MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Mugello: Holy of Holies
The psyche of most racers is a precarious thing. Their confidence is like a magician’s conjuring trick – it can disappear in a puff of smoke. There’s something almost spiritual or hallucinatory about that inner belief: one moment it’s definitely there, though you’re not really sure why, then the next it’s gone, like you never had it in the first place and like you may never find it again.
Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo currently stand on the opposite sides of that trick of self-confidence (or self-delusion if you prefer). Confidence builds confidence which builds confidence. That’s where Rossi stands right now. Lack of confidence diminishes confidence which then further reduces confidence. That’s where Jorge Lorenzo sits huddled now.
These are upward and downward spirals and that’s the really tricky thing: finding the right part of that spiral to place your racing psyche and keep it there – week in, week out – is mostly impossible. Wayne Rainey – 500 world champion in 1990, ‘91 and ‘92 – was better at maintaining his psyche than most, but he also had team boss King Kenny Roberts on hand to help.
“When Wayne was down I was someone to talk to and lift him back up,” remembers Roberts, who won his own hat trick of 500 crowns in ‘78, ‘79 and ‘80. “And when he was too high I was somebody to say, ‘hey asshole! Just back her down a bit.’”
Beyond often complex technical reasons, this psychological fragility is why riders’ results improve or worsen apparently without reason. It’s also why it’s impossible to judge what’s going on in a racer’s mind.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.