ream time is over. We've
had a race. And what a
race – after a long four-day
weekend full of surprises, and yet
full of conﬁrmation of the old prin-
ciple: The usual guys always win.
More or less.
The big question left in the
desert night seemed to be about
Valentino Rossi (this in itself con-
tinuing another tradition, estab-
lished over his preceding 18 GP
Is Valentino still one of the usu-
al guys who always win?
Of course, only time will tell. It
certainly gladdened the heart to
see him surge into the lead for a
good long spell, and all the more
so in his stirring ﬁnal battle with
Marc Marquez. Yet the outcome
seemed all too predictable.
Old Master versus New. And
Mr. New has a Honda.
It was close all the same. But
after watching Rossi's waning
over the past three years, howev-
er, I am not convinced. Qatar is a
weird track, a weird surface, and
often has weird outcomes. Last
year, for instance, the same pair
had a very similar battle, although
back then it was for second place
- in Marquez's ﬁrst race in the
class. Rossi prevailed that time.
Marquez this time. And he hadn't
ridden a bike for six weeks.
It will be fascinating to watch
for the next ﬁve races, to see if
Vale can sustain it this time round.
Crucial for him too: he's given it
ﬁve races to decide whether to
carry on next year or not. And
tense for the rest of us: just how
many more explosions of excite-
ment can we stand?
It was a huge relief for one
special reason: it provided a
very welcome diversion from
an embarrassing spell of appar-
ently panic-stricken rule changes
and confusion, with adjustments
to the radical changes still be-
ing made right up to race day.
It also drew attention away from
the greater importance of the
new changes: the death knell of
traditional factory teams. From
2016, all bikes will run under the
"Open" rules, all with the same
amount of fuel, the same tires,
and the same tires.
Rossi's run was just the tonic
MotoGP needed after the dire
spell of rule ﬁddling. It started last
year, with the creation of "Open"
and "Factory Option" categories,
the former with 24 compared
with 20 liters of petrol, softer
tires, free testing, 12 against ﬁve
engines, and the opportunity for
engine development during the
season: the only penalty being
mandatory use of Dorna's sup-
Ducati's canny self-demotion
to "Open" was a shock, and
showed the weakness in the
grand plan. This triggered the
late changes, which were ac-
companied by the factories' ﬁnal
formal acceptance of the 2016
sanction. Ducati came out of it
pretty well, now called Factory
option once more, but running
under the same loose regulations
as Open bikes. Until they start
visiting the rostrum.
To many the new rules were
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
III IN THE PADDOCK
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE