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Sunday, April 26, 2015

ThrottleQuest Rewind: MotoGP 2015 season so far... The Duel begins

Three races down, a world champion leads, another world champion is trying hard to defend, one more is trying to find his confidence and a championship contender is fighting to make a return. Three races down, an Italian manufacturer is making a comeback and so is a Japanese one as well, both in their own ways. The field is more complete than it has been in years. This is the strongest grid in MotoGP history, it has been said before. Three races down, the season is not only alive, it is kicking on the back side and it is kicking hard. This is going to be one hell of a season!

Here’s a small flashback if you missed the first three races of this year.

The first race at Qatar was won by Valentino Rossi and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone finished second and third respectively. Defending champion Marc Marquez finished fifth. Two weeks later at COTA, Texas, Marc Marquez made a return and won the second race while Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi finished second and third respectively. Dani Pedrosa didn't race as he suffered from an arm pump problem in his right forearm and had to undergo a surgery. He has been recovering since then but hasn't raced yet.

Master Class

The third race has possibly been the most exciting of the season so far. And that’s for more than one reason. It wasn't just about the hard work and the lap records, it was about seeing what was thought impossible during the race to become a reality. It was about seeing that inevitable can also be uncertain at times. That riders like Rossi, Marquez and Lorenzo can chase down riders and make a comeback in a race has been witnessed on occasions, but the ferocity of it this time around was something to be seen. It was a spectacle that we have been deprived of for a long-long time now. It was awesome, breath-taking and emotionally overwhelming. It was a moment of nostalgia when a rider shows you that he is still the one you remember. It was about not taking your place for granted and not being satisfied enough. It was about believing in yourself and to know that you are right and that you are going to get it… it was about witnessing the old Valentine Rossi.

Argentina, home of the legendary Maradona and in this case, home of the circuit Rio Hondo was the battle ground the previous Sunday for the third premier class race. Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez arrived at the venue full of energy riding on his dominant victory at Circuit Of The Americas. On pole once again, the reigning world champion looked favourite for the victory. Joining him on the front row was none other than Aleix Espargaro in second on the Suzuki. To think that this is Suzuki’s first year after their return in MotoGP and only the third race of the season, a second place on the starting grid is better than fantastic. Finishing off the first row in the third spot was Ducati’s Andrea Iannone. Cal Crutchlow on his CWM LCR Honda led the row two from the fourth position. He was joined by Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo in fifth and Iannone’s team mate Andrea Dovizioso in sixth. Valentine Rossi, second time in three races, started from the eighth position on row three.

That Marc Marquez would win the race was the best guess anybody could have. After all, he had a pretty solid weekend overall and obviously was starting the race from pole... and he’s bloody fast. One of the most important things, however, in this race that would go on to decide the results was the tyre choice. Rio Hondo is a demanding track especially for the tyres and Bridgestone specifically brought tyres with Extra Hard compound to be used on this track. This is the first time Bridgestone has done that and they later revealed that data from the previous year helped them in making this move. Valentine Rossi had already expressed his desire to use the extra hard tyre for the rear and concentrated on it whole weekend working to find the best setup on his motorcycle that would go along with the tyre choice. Marc Marquez, on the other hand, had left his decision until the final day depending on the conditions at that time.

The start.. Aleix Espargaro on his blue Suzuki leading at the front

On the race day, the interesting thing happened during the sighting lap when all the riders go out to line up on the grid. Marquez had gone out with the extra hard rear but switched to the softer option (hard) to finally do the race with. Lorenzo also went with the extra hard rear just like Rossi. The race was 25 laps long and it was long enough to see whether the gamble with the tyres would work. While it would have been safe to assume that the hard option tyre would provide the best overall performance and last the race distance, the extra hard tyre could provide better performance later in the race.

The race started with Aleix Espargaro making the best start out of everyone from the front row and leading the pack into the turn one. Marquez, Lorenzo, Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Iannone and Rossi followed. So third race and into the first lap Suzuki leads, fantastic! Rossi had a decent start from eighth on the grid but was pushed wide by Iannone on the turn one and Rossi went back to eighth. Marquez almost instantly indulged in a battle for the front with Aleix Espargaro and both exchanged some passes in various corners. However, Marquez soon overtook Aleix for good on the long straight showing his Honda’s massive speed advantage over the Suzuki. Lorenzo soon got past Aleix as well and the Suzuki rider could not hold positions at the front for much longer.

From there on though, the race unfolded in the most unbelievable manner and which was a blast to watch. It was expected that the extra hard rear tyre will not really perform to its potential early in the race and so Lorenzo started finding staying at the front much difficult. He lost positions in quick successions to Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Iannone while Rossi held on to the eighth position in the earlier laps.

