ROSSI TAKES CHARGE!
Viñales bins it, Marquez wins it, but The Goat goes top in title chase,
While his rivals have been fast, but inconsistent, Valentino Rossi eased into the lead of the 2017 Motogp world championship on Sunday after a brilliant ride in Austin, maintaining his 100% podium record in 2017.
While both Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales are currently on another level in terms of pace, Rossi has been near faultless and his consistency is paying off. But he knows that he has to start winning again.
At Austin the nine-time world champion rode a solid race behind runaway winner Marc Marquez. Biding his time, he set up Dani Pedrosa for a decisive move in the closing laps – and with the exit of dominant team-mate Viñales, who crashed out on lap two, Rossi now leads the championship by six points.
“When I saw ’Viñales out‘ I started to think ‘I‘m on top of the championship standings!’ I felt good and I also saw Dani having some problems, especially on the right hand corners, so I said ‘maybe those four points are important’ and in fact it was like that,’” said an ebullient Rossi.
Marking the first time since the fateful Sepang battle of 2015 that he’s led the title chase, Rossi couldn’t be in a better position as the series moves back to Europe and his preferred tracks. But the Italian seems pragmatic about how difficult it will be to stand on the top step: “For me in all my career the first target is to try and win a race, and this year is the same. To stay at the top with Viñales and Marquez will be very hard, and we have to just enjoy the moment,
“But now we go back to Europe and arrive at a very good part of the championship,” he continued. “We have Jerez, Barcelona, Le Mans, Assen, where for me it’s a great feeling to race. They’re tracks that give me fantastic memories, are very enjoyable, and are the real tracks of the world championship.
“Apart from that though, we have to just try to continue like this, to stay concentrated, and to get the maximum from the bike.”
But even with such a strong start to the season already under his belt, Rossi admitted that his championship position has still come as something of a surprise.
“It’s a big surprise for us, because after the tests we were quite desperate. We tried to think on many things, even to use the old bike again, but in the end we made the right choice. The problem for me and for my team was that we needed more time to understand the bike better.
“But the bike has something positive about it, especially at the end of the race. I can really push there to be strong. In fact, with Cal [Crutchlow] in Argentina and with Dani [Pedrosa] in Austin I was able to attack, and last year I was always fast at the beginning and suffered a lot at the end.”
0.3 seconds of conflict
Rossi’s dramas didn’t finish after the incident with Zarco in Sunday’s race, with the championship leader then hit with a controversial 0.3 second time penalty for ‘gaining an advantage’ when he ran across the run-off, cutting the next corner short and closing the gap to Marc Marquez. But, speaking to MCN, race director Mike Webb explained the logic behind penalising Rossi.
“You can’t gain advantage by going off the track. That’s in the rule book. But he was off the track thanks to another rider. If he’d realised that he’d gained an advantage to Marquez and closed the throttle enough to give that advantage back we wouldn’t be talking about it at all.
“He didn’t give the advantage back so was up to us to do that, but taking into consideration that he was forced off the track, we couldn’t apply a punitive penalty like a posi-position.tion. So instead, we took back the advantage he gained.”
‘And I tried to thumb a lift, like this, but no-one stopped...’ Rossi needed to drop Pedrosa by 0.3s to keep second place after his controversial penalty
it’s already very good.”