I’m not sure how many Valentino Rossis there are at Sepang this weekend, but I’ve seen at least two. First, the tightly wound guy who looked pretty old and drawn firing off conspiracy theories. He was here Thursday and Friday.
Today another one turned up. He looks about 25 years old and was stood grinning beside the two Repsol Honda riders in parc ferme after qualifying. This Valentino Rossi had just qualified third, knocking his championship rival Jorge Lorenzo off the front row and coming out with a fizzer of a one-liner: ‘I remember I can be fast in the dry…’
This is the championship that just keeps giving, especially in qualifying. Dani Pedrosa dismantled the record lap, Marc Marquez made an impossible front-end save at the expense of putting a hole in the arm of his leathers, and Valentino version 10.2.1 magicked up stunning last sector of his last lap to get on the front row for only the sixth time this year. That put Jorge on the second row, but embarrassingly he didn’t know and cut his engine to coast into parc ferme only to be turned away. Whoops.
The fallout from Rossi version 9.8.6’s Thursday outburst continued. The fact that Lorenzo followed Marquez early in qualifying drew questions, as did Rossi following Ianonne. Marc said yes, Jorge had indeed followed him—along with Ianonne and a few others, and he couldn’t slow down because he was on a three-run strategy and would have wasted a tyre. Anyway, said Marc, I knew I would go faster later. Similarly, Rossi said the fact he and Andrea rode together was simply coincidence.
Meanwhile, unnoticed, Dani Pedrosa decided to do just two runs, so he waited for the rest to rush out then headed on to an empty track and smashed the pole record on his first run.
Not that too many people noticed. The Marquez-Rossi feud drew all the attention. Valentino does not think he will become champion tomorrow but he did say that he hopes each rider runs ‘his own race.’ He placed a lot of emphasis on the words ‘his own.’ Then did it again to make sure we’d got the point.