Author: Oli Rushby in Qatar Pics: Gold & Goose Posted: 16 Mar 2016
Many say the drama between Rossi and Marquez left a dark mark on the end of last year’s MotoGP season, but whatever is said, it cannot be denied that it projected Grand Prix motorcycle racing into the public spotlight.
Sport is built on rivalry; a constant desire to win. The person, or team, you are competing against is your enemy and you must defeat them at all costs. The fiercer the rivalry, the bigger crowd it draws. In football, the biggest games are derbies – where clubs from the same local areas go up against one another. Naturally, these clubs have historic rivalries rooted in the desire to be the top dog in that particular town or area. They’ll produce sell-out crowds, often incite lively behaviour between opposite ends of a stadium and attract a lot of media attention.
For too long now MotoGP has been overly friendly. All this ‘friends off track, rivals on track’ stuff is bollocks. If you think about some of the most famous races in history, behind them are great rivalries – Schwantz and Rainey, Rossi and Biaggi, Rossi and Stoner, Rossi and Lorenzo and now Rossi and Marquez.
There’s no doubting the Rossi vs Marquez situation got out of hand last year, with teams and sponsors sending out bizarre press releases in some weird tit-for-tat playground squabble but it paved the way for one of the tensest season finales in the history of MotoGP.
It’s also laid the foundations for an incredible 2016 season. While many had hoped the bitterness between Marquez and Rossi would have died down during the off season, it’s done quite the opposite.
The duo have now severed all ties, including the lucrative merchandising contract Marquez had with Rossi’s VR46 firm, and hadn’t been seen in the same room together since the press conference that kicked it all off on the Thursday before Sepang until today.
While in today’s relatively short press conference Rossi, Marquez and Lorenzo gave incredibly diplomatic answers when asked about the end of 2015 but the needle clearly remained. Neither Rossi nor Marquez so much as looked at one another throughout as they worked hard to avoid
Marquez had initially said he hoped he and Rossi could start to build a relationship again, but the Doctor ruled this out in a number of interviews throughout the winter culminating in a scathing attack on Marquez in an exclusive for Italian newspaper La Gazetta last week.
“I allowed myself to be tricked by Marquez,” he said. “He really betrayed me. He said he was a fan but all those were lies. I almost believed him and I was ready to have a rivalry with him, giving 100% on track but all those were lies. At Assen I realised he was only my friend when he beat me.”
Anyone hoping the situation would die down ahead of this year will be sorely disappointed. Rossi and Marquez are never going to be friends. There might be less silliness – thank goodness – but the rivalry will rage on.
Many focused on what Rossi said about Marquez in that Gazetta interview, completely missing the Italian likening the situation to the famous Formula 1 rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
Rossi said he was never a fan of Senna, but admired him for having ‘big balls’ in how he won the 1990 F1 championship. Feeling he was robbed the year before, Senna punted Prost off at the first corner at Suzuka in 1990 to ensure himself the crown that year.
This is a massive statement. Rossi feels he was wronged last year and seems adamant to right it this time around. He’s quietly confident about his pace but having told Gazetta he plans to race for two more years, the Italian is clearly feeling good about the season ahead.
While both riders kept quiet during today’s press conference, they’ll be more determined to beat each other on track than ever before. There’s now a real rivalry between them; they aren’t friends off track so beating one another becomes personal as well as professional. And that’s what’ll make all the difference. Let’s see if there still as quiet in press conferences with a few races under their belts.