Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Roll on 2016!

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.


Roll on 2016!

That was prime Jorge Lorenzo: grab the holeshot, then lay down the law, so there’s no gunfight at the end. Perhaps there would’ve been a shootout in the final laps if Marc Márquez hadn’t been handicapped by his finger injury and Valentino Rossi hadn’t been spooked by a few front-end scares, but that’s all ifs and buts.

Jerez was the first procession of a so-far dazzling season which will surely give us more great races, but I’m already looking forward to 2016.

We have had four seasons of classes-within-a-class MotoGP racing. Next year MotoGP will be back to where it should be: everyone working to the same technical rules, a level race track, no excuses, let’s go racing.

In 2012 and 2013 there were the silly-named Claiming Rule Teams bikes, gamely propping up the back of the sadly diminished grid and trying hard (but never succeeding) to pretend they were in the same race as the factory bikes.

Since last year there’ve been the Open bikes, which make a better but not utterly convincing show of pretending to be in the same race. And then we have the Factory 2 bikes, or whatever they’re called (I long ago lost interest). Factory 2 bikes belong to manufacturers who are struggling to keep up; they are factory bikes but with benefits.

Open bikes get more fuel, softer tyres and more engines (but less electronics) to give them a very small hope in hell of getting close to the factory machinery. Factory 2 bikes get more fuel and all that but can run their own hi-tech electronics. But if they turn out to be any good, they lose some of their extra fuel but they can keep everything else. Are you with me?

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

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Total votes: 1
Total votes: 20

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Comments

I normally like Mat's blog (don't forget to follow the link to the whole article!), but honestly, David, we could have skipped this one. You've given us a much more in depth, insightful, and better informed perspective on this topic across dozens of posts. Mat honestly seems a little out of his depth on this one.

Total votes: 27

I always enjoy Matt's insight . A different kind from David's maybe but insight that come from someone that years ago averaged over 100 mph on the Isle of Man. Matt's articles for Roadracing World's is what makes their coverage of motogp races so entertaining. Thanks for including these articles David, I look forward to them. It's one of the things that keeps me being a paying site supporter.

Total votes: 23

Like I said, I normally enjoy Mat's posts. I look forward to them also. I also wasn't commenting on his talent as a racer or a writer in general.

As other's noted below, this particular article seemed a bit dashed off, not entirely accurate, and--for me--didn't really add anything of value to my understanding of the rules or the motivation behind them, as compared to David's coverage.

Was there something from this article specifically that you felt was new or useful information or insight?

Total votes: 15

Whilst I agree that, with Matt's interpretation of the rules he doesn't bring anything new to the table, he will always be on the front row of my grid for, amongst other things, his 'Age of Superheroes' book which put the sheer lunacy of the Time of Titans (think that was Mike Scott's analogy some years previous but time is misty...), firmly in your face in brilliant words and pictures.
In fact that book partly inspired me to do a six part narrative series (The Temples Of Speed), aired on the Motopod podcast episodes over the last couple of years as interest in the earlier years, the bikes and especially the crazy tracks they raced on continues to grow in popularity. Matt really nailed that, especially his piece in AOSH on the terrifying Salzburgring in Austria and Mick Doohan's account of his love for the flat out kink at the top of the straight, 180mph and the bike not wanting to go anywhere you needed it to be- awesome!!

Total votes: 8

I very much enjoy Mat's writing, but this isn't his best work. It's a self-contradictory bit of rambling.

On the one hand he says, "Roll on 2016!... MotoGP will be back to where it should be: everyone working to the same technical rules, a level race track, no excuses, let’s go racing."

On the other hand, he points out that, "Factories which haven’t won a race in several years will still be granted engine concessions – they will still get nine engines, with the freedom to change and improve as the season goes on." And somewhere in the middle he remembers that "of course the wealthier teams will still have the upper hand because they can afford to pay a small army of electronics boffins to get the best out of their little black boxes."

So why all this clamoring for 2016? I'm very much enjoying 2015.

Mat's final thought begins, "An equal fight is something to look forward to". Yes, Mat. But for reasons you point out, you ain't gonna get that in 2016.

Total votes: 25

Not all teams get to participate, and the level of electronics will be based on curent factory option.

2016 will Hardly be hurting the fastest and helping the slowest teams. Especially considering it is just the top three factories who are invited to develope the code that everyone must use.

Just too much miss information in this article to replicate. It really should be titled "2016 More of the Same" instead.

