Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - "The difference between idiot and hero is very small"

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.


“The difference between idiot and hero is very small”

Decisions, decisions, decisions… racers make tens of thousands of them every race, and each and every one of them can make the difference between victory and defeat, even between life and death.

With hindsight, there’s no doubt that Marc Márquez made the wrong decision to stay out on slicks as the rain in Spain swept across the Aragon plain on Sunday. But what if he hadn’t crashed and had crossed the line in front of his rivals equipped with rain tyres? We would be in awe of his ability to find grip where no else can. The headlines, no doubt, would’ve suggested he can walk on water.

In racing, especially when there’s only a narrowing dry line, there’s a narrow line between hero and idiot. We know this, but Ralf Waldmann reminded us of it so beautifully during the British 250 GP at Donington Park in 2000. That race started with intermittent rain falling. After much panic on the grid, wheels and spanners flying in all directions, most riders chose wet fronts and intermediate rears. Racers, like everyone, are like sheep: if a few riders go one way, most will follow.

Waldmann, however, was sat on the second row wearing wets front and rear. At this point he was the idiot. When the race started the track dried and Waldmann went backwards, until he was almost a full lap behind leader Olivier Jacque. What a fool.

Then it started raining again and pretty soon Waldmann was the fastest man on track. As he started the last lap he was still seven seconds down on the leader and as he exited the final hairpin he was still behind. But his wets gave him so much more drive that he rocketed past Jacque to win by three tenths.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Comments

Great commentary from Mat, really puts it in perspective. Imagine trying to do the math at MotoGP speeds! These guys are from another planet.

... the difference between the fastest lap on slicks that lap (a 2:15 by MM) & on wets (a 2:03 by Cal) was 12 seconds with a stop costing around 21 (& though he may not have known it, he had a 23 sec lead)... even if he'd come in swapped to wets for 2 laps & everyone had swapped back again 'cos it had dried he'd have been in a better place than staying on slicks... IF he'd stayed on.

Unlike the Waldmann example, staying out wasn't a gamble... it was dumb. The difference in this case between hero & idiot was gargantuan... was there anyone on the planet not shouting "come in!" as he went past the pits just before he crashed?

It is, however, nice to know he's human... I just hope his head wasn't filled with "you can do anything, you're Mark Marquez" bullsh*t... if it was, it sure isn't now.

Or lack of tread to get water away from the contact patch? I don't think it was temperature that caused the crash but hydroplaning. We've seen riders lose the rear in the dry after coasting for 1/4 a lap and the tire loses temp. They were going around at low speeds in the rain for a couple of laps so I think the tires were already cold. At the end the rain was coming down pretty good. Even a tire at operating temperature can't grip if there is a layer of water between it and the track.

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/