Chasing down riders.. one after the other

Soon after, Rossi joined Lorenzo while Marc Marquez at the front continuously increased his gap taking full advantage of the performance from the hard tyre. 5 to 6 laps down the race, Rossi started increasing his pace even more and overtook his team mate for the fifth position and started chasing the two Ducati riders. One by one Valentino Rossi chased down the riders and with 15 out of 25 laps gone, Rossi was in second. With a clear track ahead of him since Marquez was way ahead with nearly 4.5 seconds of a gap, Rossi had only one thing to do, catch Marquez. For the 1 or 2 laps it seemed that Marquez was managing the distance by gaining and losing a tenth of a second here and there. However, the gap slowly but consistently started to come down between the Spaniard and the Italian. In doing so, Rossi set the new lap record on the circuit.

That it was a visual delight to see Valentino Rossi chasing down one of the best riders in racing is an understatement. It was surreal. It was a window to his old days when Rossi would do this regularly. Eventually, with three laps remaining, Rossi had come close enough to Marquez that the situation promised one of the best finales of any races in recent years. Tenth by tenth of a second, Rossi continued to eat the gap between himself and the defending world champion. Crossing the finish line for the penultimate lap, the moment had come that would lead viewers to shout their lungs out. The time for the best of the battles had come. Down the main straight and into the first corner, Rossi launched his first attack on Marquez and the young Spaniard instantly fought back and taking his positions back. The next few corners had the stuff that would make the fans hold their breath in awe. Not one blink of the eye.

Times when I am shouting at the TV...

Both Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez are two extremely brave riders in MotoGP. And neither was intent on giving an inch to the other while they would take one. Rossi made an inside pass on Marquez and made it stick but on the following right hander the Spaniard was intent to take the position back again. Marquez tried to make an inside move, it was too close and they touched and Rossi managed to stay in front. After that there’s a small stretch to the next corner which is a left hander. The stretch is long enough that for few meters riders can keep their motorcycle straight upright. When the two leaders made contact, Rossi took a small look to the back on his right, probably to see where Marquez was while almost finishing the right hand corner. When Rossi was almost upright, Marquez again got close to Rossi and put his front wheel almost besides Rossi’s back wheel probably to fight back in the upcoming corner. The Spaniard, it seems, was too close to Rossi and got hit by his motorcycle when the Italian flicked his motorcycle to the left for the next corner. The contact resulted in a crash for Marquez and he and his RCV213V slid across the track and on to the grass. This time, Marc Marquez couldn’t manage to rejoin the race and ended as a DNF (Did Not Finish). Valentine Rossi went on to the win the race.

That's a finish!

For the whole past week (and even now), the internet has been abuzz about the race and uncountable opinions and comments and articles have been seen discussing what could have been. Should Marquez had waited and kept his fight for the final lap? May be, but it’s easier said than done especially when most of us have no idea of what it feels like to race at that level. We can’t even think and assume of what goes inside the minds of racers like Rossi and Marquez. We can only assume or wait till any of them tell us about it.

One thing is for sure though, that while the race was a memorable one and we saw the two greats battling it out, we still didn't get to see the battle to the finish line of the last lap. But this season is special, it’s different and the way things are going we know that it is going to come sooner. Rossi and Marquez, separated by 30 points in the championship right now and 14 years in age, are promising the fans probably the best motorcycle racing duels ever seen.

I am tuned in. Are you?

The Master

MotoGP Argentina Results 2015 
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 
3. Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 
4. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 
6. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 
7. Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki) 
8. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 
9. Scott Redding (Honda) 
10. Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) 
11. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 
12. Jack Miller (Honda) 
13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 
14. Loris Baz (Forward Yamaha) 
15. Stefan Bradl (Forward Yamaha) 
16. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 
17. Eugene Laverty (Honda) 
18. Mike di Meglio (Ducati) 
19. Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) 
20. Marco Melandri (Aprilia) 
21. Karel Abraham (Honda) 
22. Alex De Angelis (ART) 

MotoGP Championship Points 2015 
1. Valentino Rossi, 66 
2. Andrea Dovizioso, 60 
3. Andrea Iannone, 40 
4. Jorge Lorenzo, 37 
5. Marc Marquez, 36 
6. Cal Crutchlow, 34 
7. Bradley Smith, 28 
8. Aleix Espargaro, 22 
9. Pol Espargaro, 15 
10. Maverick Vinales, 15

Text Content: Sachin Sen
Images Courtesy: www.motogp.com and www.motorcycleusa.com
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Item Reviewed: ThrottleQuest Rewind: MotoGP 2015 season so far... The Duel begins Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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