Valentino Rossi accused Spanish riders of ganging up on him as he was denied a career crowning tenth world title in a cut-throat 2015 MotoGP season, won by his dogged Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
After a storming start to the season with 12 straight podiums including four grand prix wins, Rossi’s defining moment came in the penultimate race, under relentless pressure from Spanish defending champion Marc Marquez.
The Italian appeared to suffer a rush of blood to the head near the end of the Malaysia GP and appeared to kick out at his young rival, who subsequently crashed out while racing neck-and-neck around a chicane.
The ensuing hullabaloo saw politicians, sports press and just about all bike fans join a heated debate as to whether or not Rossi had kicked Marquez, and even whether or not the Spaniard had been happy with the turn of events.
The 22-year-old 2014 world champion had clashed with Rossi three times over the season with the 36-year-old Italian first describing him as a “no limits all or nothing kind of rider.”
He would soon go much further and accuse Marquez of playing a “dirty game” and refer to the fiery young Spaniard as “Lorenzo’s bodyguard,” claiming they had forged a pact to help Lorenzo get the title once Marquez had slipped too far down the points rankings to retain it.
The “kick” earned Rossi a much-debated penalty, meaning he started the final race of the season from the back.
His only chance to retain the lead in the championship would be one of the other top riders winning the race to stop Lorenzo from storming to a third world title.
However, Lorenzo led from flag to flag without ever being challenged by the two Spaniards – Marquez and his Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa – that stood between Rossi and his nemesis as the laps ticked down.
For his part, the Italian had stormed through the pack within a handful of laps as race-watchers moved to the edge of their seats for a finale that the Italian couldn’t eventually deliver.
While denying that “any pact” existed with Marquez, Lorenzo intimated after the last race that his compatriots had helped him win the title by not passing him.
“They knew what I had at stake,” Lorenzo said. “The fact they are Spaniards like me helped me.”
“In another kind of race they would have tried to overtake, which they didn’t. If Valentino had been in my position and with Italians behind they would have done exactly the same,” he added.
Penalty warnings accumulate over a 12-month period with automatic sanctions kicking in once a rider reaches four, as in Rossi’s case when he was handed three for his clash with Marquez.
At that point, a rider is forced to start from the back of the grid, a penalty that ultimately was to hand the title to Lorenzo, but which many felt was harsh.
The president of the Federation of International Motorcycling (FIM) Vito Ippolito now wants to change the rules.