How did it come to this? The boy who grew up with Rossi posters adorning his walls gives his side of MotoGP’s biggest controversy
arc Marquez has had time to let the dust settle on a bitter feud with his former childhood hero Valentino Rossi – and still feels he did nothing wrong.
Marquez was incredulous when Rossi accused him of riding to assist fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo as the MotoGP season hit fever pitch and relations went from bad to worse when the pair tangled on track in Sepang.
Now Marquez has broken his silence in an exclusive interview with MCN where he revealed how Rossi had intimidated rivals away from the track in the past and that he was determined for this not to happen to him.
“What Valentino had done for motorcycling is amazing. Everything that he has achieved means that he has power in MotoGP. But in the end nobody is perfect and you can always make a mistake. Valentino has a lot of power, and this year I saw that outside the track you will lose the battle with Valentino. This already happened in the past with Gibernau, Biaggi and Stoner – so you have to concentrate on winning on the track,” he said.
“I helped Valentino by beating Lorenzo in Australia and afterwards he shook my hand. But when we went to Malaysia… boom everything exploded. I was shocked, but in the end Valentino created this problem.
“I know that people have asked why I overtook Valentino so many times, but I was wondering why he was overtaking me so many times. I was pushing but he passed me so many times. I spent one lap behind him but I could see that I was faster than him. Since that race I have asked myself: ‘why did he make the battle so tight in Malaysia?’”
Given what had transpired in the press conference at Sepang, there was an air of inevitability that there’d be fireworks on track. It’s something that not even Marquez can deny, but he says his motivation was to win not destroy Rossi’s title hopes.
The aftermath of Sepang – where Rossi forced Marquez wide and the Spaniard crashed out – saw MotoGP hit the headlines around the world. People with no prior interest in the sport were transfixed and the title fight took a backseat as attention turned to the battle between Rossi and Marquez.
Marquez continued: “Valencia was the most difficult race of my career. I was more nervous than when I was fighting for a title. My target was to win the race because I knew that if I was in the middle of a fight and I didn’t win, Valentino would complain about me. I tried my best to beat Jorge but he broke the track record and the race record. Sometimes you can be fast enough to overtake but not to open a gap so my plan was to wait until the last lap, like Indy, and then overtake. But then Dani arrived and I lost too much time fighting with him.”
One of the most famous pictures of Marquez’ early career was him as a wide-eyed child meeting Rossi and getting a die cast model signed by his hero. Now things have changed.
“I’ve always said that Valentino was my hero and my reference. With everything that has happened I still respect him for what he’s done on track but I want to follow my own path. I respect him and I understand his situation and why this happened. I understand that he was fighting for the title and because of that he was more nervous than normal. When you’re really nervous you can say things that you don’t want to say. But in the end he said them.”
Having been in title battles before, Marquez knows that sometimes the most important thing can be to unsettle your rival. Mind games have always been part of racing and there are only two states for any top rider – applying pressure or receiving it. With Rossi having struggled to keep the pace of Lorenzo and Marquez in the second half of the year, Marquez understands the motivation to deflect attention to another rider.
“Jorge and Valentino were incredible. Both would have been a deserving champion but Jorge was the faster and Vale the more consistent. When you feel that somebody is faster than you, you try to use all the things you can to make the other guy a little bit unstable.”
While Marquez can understand what happened this year it’s clear that he’s more motivated than ever to regain the title in 2016.
Words: Steve English