
He wants to be a tactical master like VR and allways likes to control a WorldChampionship even though he is now not at the pointy end.

He is not in a place yet where he can teach a lesson to a teacher though.
VR is in no way cracking.
He is just the ruthles motherfucker hiding behind a clown mask he always has been.
Whenever it gets really tough, he shows that side.
That abillity has led to his success by a big margin.

So just in case it was all an accident(which I can´t contemplate), I´m sure it is a huge influenceing factor at the end of the WC done on purpose or not in any case.
Vale planned it (the timesheets at hand prove it) and that is all there is to know.
He is in control and far from cracking.
He has achieved far more already against the young guns then was expected from the old geezer that is him, by leading since the first race.

Again: He has been there done that 9 times already.
His experience is unmatched by his rivals.
This move now shows nothing but that.

George Orwell said it right:
"Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play.
It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting."

When Yamaha and Lorenzo (who could have blocked Rossi's re-entry into the factory Yamaha team) allowed him back, I had said Lorenzo was magnanimous in allowing his former team mate back into the team. We also saw a very humble and contrite Rossi who seemed to apologise for his previous bad behaviour with Lorenzo and Yamaha. At that very time I had made a post on this site that if Rossi is able to get back to his previous levels on the Yamaha it would only be a matter of time before the real Rossi (tantrum throwing, accusing people and other riders of unsporting behaviour) would come to the fore again. Now that he is a contender for the World title the man is now "truly" back. I have said time and again that I was once a Rossi fan but his lack of sporting behaviour had put me off him and whatever he achieves I was never going to be his fan again. Rossi has proved me right.

Apart from Wayne Rainey whom I worshipped I never really became a fan of any rider however good or bad they were till Rossi arrived at Yamaha. Then Casey Stoner dismantled him properly in 2007 and Rossi who went to ride the Ducati with a cowboy swagger came back like he had been kicked in his privates. I had said in one of my previous posts that this championship is Lorenzo's to lose and not Rossi's to win. Many factors like the frequently crashing Marquez, the crucial crash of Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa sitting out with arm pump problems (okay even otherwise he was not probably going to play a role in this whole murky thing anyway) have actually made Rossi look better than he would have looked otherwise. It is now obvious that he is playing mind games with both Marquez and Lorenzo, though it would be impossible (at least for me to guess the motive exactly) to pressure them in the coming two races.

I was a big fan of Michael Schumacher and Valentino Rossi. I feel sad that both the sporting icons that I liked turned out to be win at any cost, which is a gladiatorial (not in the present sense of the term but what it was in ancient Rome; kill at any cost or be killed) and therefore not worthy of respect. Rossi has earned my disrespect for a second time (I maybe posting here, but I am sure there are several people who do not post anywhere but have the same take upon this whole thing).

I never liked Jorge Lorenzo from his pre-MotoGP class days especially the class days where he went onto the podium with a lollipop in his mouth and playing the air guitar after a victory, but I began to detest him after he started planting the Lorenzo land flag. When there was talk of MotoGP coming to India, on one of the automobile forums there was a discussion about this and most took a pledge that if he won a race here and planted the Lorenzo Land flag then we would invade the track and kick him till he cried (that was all in jest, of course). I never warmed upto Casey Stoner (the incredible reason probably being that he married so young) but I have always appreciated his genius and talent. I thought Marc Marquez would be like that; only a lot more likeable, but he too has started throwing tantrums especially since he realised that his title is as good as gone. Now I feel, the Repsol Honda line up should have been Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez, with Jorge Lorenzo on one of the Yamahas and Rossi on the other. That would have put the goat (not G.O.A.T) in its position. But now I say this without a doubt, Casey Stoner was the most dignified winner in MotoGP like Kimi Raikonnen is in Formula1. I think I have become a Stoner fan; seriously.

You're basically a huge Casey Stoner fan (I don't know how it is relevant to this article but you brought it up anyway) because of his genius and talent yet somehow Rossi just happens to be there in the reckoning only due to external factors? MM DNF's were due to his own making being unable to swallow his pride and accept 2nd places, Lorenzo's DNF was his own fault of being unable the gauge the conditions properly. Dani was very unfortunate but he's only truly started to show his pace in past month. That line of Rossi being 'goat' being served to be slaughtered by MM and Lorenzo is blasphemous. No matter how you slice it and you wouldn't find it pretty but Rossi has been very quick and right amongst your MM and Lorenzo on Sunday. He hasn't been handed anything this year.

