Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Blue on blue

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.


Blue on blue

Forty years ago this Saturday Jaws was released in cinemas. The film’s theme tune still reverberates in people’s minds: a spooky riff synonymous with approaching danger.

Over the past four races Jorge Lorenzo has bitten shark-sized chunks out of Valentino Rossi; 28 points, to be exact. With seven rounds done and 11 to go, he is just one point adrift of his team-mate and poised for the kill. Or is he? Perhaps Lorenzo’s momentum is unstoppable or perhaps Rossi can rally himself.

Of course, the nine-time champ has been here before. Way back in 2009 he likened Lorenzo and the other new kids on the block to sharks. “If I am not strong, I know they will eat me in one bite,” he said. “They look at me with a little bit of blood flowing and maybe they think, OK, now is the time.”

Last year Rossi reinvented himself, learning a new way of riding, more from Lorenzo than from Marc Márquez. When he returned to Yamaha the Italian studied Lorenzo’s data and worked out how to run with the youngsters. On Sunday his pace was a mere 0.03 seconds a lap off Lorenzo’s, but even that’s not enough when he’s 1.3 seconds behind after the third lap.

Lorenzo said it at Catalunya: “Valentino is a Sunday rider”. So that’s what Rossi needs to do, he needs to learn how to become a Saturday rider by learning the precarious skill of exiting the pits and attacking the first corner like it’s the last, even though the tyres aren’t up to temperature.

It is this skill – some might call it a monumental leap of faith – that has got Lorenzo where he is now. In qualifying he rides out of pitlane and explodes into action; he doesn’t work his way up to speed over a few laps. And he does the same in the race, giving himself the clear track he needs to use his unique lines.

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

Back to top

Comments

Particularly good concise article with a nice overview of Rossi's problems. I've never been a true #46 cultist, but I've come to admire him deeply for number of reasons: adaptability, perseverance, bravery, smarts, humility, humor and more besides.
It seems to have been a mixture of fear and hubris that projected him into those two wasted years when Ducati were at their most dysfunctional - loss of confidence occasioned his broken leg, combined with fear of Lorenzo's skills, and hubris that Stoner couldn't actually have been that good.
Somehow he managed to recover from that setback, and now he's made himself somebody to be feared once again. Personally I'm rooting for the old fox - altho' I still won't be buying any yellow T-shirts.

... to be on top that long and you have to admire Rossi for that. However it's not Lorenzo's problem that Rossi has maybe his last chance (I hope not but..) to win another title. Jorge is in the zone and that's it. Marc has to many problems with his bike so the game is between Yamaha boys for sure. It will be interesting if Marc gets in the mix however.

Thanks Mat. First mention I've seen on flywheel weight, sounds spot on from all the way over here. And quite a small issue to have to do such a big work-around on. And sorry to rub it in HRC, but you made your bed so you have to sleep in it. Lean mixture could be contributing too, but then we wouldn't see it in Q perhaps.

Rossi - two things. One, he tackled this before with Stoner at Laguna Seca a while back...just get in touch with Jorge and disrupt him. Easier said than done yes, but it has been done.

Second, warmer temps and the hard tire. Boom, new situation.

Ok, third. Marquez and HRC disrupt Jorge. All three of these at once please! Can't fault me for asking.

Last Friday and the Friday before that one, we've had temps here around 29 degrees Celsius, so let's wait and see ..................... ;-)

Exactly, the weather in The Netherlands is jumping from hot to cold to wet to hot like crazy lately, so anything is possible. It would be a miracle if all three days have the same weather, which complicates things that bit more.

Anyway, I guess it's not so much the higher temperatures that would require the harder compound tyres (Catalunya was also hot on race day), but the grippier tarmac at Assen may be. The aging surface at Barcelona has low grip levels, Assen will put more stress on the tyres I guess.

Me thinks that Jorge return to speed has more to do with the Bridgestone tires!
2015 compound must be very close to the 2013.... but no body is talking about it!

But then, if they are building them for anyone to be able to set fast laps they are doing a great job. It has just looked last year like Jorge is unhappy and he gets the old tires back.

I wonder who/which team, will get the benifits of Mitchelins sweet spot.

