29 June 2015
MotoGP Assen: Espargaro: Looks like anything goes on last corner
“It looks like you have immunity on the last corner. Yeah it's a race and it's the last corner, but we can avoid this.” - Pol Espargaro.
In the aftermath of a controversial final turn showdown between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at Assen, Pol Espargaro hopes MotoGP Race Direction will make clear there is no 'immunity' when attempting to overtake on the last lap.
Marquez tried to pass Rossi on entry to the final chicane. The pair made contact, after which Rossi ran off track before re-joining to claim the race win.
Marquez said he “did the perfect last corner” and felt aggrieved that Rossi had cut the track. Rossi insisted he was always in front of Marquez and had little choice but to run off due to the contact, a view supported by fellow Yamaha rider Espargaro.
“If Marquez didn't touch Valentino, Valentino would not go straight on,” Espargaro said. “What can Vale do? Marquez went over the kerb [after the contact] because he was so wide. Yeah you can say 'Valentino was already opening the throttle to go across the [gravel]' but this is fair game.”
Race Direction declared it a racing incident, with no punishment for either rider. Race Direction has traditionally been more lenient in the case of contact during last lap battles, especially for the race lead. However Espargaro feels the balance has tipped too far in favour of the attacking rider.
“The problem is that we are accustomed that on the last lap, last corner anything can happen. I mean you can brake so late, you can hit the other rider and nothing happens,” he said.
“As is happening during all the races, it looks like you have immunity on the last corner, or last lap of a race. You have immunity to go inside, doesn't matter if you crash, if you hit the other rider. Yeah it's a race and it's the last corner, but we can avoid this.
“[Because in that situation] if the rider who is behind - even if by one-second - releases the brakes and hits the other rider, they will usually win.
“Maybe we can speak about it with all the riders and make clear that if you have the opportunity to overtake at the last corner, but without it being necessary to touch the other rider, it is ok.
“But if you know you will hit the other rider, because he is in the middle and you are going wide, you cannot go inside. This has to be forbidden, but how you enforce it is difficult.”
Espargaro matched his best finish of the season with fifth place at Assen for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, despite a return of arm pump problems for which he recently underwent surgery.
Meanwhile, reflecting the range of opinions in the paddock, Espargaro's team-mate Bradley Smith felt Rossi certainly wasn't entirely innocent in Saturday's clash.
"Valentino played the circumstance perfectly to his advantage," said Smith. "He made sure Marc hit him so then he had to go across the gravel and no one can say anything. That's finally what it is.
"There's however many years of experience right there. That's what he did. He closed the door. He timed it perfectly so that when Marc went for it he hit him and knocked him off the track. Then you can't say anything because Valentino can say 'I went straight because Marc hit me and I had the lead going into the chicane so I didn't technically gain an advantage'."
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