Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Miller and Márquez, mountains and molehills

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.


Miller and Márquez, mountains and molehills

Twenty-three years ago Luca Cadalora and Helmut Bradl were engaged in a bitter duel for the 250 world title, just as Álex Márquez and Jack Miller are in Moto3 today. At Misano the pair exited the final corner side by side and dashed towards the chequered flag, the Italian blatantly elbowing the German onto the dirt. Cadalora won the race by nine thousandths of a second and Bradl wasn’t a happy man.

The following weekend it was the West German GP. The Hockenheim grandstands – a vast concrete amphitheatre overlooking the final few corners – were packed with locals and the atmosphere wasn’t pretty. Each time Cadalora rode into the stadium section the crowd erupted into a chorus of boos. Before the weekend he had already received death threats and during practice he made the mistake of crashing right in front of the grandstands. As marshals dragged the groggy rider out of harm’s way, the crowd added insult to injury, unleashing a torrent of abuse. Cadalora was hurt and plenty of fans seemed delighted.

I’m not a sporting patriot but I’m fine with a little light-hearted partisanship: taking joy in the success of someone simply because he or she possesses the same passport. In other words choosing your heroes by the accident of geography. But Hockenheim 1991 was just horrible and removed the joy of what should have been an epic encounter.

Cadalora was wrong at Misano, but the German fans should have let the riders sort it out. Did Jack Miller do wrong at Sepang on Sunday? He was undoubtedly on the limit, but isn’t that where racers are supposed to be? It was one Aussie on an outgunned KTM fighting against four Hondas, with a world championship at stake, so it was always going to get physical.

What Miller did was what Valentino Rossi did at Laguna Seca in 2008. He knew full well if that any of those NSF250RWs got more than a few corners of clear track then they would clear off. Thus he had to constantly get in their way, just as Rossi did to Casey Stoner at Laguna.

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

Back to top

Comments

To me the issue is that all the examples everyone gives are one contact, one race, that happens and life moves on, it's racing. What I take issue with is that it started in Australia and two innocents were taken out by his move. Miller wasn't bumping into the other Honda riders at PI or Sepang, he was only being a dick to Marquez and in Sepang alone he made contact with him about 8 times.

One incident, it's racing you move on but when it goes to another race and it happens repeatedly and there is no retaliation, I would assume he expected race control to do something but they did nothing.

We have a potential thriller for the last round but it could be very ugly and end in tears. Seems some people very high up don't want to see another Spanish winner.

You've never actually raced a motorcycle in a world championship series, right?

. . . you should dig up some video footage of Danny Eslick slugging it out with Josh Herrin from a few years ago. Some of Danny's move make Miller look like a choir boy. Honestly, I thought Miller did what he had to do to keep the championship alive. Personally, I can remember more fairing bashing going on between Rossi and Lorenzo.

Miller rode "Marquez-style" at Sepang. That it was MM-style and not AM-style doesn't matter. If MM get's away with it (I thought his move on Lorenzo at the start was also balancing on the edge of what is possible), so should all the others. Doing it 1 or 50 times in one race doesn't matter if the move is accepted as normal racing.

to see some cool headed perspective!

As for the chances of seeing cool heads in Spain (both on and off track) I think those immortal words from the Australian movie "The Castle" sum it up: "Tell 'im he's dreamin', darl'n!".

I'm not a fan of either rider but the last two GP's the moto3 races have been extremely entertaining !! Brilliant race craft by these young blokes, Miller riding aggressively & being defensive at the same time made for excellent racing. Was almost comical to hear that the Marquez camp put in a protest in after all this is moto3 shenanigans are a given in this class but I guess the championship is on the line. Roll on Valencia

I was watching the race on the edge of my seat and while I am not a big Miller fan, the bike control he exhibited in that race convinced me that moving directly to MotoGP is not completely undeserved.

The problem I have is with how the situation was handled by race direction. This was multiple instances of deliberate (thought light) contact. Mike Webb says it is the intent that matters. Miller explicitly said he wanted to push Marquez wide. Isn't that intentional contact? As far as Aragon goes, that was all Miller's fault. If you want to try to ride around the outside on a damp track then you'll likely fall. Sepang was completely different, Miller could have easily made the corner(s) without pushing Marquez wide, he made a decision to purposefully run wide.