The tyres in 2013 were way too soft to Rossi's liking, he couldn't brake late. So far in 2015 he's showing amazing race pace and consistency. Me thinks the 2015 compound must be pretty close to the 2015's.

look at the race time too. Granted the Yam has managed to increase their thump out of the corners but no matter what happened to the bike they don't appear to be on 2013 tyers. Plus..... it would greatly surprise me if the big B chose to use two year old compounds/tech when next year their times will be directly compared to bikes racing on a competitors rubber.

is the elephant in the room as it was last season when they introduced another compound at Mugello and Jorge mysteriously was all of a sudden fighting with Marc after not even factoring in a race prior.
We haven't seen a Hard or Extra Hard being used in a race this season since Argentina........but its far more difficult to build an article around this.

Sttrain,

Once again, please link to any supporting information about this 'another compound' at Mugello last year. Here's a hint you won't find it anywhere because it never happened.

One thing I really dont like is people passing off their own opinion as some kind of fact without corroborating information which you make a habit of.

1. BS said that the Ex-hard rear tire was made just for Argentina, thats why you havent seen it anywhere else as it hasnt been offered since
http://www.motogp.com/en/news/2015/04/16/bridgestone-bringing-new-extra-...

2. The pitlane reporter from MotoGP last weekend said because circuit grip was so bad in Catalunya all riders preferred to use softest rear tire possible to make up for grip. Also, this is explained in Bridgestones statement
http://www.motogp.com/en/news/2015/06/17/bridgestone-assess-tyre-perform...

I have a question for you. If all Honda riders are saying they are struggling for rear grip, why do you think using a harder rear tire than their competitors would be good for them? Obviously a contributing factor to why we are not seeing many riders using the hard rear tire in races is
a)Its only available to Honda and Yamaha
b) Yamaha have always favoured tires with more grip and
c) Honda's big problem this year is reduced grip at the rear, so using hard rear tires would probably 'compound' the problem (like what I did there?)

That sounds reasonable doesn't it? I can provide links supporting all of the above if you like.

LOL, and one thing I don't like is people who think they lean better than others, when really they're just louder.

As a matter of fact, there was another compound introduced at Mugello last year.
It seems that for the 2014 Mugello race, Bridgestone brought a tire that was "very nearly identical" to their 2013 tire.

David, himself, reported it. ← link

And a thing I really like is when people don't understand the meaning of words.

Per Sttrain's comment: "... last season when they introduced another compound at Mugello ..."

One of the listings for introduce at dictionary.com is "to bring (a person) to first knowledge or experience of something." You really make yourself look silly when you try to support the assertion that BS introduced a new compound when you say "... Bridgestone brought a tire that was "very nearly identical" to their 2013 tire."

LOL yourself. That's an old compound, not a new one that they introduced.

Regardless, even if you try to use one of the other definitions listed for "introduce" there's no amount of contortions you can go through that make using an old design an introduction.

A report saying the tire was similar to the 2013 spec, how is that a new compound?

My point stands

We shouldnt be surprised at the performance of the Yamahas, but Honda's disastrous year is a big surprise.

I put a lot of what has happened down to confidence. Jorge to me has always seemed a confidence rider, one good result and he steps up and once he's on a roll he can be unbeatable. Marc has had a double disadvantage in that his teammate was injured at key races this year so he had no one to help take points off his main rivals while both Yamaha riders are at the top of their game.

My only hope is that even if the championship has been decided, Honda sort their problems and we see Marc and Dani challenging for wins, with the odd Ducati up there in the mix as well.

Their was a new compound introduced at Mugello last season, see the link in beuforts post. Wrong again but feel free to find a link that disproves this

Your other points are highlighting mine, thank you. The medium is working for Jorge and not anywhere near as well for the other factory guys. Rossi being the exception, but he has performed well in all of the compounds this season, unlike Jorge.

The underlining point, in case you missed it, was that tyres are proving to be the key factor once again.

Their[sic] was a new compound introduced at Mugello last season

Hardly. It was an old compound that they brought back. Can't you see the difference?

... feel free to find a link that disproves this.

Um ... gee ... that's a tough one ... let's see ... oh!!! The very link you're referring to! where it says, "The tires at Mugello were almost identical to the ones used last year." That's pretty much the exact opposite of a *new* compound being *introduced*, it's an *old* compound being *re-used*.

