Donovan Fourie Blog:
It’s possible that Marquez was right
Yeah yeah. This story has been done to death. It really has. But I’m lazy, and it’s an easy subject to write about. Also, while most of the other stories on this subject were done so shortly after the event, this one has had some time to mull over things.
I’ve been racing motorcycles for 24 years at levels from fun club racing to national superbikes to even a once-off in British Superstock race, I’ve been doing track coaching for 15 years and I’ve been a motorcycle journalist 17 years. You really don’t give a toss about any of that, I know, but every time I write a MotoGP column, I have some finger pointer who has either been living under a rock or, worse, overseas, say “who are you to comment on MotoGP? What have you done?”
At least all the explanations are out of the way.
Back to important stuff – the Argentinian MotoGP was a long series of unfortunate events and that’s what made it so good for us at home.
On the grid, only Jack Miller arrived with slicks with a dry setup, which was the right choice, something all 23 other riders only realised afterwards hence the max exodus back to the pits.
The race organisers did what they could. Letting them all start from pitlane would’ve been hugely interesting, but the odd death leaves a bad mark on Dorna’s CV so they had to think of something else.
The separated grid at least gave Miller some of the advantage he so richly deserved, but not all of it. If the 23 perpetrators had started from pitlane as they should’ve Miller would have had a good ten second advantage. So why didn’t they give him a ten second advantage? Instead of just a split grid, have two starts – let the lights go on and off once to let Miller go and then ten second later let the lights go on and off again for the rest of the group. Why not?
Marquez of course buggered up his start even more. His bike cut out as he arrived on the line, and the rule book says he should have put his hand up and wait for assistance. He put his hand up for a second, didn’t see anyone and set about starting the bike himself. Which he did. Admirably, if we are honest.
The officials seemed bewildered by this whole predicament – this was not usual, like the whole day. The commentators seemed to think that the official gestured that he start from pitlane, but the fact that he was never penalised for not starting from pitlane would suggest that this wasn’t the case.
This is where Marquez properly lost his head.
The day was strange, as we’ve mentioned. Marquez had been fast all weekend. Ridiculously fast. More so, the conditions had Marquez written all over them – slightly damp, a little bit cooler, with slick tyres and on a track he was good at. He really should’ve walked a race like this.
He knew this, and so did everyone else. That’s why the pressure was on. And that messed with his head. Then the race was delayed. That messed with his head. Then no one knew what was happening. That messed with his head. Then the separated grid. That messed with his head. Then the bike cut out. That messed with his head. Then the official looked confused…
Now his head was just broken. And then he committed a cardinal sin.
When racers lie in their mother’s womb, they are played “don’t go the wrong way up the track” to them over speakers. When racers are babies, their little toys sing “don’t go the wrong way up the track”. They go to “don’t go the wrong way up the track” kindergarten and their parents make them say “don’t go the wrong way up the track” ten times every night before they go to bed.
He knew this and yet he did it. The ride through penalty was wholly justified.
Any rational part of his brain that was left had now faded away completely.
We know that he had two major collisions – Espargaro and Rossi, and he was punished with a 30sec penalty, a penalty carefully chosen because it shoved him out of the points making it as effective as a black flag.
Espargaro said very little of the Marquez incident, choosing instead to expand upon an incident with Petrucci, insinuating that he deserved the penalty more. Many fans also asked why Zarco did not receive a penalty when he sent Pedrosa into the slippery stuff, causing him to crash and break his wrist. The answer is simple – they were racing incidences.
“Foul!” cry the Marquez fans.
Keep in mind that Race Control does not judge incidences solely by their outcome, but judges each case separately based on their circumstances.
The difference between Zarco and Petrucci’s incident and that of Marquez is that Zarco and Petrucci were attempting to overtake riders of a similar pace to them. Passing them was going to be a risk, and the only way to do it would be to take a chance, one that could end badly, but the alternative is to just follow them round for the entire race. This is not condoning their actions – they still should’ve been more intelligent about it and practice more caution, but even then, the only way past would have been through risk.
Marquez was four seconds a lap faster than Aspargaro and more than a second faster than Rossi. He didn’t need to risk anything. He just needed to wait until the next corner and breezed by. His hasty actions were unnecessary and were therefore penalised.
After the race, Rossi accused Marquez of intentionally gunning for people in corners. Marquez said he hit a wet patch, locked the front and had to let go of the brakes, causing him to slam into Rossi.
Who is right?
Marquez has performed some dubious overtakes in the past, but I fear that on this occasion it is not the case, and he did actually hit a wet patch and run into Rossi unintentionally.
“Foul!” cry the Rossi fans.
If you watch the footage from the camera on the inside of the corner, you’ll see that Marquez does indeed run over the wet part of the track, and if you watch carefully, there is a moment where his front end twitches. This would suggest that Marquez was accurate, and he did not mean to slam into Rossi.
This does not absolve Marquez of blame, though. Of this incident or the Aspargaro one. If anything, he especially should know better.
In 2013, Dani Pedrosa’s title hopes were ended at Aragon when a careening Marquez clipped his rear wheel sensor on his way off the track. This meant that when he attempted to open the throttle, he received the full brunt of his 260hp Honda with no traction control and was subsequently sent air born.
After the race, Marquez innocently explained that his front wheel had locked and he had to let go of the brakes, leading him to take evasive action – sound familiar?
Race Direction still slapped him with a penalty though, after they studied the data from his and Pedrosa’s bike and found that the reason he locked the front is because he nearly hit the back of Pedrosa, and this was because he was following way too closely.
Race Direction didn’t expect him to follow the Highway Code, but the words “respect for his fellow riders” did come up.
And here we are again, nearly five years later and a similar incident happens twice in one race. Three times in two races if we include the incident at the end of the Qatar straight where he narrowly avoided hitting the back of Dovizioso and nearly sideswiped Zarco.
Marquez has all the talent in the world, the talent to become the winningest racer in MotoGP history, but he still has some way to go to win the hearts of the majority of the MotoGP crowd, especially having to share a grid with the sport’s most popular figure to date – Rossi. Taking him out certainly didn’t help either. I fear the boos will echo for some time yet.
Marquez – you have the talent. Now start using your head.