Total votes: 10

I know I'm going to be the odd one out here but can't help but wonder what it is that people want. Is it to see who has the best combination of bike + rider or to have a spectacle which is essentially about the closest, most unpredictable, variegated racing that's possible? For me it's the former and therefore no surprise that Honda and Yamaha dominate. They are the most successful manufacturers of road-going bikes out there, and for a good reason - they build and sell vast quantities of extremely good motorcycles (and other machinery), generating the profits to pump into motorsports.

I would also like to have the closest racing, but not at the expense of artificially levelling the playing field. The trouble with doing so is that it's a pipedream. Someone, somehow, will always extract an advantage, and I'm not in the least interested in the kind of rule-infested conflagrations seen in, for instance, F1 ("you cheat! you only won because your go-fast stripes are yellow and everyone knows blue is slower!"). That's as boring as... well, F1.

Also, what satisfaction would there be for anyone in seeing a title winner who probably wouldn't be holding the trophy if he hadn't been given a helping hand? Asterisk titles mean very little to anyone.

Yamaha and Honda dominate because of their consistency in building fantastic bikes and I'm far from convinced that this has been entirely about their ability to throw money at the problem. In the last couple of decades both Suzuki and Ducati have had spells in the limelight but couldn't sustain that. Regarding Ducati, I don't think I have ever heard them say that the reason their bike has been such a dog for the last few years was because they couldn't afford to build a better one. After all, they were able to afford one of the most expensive riders on the grid and even now are known to be interested in recruiting Lorenzo, who won't be cheap. And, ironically, the concessions they have gained are surely just a licence to spend more money in order to get better. Extra engines = additional cost, extra testing = more cost, etc.

Lastly (else this would turn into a thesis!) where do we think MotoGP would be if Yamaha and Honda hadn't pumped in all that dosh for the last 20 or 30 years? Would we even be having this conversation? Just take a look at how (un)lively the conversation is around WSBK. I say, let's enjoy the fantastic period we are in right now with tight competition at the front, accept that there will probably be another fallow period of somewhat dull racing sooner or later, but also realise that the whole thing is cyclical and not get too carried away with trying to manipulate the environment lest we lose the very essence itself.

Total votes: 44

This is not me under a differet login!

Great points Lilyvani but unfortunately reason and common sense usually don't get much traction in internet comments.

Chris

Total votes: 9

For a couple of years, Ducati actually DID suffer significant budget restraints. Why? The AUDI merger/takeover. In such situations, the acquired firm (Ducati in this case) is required - both by contract and by legalities - to limit spending prior to the merger as to not (negatively) impact the economics of the transaction.

Post-merger, the acquiring firm (AUDI) controls/restricts every expense and every strategic decision. Budget freezes, hiring freezes and endless hours in meetings until the new owners get up to speed and decide on a course of action.

That done, AUDI has opened the cash drawer, hired Dall'Ignia and approved the design and construction of the new bike. Given AUDI's significant financial resources and their interest in GP racing, Honda won't have such an easy time of it going forward, on the racetrack or at the rulesmaking meetings.

Total votes: 7

Well said, Lilyvani. Pretty much my point of view too. And looking at your star rating at the moment - 5 stars with 35 votes counted - a lot more people agree than you apparently expected.

The whole idea of motorcycle racing and motorsports in general is that it is about different bikes (or cars) battling against each other and trying to build the fastest motorcycle by being clever, it's not just a battle of riders. Otherwise we would have called it 'rider sports'.
I watch motorcycle racing because of the bikes, that's what attracted me to begin with. Of course along the way you get to know the riders and you pick your favorites, but for me even that is very much down to the bike they are riding. That's why I can also enjoy watching unfamiliar foreign championships, because I look for the guy that's riding my favorite bike or something strange.

I get the impression that many people's ideal situation is to make all bikes completely equal, 'because that is fair'. Well, we have single-make cup races for that. And those do not neccessarily give good racing. In fact in those classes often you get about the same results each race, because there's no variables anymore.
Motorcycle racing gets more interesting with diversity, with bikes performing and excelling in different ways. That's when you get more overtaking as well, because they excel at different parts of the track. Using more and more spec components (tyres, ECUs, fuel injection systems - Moto3, engines - Moto2, brrr) and stringent technical rules (like maximum bore of 81 mm, boring...) may bring the field as a whole closer together, but it can result in fast, uniform processions too.