I won't even say you're wrong again. You're just still wrong.

trying to add something constructive?

Again the point is, they brought a 'new' option which wasn't available prior during the 2014 season and Jorge was all of a sudden at the front! Therefore it was a new option for 2014 which altered one riders performance-significantly.
2014 results prior to Mugello

Jorge Lorenzo-
Qatar DNF
COTA 10th
Argentina 3rd
Jerez 4th-Distant
Le Mans-6th

There doesn't appear to be any reasonable explanation as to why this option was all of a sudden made available.

Back to 2015, If you feel as though Jorge will still be walking away with races once the hard and extra hard options come back into play then your entitled to your view. My view is, he will be back fighting for 5th again-such is the influence of the rubber in this series.

trying to add something constructive?

Yes. That your "opinions" should be treated as highly suspect because you can't even get the meaning of simple words right.

Lorenzo's results did improve after Mugello (not that they were that bad to begin with) ... well, actually they starting improving 3 races later. Even the very next race, in Catalunya of all places, his result was a lonely (or, as you would say, "distant") 4th.

Looking at the results of all of the other top riders you see that no one else had any change of fortunes for better or worse at any time in the season, particularly around Mugello. Are you really trying to say that BS brought out back a particular compound to help one rider? Nonsense. Do black helicopters keep you up at night, too?

You don't suppose it had anything to do with the fact that he started the season overweight and out-of-shape (something JL freely admits to), do you? It couldn't be that he got his ass back on the treadmill and got in shape again, now would it? Nooooo, it has to be some BS (in both senses of the word) tire conspiracy.

Spare us.

There doesn't appear to be any reasonable explanation as to why this option was all of a sudden made available.

Uh, maybe because any of the other compounds they developed/tested didn't show any improvement over the tire that worked well the previous year.

That seems pretty reasonable to me.

Come on, calm down guys.

The one thing that got this website/newsblog/forum reknowned for was "intelligent debate". Which also means trying to keep a friendly tone (is diplomatic too much of a rich term here?), regardless of differences, in opinions, of facts, or ideas. Doing so makes the environment obviously more welcoming and interesting to others, to join the discussions.

The way I see it, what I think that Sttrain and Beaufort meant was that ANOTHER compound was introduced at that point (Mugello) among the others that were already available in the 2014 season. As in, it doesn't really matter if it was all new, similar, or actually the same compound of tyre picked from one in the previous season (2013), or not. The important fact to pick is that there was a different tyre made available at that point in the championship. And that did seem to help Lorenzo a bit then, who had been unhappy and underperforming with the 2014 BS tyres, after being satisfied with the 2013 ones (when he fought mano-a-mano with Marquez, etc).

Now, I don't think that we've seen something like that happening in Argentina (or after) this year.
But, by all means, we all like a good conspiracy theory for something that, who knows, may have unbalanced and favored things for this or that one rider/team all of a sudden. :-)

There is a need to be diplomatic, but it is just as important to highlight errors in people's statements, even if it offends them.

Sttrain and Beaufort both erred by saying something occurred last year which plainly didn't. There was no new, or 'another' compound brought at Mugello last year, it just happened to be the same spec as the year before.

They are making the connotation that BS somehow changed their tires, or brought something different to the benefit of one rider over another when, if you look at the facts is ludicrous. That is wrong and I feel it has to be corrected in order for such conspiracy theories, which I feel hurt the general level of intelligent debate on here from propagating.

The one thing that got this website/newsblog/forum reknowned for was "intelligent debate".

This is true. But I would posit that motomatters reknown is attributable more to being accurate than any of those other things. Where is the harm in correcting someone's inaccuracies?

Which also means trying to keep a friendly tone (is diplomatic too much of a rich term here?), regardless of differences, in opinions, of facts, or ideas.

Differences in facts? What?!?!? Facts are singular. By definition there can be no differences.

FACT: BS brought back an old tire at Mugello. They did not introduce a new one.

FACT: JL's results did improve over the season, starting several races after Mugello.

FACT: All of the other top riders remained consistent throughout the season. It stands to reason that if this "voodoo" tire had such an effect on JL's riding it would at least have some effect -- for better or worse -- on the other riders. The results plainly do not show this.