Rossi has mellowed down so much after his disastrous spell at Ducati followed by an equally humbling experience in his first year back at Yamaha (which is something David has acknowledged in this article) This year not once have I seen him complaint about other riders during the weekend, Sepang press conference being the the first instance where he has done that and for that he has his reasons whether you believe them or not.

I was never a Stoner fan (remember I said I had never warmed upto him) and was once a Rossi fan (and for a very long time at that). But unsporting/tantrum throwing behaviour off the track by the latter has now made me a Stoner fan. The use of goat was not sacrificial; it was about survival amidst the pack of Spaniards bent upon helping each other. You may consider him God, I don't so there is no blasphemy involved anywhere. We are all entitled to our opinions and the sad part is there is no way you can prove points against one another so let it be; it is all conjecture anyway.

P.S: Sir David, I thought I was pretty clear about how I who was a staunch Rossi fan have drifted away from him towards other riders who I did not much like, even though they were great riders. I apologise to you for this post and the one before this that has drawn unsavoury controversy though it was not my intent to do so. Most of the motives imputed to me were misreadings. I will not take the issue forward any more and if you think that this is spoiling the thread of posts, please feel free to delete what I have written. Apologies once again to all concerned. Thank you.

Thanks for letting us know you are not a Vale's fan and a serious Casey Stoner's fan.

I find your rambling post highly incoherent and your reasons for your pet peeves against the riders and Schumi amusing.

Did you even read the article? - Vale was magnanimous (to use your choice of word) in his defeat by Iannone. And supported Andrea in face of barrage of abuse he received on Internet(exactly what we are doing - faceless key board warriors commenting on our heroes - in all sense of that word) for beating him at PI.

I think it is highly disrespectful from your part to belittle the achievements of Lorenzo, Vale and Michael just because they had 'win at all costs' attitude and some silly post race tantrums.

If you had played any sport at any level you would understand that self belief is almost always key in achieving true potential.

PS: How is Kimi a dignified winner?

One of the reasons you didn't like JL was because he went onto the podium with a lollipop in his mouth? He was sponsored by Chupa Chups, a Spanish lollipop manufacturer. Red Bull sponsored riders go onto the podium with cans of red bull and Monster-sponsored riders do similarly. They're all contractually obliged to do it. JL's Chupa Chups sponsorship gave us one of the most colourful helmets in the lower categories for years. What was there not to like exactly?

This old saying is still very much appropriate. You can't dismiss Rossi's claim as pure conjecture nor can you pin the blame directly on Marquez. Marquez race pace was extremely strange, as he is not the type of rider who hits the front then goes backwards, then back to front. Then later in parc-ferme Marquez crew rushed to cover up his tires! All of Rossi's slow laps are in complete sync with Marquez's even slower laps so yes he was indeed capped by him BUT.. my theory is that Marquez didn't do it intentionally to aid Lorenzo's bid for championship, he was looking out for himself. He knew he had the pace to take Lorenzo within 3 laps if he started to push but also realized so does Rossi whom he couldn't drop the second time he reeled in Lorenzo. So he slowed down to bring Iannone back to the mix so that Rossi would be swallowed by him on straights leaving Marquez on his own to chase down and pass Lorenzo for the lead and then the flag and BINGO that's how it worked out for him! We all know about Rossi's perception of last Sunday but it was a race perfectly executed tactically from perspective of Marquez.

Good morning to all!
Just a few thoughts about yesterday’s events: I was as surprised as anyone when I have read about the statements made by Rossi against Marquez. As we all know through all these years of following motogp and Rossi, he has the ability to “work” the media in an excellent way. I believe that this is one of the very few moments that he has made such kind of statements with him knowing the vast impact that would be generated from his words! I think that this is not any type of the famous “mind games”: I truly think that in his own mind he is right! Let me elaborate a little: No one from outside, not even journalists or viewers can really know what is going on in the racetrack during the race: only the riders can! That said when 2 riders (Rossi and Iannone) out of three state the same thing about an in-race situation then it is probably true: Marquez played with the rhythm! The argument that if Marquez wanted to help Lorenzo, he would let him win is dismissed by Marquez’s enormous desire for wins and records! Even after the race Marquez admitted that Rossi approached him and asked him for explanations for his race tactics. That shows that Rossi was really convinced that Marquez had an agenda during the race.
In my opinion the situation between them is not the same as it used to be: teacher and student! They are now rivals on and off the track! It seems rather true that things after Argentina and Assen events have made a huge difference: Marquez wants anyone to win the championship except Rossi. He wants to become greater than Rossi in everything! Who can blame him! I also think that Suppo has played a significant part in Marquez’s change of heart because we all know that he and Rossi despise each other since the Ducati-Stoner days.
In concluding, Rossi must have felt disappointed and betrayed by his “student”. That is why ho chose to share in public his opinion and frustration about Marquez in order to disrupt Marquez’s “pure racer” image to the fans. This has nothing to do with Lorenzo who just happens in this case to compete for the championship.
Sorry for my long post!

