With the furore over the Sepang clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez showing no sign of abating, HRC team principal Livio Suppo and technical director Takeo Yokoyama met with the MotoGP media at Valencia on Thursday.
But instead of presenting data recorded from Marquez's RCV - presumably showing nothing suspicious in Marquez's riding and backing up allegations of a kick from Rossi - Suppo revealed that HRC has decided to withhold the information until Rossi's appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport has been decided.
“We called this press conference to speak about the data we have, but then we thought longer about the situation,” Suppo began. “This is a very special weekend. The tension is very high and our main target now is show to everybody that we have no intention at all to create any doubt that we are doing this at this moment just to give to the Court of Arbitration another 'evidence' or something that can influence their decisions.
“Sow we've been thinking, sharing this with Marc, and we all agree that at the moment our priority is that this weekend must be a sport weekend. There is a championship to be decided.
“We are not in the fight for this championship unfortunately. But what we want to avoid is that anybody in the world can think that we speak [about the data] now to influence the decision of the court. So when we believe that this information will be less 'sensitive' we will show the data, but not now.
“I hope you understand our situation and that we are doing our best to keep the situation as calm as possible.
“I'm sorry we created an expectation [about showing the data] that we don't satisfy, but we believe that at this moment it is better not to put more fuel on the fire.”
The meeting, held in the Repsol Honda hospitality, followed a Q&A statement from HRC vice president Shuhei Nakamoto who rubbished suggestions Marquez had been trying to help Rossi's title Jorge Lorenzo by slowing the Italian down at Phillip Island and Sepang.
Nakamoto then angered Yamaha by backing Marquez's claim that he had fallen due to a kick from Rossi, after the Italian had deliberately forced him wide:
“The data from Marc's bike shows that even though he was picking up the bike trying to avoid contact with Valentino, his front brake lever suddenly received an impact that locked the front tyre, which is the reason for his crash. We believe that this pressure was a result of Rossi's kick.”
Yamaha responded: "Both [a Repsol press release and the Nakamoto Q&A] included words that accuse Valentino Rossi of kicking Marc Marquez's bike that is something not proven by the investigation of the Race Direction. We therefore reject the wording used in the said published statements that do not correspond with the findings of the Race Direction.”
Nakamoto's statement also included an invitation for “anybody from Dorna, the FIM or media” to check the data from Marquez's bike. That led to HRC being swamped with requests, including from Crash.net
, prompting the decision to call Thursday's press conference with the aim of presenting it to everyone.
Meanwhile, of the 'kick', Suppo would only comment: "We wrote [it in the statement] and so we believe it, but we don't want to speak about it anymore now."
He added: “You can say [the HRC statement] was a mistake [in terms of avoiding putting fuel on the fire], but at the end of the day we went from a situation where it was clear what happened [at Sepang] and then after a week it looks like the 'killer' is Marc! We felt it was right to show that Honda supports Marc, because we know Marc didn't deliberately do anything.”
Suppo declared that the decision not to show the data was only made “this morning”.
“If we speak now people can think that we do something to influence the court,” he reiterated. “But don't want that anybody can think that. Marc is an aggressive rider, a very strong rider, but he is an honest guy. We don't want anybody to think we are doing this to create a problem.”
The Italian also addressed the cancellation of Thursday's official pre-event press conference, indicating it was done to try and calm the growing tensions ahead of this weekend's sell-out showdown.
“I understand the situation. In other sports, unfortunately for them, they are used to facing critical situations. I don't like football, but at some football games there are thousands of police around a stadium because it is dangerous. For us this is something unbelievable because thank God this will never happen [here], but we wanted to keep the situation as calm as possible. We don't want that somebody is even more disappointed and, you know...
“In the end we are lucky we live in a world where fans are just fans of all riders. All riders are big heroes, all riders risk their lives and all riders deserve respect. This has been like this always. At the moment it looks like we have lost this very important thing. So we think at the moment - it doesn't mean we will never show the data - but not now.”
“When this type of drama happens at that moment it looks like everything is impossible to solve," Suppo continued. "At the end of the day we need to be realistic, we are speaking about racing, we are speaking about these three MotoGP riders and something that is not the end of the world.
“But when things calm down we need to sit down with Dorna and the FIM and understand how to avoid this situation. Probably everybody underestimated what happened on Thursday in Sepang [when Rossi accused Marquez of helping Lorenzo at Phillip Island].”
Suppo then explained in detail why he is sure such allegations are false.
“If people think that Marc won at Phillip Island and still was not doing things properly, for me it is impossible. Because the only reality is that he took five points from Jorge. Also it was not just Marc against Vale, but Iannone, so sometimes they were slower because Iannone overtook them.
“Marc had real trouble with the front tyre at Phillip Island, For some reason our machine overheated the front tyre much more than Yamaha. Bridgestone can confirm it. Ad if you check FP4 Marc was pushing a few laps, then relax, a lap to decrease the temperature. And if you look at the data you see clearly he was slowing down mainly in the right corners.
“It means he deliberately tried to avoid a crash. People forget that it was Marc's third race at Philip Island - the first time he had a problem [black flag] and last year he had a four-second lead and crashed. Before the race we told him, 'be careful, remember last year, don't push too much'.
“But this is normal racing and it is the first time in my life that I see someone win a race, beating one of the title contenders, and has been accused by the other one that it was not a real race. I think all of us were so excited after that race. It's such a pity this race is now being considered something unreal.”
Whilst Suppo was speaking it was announced that Rossi's attempt to get his Sepang penalty suspended while his appeal takes place has been rejected, meaning he will start Sunday's title showdown with Jorge Lorenzo from the back of the grid. The final CAS judgement on Rossi's appeal is yet to be made.
And what should Marquez do if he finds himself battling with Rossi again on Sunday?
“This is one of the reasons why we need to calm everything down, because from now on every battle between Marc and Valentino will be seen like something strange. In reality Marc is like this and Valentino is like that," Suppo replied.
“Because in Sepang it was not only Marc battling - Valentino was there! Also the battle of Marc and, for example, Iannone at Le Mans; nobody had any problems with that, it was just an exciting race.
“So I hope that if in the future it will happen again that Marc and Valentino have a similar pace and place on track, it will just be a nice battle between two of the biggest riders in this sport."