If someone's toes get stepped on because they're spouting nonsense in contradiction in facts, so be it.

My reply does not go as in disagreement, because I do agree with what you wrote.

However, and as much as I believe in accuracy of facts and that there is absolutely no harm in correcting others (for all the right reasons, including keeping veracity in everything, for the sake of a healthy discussion), I also think that there is a general tendency to see such interventions done with a condescending tone (or being misunderstood as such), depending on personalities, native-language (mine isn't English, for instances) and even age. And then good discussions can easily escalate to something more corrosive (see crash-net, mcn, etc).

That's why I believe the tone used is as important. It's not what you write, it's HOW you write it, how that can be misunderstood and/or lead to a completely different kind of discussion.
I like to think I'm discussing with individuals who share same interest, that could be right at my side, in person, drinking a beer, relaxed and friendly, etc.

You're obviously right in that facts can not be different but, the way some of us perceive them can be, for a discussion. I now see my previous message didn't make that clear.
And it looks to me that the arguments above focused on semantics, while the matter that generated all this was, matter of fact, not that incorrect.

Hopefully I can be clear here. As you said yourself:

"FACT: BS brought back an old tire at Mugello (2014). They did not introduce a new one."

I think it was a given that, all things combined, did benefit Lorenzo, did it not?
It was not a tyre that exhisted in that season (2014) untill that point, or was it?

Like you are the one getting your toes stepped on, and responding with an aggressive, belligerent and belittling tone, this drastically reduces the quality of any debate, far more than any conspiracy theory. If anything attitudes like yours enhance the points your arguing against and detracts from your argument, even if there is any merit in your point.

The facts are as I pointed out at the start, that Bridgestone brought a new compound option to Mugello in 2014 which wasn't made available previously that year, whether it was from 2009, 2013 or some type of special, makes no difference-it was a new compound for 2014.

Jorge's result at Mugello in 2014 was a MASSIVE improvement on where he had been previously, he was fighting for victory the entire race and nearly won it, for my eyes this was a dramatic turnaround- maybe I'm the only one who witnessed this?
At no point have I suggested any conspiracy or fowl play, as you seem to be accusing me of.
My point is, once again, that the tyres and lack of options under the current supplier and regulations, have a huge influence over the results-which seldom gets the mention it deserves in commentary and reports.

And once again, the medium option this year is a perfect fit for Jorge- and this is for me, the biggest factor in his rejuvenation in 2015 as it's been the ONLY option for most of the top riders for the past 4 rounds. The example of 2014 was to highlight this.

The medium option was the only viable option for almost all of 2014. Indianapolis and Argentina were the only tracks where the hard rear was used, though Marc Marquez also used the hard at Qatar and Austin. You can see the tire choices made by each rider at each round on Bridgestone's race info sheets on their website. The 2014 race sheets are here.

I think you are also reading too much into the tire situation at Mugello last year. Lorenzo's performance at the start of 2014 was affected by a number of factors, the tires being perhaps the least significant. First of all, he turned up at the Sepang tests badly out of shape and about 5kg too heavy, having not trained sufficiently over the winter. He did not do a single really long run at the tests, where normally he does at least one full race simulation, usually in the hottest part of the day. It took him the first part of the year to get back into shape, the early flyaways (Qatar, Austin, Argentina) making training hard. By Mugello, he was close to 100%.

Another significant factor was how the Yamaha dealt with having a liter less fuel. At the Sepang tests, the engine was very rough, making it hard to be smooth on the first touch of the throttle. That was why Lorenzo suggested Yamaha switch to the Open class like Ducati. It took Yamaha a few months to sort the throttle response out, by Mugello they had made huge steps forward.

The tires were a factor, but it was not so much about the compound as about the nature of Mugello. The heat resistant tires had been used at a couple of tracks in 2013, including Mugello, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the problems some of the riders had had at Assen the year before. For 2014, Bridgestone started adding the heat resistant layer to their tires at all of the races, as the changing nature of the bikes - improvements in electronics, mainly - had meant that tires were showing more internal heating rather than surface heating. Electronics were improving traction, meaning less spinning. Traction and drive heats the carcass of the tire, spinning heats the surface. 

