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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

MotoGP 2014 – Misano: Round Up

Struck by the lightning of greatness.

Yes, that is true. On Sunday, there were thunderstorms all around and electricity flew through the clouds with great intensity and mere mortals like us witnessed the breathtaking visuals and listened to the roar that came with it. Since 2009, the lightning hasn’t struck so hard at Misano and it never looked as beautiful as it did on Sunday. And while you and I would often look for a shelter in a situation like this, people came out and invaded the arena to enjoy such a visual treat. This was the sight at Misano.

If you witnessed the “event” that I have tried to explain above, you must be confused by now and wondering if I am actually talking about the 12th round of MotoGP hosted at the Misano circuit in Italy. Because, the race happened under the clear blue sky and the weather couldn’t have been better with bright sun shine for company. And all the lightning and the thunderstorm occurred right on the race track, something that the crowd hasn’t seen since the last 5 years. Valentino Rossi took his first win of the season since Assen in 2013 and also gifted Yamaha their first win of this year. This was also Rossi’s first win at Misano since 2009! The “local hero” had his homecoming at the track which is only few kilometers from his home at Tavullia.

The starting of the weekend saw mixed weather conditions in practice; however, the weather stabilized and remained dry for the qualifying and the race. It appeared to be a promising weekend for Yamaha as both the Movistar Yamaha riders qualified on the front row. For the first time this year, a Yamaha took the pole position on the grid with YZR-M1 of Jorge Lorenzo bearing number 99. Team mate Valentino Rossi qualified 3rd fastest which was his best qualifying result of this year. Sandwitched between the two Yamahas was Pramac Ducati’s Andrea Iannone. Row 2 was headed by the current world champion and the championship leader Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda (his first pole position off the front row), his team mate Dani Pedrosa in 5th and factory Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso in 6th.

As the race began under the clear and sunny sky, it was apparent from the beginning how determined Rossi was to not just fight at the front but to fight for the victory. Taking full advantage of his front row qualifying, the Italian did a fantastic start and took the 2nd place behind his team mate as they went into turn 1. Marc Marquez had an equally good start and dispensed Andrea Iannone to fourth place as he arrived behind Rossi in the first corner. Dani Pedrosa couldn’t make a good start and was sixth behind Tech 3 Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro.

The sparks flew from the beginning of the race as Marquez tried to attack Rossi in order to get closer to Lorenzo. Within the first few laps Marquez made a move on Rossi but veteran racer wasn’t going to take it easy. Rossi’s aggressiveness was absolutely clear as he immediately fought back and retook the second position from the young Spaniard. The crowd could be heard shouting and cheering as Rossi and Marquez indulged in a dogfight. It was indeed a great spectacle especially when it has been quite some time to watch Rossi riding so aggressively and giving everything against Marquez. And each time Rossi emerged ahead. Their battle could have been an advantage for Lorenzo but he couldn’t pull a big gap from second and third.

With 4 laps down the race, Rossi got very close to Lorenzo and attacked him for the lead but ran wide and Lorenzo retook it immediately. The two Yamaha team mates exchanged some visually delightful passes with Rossi finally making it stick and starting to lead the race from there on. Shortly after, Marquez was able to overtake Lorenzo as the Yamaha rider ran a bit wide. This time though, Lorenzo couldn’t fight back for the second position. The top 3 riders now were – Rossi, Marquez and Lorenzo. The three riders settled into their positions for the next few laps but they kept pushing each other to the limit. Also, Rossi and Marquez had pulled a slight gap from Lorenzo but the two times MotoGP world champion was still near enough to take advantage of any mistake at the front.

And the three way battle ended when the race was 10 laps down. Marc Marquez lost the front end of his RCV and slid to the side of the track as he was trying hard to stay with Rossi. The slide was quite gentle as it appeared and caused virtually no harm to the man and machine but unfortunately for Marquez, the bike had turned off. It took him some time to get his bike restarted with the help of marshals but by that time the front runners were long gone and Marquez had to resume his race at the 20th spot. This incident robbed him off of even the remotest possibility to challenge at the front. Rossi now had over 2 seconds of gap over his team mate Lorenzo.

All this time, Dani Pedrosa was fighting with the two Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone and assumed the third position after Marquez had slipped back. However, Pedrosa’s battle especially with Dovizioso was from over as the Ducati rider kept the Spaniard on his toes and challenged him for the last podium step till the end of the race.

Rossi’s pace was too much for Lorenzo as the gap between them consistently remained at over 2 seconds for the remaining race. The Italian rode a fantastic race, lapped couple of back-markers as well and won convincingly from his team mate with the gap of around 1.5 seconds. Lorenzo finished in 2nd and Pedrosa in 3rd. Dovozioso and Iannone in 4th and 5th positions respectively rounded off the top five. Dovizioso especially had a good race as he finished with a gap of slightly over 5 seconds over the race winner. Great sentiments could be seen all over as the yellow color invaded the race track. Emotions flew all around in abundance.

