Like the banter between skiers and snowboarders, the cheeky bickering between two wheels and four wheels is always good fun. Today’s 2013 inaugural MotoGP in Qatar, however, was unarguably a joy to behold for any motorsport fan.
Much to the delight of No. 46 fans, Valentino Rossi found his natural fluidity with the Yahama works bike and began a campaign for a podium position. Posting times faster than the race leader, Lorenzo, he eventually climbed from seventh place to finish second.
However, the drama came from the Hondas. Showcasing their infamous straight-line speed, Spaniard Dani Pedrosa and highly-regarded rookie, Marc Marquez, held second and third places solidly for the majority of the race. Marquez feeling the heat from Brit boy Cal Crutchlow and lapping four tenths faster than his team mate bravely challenged for the second spot.
Unlike the F1, where the argument over team orders has continued to frustrate both drivers and fans alike, Pedrosa and Marquez were given the freedom to take each other on – braking at speeds of 210mph. If that wasn’t dramatic enough, Rossi’s unprecedented ascent momentarily spooked Crutchlow, who couldn’t brake tight enough and ended up off the track. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider recovered well to demonstrate the competitive edge he brings to the season.
Rossi then went on to do what Crutchlow had struggled with. Using his experienced racecraft, he slipped past Pedrosa and challenged Marquez. Unflinchingly, Marquez conceded only to challenge Rossi, his hero, a few corners later. He held position until the penultimate lap, when The Doctor squeezed by.
The true racing, unhampered by team agendas or dominated by the business of the sport, created an electric atmosphere. Post-chequered flag, there wasn’t a spectator in sight without a massive smile on their face. “Sensational!”Azi Farni, pit-lane reporter for the BBC MotoGP coverage, enthused as 20-year-old Marc Marquez sidled up to her mic, grinning like a Cheshire Cat.
The positivity exuded was a stark contrast to the podium of the Sepang F1, where Vettel obnoxiously defied team instructions to beat team mate, Mark Webber, to first position on the podium. Provoking a wave of “naughty step” jokes and fervent discussion on fan forums, F1 officials perhaps need to look to MotoGP to emulate the success of the sport, pushing the passion forward and the business back.