In the early part of 2014, the edge compounds erred on the hard side. Mugello was the first race where Bridgestone had data from the year before, and they basically brought the same compound, which they knew worked. That meant Lorenzo had at tire under him which he understood, and felt comfortable on.

As 2014 progressed, Lorenzo got fitter, Yamaha got better - they made a step at the Barcelona test, then another one at Brno - and Bridgestone went slightly softer on the edge of the tire, as they gained more data, and as electronics improved yet further. Most of Lorenzo's improvement in the second half of 2014 was down to his fitness and improvement with the Yamaha. The tires were a factor, but only a small one.

The interplay between electronics and tires is an interesting one. I have an interview with Shinji Aoki of Bridgestone I need to type up, it was very interesting. Basically, as Bridgestone have improved, so the factory electronics people have been able to use even more grip, reduce spin even more, requiring more changes to the tires. There is more internal stress, dealt with by the heat resistant layer, and less on the surface, which means that compounds can be softer. Softer compounds mean even more grip, which means even better electronics, and so the vicious circle continues.

Now, can everyone please tone down their posts? Debate is good, argument is less attractive, name-calling (which is what this is starting to descend into) is unacceptable. I don't care who started it, I just want it to stop.

Edited to add: going through the previous years' Bridgestone tire sheets, it's surprising to me how very rarely the hard tire is used. It's a lot less than I thought.

The real difference in tires, especially between Lorenzo, Rossi and Marquez is the front. Lorenzo can run the medium, whereas Rossi and Marquez need the hard to support their braking style. Part of the Honda's problem is that with engine braking limited, Marquez is relying more on the front tire, and the hard is not proving hard enough.

option and the lack of use, that is interesting.

Obviously this is probably an impossible situation, however would it not be interesting to see 2 or 3 added carcass/construction options to the supply? And is there anything coming from Michelin in regards to possibly addressing some of these issues?

What makes top class racing great is the contrasting styles of the riders and machines, its a shame to see certain styles penalized at certain rounds due to a lack of workable options.

Well said David. Thank you for the clarity.

My apologies for the role I played in escalating the situation.

One theme that seems to be out there (e.g., Julian Ryder's commentary on superbikeplanet) relates to Rossi closing the gap to Jorge in Catalunya in contrast to the prior three races where Jorge was a clear step ahead. I agree that's what it looks like on its face, but Catalunya was also a strange situation where race day temperature was significantly hotter than days 1 and 2. Jorge race pace was absolutely bone-crushing in P3 (10 straight laps in the 1.41s). The extreme heat looks to have affected Jorge more than Rossi, but this type of situation does not happen very often. I'll go out on a limb and say that this is not in fact a turning point where Rossi will be able to match Jorge's pace going forward. My guess is Jorge, now with his mojo back, will consistently outpace Rossi in 2015 (apart from the odd race or two).

I also think that Jorge was managing a little. He was managing a smaller gap than we're used to, and I think he would have like to have more, but he was doing what he needed to. He managed to pull a gap back when Rossi got too close towards the end of the race.

But I don't think he had the kind of control he's had in the last few races. He would have desperately liked a larger gap, because he knows how much Rossi excels at running someone down.

Either way, Rossi needs to master the quali. He knows it, Jorge knows it, we all know it. If he does it, he's a slight favorite to win the championship. If he can't at least qualify on the second row consistently, it will take mistakes by Lorenzo to get Rossi the championship.

At the end of the day all the guys capable of winning can use the same tyres, so 'blaming' them for the results is a bit silly IMO.
Yes Rossi outperformed Lorenzo at the start of the season using the harder options, however there were many other factors. Even at Argentina when there were no external issues effecting Lorenzo, he and his team spent all weekend trying to make the softer option work, whereas Rossi and his team correctly decided that the soft was not an option and focused on the hard. If Lorenzo and his team had focused on the hard option from the start they surely would've had pace comparable to Rossi.

Right now Lorenzo is laying down the law on Fridays and Saturdays, leaving Rossi with all the work to do come Sunday. Until Rossi can find his pace earlier in the weekend and disrupt Lorenzo's Domination of the practice sessions I think he will find it very hard to win.