Mike Webb says “My instructions to both riders were; 'don't let this carry on to Valencia, we don't need a grudge match' but if no rules were broken then why do they have to change behavior? And haven't we been told that if it is the last lap of a race or if a title is on the line then more aggressive behavior will be tolerated? Does he really expect them to play nice with the title on the line? And what we need for the entertainment audience is exactly a grudge match.

I still think the easiest method is that if a rider is involved in a maneuver that knocks someone else down they get a minimum of one point. If it is an isolated incident then there is nothing to worry about and are no immediate consequences. In Aragon, Marquez would have gotten one point and it would not have changed anything in the race or title. In Sepang Miller would have gotten no points and again nothing would have changed in the title chase. What would change is that the application of the rules would be completely consistent and not subject to claims of vagueness or bias.

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

Imagine if you were in a race with someone and during the race you noticed that the other riders engine was showing obvious signs of being on its last legs, smoking, losing power etc. Even if the engine didn't go all the way and fail you would tell the rider that they shouldn't race that engine in the next race.
To me this is like Mike Webb saying to the riders not to do the same thing in Valencia, The riding in Sepang (millers in particular) was right on the limit of acceptable, if they continue in the same vein in Valencia then chances are that limit will be crossed.

It seems Mike Webb should have been out on track with Pol Espargaro during Sepang practise ;)

Seriously, if you think Miller will play the same strategy twice, you've not been paying attention. No-one knows what he will pull out of his hat at Valencia... least of all Alex Marquez.

Which is what makes Miller all the more fascinating. He is a work in progress and - as with #93 - we might be in for a special treat in years to come.

This column of Mat Oxley was not exactly brimming with great content but I would thank him for putting up that video of the duel between Helmut Bradl and Luca Cadalora. I really miss those days when the contests were really gladiatorial (I know some will say that they maybe great to watch but they put the lives of the riders in danger and I will agree with that) and riders seem to know how to outfox the opponents and win races. Riders like Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Wayne Gardner, Randy Mamola, Shinichi Itoh and Mick Doohan knew how to out think their opposition and Luca Cadalora brought his fairing banging into the 500 cc Grand Prix. I can never forget how he shadowed Rainey at the British GP at Donington to claim his first win in the 500 cc class. At that time Wayne Gardner was a guest commentator (on Star Sports or maybe it was still being called Prime Sports) and he said Luca Cadalora was riding the 500 bike like a 250 and carrying higher apex speeds and that a 500 could not be ridden that way and that there was no way Cadalora could beat Rainey. But Cadalora went on to beat Rainey by doing exactly what he did with Bradl (in the video) the difference being there was no fairing banging and elbowing but there were some really hard passes on Rainey who was his teammate at Marlboro Team Roberts. No whining by Rainey, at least in public. It was also the time when Max Biaggi famously said "this is bike racing not classical music".

This has changed now with more and more emphasis on rider safety and the likes of Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner crying foul every time a hard move was attempted or an hard pass made. When I was a fan of Valentino Rossi (I am not now, though his purported acceptance that he was wrong in leaving Yamaha over being number one makes me happy that at least he has learnt from his mistake) I loved the way he would tick riders in the front off and establish his lead. He did put hard passes on a number of riders and most of those were saved for Sete Gibernau. I think Simoncelli brought the paranoia into the GP with his gunslinger and cavalier style of riding in the 250 cc class (I remember one terrible move on Hector Barbera right in front of the pit wall and Barbera was lucky that he got away with no major injury) which he brought into the MotoGP class, his on track scuffles with many riders, his crash with Dani Pedrosa and the vilification that followed and sadly his own death on the track. That rankled many riders and brought out the whole safety thing (something that did not happen so much when Daijiro Kato died at Suzuka). It would interesting see what the number of fatalities were when the likes of Rainey, Schwantz and Doohan were at their peak and later on when the talk of safety increased and safety aids on bikes proliferated. If anyone throw some light on those it would be great.