Excellent post there devbil.
I agree with what you say and just wanted to add: it was still a terrible mistake to bring his dark thoughts out like that. I find it likely that MM changed pace, and by that he brought Ianonone into the game again. Watching it was frustrating and I really thought luck and faith was against Rossi that day. He had the pace to win but ended 4th. Very unlike VR when he is that close to the win. But there was nothing unfair, nothing sketchy, just maybe MM that on purpose slowed down a couple of times making Rossi fry behind him.
I fear Rossi might loose the WC because of this. He need peace of mind and harmony. This outburst show that he is not in balance.

To be honest I thought Rossi had been smoking something when I first heard his statements :-)
Just assuming he hadn't and he is on to something: Marquez passing Lorenzo for the win after holding up Rossi earlier may rather have been a matter of MM "preventing Rossi to win a race" instead of "helping Lorenzo to be WC". With the championship being tight as it is I don't see any rider purposely and succesfully influencing the way the WC goes. But a single race would be another matter.
Anyway, strange rant during a press conference and sure to bring this into the spotlights.

"For me, that period was Rossi at his greatest as a racer and a human being. To endure, to concentrate, to try to work and figure things out, and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, to borrow a phrase from the bard, and come back for more. To come back to where he is today, competing for the championship, at the ripe old age of 36, winning against two generations of riders who grew up with his poster on their walls, and knowing they had to be better than him if they wanted to be champion. To do that is a mark of greatness, a mark of real fortitude."

Spot on. I think this is what won me over to being a fan. Say what you want about mind games, and questionable accusations... Very few megastars of any sport could suffer what amounts to 2 years of humiliation and maintain their dignity, poise, and their fans. VR did. I Really hope he wins the title this year. I think he deserves it the most.

There are several therories circulating around this latest drama:

1. "Rossis accusations on Marquez are some sort of mindgame he is executing"

In the end no one knows except Rossi himself and probably the inner circle around him what he is really thinking and whether he is staging a mindgame here. What we do know however is that Rossi spoke with Marquez after the race in PI in a situation without public about Marquez´race tactics. So this clearly contradicts the mindgame-theory because if the theory was true this would have been the first step in the mindgame-plot that Rossi is trying to make up and has to therfore to execute step by step. Yet it is not very likely that Rossi had the plot for the mindgame in his head right after the race. It is more likely that he spoke with Marquez about his tactics because he really feels Marquez played with him.

2. "If Marquez wanted to help Lorenzo he would not pass him for the win"

Isn't it clear and logic that you can have more than one goal for a race? If there can only be one goal (to win) then the theory is most likely true because as David Emmett pointed out, Marquez´will to win is beyond question. However if a racer can have and can follow a second goal, then this theory is not true per se. Because Marquez´ first goal could be to win and his second to help Lorenzo to arrive in front of Rossi. I think from a logical standpoint it is possible to have a second goal, even if it is very difficult at this high level to follow another goal than that to win.

Conclusion: I am not taking sides in this input, neither for Rossi nor for Marquez because I believe that we can not know whether the accusations against Marquez are true or not. Only the riders involved in the race can judge whether a rival is intentionally changing lines, intenionally not pushing a 100% etc. From a specator`s perspective it is therefore not about knowing what has happend in the race at PI but about believing what has happend and believing what Rossi is thinking. Even if it is only a belief - and you can believe anything and no one can hinder you - it is vital for a discussion like this to follow the goal of logic writing.

