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.
Homage to Catalunya
In September Scotland will decide whether it wants to split from Great Britain, after three centuries together. Two months later the Catalan people will vote in a referendum to decide whether Catalunya will split from Spain, also after 300 years together, following the conquest of the region by the Bourbon kings.
This is a huge political issue, much bigger than anything to do with motorcycling, but if Catalunya does gain the independence it craves it will become the greatest bike racing nation on earth, even greater than Spain.
All three current Word Champions – Marc Márquez, Pol Espargaró and Maverick Viñales – are Catalans. On Sunday all three races were won by Catalans – Márquez the elder and the younger and Tito Rabat. And each time the Spanish national anthem played as the winners stood atop the podium the grandstand crowd loudly booed and whistled its disapproval. They want to listen to a Catalan national anthem, not Spain’s Marcha Real.
Catalunya and motorcycling go together like fish and chips in Britain. “Bikes are in the character of the people in and around Barcelona,” top Spanish bike journalist Juan Pedro de la Torre told me. “It’s not quite the same in Madrid.”
Pol Espargaró, one of four Catalans in the top seven in the current MotoGP points standings, was born and bred in Granollers, just three miles from the Catalunya track, which hosted its first GP in May 1992, 11 months after he was born. Ever since he was a toddler he can remember hearing bikes warming up for the Grand Prix. Like most Catalan riders, Espargaró usually does his post-race interviews in two languages: Spanish and Catalan, because the locals don’t want to hear their riders speaking in a foreign tongue.
The home of Spanish motorcycling
The question, of course, is why are Catalans so damn good at riding motorcycles? To answer that question, just like any other, you need to look at history.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.