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GP Week : Issue 157
WALKING ON THE WILD SIDE Moto2 meteor Marc Marquez has twice been in trouble for dangerous riding this year. He’s f ighting the case. But, asks MICHAEL SCOTT, just when does fearless riding go too far? Everybody loves a racing bad boy. Up to a point, anyway. The question of the moment is whether Moto2’s Marc Marquez (aka ‘Marquez the Merciless’) has gone too far. The Race Direction committee obviously thought so, after his latest attack at Catalunya. The boy genius with the choirboy personality served up one of his trade-mark across- the-track swerves on the final lap, slamming across the front of compatriot-rival Pol Espargaro to send him tumbling from a probably third place to zero points in the gravel. The move caused lively debate. Most saw it as a pure racing accident. Others thought it typically cynical. He must have known Pol was there: he’d been there all race long. It was a brutal blocking move. It was the “typical” that tipped the balance: Marquez was penalised not so much for that particular incident, but because he was already under a warning for doing something similar and even more cynical to Luthi at Qatar. But the latter argument prevailed when his team protested, and the FIM stewards rescinded the penalty, restoring him to third place and plus 16 points. Pol’s team promptly protested that decision. The process is not over (see separate News story). The affair raises larger issues. After all, it was Espargaro (who describes Marquez’s strong point thus: “He is very fighting.”) who ran into trouble from behind: surely it’s up to him to find a safe way past? And if Marquez is being punished more for his reputation than his action, then what sort of follow-my-leader after-you- Claude racer are we trying to breed? As Max Biaggi once famously said: “This is motorcycle racing, not chamber music.” Biaggi was and still is famous for intimidation: using even free practice sessions to blow past other riders with millimetres to spare, just to be scary (when Nicky Hayden was his team-mate at Honda, they came close to a fist-fight in pre-season tests; last year he and Superbike rival Marco Melandri did exchange blows). Cynical? Yes. Effective? Can be. But it’s done for calculated psychological reasons, not out of passion. And the right kind of aggression-by-instinct is part of a good rider’s armoury. Yet too much is dangerous, for himself and everyone else on the track. And how much is too much? Race Direction has the unenviable task of deciding. And, as former race director Paul Butler told GPWeek: 35 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> FEATURE