BY RYAN MORGAN
I must admit, I am new to the world of MotoGP racing. I only knew the basics of the sport prior to this year. No. 1: a guy named Valentino Rossi was pretty good judging by the occasional highlights I would catch online, and No. 2: the guys who ride must be crazy to do what they do.
As it turns out, both of my initial thoughts on the sport were true. Valentino Rossi is “pretty good,” nine-time champion good, and the riders do have to be a little bit crazy to race with rocket ships between their legs.
This last Sunday, I attended my first ever MotoGP event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Having watched all of the races on TV this year, I was excited to finally see the riders do their thing live. I was not disappointed with the results.
Now, I have been to the past three Indianapolis 500s, and I have also been to a few Brickyard 400s in my day. I am, after all, a proud Indiana native. Both races are a great time. the Indy 500 produces some of the best racing of the year, no matter what series. And the 400, well, the racing may be single file at times, but overall it’s still a great time at the track.
Sunday’s MotoGP race, while not as touted as the Indianapolis 500 or the Brickyard 400, still produced amazing racing for the fans who did show up.
The 50 dollar ticket for General Admission seating was well worth it. The best riders in the world showed off why they are considered the best riders in the world. Every lap they drove their bikes to the limit, leaning into turns and accelerating off of them like men possessed.
After a thrilling Moto3 race, with a last lap pass for the win, and a wild Moto2 race, it was time for the main event.
The fan favorite was obviously the Italian, Valentino Rossi. One out of every two fans in attendance seemed to be wearing his shirt or hat. During the rider introductions, Rossi’s name produces the loudest cheers, even beating out American Collin Edwards. Although it should be noted the injured American Nicky Hayden also had a large following of supporters present at the race.
In the opening lap, Rossi jumped out to the lead thanks to his amazing start. The crowd went nuts. Every time he passed our section, located in the middle of turns one and two in relation to the oval circuit, the men, women and children around me went wild with excitement. Could it be? Could the 35 year old wily veteran, the nine time champion, win his first race of the year? He wanted it; the fans wanted it; then someone got in his way.
That someone was the Spaniard Wonder, the Desperado…(maybe one of these nicknames will stick) Marc Marquez. The 21 year old phenom, who already won the MotoGP championship in his 2013 rookie year, had won nine out of the nine MotoGP races leading up to the Brickyard this year. He started on pole, but was shuffled back to third on the start, and found himself stalking Rossi’s Yamaha, and Andrea Dovizioso’s Ducati.
Everyone in the crowd understood what was coming. But they continued to cheer on Rossi, in hopes their support would help bring youth back into the 35 year old’s bones. Youth that would help him outrun the 21 year old Spaniard who shows no fear, and displays all the skills of a legend in the making (already made) on his Honda Repsol.
Dovizioso fades back on his Ducati, Marquez now stalks in second place behind Rossi, with the Italian’s teammate, two time champion Jorge Lorenzo now in third.
Then on lap 11 it happened. I don’t know how, but it happened. As the three riders come into turn one, and into my line of sight, I see Lorenzo make a move to the inside of Marquez, and it looks like he will pull off the pass. But in a blink of an eye, Marquez manages to reverse the move heading into turn two and get on the inside of Lorenzo. Rossi, also caught up in the action, finds himself outside of Lorenzo who is outside of Marquez.
I remember the gasp from the crowd.
The move was so fast, so gutsy, even Rossi supporters had to admire it. How did Marquez know he could stick to his inside lane without taking both Lorenzo and Rossi out in a spectacular crash? It was one of the best racing moves I have ever had the priviledge of seeing in person.
In entering turn one, it looked as though Marquez was going to be dropped to third behind the two Yamahas; on the exit of turn two he was in first place and already pulling away.
Even though it was only lap 11 of 27, everyone in attendance knew the race for the win was over.
As the laps ticked off, he pulled farther and farther away from the two Yamahas, winning by nearly two seconds in the end.
As my first MotoGP experience came to an end, I realized I had watched a 21 year old build upon a legacy that will be remembered for years to come. His legend will only grow, as legends have a tendency of doing, and I will still be telling the story I just shared with you all when I am old, gray, and living in a nursing home. Maybe I will even have a poster of Marquez on my wall by that point. A photo to remind me of his youthful face, his lack of fear, his bold moves on the track. In return reminding myself of my own youth, and the time way back in 2014 when I saw him pass two former MotoGP champions coming out of turn two for the victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.