MotoGP: Online petition fuels Valentino Rossi penalty debate

    Story highlights

    • Petition demands rethink on Valentino Rossi punishment
    • Italian handed grid penalty for final race of season
    • Rossi appeared to kick rival Marquez during Malaysia GP
    • Rossi leads Marquez's compatriot Jorge Lorenzo in title race

    (CNN)After the most controversial race in recent MotoGP history in Malaysia this weekend, talk of the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez in Malaysia has barely subsided.

    In fact, a campaign is underway to force a rethink by MotoGP Race Direction, and reverse their decision to banish Rossi to the back of the grid for the season's decisive final race next month.
      By Tuesday, 350,000 people had signed a petition online to quash the nine-time world champion's penalty for dangerous riding.
      The Movistar Yamaha rider was sanctioned by Race Direction after appearing to kick out at Marquez who subsequently lost control and crashed out of the race at the Sepang International Circuit.
      Nine-time world champion Rossi maintains his foot came off his foot peg as a result of contact with Marquez.
      The petition, entitled "Remove the penalty from Valentino Rossi and bring back integrity to the Championship" has been logged on change.org by Rossi fan Nicholas Davis from the UK.
      The petition, which has also been translated into Italian and Indonesian, underlines the strength of feeling from fans, many of whom feel that Rossi was unfairly treated.
      Immediately after the race, the hashtag #SepangClash started trending on social media with supporters of both Rossi and Marquez expressing passionate opinions.
      As well as accusing the MotoGP administrators of wrongly punishing Rossi, the petition takes them to task for failing to sanction Jorge Lorenzo for overtaking on a yellow flag -- a rules infringement that could have harmed the Spaniard's title prospects if officials had spotted it.
      "You have just condoned dirty racing tactics by punishing Valentino Rossi for pursuing the championship whilst being harassed and sabotaged by Marc Marquez," the petition reads. "At the same time you have allowed Jorge Lorenzo to overtake on a yellow flag, without penalty."
      "Justifying your decision by stating that there is no rule to deal with the actions of Marc Marquez is as absurd as saying there is no rule to prevent riders shooting at other riders with guns. Would you allow that because it didn't break an existing rule?"
      However, the petition is unlikely to achieve its aim, particularly when even Movistar Yamaha managing director Lin Jarvis was unwilling to justify Rossi's on track behavior.
      "I am not defending his actions," Jarvis said after Sunday's race. "This is why he received the penalty as it was judged that this was not a move within the rules of racing."
      Jarvis believes Marquez was responding to Rossi's criticism of the rider.
      "I think that what happened today -- the incident on track -- was the result of at least a couple of races of fierce competition between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi," he said.
      "I think that what we saw in the race was the revenge of Marc Marquez towards Valentino's statements in the media."
      Prior to Sunday's race in Malaysia Rossi said Marquez was "thinking like a child" after the pair clashed at the Dutch Grand Prix in Assen in June, claiming the reigning world champion would prefer his countryman, Lorenzo to win the 2015 title.
      Italy's Rossi leads Lorenzo by seven points with one race remaining.
      Rossi will find no support across the team garage either, with Lorenzo calling for an even harsher punishment for the Italian.
      "His name is very important for the championship and maybe because of that he doesn't get championship penalization points," he told the post-race press conference.
      "Yes, he starts last [in Valencia] but it's not fair. We have to respect the decision but I don't share it."
      The final race of the MotoGP season takes place on November 8.