Editor's Blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why Ducati needs Bagnaia

Ducati’s Desmosedici has struggled with turning for years. Now Ducati thinks it’s found the answer to the problem – 2018 Moto2 world champion Pecco Bagnaia

If Ducati doesn’t announce Pecco Bagnaia’s promotion to its factory team at Barcelona this weekend I promise to shin up the Sagrada Família naked.

Ducati needs Bagnaia because he is a huge talent and because MotoGP has changed. You only need to look at Andrea Dovizioso’s recent results to understand there is a new way of going fast in 2020.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Choose Your (WorldSBK) Weapon

It has been said before, and I will say it again, it is a welcome feat of logistics and determination that there is a 2020 WorldSBK season going on, and a near miracle that we media types are allowed in to cover it from inside. Thank you to all involved, without exception.

Given my shockingly bad air travel experiences at the first two ‘season comeback’ rounds in Jerez and Portimao, my media enterprises empire (a laptop and the soft machine that thumps its keyboard) quite literally set sail for the rest of the championship, by motorcycle. Which is fair enough, as I am covering a championship that is indeed based on production-derived motorcycles.

Somewhere between the Picos de Europa mountains of Asturias and the swimming pools of Calpe near Valencia - and exactly between the Teruel and Catalunya rounds in chronological terms - my mind was distracted from a heat-induced intermittent loss of friction between throttle grip and throttle barrel by thoughts of a much more extreme version of the real road bike scenario; WorldSBK racing.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why MotoGP records don’t get smashed any more

Back in the day, MotoGP records used to get destroyed at pretty much every grand prix, but not these days

Michelin is in its fifth season as MotoGP’s sole tyre supplier and yet only holds just over half the comparable race records. The rest belong to Bridgestone, which supplied the grid from 2009 to 2015.

Michelin has race records at Jerez, Le Mans, Losail, Misano, Mugello, Sachsenring, Sepang and Valencia. Bridgestone holds race records at Aragon, Assen, Brno, COTA, Motegi, Phillip Island and Termas.

Five years is a long time in MotoGP, so how can this be? Two main reasons…

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP is cage-fighting on gasoline

Don’t be fooled by the glitz and glamour, this is a vicious sport, but there is beauty in there too

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death,” said legendary Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly many years ago. “I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

The same goes for motorcycle racing, especially if you’ve made your way to its summit and you’re fighting for the MotoGP title. You may have noticed things getting a bit ugly in the last few races at Brno and Red Bull Ring, but believe me, bike racing has always been vicious.

The starting point of this game is the joy of riding a motorcycle just as fast as it’ll go, and maybe a little bit faster. But if you want to win you’re going to have to fight for it and the higher you climb the harder you will have to fight.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - 900 MotoGP races – a quick history of the class of kings

Sunday’s Styrian Grand Prix was motorcycle racing’s 900th premier-class world championship GP. Time for a little history and a few memories

I wasn’t around for the first premier-class GP, which took place on the Isle of Man in June 1949. The winner of that race was bespectacled Londoner Harold Daniell, who had been turned down for military service during the war because his eyesight was too poor.

Things have changed a lot since then. Daniell was overweight, smoked and drank, and took his only exercise while riding his factory Nortons or walking to the pub.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Privateers Progress

As far as seasons go, the 2020 WorldSBK version will be a short one. Even after three down and five to go in terms of full rounds, there have still been enough changes of fortune and unusual happenings to make for more than enough talking points.

First of all we had the usual wildfowl-dodging opener in Australia. Three different race winners, including two riders who had just signed with new manufacturers (Toprak Razgatlioglu on a Pata Yamaha, Alex Lowes for KRT), plus one old hand showing his mettle and a very human mistake on what was a testing weekend in many ways (KRT fixture Jonathan Rea). Then we – finally - came back to action in the scalding paella pan that was Jerez in very late July.

Scott Redding and Ducati built two winning extension and one runner-up mezzanine at Jerez atop their three podium foundations from Oz. Rea won the short race again though, and in some style considering how he could not get close to Redding in the long races. And then there was also a mystery rear-grip drop off for the five-time champion in race two, an unwelcome trek back down one of WorldSBK’s dimly-lit and seemingly sealed-off back alleys.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why V4 MotoGP bikes are better in battles

2020 Austrian MotoGP Insight Part 3: V4s have been the dominant force for years and not only because they make more power. Plus, has KTM built the perfect V4? And Honda’s toughest start in decades

Last weekend’s Austrian GP was the perfect illustration of the difficulties that riders of slower, better-handling inline-four MotoGP bikes face when they are fighting with rivals using faster, poorer-handling V4 machines.

V4 MotoGP bikes make more horsepower because a V4 engine has a stronger crankshaft, less vibration and fewer pumping losses, while inline-four MotoGP bikes are more user-friendly in corners because an inline-four engine has a longer crankshaft.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Fabio’s rear-brake trick

MotoGP riders use the rear rake more than ever – Quartararo is one of the best at loading the rear tyre so he can get more stopping power from the rear of the bike

The four main controls on a MotoGP bike – throttle, clutch, front brake and rear brake – are tools that can be used for jobs other than those originally intended. The throttle can be used to steer the bike, the clutch can be used for traction control (at least before electronics took that job) and so on.

The busiest tool of them all is the rear brake, which riders use to stop the bike, to steer the bike and to reduce wheelies. In other words, before the corner, through the corner and out of the corner.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Could Quartararo be MotoGP’s first non-factory champ?

Most MotoGP titles are won by factory-team riders, so will Fabio Quartararo make history if he wins the 2020 crown for Petronas Yamaha?