You provide proof as to why a 2013 spec tyre, if it was that, was brought to a 2014 round when it had not been previously available during the previously 5 rounds of the 2014 season, and how that decision was made to benefit the entire grid, Then your entitled to call us out on propagating

Right now your only propagating your own beliefs, which doesn't contribute to intellectual debate at all.

And you are twisting the point to backtrack on your own rather unfortunate salvos which missed the mark. The point is, yet again, that the rubber options available are seriously influencing the results this season, and it's worthy of far more of a mention.

Mugello is a circuit where there's always been a heat resistant tire along with Phillip Island I believe. I'm not sure how far back that is, but looking at what happened there in 2004 (kaboom) maybe its been since then.

Last year all tires were made heat-resistant, remember Jorge didn't like this change at all, but as they already used the heat-resistant tire at Mugello for years this could explain why it was the same spec as 2013, and why Jorge didn't notice much of a difference.

See 2013 Mugello press release here where it mentions heat resisant tire:
https://motomatters.com/press_release/2013/06/05/bridgestone_press_relea...

Reference to heat-resistant tires at more circuits in 2014 here
http://www.crash.net/motogp/news/201524/1/bridgestone-positive-debut-for...

In summary it wasn't that BS brought a 'special' or 'old' or 'new' tire to Mugello, it was just that Jorge knew how this kind of tire behaved at Mugello as he had ridden a heat-resistant tire at this track for many years already.

http://www.asphaltandrubber.com/motogp/summary-thursday-czech-gp-2014/

"At the beginning of the year, Bridgestone was choosing the same compounds as were used last year, but with the heat-resistant layer, the tires weren’t responding the same and losing a little bit of grip right on the edge.
After discussion with the teams, Bridgestone have started supplying tires with a fractionally softer compound with the heat-resistant layer. The result is to restore the feel of the 2013 tires, while keeping the protection against tire damage which the heat-resistant layer provides."

Bridgestone used a softer compound on their heat resistant layer from Le Mans to Valencia, it wasn't only for Mugello but all the remaining races. So if they decided to bring a new compound for Mugello in 2014 they certainly had a legitimate reason, besides favoring Lorenzo. It's not as if Lorenzo was the only one to take the most out of it moreover, Marquez defeated JLo in Italy fair and square, Rossi would've definitely been a win contender if he hadn't messed up his start.
People also tend to forget Lorenzo was nowhere to be seen in the following races until the Sachsenring round. On the other hand Lorenzo had good results on the hard compound in the second half of 2014, Indy's race on top of my head. Add to the fact last year's race in Austin with a mightily struggling Lorenzo, where they used full 2013 spec tyres due to production delays in Japan and the idea that Bridgestone secretly tried to help Lorenzo makes very little sense.
Lastly, if the current tyre option is somehow helping Lorenzo today, following that logic the heat resistant layer was an handicap to him last year, unless you're applying a double-standard with the Spaniard

Lorenzo finally got his act together and the M1 immensely progressed in one year, that's the 2 main reasons why he's fast again.

at all, the construction and compound of the 2015 rubber differs from the 2014 rubber, Regardless of the heat resistant layer. What is so far evident though is that the Hard and Extra Hard do not agree with Jorge.

Yes the M1 has improved, and the Honda it seems has not or is not gelling too well with the Medium this season. The M1's progression was evident instantly at Qatar-not with Jorge though, Rossi somehow still beat the Ducati which was ridiculously fast on the straight and also worked in the corners. COTA is an anomaly anyway, however Jorge was far far away from looking dominant there despite the virus he had-which I'm sure a good cold and flu tablet would have remedied at least for a podium shot on race day.
And Argentina was again spectacularly won by Rossi on the Extra Hard, chasing down an incredible margin to Marquez.
Then back to Europe and the run of Mediums.

What is now also striking for me is Dovi, how he was a true championship contender up until Jerez and the run of mediums.

Whilst being a financial impossibility without competition in tyre supply again, my preference would be to see more options available and the removal of the soft qualifiers for the slower teams.

So he's slow out the pits?

Then he rides for the full 15 mins building the speed up on the same tyres. No coming back in.

Then he says if he's actually as fast as Jorge after qualifying higher up the grid.

Simples.

Next..