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.
122 seconds in the life of Marc Márquez
There was quite an admission of guilt from the podium trio at Austin on Sunday. Not one of the top three – Marc Márquez, Andrea Dovizioso or Valentino Rossi – had ridden the entire race flat-out. They’re not getting lazy or anything, they just knew that Austin’s 20 corners and especially the Turn 3/4/5/6/7/8/9 flip-flops and the never-ending Turn 16/17/18 right-hander chew the hell out of the front tyre. So don’t abuse it or it will abuse you.
All these things considered, Márquez was miraculous on race day. Following overnight rain, the track had lost some grip, so he held back in the early laps while Dovizioso crept ahead at the rate of several tenths a lap. Was Márquez struggling? Was he, hell. He was just getting acquainted with the new grip character and once he knew what he was dealing with, he surged forward and that was that. Another brilliant win, his 20th in the premier class, which puts him equal with his forefather Freddie Spencer.
But I won’t remember the weekend for Sunday’s 43-minute race. Much more memorable was what happened on Saturday afternoon.
MotoGP’s recently introduced 15-minute qualifying system is not an easy thing. Even Rossi admits that it took him at least a year to get his head around it. Only freaks of nature (that’s Márquez and Casey Stoner, mostly) can jump on a motorcycle and stick it on the edge right out of pitlane. Most racers need to build up to speed, to get a conversation going between themselves, the motorcycle and the racetrack before they feel comfortable enough to start dancing.
Márquez was already dancing and already on pole when he rode into the pits halfway through qualifying to get another rear tyre: gloriously new, gloriously sticky and ready to be burned to hell by his throttle hand in a matter of minutes. His crew pulled the bike onto the roller starter. Mechanic Roberto Clerici hit the trigger, the bike failed to fire and instead fired itself back at Clerici. They tried again, same thing.
When something like this happens to most racers, their state of flow, their state of being in the zone, is thrown into chaos. They are no longer a racer, they’re just someone in a panic.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.