1996 -109 points - Aoki (125cc)
1997 83 points - Ueda (125cc)
1998 -23 points - Capirossi (250cc)
1999 48 points - Ukawa (250cc)
2000 -49points - Kenny Robers Jr (500cc)
2001 106 points - Biaggi (500cc)
2002 140 points - Biaggi (MotoGP)
2003 80 points - Gibernau
2004 47 points - Gibernau
2005 147 points - Melandri
2006 -5 points - Hayden
2007 -126 points - Stoner
2008 93 points - Stoner
2009 45 points - Lorenzo
2010 -150 points - Lorenzo
2011 Ducati year
2012 Ducati year
2013 -97 points - Marquez
2014 -67 points - Marquez
2015 11 points - Lorenzo

very simple solution for rossi: pass marquez and leave him for dead. if that cannot be done, rossi will find himself at the mercy of the racing gods.

Why do people say "MM is trying to help JL", in reality it is "MM is trying to hurt VR". I didn't want to believe Rossi's assertion, but I went back and looked at the race again and sure enough, if you look at it thinking MM was trying to slow Rossi (and hurt Rossi by helping JL), you can see it. I do believe that Rossi's statements were preemptive however, meaning to affect Sepang and Valencia.

I still don't believe VR said it as part of mind game or not.
The highlight was VR did ask MM about it after the race. That was it, VR felt it then and there during the race or after. Not sure.
But he did so, very strongly like how a spider sense would tingle for spider man.

4 days after AUS race, he blew up to the press.
Now that’s a serious thing to consider, 4 days is a lot for a rider to think about this. I am sure VR had rethought about his assumptions or allegations for lot.
Because this would be News buzzing over, which could put him in spotlight for a tainted sportsman ship.
But at the end of the day, he did say and for him he smelled something fishy and wanted MM to know it.

Everybody has got the intuition to know if someone is planning something fishy. But not necessary at times to be right too.
And they being riders making decision at split second on the track, VR would have felt the same.
No wonder why Andrea did too.

The reasons of tire overheating..etc only MM has answer for that. Pretty much everything went for well for MM, and if he did plan this bluff, hats off cause he executed very well but only error in script was that JL was not fast enough.
But it short-lived as that’s why we are talking about this.

Being VR supporter it is great to see him leading the champion ship and getting closer to clinch his 10th title.

But still down there had doubts, could feel that this season could be MM considering that he would put serious challenge by the second half of this season and winning the title. But was wrong there too.

It was good read about MM's attitude to win only.
May be karma back fired at him. Or the Gods wanted him to learn something out of this season.

Just to link karma with VR was 2010, where his attitude towards JL & Yamaha for the NO:1 position, which we all have heard of and which he accepted was wrong too.
We know misery which followed him after that. Leg, shoulder injury and Ducati(as well as the stoner question).

Well seeming to pass through the stages, may be God has finally given eye for VR.
By the way it’s more Rossi’s determination, patience and sheer skill which has got him here at this level.

I am not in support of VR’s allegation or either neglect it too.

However this season is going to end up, it can be sweet or bitter for both JL Or VR’s fans.
May the best win.

... with Mr. Emmett and I think most of the people on this thread regarding Rossi and his mental state. I don't think Rossi is cracking at all. And I don't think his age is really playing into what's going on in terms of performance - we've been saying it's Rossi's "last hurrah" since 2010.

He's clearly been thinking about Marquez and how to deal with him since 2013. He's had a lot of time to make up his mind based on many encounters. He thought the race at PI was fishy - it WAS a very unusual race - and he went back and looked at the numbers, and to him, they don't add up. He feels screwed around with, and in much the same way Lorenzo has no real reason to hold back in the races now, Rossi has no real reason to hold back on his thoughts. If his age has any effect on what's going on, that's it. He's 36 years old, he's competed against generations of riders, he's handled the highest highs and lowest lows with increasing grace as the years have gone on, (which is good because he was kind of a twit earlier in his career), and he feels screwed around with, and he's not having it. That's what happens when you get older. You get really good at holding your peace, except for when the chips are down and someone is screwing with you on something that really matters. When that happens, you're going to call them out.

Further evidence of this is that he called out a bunch of his own fans for trashing Iannone. You're looking at a man who is too old to give a kitten's fart about what anyone thinks anymore.

Everyone is making this into huge drama, which I suppose is natural, given the state of the championship. But I disagree with that assessment. Rossi knows that his legacy and reputation are what they are, and if he wants to call someone else out for what he thinks is their bad behavior, he has a right to do so. Marquez, similarly, has a right to defend himself. In this situation, the only one who has any numbers to back up their claims is, in fact, Rossi. Marquez' team covered up his tires as soon as he rolled in, so that's not a data point we have access to.

