PARIS: Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez renew their bitter rivalry as the 2016 world motorcycling championship gets underway in Qatar on Sunday with accusations of betrayal and intimidation still dominating the paddock.
Nine-time world champion Rossi was within touching distance of a 10th title on his Yamaha last season only for an ill-judged kick at Honda rival Marquez at the penultimate race in Malaysia.
He was punished by being forced to start the title-decider in Valencia at the back of the grid, a penalty which allowed his Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo to take the championship by just five points.
Rossi finished fourth but accused Marquez of deliberately helping fellow Spaniard Lorenzo to the finish line at his expense by acting effectively as a bodyguard.
“I allowed myself to be tricked by Marquez. He really betrayed me. He said he was a fan but it was all lies, b******t,” said Rossi on the eve of his 21st season as a professional rider.
The Italian added: “It would be hypocritical to say that it’s over and shake his hand, because it’s not true. Our relationship can never be recovered. I like to do real things, not to pretend.”
Rossi and Lorenzo will be team-mates again in 2016 but they are far from friends, a factor which adds to Yamaha’s conundrum at the end of the year when both men will be out of contract.
The public disputes between Rossi, triple MotoGP champion Lorenzo and Marquez, a two-time winner of the elite title, have also attracted the attention of legendary 15-time champion Giacomo Agostini.
“I would like to see a bit more respect between them because for me this is the most important thing,” Agostini told motogp.com, reflecting on the Rossi-Marquez spat.
“I don’t think that true friendship can exist between rivals in our sport, but the important thing is to have respect for each other as that leads to great racing and this is what I hope we will see.”
The 2016 championship starts under the lights in Qatar on Sunday and ends in Valencia in November with 21 riders – nine of whom are Spanish – battling over 18 races.
Rossi won in Qatar 12 months ago but endured mixed fortunes in pre-season testing at the desert track, twice coming off his machine.
The championship also has a different tyre supplier with Bridgestone giving way to Michelin while a new control electronics system has also been introduced. — AFP