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GP Week : Issue 204
23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Bike racing’s last Golden Age covered the late 1980s and early 1990s. A panoply of stars – Lawson, Gardner, Rainey, schwantz and a supporting cast of now-and-then men like sarron – battled on wayward 500cc two-strokes with a razor-thin power- band and a mean streak half-a-mile wide. The great thing was, in the words of Rainey, “when you got to a circuit you didn’t know in advance who was going to win”. Optimists believe we have begun a new Golden Age. A series of increasingly fine 2014 races reinforces this belief.The last of them, at Catalunya last week, was a humdinger: the world’s four best riders engaged hand-to-hand almost throughout and culminating in a last-lap bump- and-grind more reminiscent of Moto3. Breathtaking. But did we know in advance who was going to win? Fair play to Marquez’s rivals, who really ran him ragged at Montmelo. Especially to Rossi, who inherited a very close second place, outranking increasingly nonplussed team-mate Lorenzo. And especially to Pedrosa, belying his tame reputation with a fierce last lap attack.Though it was not surprising when he came off second best. Because there was always the feeling, in spite of the drama. We knew in advance who was going to win. Off to Assen next Saturday: the so-called Cathedral of Bike Racing – though some of us preferred the term University, before they emasculated all but the final section of the old flowing master-class back in 2006, downgrading it to theTechnical College. (Call me a sentimental old fool, if you like, but I am thrilled that one of my very few racing artefacts is a framed square of the old Assen asphalt, preserved in resin.) Assen still has teeth, and showed them last year to Marquez, who raced to second with foot and finger fractures after a slammer at the feared Ramshoek corner – one of the old ones still left unchanged. Lorenzo also suffered one of the old section’s trademark falls – at high speed after touching a wet patch ¬– and raced barely a day after getting his collarbone pinned.The winner was none other than Rossi, his last of 80 class victories to date, and his only one for the last three years. Tension is high as the season gets into the middle of three stages; with Marquez looking for a classic eighth win in a row ... which will see him surpass Rossi’s 2002 seven, and join the company of greats including Mick Doohan (10), John Surtees (11) and Mike Hailwood (12), though still some way short of Agostini’s 20, on the utterly dominant MV Agusta in 1968 and 1969 ... you certainly knew who was going to win back then. The same feeling now is hard to eradicate, but Marquez’s run clearly can’t go on forever. Or can it? It’s a question that means, whether truly golden or not, the 2014 season is already looking like a classic. GOLDEN AGE – OR JUST GOLD STAR? OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHAEL SCOTT