Rossi has looked at the data and made his assessment. Even if you disagree with him, it's a smart thing to do because it unsettles his opponents. The fact that almost nothing else is being talked about now - despite Rossi being almost a full second behind Lorenzo in FP2 - shows you his strategy is working. But again, I think calling it a strategy is overthinking it. I think he's just too old to care.

What he was saying to the italian media was a little unusual for vale. If another rider had said those things there would be an entirely different reaction. Even watching him after the second practice the man looked rattled in his pit box. I dont think he has much to worry about to be honest and he does know how to ride so maybe i am wrong. It all does seem out of character a little bit though.

Not terms typically associated with Rossi, but over time I have concluded that, whilst clever, he actually tells it like it is. Mind games, yes; but also 'truthful' (which is why it works).
The margins in the sport today are so small that I suspect it is only the on-track participants who really know what is being done. Rossi (or someone) seems to be have been so puzzled he got the data out and analysed it.
Whatever the background, he clearly thought something was holding-up Marquez at times. Rossi has out-manoeuvred MM on occasions now and it may be that MM's competitive nature and status (he's a champ not a kid) means he now sees Rossi as a major competitor, not just a past champion on the glide path to retirement. He's probably as surprised as many others were at Rossi's performance improvements and competitiveness, whilst when MM was the runaway winner he could afford to be magnanimous towards his 'hero'.
The championship is hugely important and Rossi knows, like we all do, that this year is probably his best shot at #10. He might do well on the new Michelins, but....
Therefore he will drag this suspicion out, blow it up, polish it, and use it because these marginal things are what makes a win possible and he needs every tiny thing he can lay his hands on. It's not unsporting, whereas easing off just enough to slow things down whilst being fast enough to stay in front could be said to be. Perhaps Rossi did 'play' with rivals in other times, but it always provided good entertainment and no-one could say he was doing it for anyone other than himself.
I was as surprised as anyone to hear Rossi's un-Rossi-like allegation (think about that), but after reading David's report and views I think Rossi may be right.
Why? Because, as VR said, it made it a different race - whilst Iannone was a 'spoiler' to some degree it may have been that VR could have challenged JL. That part is all 'ifs' and 'buts', but that may be his main reason for raising it - if MM had checked-out and let them fight the points situation may have been different. And he wants everyone to know that in order to try and prevent a repeat.

Seeing how many people (aside from journalists) actually went and looked at the race data over and over again to check how much merit there might or might not be in this claim, I think Rossi already achieved one of his goals, by planting doubt and therefore casting a shadow over what did and what will happen. Not just potentially in the minds of the riders he is up against (who I believe are not really susceptible to them at this stage, file this more under amusement/confusion and go on doing what they do), but in the minds of the fans.

No matter what happens on track, with just two races to go, this will come up again once the eventual champion is crowned. And again and again. If Lorenzo does win it, I am absolutely 100% sure that a certain faction of the Rossi crowd will go: "Oh, but he only won because Marquez helped him! It was not fair!" and if Rossi wins it, the same faction will go "See, he still beat him despite Marquez helping Lorenzo, he is truly the greatest of all time!". And with this whole thing being spread very wide indeed, a lot more people might be starting to buy into it without giving it a second thought (I personally think it's total nonsense and just another attempt at "mindgames", especially after watching the video of him talking to the Italian press, only that this time Rossi might actually believe it himself).

Either way, this is a win-win for Rossi. This is the closest MotoGP championship fight we've seen for a long, long time and the eventual implications of every single race will be over-analyzed to death until the next season starts. Given all the well-stated reasons from David's article that this might well be the last real shot that Rossi has at another title, it gives these discussions even more weight. As much as Marquez might be eyeing the record books in secret, Rossi always looked at them very closely and IMHO this might just be another shot at securing his immortality. Either he "loses" the title because Marquez rigged the game to make it unfair or he wins despite it all and is the greatest of all time, conquering the "evil". Win-win.

The answer lies in Lorenzo's pace. It was clear from Lap 4 that Lorenzo did not have the pace to escape. Rossi had a stronger pace than Lorenzo that day. Marquez would not allow Rossi to approach Lorenzo. Without Marquez's help Lorenzo would have finished 3rd or 4th.

In the press conference, Marquez said something interesting (at 29:30)

"You already know that my races never will be: push from the beginning until the end on the first position"

And I think that in Mark Neale's Hitting the Apex, Marquez also explains that his goal is not only to win races but to give the audience a show by having a close battle to watch.

