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GP Week : Issue 198
20 GPWEEK.com // 20 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: One race does not a season make. But one race held in the dark in the desert provided a life lesson, and a laser- beam of hope. And what excellent viewing it made. It came after a turmoil of confusion of convoluted new rules that kept changing. Ducati went from ‘Factory’ to ‘Open’ and back to ‘Factory’, handily without sacrificing the technical concessions they’d gained in the process; the last revision was published only hours before the start of the first race. The action brought a wonderful clarity to the chaos. There were battles for pretty much every position, but the one that mattered most was – quite correctly – for first place. It pitted one of racing’s greatest ever riders against potentially the next one to don the mantle, shared with such great names as Agostini, Hailwood, Roberts, Rainey and Doohan. Rossi turned 35 in February, and started his 19th grand prix season in a career that for the past three years was clearly moving towards the twilight zone. One day later Marquez turned 21, and started his second MotoGP season (his seventh in GPs) as the youngest-ever champion after a rookie year unrivalled in history. They met after dark at the front of a race that Jorge Lorenzo had crashed out of on the first lap. Rossi led for five laps mid-race, while Marquez – rusty after breaking his leg in training and being unable to test or even ride – followed dutifully. Old Master giving the Young Pretender a lesson. But a lesson in what? Not patience. Nor aggression. Marquez won out on both accounts, and finally seized an unassailable lead over the final, 22nd lap. But it was not the derring-do with which Marquez passed Rossi, but how many times he had to do it. Twice on the penultimate lap alone. Proving if nothing else that Rossi is definitely not ready to give up. Not while he is competitive. He has said as much ... that if, in the first five races, he is competitive with the leaders, then he will extend his career by perhaps another two years. There have been many important races in each rider’s career. Not least the last time they met at Qatar, in the new boy’s first MotoGP race. They fought just as hard, for second place as it happened. That time Rossi won – the only other time he has done so was mid-season when he won Assen, with Marquez carrying finger and foot fractures from a big crash in practice. This last one was as important: a classic confrontation – Rossi relentless, but Marquez merciless. What everyone (and most of all Rossi) wants to know now is this. Will it be the last time? RElENTlESS VERSuS MERCIlESS OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHAEL SCOTT "Rossi relentless, but Marquez merciless ..."