And like you said: there would not even be Grand Prix racing at any interesting level without the efforts of the factory teams. Their exotic, immensely high-tech machines are what makes MotoGP so fascinating. That's why we go to the track, to watch these amazing, unique machines - being ridden at insane levels by amazing riders. I can fully accept that not all riders or bikes can win or even get on the rostrum, there's nothing wrong with that. Stronger still: it's the lesser bikes on track that really show the brilliance and speed of the top guns.

GP racing is not communism, it's competition on a technical and riding level. Please let's not make everything equal.

Total votes: 5

who both love the same sport have such contrasting views?

Firstly I'll disagree that Yamaha and Honda build the most successful road bikes. The "long bang" R1 was an overweight dog from it's inception with only the genius of a (much missed) Ben Spies masking it's deficiencies and its long overdue redesign taking the much needed step forward. Like wise the CBR1000RR, as per the previous iteration R1, is an analog bike in a digital era. It has confounded me for years why all this Yamaha/Honda investment and domination of MotoGP has resulted in such low tech "flagship" road bikes.

The reference to F1 is also a step down a dead end street. With its reliance on aerodynamics F1 faces the issue of dirty air from preceding cars making it extremely difficult for following cars to pass. MotoGP and other bike racing are the exact opposite, with that dirty air creating an air pocket which actually aids the following bike. So levelling the playing field applies very well to bikes where "close enough is good enough", but is a dead loss in F1 where a very clear advantage is required to make a pass.

As for Suzuki and Ducati having their "spells in the limelight", I think Suzuki were extremely lucky to fall between the cracks of two slightly overlapping era's and pinch a championship win between the fall of Doohan and the rise of Rossi. Ducati are something of a fairy tale, producing a barely tamed stallion of a bike coupled with probably the only rider of the time capable of taming it. History has shown, and put into perspective, the genius of both man and bike I think. Certainly some of the gloss came of Rossi (and Burgess) when he (they) attempted a similar feat while Stoner's brilliance was made very clear as a result. Either way those 2 years among many point to the failings within the MotoGP championship in creating a technological hurdle too high for even the most cashed up manufacturers to attempt the hurdle.....save for recent times when some of the rules (which you dislike) to level the playing field have applied.

The expense for Ducati of hiring Rossi is neither here nor there. He himself admitted he wasn't able to ride the bike the way Stoner did so Ducati threw huge resources at the problem trying to create the bike Rossi wanted.....all the while hamstrung by a stressed member engine they could not change because of the engine limitation rules. So who is to blame? Rossi? Or Ducati? You can make (and people have) a convincing argument either way. But throwing Lorenzo into the mix is not helpful. With the resurgence of Rossi and Lorenzo's recent underperformance (save for last weekend) I think Lorenzo's asking price (and motivation to stay at Yamaha) would be considerably less than a couple of years ago, that's for very sure.

"Lastly (else this would turn into a thesis!) where do we think MotoGP would be if Yamaha and Honda hadn't pumped in all that dosh for the last 20 or 30 years?" Really? Without them we could instead be arguing the virtues of the latest Tularis vs Britten vs Kalex vs Bakker vs IrvingVincent vs Spondon etc etc. We could well be looking at an alternative future where attempting the impossible is more important than contemplating failure. God forbid cookie cutter bikes are the be all and end all of MotoGP.

Lastly (truthfully this time) for those against the levelling of the playing field and the many who would prefer a return to the "tyre war" days this is one area where I make the most ardent praise of Dorna and co. It doesn't matter what sort of motorcycle you have, or who is aboard it it, the single most important interaction is surely the tyre with the road. Without this "constant" you might as well open up the fuel reg's, the capacity reg's, everything, because the interaction with the road is surely the one area that should be equal across the board. Seeing an unloved Elias gifted a set of Pedrosa's "overnight specials" then going on to beat the cream of the previously unbeatable crop at Estoril, on a satellite bike no less, put things very firmly into perspective for me. Stoner's book was also quite illuminating on this area and I find myself struggling to look at our highest championship the same way since reading it.

Total votes: 11

Yes, it is indeed strange, but good, I think. This forum would probably be quite dull if it was otherwise and I've enjoyed reading your response every bit as much as the surprising number who've agreed. I'd just like to pick up on the tyre issue if I may. You're absolutely right in principle, but in practice we have riders/bikes that don't seem to like the bridgestones and next year there'll be bikes and riders that can't get on with the michelins, nor do we actually have a level field in this area anymore, with the concession teams having different options to the factories, which kind of illustrates what I'm saying - you can fiddle with the rules as much as you like but there will still always be some that do better than others because of that, and if you keep fiddling to try to control for these things there's a danger that you do more harm than good.