I'm therefore quite convinced that Marquez was fighting with Rossi and Iannone on purpose because that's the kind of races he enjoys.

Both Rossi and Iannone agree on the fact that he was playing with them, and they were in the best position to assess that and I see no reason to believe it wasn't the case.

Where it gets more difficult is to understand Marquez' motive, was it as he said to manage the front tyre, or as Rossi thinks to prevent him from catching Lorenzo. That's impossible to tell. Only Marquez knows.

After all, if the tyre was overheating when he was second, it made sense to drop the pace a little, and once he got passed, it also made sense to up the pace to gain positions again.

And after last year, it is also understandable that Marquez would be cautious about the tyre in PI.

So if Marquez was managing the tyre with a fair margin, it's essentially the same as playing with Rossi and Iannone.

Of course, Rossi's version also makes sense, and it's not incompatible with Marquez tyre management. It was maybe an added bonus to Marquez.

Again, we will never know.

Show people a picture of the surface of Mars and they might enjoy it. Tell them there's a rock with the clear shape of a face and pretty much everybody will claim to see it. Even if it isn't really there.

My point is, of course if you look at the race trying to look for evidence of Rossi's clearly ludicrous claim you will find it. The problem for Rossi is that even his most ardent fans didn't see what he claimed to see before he claimed it. They were all too busy slagging off Iannone for beating him fair and square. And being happy about Marquez taking 5 points off Lorenzo.

I know I shouldn't find this so entertaining but I do. Especially reading back some of the comments when Lorenzo claimed to suffer from bad luck.

The response? An overwhelming 'just be faster and beat them'. I wonder if the same applies here.

in the last lap, at Doohan corner, MM93 was in 3rd position, 0.8 sec. behind Lorenzo, Iannone goes half a foot too wide at Southern Loop, Marquez by some miracle goes underneath him without disrupting his own pace, Lorenzo locks the rear at the Honda hairpin, loses several tenths allowing MM93 to catch him up, MM93 wins.

No, Marquez is not the greatest sportman ever, he's a Jedi. Cheater !

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Any of you who know me will know that, without a shadow of a doubt I am an unashamed Rossi Fan of long standing! That being the case I am going to shed some light on this murky subject for you all, you can show your appreciation later, although I'd prefer it if you bought me a beer!

I gleaned this particular piece of information via an unnamed forum where a "Rossi Fan" shared his wisdom with the rest of his Yellow clad colleagues and imparted his vast and considerable knowledge with the well considered statement, "If Valentino says it then it must be true!"

In truth it makes almost as much sense as any of the other theories I've read here and elsewhere!

I'm not a Psychiatrist, although I was a Union Shop Steward, (which is very similar according to Management!) so I won't even try to analyse quite what Valentino was trying to do!
It may become obvious in the fullness of time - but I doubt it!

Another great article....

lots of opinions, lots of guesses, in hindsight it might seem peculiar behavior... who knows?! Lots of talk at least :)

The article and comments are the best (whatever side of the argument people are on). Kudos to all.

Rossi (the politician) is clearly trying to exert some level of influence on the behavior of MM93 over the last two races. MM93's pace is such that he can't do anything about it on track. Instead, he plays the mental games he is famous for in order to maximize his level of control over the outcome in the last two races.

I think Rossi believes that he can beat JL99 in a head to head battle and is playing his cards to try and push the only wild card on the grid with the ability to truly influence the outcome (Iannone needs help and Pedrosa is still inconsistent). Someone he may feel is not "civil" when it comes to the championship fight. By that I mean, most riders who are out of the championship will "respect" the battle of WC contenders on track. If you don't have the pace and/or consistency to pull away at the front, then you stay behind and not influence the outcome by getting into the mix. Yes, I know there have been many throat slitting contests in the past between rivals but as a general rule, this is the expectation that grew over the "processional" race years. It is only since Marquez has overturned the apple cart that this has been changing. However, those professional courtesies may not be a part of the mindset in the newer generation of riders.

What motivation MM93 may have is very open to me. Rossi's assertion is certainly plausible given the race statistics available and covering the tires in parc fermme was something truly unusual and suspect. The spotlight is clearly on Marquez and his team now which means their behaviors will be more scrutinized than they would have been by all going forward. Nothing like turning the world's eyes on to someone distracting you from the job at hand. How successful that strategy is for Rossi remains to be seen.

