Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Motorcycle racing’s dwindling classics

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.


Motorcycle racing’s dwindling classics

As MotoGP’s superstars rode out on Saturday night to tweak their black boxes and twiddle with their high-speed rebound adjusters, the world’s greatest motorcycle race was roaring into action 7000 miles away.

Not that anyone seemed to care. While cyberspace was afire with every detail of the final preseason tests outside Doha, the 74th running of the Daytona 200 didn’t even raise a ripple in motorcycling’s Twitter-sphere. It wasn’t even televised.

Not so long ago the 200 really was the world’s biggest bike race. It meant fame and fortune to any rider who could capture the gigantic trophy. Those who have done so include many of the greats: Giacomo Agostini, Steve Baker, Johnny Cecotto, Graeme Crosby, Nicky Hayden, Eddie Lawson, Gary Nixon, Wayne Rainey, Cal Rayborn, Kenny Roberts, Scott Russell, Jarno Saarinen, Kevin Schwantz and Freddie Spencer.

The race probably meant even more to the factories. It was certainly their biggest marketing opportunity of the year, selling vast numbers of motorcycles in the booming US market and across the world.

Daytona was also the first big race of the season: a sunny Florida signal to everyone – especially fans still shivering in Europe – that the long, cold winter was over.

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

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Comments

The France family, who control NASCAR and various other things,
are directly responsible for the decline of Daytona.

There was a time when it was one of the most important races in the world.

I was there.

I saw Roberts, Agostini, Sheene, Nixon, Mann, Romero, Duhamel,
and many other world class riders. It was an event which was at that
time clearly of worldwide importance. And the France family ruined it with their endless greed and pathological desire for control. I'll never go back to Daytona, because I prefer to keep the memories of the time before the Frances
meddling intact.

The race wasn't even AMA sanctioned this year. It was basically a club race with a few good riders who lapped practically the entire field several times.

I'll go again if the AMA gets involved but not before.

So sad.

PS: Mat, I love your blog and perspective on the two wheeled world. Good on Ya mate!
.

Those of us who have been around for more than a few years are very
much aware of the damage the AMA has done to the sport of motorcycle
racing.

I suspect you are new on the scene so that's why you are unaware of this.

If you don't believe what I say, ask Wayne Rainey what he thinks of the AMA.

My first AMA race was in Richmond Indiana In 1971.

Superbike racing wasn't perfect with the AMA but it was really for the most part fine. When they sold the sanctioning rights to the NASCAR boys is when it all went into the crapper.

Now that the AMA and MotoAmerica are back in the picture things are getting back to the proper order of things. Read this exciting news... http://superbikeplanet.com/2015/Mar/150318eds.htm

.

Moto America got a late start last year. No doubt the owners of the track (who lost control of the AMA series to Moto America) didn't want to pay the sanctioning fee. To their credit, they rolled that money into the purse, as this was the largest purse for a race at Daytona and for the winner in years.

I'd assume that once Moto America establishes itself, normalcy will return. Much like it did to Indy cars in this country. All they need to do is make sure thay have some class rules, either Moto 2 or World SuperSport, that will make it feisable for foreign teams to compete. In case you missed it, this years race was lead at one point by Slovenian Bostjan Skubic, who eventually took 4th.

I thought the actual racing was great to watch and happy that DIS was able to reach an agreement to have the event take place. I also thought the streaming was great and I'd much rather watch it streaming than watch it on the TV with commercials and horrible commentary. Something will have to be done about the back markers though. I was really surprised there were no front runner accidents but it sure did offer viewers some excitement.

It's good to see that in this time of transition that the Daytona 200 still took place. It will never come back in all it's glory but this year's event was important for the future of US motorcycle racing. I hope to see MotoAmerica involved next year and see what the future holds. I would love to see my favorite international racers take part in the Daytona 200, and the TTs, but we know that's not going to happen.

Thanks for all involved in making this year's event happen. And thanks to Mat for the article.

