Cycle News

Cycle News 2013 Issue 35 September 4

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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CN III IN THE PADDOCK P104 BY MICHAEL SCOTT TIME AND THE JOKER S uperheroes never get old. They go on forever. Or until the public tires of them. Then if they're lucky (i.e. Batman), they get re-invented. Racing has as many superheroes as fiction, but less pity. Any re-invention has to be with the same ingredients that created the stature in the first place: speed, victories and championships. Valentino Rossi's re-invention has massive public support. The fans still love him. It also has the support of a forgiving Yamaha, who welcomed him home again two years after he'd walked out in a huff. It's matched by his own efforts: remaining cheerful – even exultant (at least outwardly) when Marc Marquez stuffed him with a copy of his own merciless move at Laguna Seca's Corkscrew. And he keeps on trying. Trouble is, the momentum is proving elusive. More than half the season has gone, and aside from a burst of glory at Assen, time has turned Rossi into a fourth-place rider. I don't believe his fans will ever desert him. Hope not, anyway. He's done enough and more to enshrine himself in the gallery of all-time superheroes. All the while concealing his deadly killer instinct behind a personality dripping with charm and humor. But the fourth places are chipping away at his pedestal. His nemesis is three-fold. Two of his rivals were there already: Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, with the former looking increasingly likely to fall off his perch. The third, most appropriately if we seek to continue the Superhero image, has a smile exactly resembling that of Batman's archenemy - the Joker. Marquez the Merciless, the Marvelous, the Mesmerizing. At the time of writing he's won four races in a row, and five so far this year. No class rookie has ever done that; not even Kenny Roberts in 1978, when he became the last newbie to take the title at his first attempt. Unless something disastrous happens to him at Silverstone, which falls between deadline and publication for this column, the 20-year-old Repsol Honda rider seems well placed to repeat this feat. He's faster than the rest. Simple as that. And still learning. Rossi hasn't run out of talent, as his old rival Casey Stoner might like to put it. He's been sabotaged by technicalities. Most particularly tires. The softconstruction Bridgestone fronts, introduced last year to halt a spate of cold-tire crashes, are his biggest problem. They came to a chorus of approval from all riders except Pedrosa and Stoner. And now Rossi, who said recently: "I was against the tire at the time, but I was in the shit anyway." The trouble is his style. He hits the brakes harder, apparently, than other riders. At that point, instead of containing the forces and giving him precise feedback about grip and the limit, the tire carcass collapses. The main

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