Any talk of Fabio Quartararo winning the 2020 MotoGP world title is hugely premature, because things can change more instantly and more drastically in motorcycle racing than in just about any other sport. Just ask Marc Márquez, Mick Doohan, Wayne Rainey and many, many more.

Quartararo goes into this weekend’s third of (hopefully) 14 races enjoying a 10-point advantage over Maverick Viñales and a 24-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso. He is also 50 points in front of Márquez. Until yesterday this wasn’t an insurmountable disadvantage for the reigning world champion, who won last year’s title by 151 points, but yesterday’s second operation to fix his right humerus surely changes that. Then again, you can never tell with these people.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Flight And Fight Club

Our timing – eventually - was surprisingly good. The old racers’ Highland bike trip had been planned before the C-word virus came along to cast doubt on any of us even getting out of our houses before 2021 came around. As weeks then months on the calendar got crossed off, as the lockdowns endured, as the prospect of hotels and restaurants not being opened at all in the now relatively cautious Covid-clattered Scotland, the stars and public health officials all got into alignment just before an annual bike outing that is a highlight of each summer.

It was even nice weather right up there when the rest of the UK was drowning. Fortune favours the… Bravehearts?

Long story short, my old Caledonian mate from my ‘racing’ days, Iain Macpherson and I used to go on an annual bike trip ‘Up North’, in the wilds and wonders of Scotland. Then Iain expanded the adventure to include many of the old Scottish - and then other UK - racers that dominated the scenes in the 1980s and 1990s… plus tuners, mechanics and simply pals-of-pals, at times. And, as I had been there all along, me too - bimbling along as an oversized mascot, pathfinder, organiser and enthusiastic road rider who occasionally used to head north even on a 125cc bike as a learner rider, way back when. It's my manor, as the London contingent would say.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Fabio is so accurate – that’s his advantage’

Petronas Yamaha’s Johan Stigefelt reveals the secrets of championship leader Fabio Quartararo and discusses the first races of MotoGP’s weirdest season

During this period of Covid-19-affected races, during which journalists are not admitted to the paddock, we get the story of the weekend from a leading MotoGP personality. After the first races of 2020, dominated by Fabio Quartararo, it’s the turn of Petronas Yamaha SRT team director and former 250 and 500 GP rider Johan ‘Stiggy’ Stigefelt.

“It’s been tough here at Jerez with the Covid situation, but what an amazing two Sundays with Fabio! We saw his potential last weekend and today he was in another league to everyone else. Fantastic!

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Rossi find a way out of his nightmare?

MotoGP’s old warhorse had a dismal start to his 25th season of world championship racing, complaining of the same old rear-grip issues

Poor old Valentino Rossi. Another year and he still sounds like a broken record. At Jerez his problem was the same as it’s been for the last few seasons: too much rear-tyre temperature and therefore not enough grip or tyre life.

Michelin has heard the story so often that its MotoGP chief Piero Taramasso was moved to suggest that the problem was Rossi’s own. “Rossi has a particular style – he leans off the bike less than the others, which stresses the edge of the tyre more, so the temperature rises,” said Taramasso on Friday.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “I’m happy I don’t race with Marc!”

Five-time World Superbike king Jonathan Rea evaluates the talent of six-time MotoGP champion Marc Márquez as the Spaniard aims to continue his march into history at Jerez on Sunday

Every year is a big year for Marc Márquez but 2020 will resonate more than most, if he can retain the MotoGP world title. So far the 27-year-old has won eight world championships – six in MotoGP, one each in Moto2 and 125s. If he does win this year’s MotoGP crown he will equal Valentino Rossi’s tally of nine world titles – seven in the premier class, one in 250s and one in 125s. That would be an important milestone.

Most racers deny any interest in records and racing history, until they grow older and become more aware of their place in the world. Mick Doohan, Honda’s most successful grand prix racer until Márquez took that record last summer, insisted records meant nothing to him, until the all-time 500cc victory record of Giacomo Agostini hove into view; then he thought seriously about trying to beat it, until serious injury stopped him in his tracks.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Anthony Gobert wanted a dancing girl in the pit!’

More gripping racing yarns from Stuart Shenton, the man who helped Kork Ballington, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardner and Kevin Schwantz to world title glory. And he might’ve done the same with Anthony Gobert…

In 1984 Stuart Shenton had been with Honda for 18 months when HRC engineer (and later HRC president) Satoru Horiike wandered up and asked a question.

“He said, if Honda were to build a 250, what should it be like?” says Shenton, who had already played a crucial role in Kawasaki’s domination of the 250 and 350 classes during the late 1970s and early 1980s. “So I asked him straight: are you building a 250? No, no, he said, this is just a casual question. Going back to my experience with Kawasaki, I told him a 250 must be on the minimum weight limit, it will need this much horsepower and it will need twin front discs. So at the end of 1984 I went to Japan and there was this 250, a fabulous piece of kit.”

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The MotoGP spannerman’s tale, part 1

Stuart Shenton was a race mechanic when he was still at school. Jobs with Kork Ballington, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardner, Kevin Schwantz, Anthony Gobert and Loris Capirossi followed, as did world titles with Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki. He’s a man with plenty of tales to tell…

Stuart Shenton’s first experiences as a teenage factory race mechanic quickly taught him that racing isn’t all about spinning spanners and twisting throttles.

In 1975, Kawasaki unleashed its water-cooled KR750 on the F750 World Championship, originally created for bikes with streetbike engines. Only one problem, the factory hadn’t built enough bikes for homologation.

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