Thursday, April 30, 2015

Not surprisingly, their dramatic collision in a pulsating Termas de Rio Hondo scrap in Argentina dominated the pre-event press conference...

Not surprisingly, their dramatic collision in a pulsating Termas de Rio Hondo scrap in Argentina dominated the pre-event press conference. And in particular, will the moment of contact that sent Marquez hurtling out of second place and Rossi hurtling towards a 110th career win in South America will have a detrimental impact on their currently cordial relationship?
In other words, is Argentina the trigger to Rossi versus Marquez heading towards a bitter and acrimonious rivalry the same way that Rossi versus Biaggi, Rossi versus Gibernau and Rossi versus Stoner went?
Both denied their relationship will change, and only time will tell whether Rossi and Marquez’s relationship can survive what looks to be an enthralling fight for World Championship glory in 2015.
As Rossi said earlier today, nowadays the battle is more on track than about engaging in psychological warfare off it.
The field are happy to get embroiled in some tough and uncompromising combat on track, but there is a big respect off it and you seldom hear anybody making disparaging remarks. Well, in public at least.
When it comes to rivalries though, Rossi has been there, done it and got the T-shirt.
His rivalry with Biaggi went far deeper than the confines of the track. It was a clash of personalities and cultures and of all of Rossi’s foes, nobody quite got under his skin like the Roman did.
The trigger for Rossi and Biaggi’s headline grabbing rivalry was Suzuka in 2001. Powering down the home straight, Biaggi elbowed Rossi onto the grass at around 150mph.
It prompted the unforgettable image of Rossi flicking a one-fingered salute at Biaggi when he passed at the first corner on the next lap.
And who could forget Catalunya later in the same season, when Rossi and Biaggi’s rivalry got physical before the podium celebrations?
Of all of Rossi’s great enemies, the meltdown with Gibernau was the least expected. They used to be post race drinking buddies and as close as riders get to each in the paddock when it all went horribly sour in Qatar in 2004.
Rossi qualified on the dirty, sandy and dusty part of the grid in Doha and to ensure he got a clean getaway, his Yamaha crew performed burnouts on a scooter to lay rubber down on his starting position.
Gibernau’s Gresini Honda squad submitted a protest and Rossi was relegated to the back of the grid and subsequently crashed out of the race. Rubbing salt and sand into his wounds, Gibernau won.
Even today in Jerez, Rossi remarked that he felt Gibernau had played a ‘dirty game’.
Rossi and Gibernau have since reconciled. Without the blood and thunder of on-track competition to fuel the fire, they buried the hatchet and remain on good terms.

Rossi and Stoner’s relationship never recovered from Laguna Seca in 2008. Dominant in practice and qualifying, most would have put their life savings on the Aussie beating Rossi. But the Italian got in front of Stoner, repeatedly disturbed his rhythm and pulled off an audacious move at the Corkscrew that Marquez himself copied five years later. Stoner later crashed out, but he said Rossi’s riding overstepped the boundaries of fairness and that he’d lost a lot of respect for the Italian.
The animosity never waned and when Rossi wiped out Stoner in Jerez back in 2011, Rossi’s attempt at a post race apology inside the Repsol Honda saw Stoner deliver the scathing ‘did your ambition outweigh your talent?’ putdown.
So far, Marquez and Rossi’s rivalry has all been good-natured.
Marquez has even been to Rossi’s VR46 training ranch in Tavullia and the pair have talked incessantly about their mutual respect for each other. That didn’t change in the immediate aftermath of Argentina.
Maybe more paint-swapping at Jerez’s final corner on Sunday could change all that.
Both laughed when asked about tactics and strategy for a potential final corner showdown in today’s press conference.
Both have come out on top in previous last corner battles in Jerez. Just ask Gibernau and Lorenzo.
What we can be sure of if it does come down to Rossi and Marquez at turn 13 on Sunday afternoon, no quarter will be given.

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