Marquez (the gangster) on the other hand could care less what anyone else in the paddock wants. Throughout his career (and especially in Moto2), he was always on the edge of recklessness. The level of risk he is willing to accept combined with the level of skill he has is what has made him the young legend he has become. How else do you stomp through an entire class the way he did at two levels.

Someone rightly said that MM93 cares about the public's perception of him and that is why Rossi's play is logical. The gangster does not want the police (Dorna) watching his every move and he doesn't want the general public to think of him as a wrong doer. However, he is always ready to prove to other gangsters that he is the boss and not to be messed with. There was a reason that Lorenzo gave him a wide berth at PI on the last pass. He knew the gangster would not hesitate to take him out if he had to. lol

Its an amazing battle of wills and philosophies playing out under the guise of a motorcycle race. Poor Lorenzo. Despite being one of the best at his craft, he has neither the political savvy nor the gangster mentality to truly shine outside the track as a paddock personality (like Rossi and Marquez do). Were it not for his amazing abilities on a bike, he would fade into the crowd like dust in the wind. Well, that's my take anyway. No facts involved at all. :-)

I am a JL99 fan despite him not being the personality the other two are. His wry sense of humor also does not escape me. It does for a majority of people who don't like sarcasm (which is quite a bit of the world).

As far as his tactical skills, I am not underestimating them unless you mean he let Marquez through on purpose to get a tow to the line ahead of Rossi/Iannone (which he probably did not need) and you think I missed that. Otherwise, what did I miss?

Other than that, it seems to me his tactics are pretty clear. Get ahead, stay ahead and avoid battles as much as possible because in time trial type laps without overtaking, he is "King JL" on most days. The best way to win is to never trail! Its a pretty good strategy if you ask me. lol

Now I recall a race at Valencia in 2013 where Lorenzo still had a chance to win the WC. Lorenzo held up the pace for the first 10 laps into the mid to high 1'32's so Rossi and Bautista could join the fray and possibly upset Marquez (not that I think that was a real possibility). That pace was within the reach of both riders based on practice times over the weekend yet not one pass was made. Rossi never even tried to overtake Baustista until lap 11 despite having almost a full second of pace over him for most of the weekend. Only Pedrosa (Marquez's teammate) was dicing it up with Lorenzo a la Aragon 2015. Is it a wonder why Marquez said specifically in the press conference that "only for his teammate" would he play around. He obviously hasn't forgotten Pedrosa's assist at this race in being the buffer between he and Lorenzo for his first WC. Yes, there may be times when rider's don't ride the race they are capable of to stay out of the title race ... or not. Only they know the truth.

What cruel irony it would be for Lorenzo to once again finish the season with 3 wins in a row and lose the championship anyway. Just like in 2013 ...

I don't believe it for a second. Even if, and that is a big if, Valentino Rossi has told is truth, he can't do anything about Marc Marquez. If Marc decides to help Jorge, and I don't think this is the case and never will be, it is his decision. I don't see anything wrong in that.

An exceptional article, David. Thanks for the bit from Hamlet. We all suffer those slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes, world champions included. How we deal with them is what differentiates the champions from the rest of the world.

My take on MM is that he wants to win – always. He can not accept not doing so. As a result, perhaps coupled with the impetuosity of youth causes him to sometime fall into the “Win or bin” trap. The question we need to have answered, and likely never will, concerns his motivation in “slowing down” during the race. Was it truly to let the front tire recover which ended up being to the detriment of VR. or was it to spite VR, with the derivative result that he had the traction to call on at the end to pass JL and get the victory.

Ah, the plot thickens. The covering of the tires was so “F1” I had to laugh. It sure would be nice to see the data from all four of the top finishers . That would be so fun for us who are numbers geeks, like me. Braking pressure, throttle openings, shifting patterns, lean angles, tire temps - all would speak volumes.

VR, somewhere in his mind, knows that his time to win more championships is getting short. He will never admit it but late at night when he is alone those thoughts surely must arise like the spectre of Scrooge's ghosts, unbidden.

I do agree that Jl is without pressure and VR, since he has led the championship for virtually all of the season needs to close it, or some will call him out for being unable to close the deal. Yes, I remember Valencia 2006. I actually travelled from US West Coast just to see Nicky and VR battle. I was shocked when VR crashed out. Remember all the Yellow smoke at the end? VR had the celebration all planned, but the fat lady never got out of the dressing room. Life is hard sometimes.