This was a very important race not just for Rossi but for the sport itself and the thing that stood out, without doubt, was Rossi’s performance. This season has been dominated by Marc Marquez and Honda so far. The RCV seems to have a slight edge over the YZR this season and Marquez is brilliant, talented, aggressive and very young. No doubt he’s a delight to watch and has a sporting personality. It could get frustrating for the competition to see such domination. Including Misano, Marc Marquez has only been defeated twice this season and that’s some performance. However, his wins haven’t been coming easy lately. He is being pushed and pushed harder all the time by the brilliance of Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. In Brno, Marquez faced his first defeat and he finished off the podium altogether. This time also, Marquez finished off podium and way behind in 15th position taking with him only a single race point.

But Misano was different. While Marquez started the race in 4th, his team was able to provide him a bike which allowed him to stay with Valentino and Lorenzo in the race. But Rossi’s pace and determination was something to be seen. He was up for the challenge, fought valiantly and emerged at the top each time Marquez attacked him. Rossi’s immediate fight-backs were nothing short of captivating visuals that overwhelmed the viewer. Without doubt I would have loved to see Rossi beat Marquez to the finish line and that probably is for another time now. But one thing is for certain, Marquez made a mistake because he was trying a bit too hard to stay with Rossi. The young rider was led into it. I’m sure that Lorenzo and Pedrosa have been wanting to beat Marquez in a straight fight and they have got close too, but Rossi has had to work harder than anybody else. Age does matter.

Two absolutely demoralizing seasons at Ducati of his career, Rossi came back to Yamaha not only to get better results but also to reinvent himself. He was no longer the number 1 rider and was absolutely obliged with Yamaha’s hospitality and Lorenzo’s as well. And while Yamaha was an easier and much more likeable motorcycle to ride, it had become different from what Rossi knew it was. So Rossi still had to adapt to the motorcycle and change his riding style to the new YZR-M1. While he had better results compared to what he had at Ducati and even started the 2013 season with a promising 2nd place at Qatar. His remaining performances in general weren’t best and there are people who had started to write him off. I am sure that he must have encountered uncountable questions regarding his performance and capabilities to be competitive in MotoGP against the much younger competition. That cannot be easy.

And Rossi have known this all along. This year we can all see the difference in his performance and changed riding style. For me, changed as in the rejuvenated Rossi. At 35 years of age, he is riding as good and hard as he has ever ridden. Probably harder in fact. Marc Marquez is 14 years younger than him… 14 years! And to see Rossi riding so hard and aggressive and determined can only be magical. He even went for a new crew chief for this year (it appeared to be his most controversial decision then). Eyebrows were raised and the move was questioned, even ridiculed by many around the world. But only Valentino Rossi knows how his mind works and what he is thinking! He said he needed a new motivation and as things stand today, he has proven himself right.

Rossi’s determination to not just fight at the front but to fight for the win is an inspiration for anyone. We all could agree that a person can race professionally at 35, but to be as competitive and hungry to win against much younger and toughest competition is what makes him the GOAT for his fans. I am 2 years younger than him and have been following him since his 125cc days and there are million others like me around the world who have grown up seeing him. It’s all very special to us.

It would be unwise to think that Marquez will not win again this season. But that wasn’t the point on Sunday, the point was that Rossi still has it in him. In fact, it never left! I would like to quote a line that I read on the internet “Behind Rossi’s gentle smile, there lies a razor sharp determination to win”.

And just for the record, we all love the numbers even when it’s not about them all the time….

5012 career points (5000 in MotoGP) with his win at Misano on Sunday, 107th career win and 192 podiums across all classes. That is something. Records have been broken and new ones have been made this year, but on Sunday the history book was extended!

MotoGP Misano Results 2014
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
5. Andrea Iannone (Ducati)
6. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha)
7. Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
8. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
9. Cal Crutchlow (Ducati)
10. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati)
11. Karel Abraham (Honda)
12. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda)
13. Scott Redding (Honda)
14. Alex De Angelis (Forward Yamaha)
15. Marc Marquez (Honda)
16. Leon Camier (Honda)
17. Michael Laverty (PBM)
18. Broc Parkes (PBM)
19. Hector Barbera (Avintia)

MotoGP Championship Points 2014
1. Marc Marquez, 289
2. Dani Pedrosa, 215
3. Valentino Rossi, 214
4. Jorge Lorenzo, 177
5. Andrea Dovizioso, 142
6. Pol Espargaro, 98
7. Aleix Espargaro, 92
8. Andrea Iannone, 92
9. Stefan Bradl, 74
10. Bradley Smith, 74

Text by: Sachin Sen
Image Courtesy: motogp.com
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Item Reviewed: MotoGP 2014 – Misano: Round Up Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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