Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Rossi and the silver screen

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.


Rossi and the silver screen

The church bells in Tavullia rang out on Sunday afternoon, as they always do when the town’s local hero wins a Grand Prix. I only know this because I watched the new MotoGP documentary Hitting the Apex last week.

The film’s advertised stars are Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa, Marc Márquez and Marco Simoncelli, but (in my mind at least), its greatest stars are Tavullia’s priests, Don Cesare Stefani and Don Giuseppe Signoretti.

The pair sit in their church (called, oh the irony, the Church of San Lorenzo the Martyr), remembering the last Saturday of June 2013, when they rang the bells to celebrate the Assen victory that marked Rossi’s return to the top step after two miserable seasons that were surely the beginning of his inevitable decline into retirement.

Once the bells were ringing (they are electronically operated, so no need for tiresome campanology) Don Cesare Stefani wandered off to join the wild celebrations at Rossi’s nearby pizza joint. There’s footage of the Bacchanalian goings-on, with Stefani (who looks uncannily like Grandpa Simpson) in the middle of it all, sipping wine. Only one problem: he’s enjoying himself so much he forgets about the bells, which continue peeling for the rest of the afternoon.

Any director given full access to Dorna’s best MotoGP footage would surely struggle to make a bad film. But Hitting the Apex (released in UK cinemas today, and worth seeing on the big screen) is a brilliant doc. It is probably motorcycling’s Senna.

Most of us already know much of the footage, but what makes the film, apart from the shepherds of the Tavullia flock, is the way director Mark Neale gets behind the scenes and drives the story forward. He transforms the four seasons from 2010 to 2013 and their background into a thrilling drama that seems like it was made for the movies. There are many moments that send a chill down your spine.

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

Total votes: 106
Total votes: 54

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Comments

Using this thread since it's your latest one.

For the sake of argument, it the championship comes to down to the wire and is decide in Valencia. Let's say that Rossi needs Lorenzo to finish third or worse.

Does anyone think that some of the other riders would 'help' (although never publicly acknowledge it) Rossi and get in front of Lorenzo?

Considering that the rest of the grid is no longer in contention.

I would imagine that Marquez or Dovi or Iannone or even Pedrosa would think "ahh what the fcuk! let's help the old guy"...

Just curious to see if I was the only crazy one out there...

Total votes: 109

You devalue the talent that is Rossi and the rest of the field.
They are racers and the will to win would supersede all other thoughts. None of them are "team mates", oh and you are crazy:-))

Total votes: 112

And it's funny, I was thinking along similar lines only today. Whilst driving through a monsoon in the West Midlands of England earlier I was daydreaming about two Yamahas, first and second with eight laps to go, the winner taking the title as Jorge is four points in front. After running wide at turn one lap one Marquez slips (or maybe bludgeons?), effortlessly through the field to catch Dani in third, who appears to let him go. Marc clearly has the pace and slices half a second a lap from 99 & 46 until he's right on them. Wherever he finishes won't affect his final position and he circulates behind them musing, they're welded together so getting between them is pointless.
Then Rossi makes a pass and with four laps to go starts to eke out maybe half a second so Marc takes Jorge and still appears to have the pace, though Jorge is right on him and fighting. He then remembers that if VR puts five points or more over JLo he goes clear in front and wins his tenth, if he gets second to Jorge's third it's only four points, tying them their totals, but the title goes to 99 due to more wins.

So Marquez does what? On the pit wall Nakamoto is inscrutible.....

Total votes: 106

Tom Sykes was very upset (rightly so in my mind) with Loris Baz for not following team orders and costing him the championship.

Total votes: 106

As a racer on a team, I'm there to help my teammates off the grid in every way - we're friends after all, not pros and my income doesn't depend on racing.

HOWEVER, during the race, I will do whatever I can to get passed one of my teammates or anyone else on track. I didn't drive hundreds of miles in a truck to come in second, or third or fourth.

So, for Sykes to get all bent about it, I thought that was out of line. You can't ask another racer to give up a podium for you. And secondly, I would never be able to carry a championship plate proudly knowing someone had to let me by to earn it - thus, not really earning it.

Total votes: 114

Thats all well and good.

Unfortunately, they are employees in a business that just happens to include riding motorcycles.

