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GP Week : Issue 117
MOTOGP FEATURE >> It was considered odd at the time that Rossi, now on a Yamaha, escaped censure, for later that day he too had left his braking too late, and speared into Marco Melandri’s Honda, sending him to hospital. Honda put in an official protest, but Rossi escaped censure. A couple of years before, Makoto Tamada had been disqualified for doing just the same to Sete Gibernau. The other active Bad Boy is Loris Capirossi, though his legal team would be at pains to point out that he was exonerated after taking the matter to the appeal court. It happened in far-off Buenos Aires in long-ago 1998. Loris was battling team-mate Tetsuya Harada for the title. They ran into the final corner of the race ... of the year, with Harada holding a clear advantage. Capirossi seemed to forget to brake, came spearing through underneath him, and knocked Harada off. He recovered to take second place behind bemused winner Rossi. Even after he was stripped of the points, he remained champion, for Harada had failed to score at all. But had Harada won, as seemed likely, the Japanese would have taken the crown. Capirossi appealed, and won the argument. He got the 20 points back. Even so, had Harada taken the 25 for the win, he’d have been one point ahead. The decisions often seem whimsical. John Hopkins was suspended for a race for triggering a first-corner pile -up at Motegi. The next year, Capirossi escaped punishment for doing the very same thing. So too did Sete Gibernau, at Montmelo in 2006. Why was Hopkins’s indiscretion not judged, like the others, ‘a racing incident’? It’s still hard to know. Certainly, Rossi has got away with riding bordering so close to dangerous that it’s hard to know the difference. There was the Melandri incident above: more famously his last hairpin barge on Sete Gibernau at Jerez in 2005, pushing inside and running the Spaniard right off the track. The controversial hard tactics against Stoner at Laguna in 2008. And his stirring battle with Lorenzo at Jerez last year. It’s very close to the edge. But Rossi has never had anything worse than a time penalty, for inadvertently overtaking under yellow flags a couple of times. And the baddest of all? Max Biaggi (above) got away with some shocking moves: his reputation among other riders for being deliberately menacing is as bad today in World Superbikes as it was through his GP career. There was nothing tougher than his move on Rossi at Suzuka in 2001. On the front straight, knocking on past 140 mph, Max simply elbowed him into the dirt. Rossi responded, a couple of laps later, by sweeping past and giving Max the finger a couple of laps later. Just racing incidents ...