Last Saturday's MotoGP race in the Middle East brought us lots of surprises. For starters, we saw MotoGP rookie Ruben Xaus take his first-ever MotoGP podium. We were witness to extraordinary displays of sand-surfing by various MotoGP riders. We...
Last Saturday's MotoGP race in the Middle East brought us lots of surprises. For starters, we saw MotoGP rookie Ruben Xaus take his first-ever MotoGP podium. We were witness to extraordinary displays of sand-surfing by various MotoGP riders. We were also treated to a masterful riding display by American Colin Edwards, as the Texan took his second MotoGP podium of his career.
But perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was the lifeboat handed to Sete Gibernau by championship leader Valentino Rossi, after the Italian crashed out during the initial laps of the race.
However, this was only the result of something more surprising and controversial that took place on Friday night. Depending on which story you follow, the soap opera appears to have begun at Friday's riders' safety meeting when it was brought to the race director's attention that the track was dirty and should be cleaned up. Because the meeting took place late in the afternoon, it was deemed too late to do anything about it.
Proactively, the Camel Honda team decided to clean their rider's starting position (13th) themselves, a practice they claim Kawasaki performed at this year's Rio GP. Old fox and Rossi's crew chief, Jeremy Burgess, decided to instead lay some rubber down with the use of scooters by performing burnouts on Rossi's 8th grid position. What happened next, no one could have foreseen.
MCN reports Gibernau and his crew chief, Juan Martinez, were standing in pit lane during the "grid-cleaning practice". MCN reports Gibernau approached Burgess and "jokingly" said he'd launch a protest against him. By the end of the day, Martinez had communicated the incident to HRC management, who in turn filed a complaint with Race Director, Paul Butler. In a SpeedTV.com article, Dennis Noyes, reports that reliable sources suggest HRC President, Koiji Nakajima, threatened to pull out the HRC factory team from the championship if the complaint was not accepted.
By early Saturday morning, before the 125cc warm-up session, race team directors were seen around Rossi's starting grid position. By the time the MotoGP warm-up session arrived, Rossi had already been handed a six second penalty, which coincidently would place him at the back of the grid, but would not disqualify him.
Shocked by the decision, Yamaha filed an appeal, which was overturned and the penalty upheld. In return, Yamaha filed its own complaint against the Camel Honda team, which was given the same penalty of six seconds; hence Max Biaggi shared the last row of the grid with Rossi.
Infuriated by the penalty incurred, Rossi rode like a madman from 23rd on the grid all the way up to 4th. In the process, he paid the ultimate price and crashed out of the race on lap four.
Frustrated, Rossi fired back on Live Italian TV at who he believed to be the "ringleaders", Sete Gibernau and his crew chief, Juan Martinez. He referred to their actions as childish and bastard-like.
Whether or not you (or I) agree that Gibernau or Martinez are to blame for Rossi's penalty is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Rossi believes (likely because Gibernau "joked" to Burgess about the protest) they are at fault, and they are the ones on Rossi's crosshairs, specifically Gibernau.
Perhaps by Thursday's pre-race press conference, all will be (or will appear to be) nice and dandy. However, one is reminded of the hatred between Rossi and Biaggi back in 2000-2001, and the fierce and heated battles between the two Italians. These two seasons brought us some of the closest racing in recent years.
If I were Gibernau, I would not want to be on the opposite side.