Talking point: Rossi & Cairoli v Vinales & Herlings
An amazing symmetry occurred in the opening MXGP and MotoGP race that ran concurrently on Sunday lunchtime. The young, talented kid of the team was challenging the old master.
As Valentino Rossi threw it away after two mistakes on the last lap allowing Maverick Vinales the win, Antonio Cairoli was making his customary late-race charge on Jeffrey Herlings, only to come up just short.
It was hard to know where to look but it was an amazing moment that had the manufacturer’s next generation investment going head-to-head with their and the sport’s current legend. It was gripping viewing, two alpha males going for glory within the same team, both giving everything to be top dog on the track and in the pits.
Cairoli of course would get the better of Herlings in the second moto to win the overall, Rossi, with the one moto format in MotoGP, will have to wait another day to exact his revenge.
Davey Coombs described Cairoli as the Rossi of motocross, he incorporates the same day-glo colour scheme into his gear and is the crowd favourite nearly everywhere he goes. Both Rossi and Cairoli know their time is running out but both know their time has not ran out yet.
Their determination alongside their natural talent and constant motivation is incredible to see. The problem is they are teaching their young protégé’s their secrets. Herlings has had to learn quickly from the master, he no longer sprints wildy at the start, he takes his time and manages his moments to attack, and with each passing race this season he is becoming more like Cairoli.
Rossi too is a tactical master but Vinales isn’t intimated, he knows what Rossi is about, and has come out firing this season. He pressured Rossi into mistakes, not something normally associated with the Italian legend. Rossi’s pain in defeat showed just how much he still cared, his teammate getting the better of him only amplified that pain and frustration.
Cairoli meanwhile, thanks in part to Herlings’ early season injury, has a big points lead over his rival but in the last three rounds has shown that Herlings is back on track and ready to take over as team leader.
The battle is on and it’s for much more than an individual win, this is a battle of egos ,a battle of elite level talents who, on the same machinery, have no excuses if their teammate beats them. Both rivalries are still respectful but Rossi’s public extra-friendly demeanour with Vinales has already become less friendly and more courteous – and he has even started the mind games already!
Cairoli and Herlings meanwhile already are pitted under different awnings, Herlings didn’t want to be under Cairoli’s De Carli team awning and stayed within the MX2 tent under the guidance of those who have guided him since he was 15. They know both what’s coming and kept their distance in readiness for a battle royal between the two biggest talents in MXGP that could get heated!
Yamaha have a similar scenario with a championship battle looming, and when Rossi feels threatened he hits back on and off the track. Rossi’s track record tells us it might get heated, they might even need a wall built between them, but as fans we need to appreciate these battles between age-defying legends and young lions.
Father time dictates these battles only have a finite amount of time to be enjoyed, whatever the repercussions and difficulties for the riders and teams as the battles intensify, for the fans it is a golden age of MXGP and MotoGP racing.