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GP Week : Issue 213
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Once upon a time, second was just ‘the first loser.’ If Marc Marquez has ‘raised the bar’ (another cliché from the same us stable) in the premier class, he has done the opposite in this case. In 2014, coming second is to be considered a high honour. It will be settled next weekend, in the closing round at Valencia. While Marquez will be trying to break Mick Doohan’s record of 12 wins in a season (he equalled it at the last race in Malaysia), the factory Yamaha team-mates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will be locked in combat to avoid being the second loser. This is the renewal of an intra- personal rivalry that goes back more than five years ... to 2008, when Lorenzo joined the factory Yamaha team as double 250 champion. Rossi was already there, of course, with five premier class titles in his pocket. He would add two more in 2008 and 2009. But Lorenzo was already becoming troublesome, in spite of Valentino insisting on a wall down the middle of the Yamaha pit to keep his data private and his team-mate out of his sight. Rossi broke his leg in 2010, amazingly his first serious injury. Lorenzo took the title. By then, however, the Italian had already spat the dummy. If Yamaha were going to continue to support Jorge, if he was not to be the clear number one rider, then all his previous protestations of “wanting to finish my career with Yamaha” were cancelled forthwith. He was off. His two-year sojourn at Ducati saw the dream of an Italian rider on an Italian bike turn into a sustained nightmare. His return to Yamaha in 2013 saw a very different status within the pit. Jorge had now reigned supreme in terms of bike development and results for two years, adding another title in 2012. Rossi’s dish of the day, in the team nosh-house, was humble pie. Given his results, battling to come to terms with the Jorge- style Yamaha M1, nothing changed during the course of the year. It all seemed pretty obvious, really. The old dog was knocking on a bit, after all. And he duly turned 35 before the start of the 2014 season. Which makes his performance this year all the more remarkable. With his crew chief of 14 years, Jerry Burgess, unexpectedly given the heave-ho, Valentino managed to roll back the years. Far from failing to adapt his style to the latest requirements of ever- evolving tyres, chassis, electronics and engines, he emerged from the start as a candidate for Best of the Rest. Lorenzo, by contrast, began the year with a couple of rookie mistakes: a first-lap fall at Qatar, then that extraordinary jumped start in Texas at round two. It took longer than that for him to come to terms with this year’s tyres. But in the latter part of the year, the old Mr Precision has returned. So they go to Valencia neck and neck. Valentino has a handy advantage of 12 points, but should Jorge win and Valentino finish fourth or lower, that would see them equal on points. It would go to a count-back on positions. And not very far, for Jorge would have three wins to Valentino’s two (he already has six second places to Rossi’s five, though Rossi has five thirds to Jorge’s three). And should Jorge finish second, Valentino need only be in the top seven to claim the now-coveted runner-up spot. It really could go either way. “With Jorge, it’s more personal,” said Valentino in Malaysia. For the fans, likewise. For who would not get a special glow if, after all the years, Rossi was the one ... THE HONOUR OF BEINg FIRST LOSER ... OPINION OPINION MotoGP MiCHaeL SCott