Rossi back in business, but heartbroken after crashing out of lead in Sepang
Motogp fans were denied the chance of an epic last lap showdown between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix when Rossi crashed out of the lead and what looked set to be a thrilling final few laps.
Seeming to be back to his imperious best by posting metronomic lap times as he led from the start to lap 17, Rossi was being hunted down by Marquez in the closing stages when disaster struck. The Italian’s crash was his first mistake of 2018 and incredibly the first time he’s crashed out of the lead of a race in the dry since the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello way back in 2000. This time the ninetime world champion ran a little wide at turn one before losing the front and crashing out.
“I have mixed feelings about the race,” he told MCN. “Because on one hand it was my best race of the season and at a difficult track for us. But on the other I’m very disappointed about the mistake, because it’s frustrating to perform like this and end with zero points. Even if I hadn’t won, I could have extended the gap from Viñales in the championship standings and been only five points from Dovizioso in second.”
And while it looked like Marquez had the advantage as he recovered from an overheating front tyre incurred when he was getting past Johann Zarco, the Spaniard admitted afterwards that, while he was closing on Rossi, he wasn’t sure exactly how the final laps would have played out.
“I was riding by instinct, pushing to what I could feel from the bike and I could see that he was doing the same. But even if he hadn’t crashed, the plan was to try, because you know what I am like! I didn’t have anything else to give. Both of us were at the limit and the only plan I had was to try to catch him and fight. But we were riding at the same level all race.”
Pushing at the front, the duo took over five seconds off the Sepang race record leaving the battle for second between Alex Rins and Johann Zarco some three seconds in their wake. But just as a climactic finale seemed certain, Rossi’s crash meant the record crowd were denied a classic last lap battle between the two rivals.
In fact, Rossi admitted afterwards that his biggest regret wasn’t the damage to his 2018 points tally but the lost opportunity to put on a show.
“I wanted to push hard to the end, but I knew that Marquez was going to catch me at some point. It’s a great shame for everyone that I crashed, because it would have been great fun if we had been able to race together for the win. I was strong and I could have fought for the victory, but so was he.”
‘It was my best race of the season and came at a difficult track’
Marquez was closing in when Rossi crashed out
Nine-time world champ rues what might have been