Part 2: Famous Rivalries in Motorcycle Racing
Alex Creville and Mick Doohan, 500cc GP, 1994 – 1999
Creville (4) leading Doohan - Courtesy of MotoGP.com
Spanish racer Alex Creville joined Mick Doohan in the Repsol Honda camp in 1994. The friction began almost immediately. Doohan was upset for having to share his motorcycle setup notes. “What is this? A football team?” he once remarked. Creville, on the other hand, wanted to prove that he had what it took to better Doohan.
Creville came close to beating Doohan in 1996. There were fierce battles between them throughout the year, but at the last round on Philip Island, Creville ran into Doohan’s rear tyre, sending both men off the road.
Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada, 250cc GP, 1998
Capirossi (65) vs. Harada (31) at Argentina 1998 - Courtesy of enoanderson.com
Aprilia in their wisdom had entered a 3-bike factory team, ridden by Italian Loris Capirossi, Japanese Tetsuya Harada and new Italian rider Valentino Rossi. Capirossi had led a slender 4-point lead as the 1998 championship reached the final round at Argentina. Of course, Harada was just as dogged in winning the championship.
Harada rode a near perfect race and kept Capirossi at bay. The Italian knew that Harada will be champion by just 1 point (25 points for 1st, 20 points for 2nd place) if the race ended finished this way.
Capirossi also knew that it was either that he won the race or Harada could not make it to the checkered flag. He made his move at the final corner of the final lap by ramming his bike inside Harada’s, taking both of them out of the race. Valentino Rossi went through to claim his fifth race victory of the season and Capirossi managed to scramble back to the finish line in seconds.
Aprilia released Capirossi from his contract for 1999 although he was the 250cc defending champion.
Matt Mladin and Ben Spies, AMA Superbikes, 2000 – 2008
Mladin (66) in front of Spies - Courtesy of motoamerica.com
Australian Matt Mladin ruled the AMA American Superbike Championship by winning six titles on the trot. Then through the assistance of one Kevin Schwantz, Suzuki employed a young rider by the name of Ben Spies. Spies went to work immediately and got into the habit of winning races.
Mladin felt degraded and resorted to play mind games by trash talking about Spies, “He (Spies) still has his mom hanging around wiping his bum,” in one interview.
But Spies showed his mental strength by riding even harder and went on to three titles in a row. Yamaha secured his services for WSBK the next year and he won the title in his very first rookie season, before moving over to the factory Yamaha team in MotoGP.