Back in 2009, at the last corner on the last lap at a sunny Circuit de Catalunya, Valentino Rossi swept down the inside of his team mate, the young prodigy Jorge Lorenzo, to snatch victory after a race-long duel.
It wasn’t just a risky overtake to win another race and improve his championship position. It was purposeful psychological hammer blow.
Lorenzo was starting to match Rossi and beat him, and in Spain Rossi sensed his opportunity to put the young charger down a peg or two and remain number one.
It was either a rapid trip into the gravel trap or a win and a crushed Lorenzo, and Rossi knew that 100%. It wasn’t a calculated risk though, it was pure racing instinct.
It worked. Rossi retained his mantle as “the man” and went on to win his seventh title while Lorenzo’s form dropped. Arguably, this one move was responsible for delaying Jorge’s rise to the top by a year.
Just over four years later, Lorenzo did the same thing. At the last corner of the race, against the most promising young charger in the sport – this time, Marc Marquez – he layed down everything to show he was still “the man”.
No one expected it. Everyone watching was still holding their breaths after a penultimate corner pass from Marquez – spectacularly sideways as always. For a moment, it looked as if Marquez had put a hammer blow into Lorenzo. It was going to be five wins in a row, something only the great Rossi has done in the past ten years.
Lorenzo himself said he nearly gave up. Before the weekend he had been growing despondent at how hard he was trying and failing to beat Marquez.
Then in qualifying, after a lap he proclaimed to have been his finest, he was crushed as Marquez still managed to beat him. But he still didn’t give in. He realised he needed to do something, so he dived into the single bike’s width of room Marquez had left open, thanks to his deep approach into the previous corner, standing up Marquez.
It was all or nothing, and just like back in Spain in 2009, the young charger was kicked to the ground. In this race the championship didn’t matter to these two; it was pure pride they were racing for. They both needed the right to call themselves the best in the world; “the man”.
On the podium, Lorenzo looked ecstatic, Marquez was hiding his anger at being beaten with his trademark joker’s grin, and Dani Pedrosa looked more despondent than ever. From being the championship favourite, Dani is now seemingly invisible and his frustration at being a number two is clearly eating away at him.
There is a big caveat to this of course. Marquez was racing injured. Three hours before the lights went out he was in the gravel trap with his left shoulder dislocated. But it turns out he’s tough too this lad. It was popped back in and a pain injection later he was sat back on his works Honda. He must have been performing below 100% then.
Lorenzo won this battle, but Marquez will return. This intense war to be “the man” looks set to continue for some time yet.
This weekend didn’t have just one memorable race. No fans wave their flags with as much gusto and passion as the British and as Cal Crutchlow disappointed expectations and himself with seventh in MotoGP, Scott Redding took a stunning victory in Moto2. A gripping battle between two shining prospects, Scott and Takaaki Nakagami got the Brits cheering.
Redding leads the Moto2 championship, and looks fully ready for his MotoGP graduation next year.