Sepang: What began as a verbal volley on Thursday, eventually ended as a volley quite literally in football terminology yesterday when Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi kicked Honda's Marc Marquez out of the race in the Shell Malaysian MotoGP at the Sepang International Circuit.
Victim: Marc Marquez
For the first five laps, Honda's Dani Pedrosa led the show with Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo overtaking Marc Marquez for second place. Enter Rossi, and the battle for third and fourth place begins hotting up with both riders refusing to give each other an inch. Rossi moved up to third at one stage before Marquez overtook him from the inside, but the Italian returned the favour moments later and gestured towards the Spaniard that he didn't appreciate the way he had gone past him.
Not one to back down against his senior rival, 22-year-old Marquez once again approached 36-year-old Rossi in a bid to execute another close overtaking maneuver, but this time, Rossi went wide and even as Marquez followed him and stuck close, the Italian seemingly kicked out at the Honda rider, who fell and exited the race in Lap No 6 of the 20-lap event.
Following an investigation, Rossi was handed a three-point penalty and a start from the back of the grid for the MotoGP finale in Valencia on November 8.
Pedrosa led from start to finish with Lorenzo second and Rossi third, but more importantly Lorenzo (currently No 2 in the world championship points standings) has brought down the distance between him and Rossi (No 1) in the title battle from 11 points to seven.
On Thursday, Rossi had accused Marquez of not racing fair in the previous fixture at Phillip Island in Australia and deliberately trying to slow him down to help Lorenzo win the title. Yesterday, it was Rossi, who tried to slow Marquez down but instead ending up crashing his race.
"Unfortunately I lose a lot of time with Marc and in Turn 14, I tried to go wide to get a better line to make him slow because he just rides to cause me some problems. Unfortunately, he came to me and I think he crashed in that moment. It's a shame because I think in a normal race we can stay and fight with Jorge. In Valencia, will be more difficult," Rossi said moments after the season's most controversial race, even as Honda tried to shield a visibly upset Marquez from the media.
Lorenzo (28) meanwhile, seemed rather subdued post-race. The ever-so-strong Rossi fan following's anti-Lorenzo chants saw the Spaniard prematurely ending his podium celebrations and walking off even as Rossi and Pedrosa were still spraying champagne on each other and their teammates below.
A fitting reply from the persistent Spaniard would be to walk off with the world title on November 8 even as Rossi begins from the backbenches in what now seems to be a near-impossible attempt to land his 10th world championship.
Malaysian GP result
1. Dani Pedrosa (Spa/Honda)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa/Yamaha)
3. Valentino Rossi (Ita/Yamaha)
Moto GP standings
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 312 pts
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 305 pts
3. Marc Marquez (Honda) 222 pts