Total votes: 3

Lilyvani that's a superb summing up of the state of the union at this time. I'm sure the 'smaller' manufacturers don't go racing to win due to concessions and, whilst I don't entirely trust HRC'a motives either now or in the past, the biggest global entities will always want to show that they're, err, the biggest global entities..
As things stand right now, reading up on what each factory is saying from Aprilia up to Honda is that, by and large, they are satisfied with the current rule sets, understand what's changing in 2016 and are motivated enough to continue participation at their current levels or higher.
Add to that KTM and possibly others (we all know Dorna are bursting blood vessels to gold plate MotoGP with a blue chip like BMW), then I conclude that well over 30 years of me watching the class of kings, things are appearing to be coming together quite nicely in the current era...

Total votes: 13

In F1 they already have pretty much the same rules as MGP is getting next year. McLaren manufactures the electronics for all the F1 teams for example. And they all get the same amount of fuel, same tires etc.
But that hasn't really made much of a difference. Its still the top teams that rule, and the backmarkers remain backmarkers.
For a few years aerodynamics was king, and Red Bull ruled. Now its mostly about engines, and Mercedes is best at that. Why? Because they have the most resources.
In MotoGP its much the same. For a few years chassis/corner speed was king, and Yamaha dominated. Then it was about the engine, so Honda dominated. Etc.
I don't see that changing next year.

Also, we are getting closer and closer to a new financial crisis. And what happened last time? Suzuki and Kawasaki dropped out. It wouldn't surprise me if Suzuki, Aprilia and KTM(aiming for 2017) drop out this time around. The only hope of them staying is if they manage to get anywhere close to Yamaha and Honda before the crisis strikes.

Total votes: 7

I have to disagree with Mat Oxley here. The purist journalist and die hard racing fan might agree with the purity of one set of rules, and be happy watching some fairly processional racing where a rider demonstrates their style of riding.

I'm not really happy with that, and to expand the sport to a wider audience that actually makes the whole business financially viable, we need close and entertaining racing with plenty of overtaking. Largely we've had that this year, and some of the TV direction is getting better at showing battles down the grid, which helps too. The current rules are a hodgepodge, but by accident and design are giving us a so far entertaining season.

I'm not going to defend HRC's continual meddling in the rulebook to their advantage, but this year it appears so far that the satellite teams are, in parts, closer to the front than they have been in a while. Bradley Smith's changed approach has brought him up the grid, whilst LCR swapping Bradl for Crutchlow is likely to be rewarded with a podium in the very near future. If Scott Redding is further down, it is perhaps showing the lack of wisdom in going into a team who know the rider, but where the crew chief is new and the mechanics don't know the bike - they look a long way from the front and might not get there soon.

Of the new teams, Suzuki are very close already, perhaps not near a win but adding to the spectacle. Aprilia are probably nearer than they expected to be to the points, if not the podium. Bautista seems rejuvenated by getting to choose what he wants to do, rather than be a Honda test mule. Melandri is a waste of a seat but that's Aprilia's doing.

So I'm not so sure 2016 is going to be that much of a step forward with further meddling.

Total votes: 10

In all phases of life, more stringent rules generally favor the "ruling elite" because they set up a mutually-constructive symbiosis between the rule-makers and those to whom the rules apply. It's as true in motor racing as it is in politics.

Big-resource teams are obviously more favored by alleged "leveling" rules, because small, small advantages become critical - and the tighter the rules, the more expensive those advantages become. On the contrary, wild innovation is effectively legislated away.

So long as there are a reasonable number of degrees of freedom - in F1 there are very few - you will get bizarre new ideas in the quest for victory. One approach is to throw money at traditional things. Another is to throw money at crazy things. Today, money gets thrown at incremental, tiny gains.

The revolution in electronics has created a shorter-term deal where the big teams can write more / better code - but anyone can write code on bike dynamics. The ability to do something "different" has now been foreclosed probably shortly before it was to become commoditized / new innovation was to emerge.

2016 is not likely to change the order much.

Frankly I'd open up the tires also. They gave Ducati its championship in 2007, and the lack of an appropriate tire prevented Ducati's success afterwards in similar manner.

Total votes: 7