“Especially in the last period the level of aggressiveness and contact raised a lot. (…) This is the game, if you want to play, it’s like this. If you don’t like it you should stay at home.” Does it sound like Rossi or Márquez? Although most people would think it came from Márquez, it was the Italian rider who said this right after the Phillip Island race. Don’t you think Márquez has this same mentality?
Well, especially over the last two years we have seen hatred towards Márquez from Rossi fans. Those who follow the sport know it was essentially due to the climax of their rivalry back in 2015. Although the yellow fans attribute their hate to the aggressive and reckless moves of the Spanish rider, it could just be the fear of replacement of their idol.
After a bold statement like this, there must come some explanation. So here it goes. If you take a look at Rossi’s career in MotoGP from the beginning, you can see he enjoyed a lot when there were fierce battles with his biggest rivals until the last laps.
Take, for instance, Max Biaggi, Rossi’s first big rival. In Suzuka 2001, Biaggi pushed Rossi with his arm in the front stretch trying to intimidate him. In response, Rossi made an aggressive overtake followed by a middle finger throw. When he was interviewed, Rossi admitted he found Biaggi’s move dangerous, although you could see Rossi enjoyed playing these mind games since he knew he would win most of the times.
Next in line was Gibernau. Their most controversial fight was in Jerez 2005, where victory was decided in the final corner. Rossi was in 2nd place and came to the corner by the inside way faster than he would normally. So he overtook Gibernau hitting him. Like it or not, Márquez pulled the same move in the exact same corner with Lorenzo four years ago.
Casey Stoner turned out to be Rossi’s next big rival since he joined Ducati in 2007 and became MotoGP Champion after a dominant year. This rivalry culminated in the United States Grand Prix in 2008 when there was an intense battle between both. After the race Stoner said although it was hard racing, there were some moves made by the Italian rider which were over the limit. One of the moves he was referring to was, for sure, Rossi’s overtake in the “corkscrew”. He ran into the dirt on the inside of the right turn and when re-joining the track he almost caused a collision between both and Stoner had to run wide.
After hearing the Australian rider complaining, Rossi responded with “This is racing! Every overtake was very clear for me, I never touched him.” Five years later Márquez overtook Rossi on the exact same place with a very similar move, but this time there was no bitterness involved.
Then came the first rival within the same team: Lorenzo. The motorcycling world had the opportunity to assist to some great battles, including Catalunya 2009. On home soil, the Spaniard was starting from the pole-position and highly motivated to beat his team-mate. But, as expected, Rossi would make it as hard as possible. This battle went down to the wire. Lorenzo was leading into the final corners when it all seemed to go in his favour. And in the last corner, the charismatic Italian made an exceptional overtake to his team-mate. If you watch it in slow motion, you can even notice his bike sliding in the middle of the corner.
Márquez is also a fan of this kind of “all-in” moves in the last corner of the last lap. Two years ago, he pulled a similar move on Rossi in Assen, although unsuccessfully due to the 38-year-old savviness. Additionally, in this season, the rider from Cervera had two identical situations with Andrea Dovizioso both in Spielberg and in Motegi.
Márquez can also be considered as Rossi’s rival, although this one was different from all the others. This time, they treated each other with admiration and respect for the first two years of the Spaniard in MotoGP. The circumstances made it smoother: Rossi wasn’t able to fight for the championship of 2013 and 2014, plus, there were good battles between both but with no controversial moments.
However, it all changed in 2015. If you are looking for great demonstrations of skills, big duels and controversial endings, this is the perfect season. Termas de Río Hondo, Assen, Phillip Island and Sepang were the battle fields. Since this situation has been discussed over and over, let’s make a long story short: these two great riders were racing against each other so hard that there had to be an ending, and that was in Sepang.
From my point of view, Rossi and Márquez are the best riders in terms of overtaking, defending position and mind games. That is exactly what makes them so hard to beat in one-on-one situations. Besides that, passionate battles inside the track and mind games were enjoyable for them when they were doing it with other riders. But when they started doing it between themselves, they couldn’t stand each other.
To sum up, we’re talking about, arguably, the two best riders of all time. They are fast, smart, tricky with a winning obsession. Controversial moments and feuds only happen because of their similarity. Nevertheless, it is extremely enjoyable to watch them battle along with other talents present in the paddock. And I believe that is exactly what we should take from these rivalries.