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GP Week : Issue 172
22 GPWEEK.com // 22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: It’s not often that Moto3 makes the biggest headlines at a grand prix, but it was certainly the case in Spain, as proceedings began in sweaty Sepang. Maverick Vinales – boy wonder of the Moto3 class – had turned on his Spanish heel and walked out on his team, after a simmering row came to a head the night before. The team manager hadn’t taken the threat seriously ... until the rider didn’t turn up for first practice, and instead was seen wandering round the paddock in civvies prior to catching a plane home to Spain. Extraordinary: pre-season favourite for the title, winningest Moto3 rider so far, and second in the championship. And he walked out in a teenage temper fit. Vinales is clearly a major talent. But his win rate was undermined by two crashes and two machine failures, against the more consistent champion elect Sandro Cortese. And, according to the rider, by Honda’s lack of speed and his team’s lack of development compared with the ever-improving KTM. There were other reasons, including dispute with his personal manager Ricard Jove, who is also the Avintia Blusens team manager for all three classes. Doubtless there are arguments on both sides. This happens often enough, some riders (Lorenzo, for one) change managers regularly. It’s unprecedented that it should trigger a walk-out like this, for a rider with so much status on his 17-year-old shoulders. Vinales will have made enemies beyond the team: Honda will not soon forget the aspersions cast on their Moto3 bike; Dorna will not be impressed by such cavalier actions from an already established star. Other teams will be wary of his loyalty, or lack of it. Talent often overcomes such reservations, however; and Jorge ‘Aspar ’ Martinez, godfather of Spanish team owners, is reportedly still taking a keen interest in the kid from Figueres. Home town, by the way, of surrealist Salvador Dali. And there was a groundswell of support from other riders, including several fellow-Spaniards claiming to be fellow-victims, anxious to back up his criticism of the team. This triggered further talk of hapless riders getting pushed around, with another example also involving the Avintia Blusens team – David Salom (cousin of Luis) had started the season in World Superbikes, but was drafted into the MotoGP team to replace Ivan Silva, who was demoted to test rider. Two races later, the decision was reversed, and Salom unceremoniously dropped. In turn, talk turned towards some sort of a riders’ ... not union, exactly, but organisation that could represent and secure their interests. Several attempts over past years have foundered for want of cohesion ... it’s not easy getting crazily competitive young bike racers to start co-operating with one another. Will there be fresh impetus in these straitened and more socially aware times? OPINION MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor MAVERICK BY NAME, MAVERICK BY NATURE OPINION