. . . . . . to keep the series going, otherwise Bike Week is nothing but a big, drunken, Harley party. To those who claim, "it isn't?", pick your venues carefully (Deland, etc.) and you could go thru entire Bike Week believing that there are no more Harley's there than any other make of motorcycle.

Contrary to the usual belief, the race is supposedly the reason Bike Week exists. And you don't dump something in its 74th running.

The reason motorcycle road racing declined in the USA is because the money went away. Sponsors went elsewhere and so did Honda and Kawasaki. The spec tire killed off tire contracts. Even contingency money went skinny. Suddenly in the space of a few years, it got a lot more expensive to field a racer. The purses sucked too... Hardly pay the hotel bill.

This Daytona featured a $180,000 purse, paid out to the top 40. It was meaningful and the result was a big field led by a few former factory riders and Daytona champions. The winner got a Rolex watch. Like I said, from an economics perspective, this Daytona 200 was relevant. And the show turned out to be spectacular with the very last lap being the best in memory. The TV streaming was much better than expected. The announcers were not great, but they were familiar voices with Richard Chambers anticipating that "Slick" would let Herrin by midway through the last lap. Textbook Daytona. There were risks for both. Slick had no chance if he led out of the chicane. Herrin thought he could hold him off in the final draft to the stripe.

I expect the next Daytona 200 will begin to attract more riders from afar again if they keep that purse up there like it should be. Then the fans will come too. I thought the Daytona 200 this season was great! Pure Americana... I think it should be a stand alone event not unlike IOM. There is no track on earth that displays so much to the TV viewer. The drafting on the banks, the braking duels at the chicane, the puzzle of the horseshoes, and then getting up again onto the west banking. I have been told that finding turn one at that speed is like trying to find a driveway! Great stuff.

Of course, like IOM, the Daytona long track kills people...

I canceled my AMA membership during the Dingman era. A shame since the racing was getting better until the nail-in-the-coffin NASCAR sale. The fact that the competition was improving in spite of Dingman was IMO due to the economy. Lending was so loose that dealers were giving loans to teenagers with minimum wage jobs.
And when you can afford a sport bike, the chances of you attending a race (or competing) multiply. Kids get to start younger- which hasn't happened in a generation. Nicky Hayden won his AMA title at age 21 in 2002. 10 years later at the height of the Depression, Josh Hayes (who is 7 years older than Nicky!!!), won the title at age 37. Talk about a lost generation!
I don't see Daytona coming back after it's lost so much momentum. I imagine any youngster who can afford the lifestyle today would prefer to see MotoGP at COTA.
sad but true.

. . . . . . was to make Mat Mladin go away. For years the guy had been a trout in a mud puddle, continuing to sandbag with incredible factory support, and refusing to go upstairs to either World Superbike or MotoGP where he belonged. Where he could compete amongst equals.

From that moment on, it was all downhill; the series being run by guys who "knew everything" when they didn't have a clue. And everything, already hurt by the lack of money and the world economy, collapsed quickly.

I've still got hopes with Wayne Rainey and MotoAmerica. I'll be at VIR in May for the races - which has to be the first time I'll have been there in about eight years. And with a new wife to introduce to the sport (she watches F1 and MotoGP religiously with me every weekend, and has gotten me following NASCAR). And next year, we'll be back at Daytona, first time in ten years.

Yeah, the 200 has a real abyss to drag itself back from, but I think it can do it. Likewise AMA Superbike. If Rainey and company can't do it, its all over, baby blue. But it has to come back. If Nicky Hayden retires at the end of this contract (which I'm expecting) there will be NO Americans in the big leagues.

That's inexcusable.

Hey sykerocker: if it wasn't for the competition provided by Mat Mladin, would Ben Spies' three AMA Superbike Championships been hollow victories? Remember, to win those titles, Spies had to beat his team-mate. That certainly lifted the game. The fact that the other American riders could not get close to Mladin indicates the standard of their riding simply was not good enough. You could have made the same argument about Kenny Roberts in 1977. Most road races he ran away and hid from the competition. Was he too "a trout in a mud puddle" ?