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GP Week : Issue 51
The greatest lap of all time? A That’s what people are calling that epic final tour at Catalunya last week, but as MICHAEL SCOTTpoints out, Grand Prix motorcycle racing has seen a few epic laps in the past, too ... WEEK after the event, people are still buzzing about Catalunya’s epic last lap. In a sport given to superlatives, some even called it “the greatest last lap of all time”. Was it really? Well, the winning rider certainly thought so. “I feel like I stuck my fingers into an electric plug,”he told pressmen, who had never before seen him so gleeful. Rossi’s move was a masterpiece, and typically he made it look deceptively simple. All it required was that he be faster and tighter into the final corner. This is easy to understand, but much harder to achieve. Rossi had been planning it, he said, for the previous week, having 36 experienced it himself at the hands of Stoner two years earlier. The execution started two, maybe even three corners before, lining up for the fatal pounce. It was flawless. Lorenzo’s only error was to get taken by surprise. He’d reasoned that closing the corner entry would spoil his exit speed, giving Rossi the chance to draft ahead over the finish line. He went for a wide sweeping entry … only to find an identical Fiat Yamaha reaching the apex before he did. All a mind game, decisively won by the Old Master. But the best ever? It has some strong competition, and certainly smaller margins of victory than Sunday’s 0.095 seconds. Even from Rossi’s own career. And he didn’t always win, either. Everyone remembers Jerez 2005. Gibernau and Rossi were going hammer and tongs. As in Catalunya with Lorenzo, Gibernau got ahead on the final lap. Again, Rossi used a super run through the preceding corners to move alongside into the hairpin, and barge Gibernau out into the gravel. And how about Rossi and Max, at Phillip Island in 2001, on the old two-stroke 500s? Rossi dived inside deadly rival Max at the last slow corner, then held him at bay by 0.013 of a second, winning the final 500cc crown in the process. It only underlined his superiority in a year of supremacy; the point was that he didn’t actually need to win – eighth would have been good enough. Then the closest of all Valentino’s 500cc or MotoGP finishes. The margin of victory was just 0.002 of a second, equal smallest ever measured. Victory went to Toni Elias, with Rossi out-dragged on the long run to the finish line after being bamboozled in the slow chicane. For Rossi, these were all different from last Sunday, however. They come from a time in his career when he could afford to make a show of the racing, then win at will – a technique that suited his temperament. Things are different now, with Lorenzo doing the fighting, and Stoner also in the mix; most especially because Lorenzo is on the same bike. Mick Doohan famously preferred to win from the front, sometimes by depressingly large margins (“What do you want me to do, slow down?”