At today’s MotoGP pre-race media day in Valencia, Spain it was mums the word regarding the Sepang clash that unleashed an overabundance of drama on the series. Instead the riders talked about the need to focus on the season finale (a need reinforced by Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta in the pre-race riders meeting).
The season finale at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit will crown a champion from the Movistar Yamaha Team – Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo sits seven-points behind Rossi, but in Lorenzo’s favor, the Italian will have to start on the back of the grid as a penalty for making contact with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez in Sepang. Rossi’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for a stay in the penalty was rejected, so the nine-time champ has his work cut out for him on Sunday.
“Is very difficult to say how much chance I have to win or lose,” Rossi said. “We have to see, we have to try.”
Does the Italian have a game plan for race day? After all he’s had two weeks to think about the possibility.
“When you start last it’s very difficult to prepare some strategy,” Rossi said. “First of all I have to work well in practice and be competitive and have a good pace. The race is very long – 30 laps. It is very early to say. For sure when you start last the risks are a lot more. I need to understand my potential. I need to have the right choice for the setting, for the tire choice and we have to see the condition and after try to give the maximum and try to recover.”
For Lorenzo, his strategy is run his race no matter where Rossi starts.
“No. Doesn’t matter the decision that they make today,” Lorenzo said. “They say that the sanction is the same. But if they stayed the sanction I would risk completely the same on Sunday. I would not change my way of riding, my way of thinking about the race. I always try to get the maximum of me, of the bike. That’s what I am going to do on Sunday, try to make the best race of my career.”
After the whole Sepang debacle, would Marquez have a different approach? Marquez said no.
“Like I said on Saturday in Malaysia, if I need to fight with my teammate I will fight against my teammate,” he said. “If I need to fight against Jorge, I will fight against Jorge. And if I need to fight against Valentino I will fight against Valentino. We will see what I’m fighting for – first place, second, third, fourth… In the end always I try to get my best result for my team and for me.”
In the end, that gentleman’s agreement between riders to not interfere with the championship is not a rule set in stone; more of a courtesy.
“Sure there is a part of this which is like a respect between the rider, but at the same time it’s not written,” Marquez’ teammate Dani Pedrosa said when put on the spot. “I don’t there was much of respect in the last situation – for both [Rossi and Marquez]. I don’t think it’s something that we should look for. Because in the end you race for one team and you have to do your own race. This is most important.”
If you were to draw battle lines in the sand, Spaniards helping Spaniards (Marquez and Lorenzo), how about Italians helping Italians?
“I stay with me and Ducati,” Iannone said. “No, I don’t support Vale [Rossi]. I have a great rapport with Vale. I hope the best for him because he ride a really good championship this year, but I’m focusing on my race and my championship.”
So can Rossi pull it off? With or without help? It’s a big ask anyway you look at it. But it’s not entirely impossible. Marquez proved that back in 2013 in Moto2.
“It was true that in Moto2 I start last here in Valencia and I won the race,” Marquez said. “In the Qatar race [this year], I was last in first corner and in the end I arrived fifth. In the end MotoGP it’s probably more difficult. But I don’t want to think about this because it’s not my situation.”