Intelligent journalism is so rare these days that a thoughtful well presented well reasoned article is a thing of Rare beauty. Thanks so much for your ceaseless hard work.

Can't wait for this week's episode of "As the World turns" ( A famous US soap opera. Another late Saturday night for us on the West Coast of the US. Me - staring at the computer screens, one with the race and one with live timing, with headphones on trying to be quiet and not wake up the balance of the household. The dog, by now understands, just gives me that " oh, not again?" look and goes back to sleep. Can't wait.

Valentino`s opinion has been well documented. One could argue, if he is right or wrong, i`m not going to in to that. I`m just trying to make some sense of it all. Marquez did go slow at some laps, 1.2 on lap 5 to 6, but that alone says nothing. Lap 12 also stands out, lap 14 to 17 could be evidence that he was cooling the tyre down in my opinion. But that`s just it. i am an armchair rider at best. David, can you give us any insight about how many laps it takes for a tyre to overheat, and how long it takes to cool down if overheated? I just don`t know what to believe anymore, so many variables to make sense of.

what I thought when I heard about this... might this be a jab back from VR at JL?
JL has repeatedly stated that "luck" has been against him, and that he clearly should be leading the WC, had it not been because of "luck" being against him (and in favor of VR?). This does seem to do injustice to VR imho, leading a competitive field like it is after 16/18 races? Guess 20-some riders would like to have VR's "luck" then? Wet/mixed condition races are not "bad luck", those are circumstances equal to all riders. Unless you're having freaks... mechanical mishaps, a bird striking, exploding tire... guess BS11 knows what bad luck is :)

Andrea and Vale are friends, so I'm not surprised that Ianonne supports Rossi's idea that Marquez was playing with the pace. Rossi showed up last to the press conference, avoided eye contact w/Marquez and only shook Kent's hand when Kent came up to him. Crazy Joe furtively eyed Rossi knowing that the bomb was going to be dropped.

Rossi sent three bombs out at once:
1) MM, you are now my enemy and I am disappointed in you.
2) JL, data shows I could have beaten you to 2nd had MM not plugged me up. We both know it but I won't say it so you don't have to acknowledge it.
3) To both: I want this more than you do.

If MM wants to be to be the meat in the sandwich to spread the VR/JL slices of bread, all the power to him. He's a crafty/crashy wedge that is splintering the last of this season's championship wood.

If I were VR, I wouldn't wait for the same thing to happen before Sepang. Let the world and fate judge, no?

MM93 collaborating with our very own Mr Emmett to create a situation that would spawn this world class article thereby generating hits to the site and making site supporters out of us all...

You heard it hear first!! :)

I believe this tripe from Vale the same way I believed his cynical shenanigans after being caught out for cheating many years ago (was it Qatar??). He blamed Gibernau for putting him in, and invoked the whole "gypsy curse" bullshit to mobilise his supporters and get inside Sete's head. Suddenly the media - particularly the sycophantic arse-lickers of the Italian press - were mobilised to bad-mouth Sete at every turn, as if it was magically his fault that Vale's team had cheated by interfering with the grid positions overnight.

This latest turn is not my idea of sportsmanship, that's for sure. More gamesmanship from the modern-day Machiavelli......

He should stick to racing. He's been the best one-on-one racer of his generation, and this sort of crap is more likely to tarnish his reputation than burnish it.

BTW, for the Rossi fanboys, I was at Assen cheering his win against Marquez, and describing Marc's protest as that of a "crack-smoking lunatic", so there's no antipathy towards Ross generally. It's specifically in regard to the manipulative behaviours he sometimes employs.

I know I'm late to the conversation, but I did notice watching the race that Marquez' pit board showed "rossi p4" while Marquez was in 2nd place. I thought that was a little strange since it seems it would normally say "Ian +.5" or whatever. And I was a little mystified by Marquez' last lap. How could he set the fastest lap of the race while making a pass for 1st? Rossi's explanation makes those points make sense. I think it is just a little paranoid and arrogant of Rossi to say this goes back to the Laguna Seca pass or that Marquez motivation is to make it easier for him to eclipse Rossi's own records.

Brad Lackey tried to win the 500mx championship for a decade. Andre Malherbe punted him off the track to win and he finished 2nd.

The next year, he held back on the last race and waited, sandbagging. When he upped his pace toward the end, no one realized how quickly he was gaining until it was too look late and he passes to win the race & championship.

If MM had the pace, he could've done that. However I think waiting until the last corner is a bit much.