If it's not a done thing, it’s pretty close to being one. In 2024, Luca Marini will take the place that was held for eleven years by Marc Márquez, a rider with whom Valentino clashed harshly. Harder and more ferociously than with any other rider. Do you remember the collision with Gibernau at Jerez? And the frequent spats with Max Biaggi. Trifles, mere trifles. Just think of Sepang 2015 and Las Termas de Río Hondo 2018. Whatever you may think, whichever way you see it, that wasn't simple sporting rivalry: it was hate.
A few more details. At the time, Marc Márquez received more penalties in 40 minutes in South America. Rossi complained that the Spaniard had behaved as if in a "demolition derby". Shortly before the end of that crazy Grand Prix, Valentino Rossi collided with Márquez, crashed and finished only 19th. Rossi obviously suspected an intentional collision.
“When Márquez came up behind me, he deliberately touched me. He hit my foot and my bike and pushed me off my line,” said Vale visibly revved up at the 2018 Argentine GP.
Now that his half-brother, Luca Marini, the child that mother Stefania took to see the Grands Prix of his big brother, his hero, the memories of Sepang 2015 immediately have resurfaced.
At the time, after a brutal press conference - precisely in Sepang - during which Valentino had accused Márquez of deliberately slowing him down during the Australian GP, in which Rossi finished fourth behind Marc, Lorenzo and Iannone, the champion from Cervera played around on the track (deliberately?) in a race for Vale that was decisive for the title. It was as if he said to the old champion: "here, this is how I can slow you down if I want".
Naturally Rossi reacted, the then 39-year-old 9-time world champion forcing Márquez several times to go off the racing line and end up in the dirt, until he crashed when his brake lever touched Vale's knee. Intentional? Fortuitous? Who can say. The fact is that Rossi lost the title. From then on their relationship became unbearable for both of them, until Marc offered him his hand during the Misano conference. But Rossi rejected it.
"I haven't had a relationship with Márquez since Sepang 2015. So nothing can be broken. If he doesn't have respect for me, I can't have respect for him."
Vale has never been one to hide his feelings, even though he has always been good, the best, at showing his smiling side. But his relationship with Honda didn't end in a pleasant way either.
And now on November 28th - in a few days - Vale's brother, Luca Marini, will occupy that place, wearing those leathers he has dreamed of since he was a child, alongside Joan Mir in the Valencia tests, in the Repsol Honda garage that Rossi occupied between 2001 and 2003.
Marini's name has emerged in recent weeks, when Alberto Puig had already received a long series of rejections.
The Pierer Group would have even let Pol Espargaró go without paying for the move if an agreement had been reached with HRC. "If Pol gets a place as a regular rider and wants to accept it, he is free. But we really want him to stay. And Pol knows it," explained KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer on Saturday in Malaysia
Marini's manager, Francesco Secchiaroli, concluded the operation. So now VR46 can claim, and rightly so, to have the most fruitful Academy in the world championship. But will he remain in the Academy? The rumours of disagreements are just rumours for the moment and Luca and Vale have always shown a strong feeling of brotherhood, united by their mother Stefania, a strong and sweet woman who, even in moments of conflict between her first son and Max Biaggi, was able to find the right words to mitigate hatred, to throw water on the fire.
A story begins, for Luca Marini, which seems written in a film script. And anyone who doesn't understand why Luca made this choice should look at our cover photo: in his child's eyes, that was the dream he had to achieve. Wearing the Repsol-Honda colours with which he saw his big brother triumph. Mission accomplished, Luca. All the luck in the world.