The employer gave an order that would have allowed their team to be champions.

Except one employee did not follow orders.

and you are unimpressed that other employees are unimpressed?

Total votes: 111

Thanks for pointing out the very obvious point that people tend to forget they are employees first and foremost.

Total votes: 111

Racers are in no way normal employees. The economics (and subsequent loyalties) are very different from the situation most people are in.

Total votes: 110

they may not be normal employees as they risk having their contract dissapear, if they annoy sponsors and owners. Notably a fickle bunch.

Total votes: 92

I would imagine that Marquez or Dovi or Iannone or even Pedrosa would think "ahh what the fcuk! let's help the old guy"...

NO WAY. let me start by saying that. For sure MM doesnt think like that, rather the opposite. it wil only increase Rossis myth as the god of MotoGP by getting his 10th title and decrease the change for MM to ever come close to VR.

All the riders want to beat VR and not get beaten by VR.

Total votes: 107

This looks promising, but so did the trailers for 'Fastest.'

I only hope this will be something more than the latest Rossibopper wankfest from Mr. Neale. :/

Total votes: 131

Mark Neale is 0-3 so far in that regard, not holding my breath.

Total votes: 112

Mr. Neale's previous documentaries kinda threw objectivity out the window in their pursuit of total fanboy-ism. The 2010 - 2013 years were the worst of Rossi's career, the very arrogant man who demanded that Jorge be cut or he'd quit needs to be shown in all its ugliness. It was the 2 years of humiliation at Ducati and the swallowing of his pride to go back to Yamaha that gave him the chance to become the racer we saw the last 2 years, which has been remarkable. Casey Stoner wasn't some weak willed man Rossi could dominate, like what was often portrayed. The sequence in Fastest where the announcer was questioning Stoner's mental fortitude was particularly despicable.

Total votes: 150

Could Brad "when I die I want to come back as Valentino Rossi" Pitt produce and narrate this movie yet not have it released - even on a limited distribution- here in the States!!!!
I say hang 'em high!!!!

And please. Just Please. To the group, Stop the ugliness that happened on the Round-Up this past Sunday.

That was tragic and not expected from this site.

Total votes: 106

I didn't saw any tragedy there. I read most of the thread and didn't see any insults or unsupported claims. Most people expressed their opinions and then explained their reasons intelligently. Just because people were disagreeing with the article and David's opinion (some a little too passionately) doesn’t mean they were being disrespectful. Some maybe, but not most.

I myself had something to say about it and I don't think I was disrespectful. If you think I was I'll gladly (and calmly) discuss my comments with you.

I my opinion, without passion there's no racing, you can't have one without the other.

Total votes: 122

From the first line to the last. I decided a day or two ago that I had better things to do with my life than ever visit that roundup thread again. Definitely a case of "duty calling" for one or two excited commenters.

Total votes: 93

It was supposed to be a link, but it showed up just like the rest of the text, so I bolded and underlined it as well.

Oh, I see. Traditional HTML link embeds don't work, but links are automatically created. Let's try it again...

https://xkcd.com/386/

Total votes: 102

Only one screening on one day and when we arrived we had to move to a bigger theatre due to unexpected demand-err have more than one screening?!
Anyway, I'm sure there will be more in depth reviews on here but having seen them all this is certainly the most rounded of them all, Mark Neale's introduction explaining that Brad Pitt didn't only narrate it but brought his own production company, money and time to make it what it is and that is a great study of six riders and the thrilling sport they're involved in. Yes there's a study of the Rossi legend but also critiques of it from the likes of Casey. After 20'years at the top VR is bound to be lauded but not, Inthink, excessively. Very emotional treatment of Sic and well worth seeing and even for a neutral, shows why there is no comparison to any other form of motorsport. Well done Mark Neale and roll on the film about this season!

Total votes: 102

I do really enjoy Mat words and thoughts,he is a writer that has been at the sharp
end,so that gives him gravitas,

I use his writing to help understand just how hard it is to ride a Moto gp bike
fast,and safely,and on to win,I am a fan of VR46,MM93,DP9,AD04,in fact all
the grid,they as a group are the fastest guys around,
How many of us have raced,at over 20mph/330kph in the dry or wet,
when I club raced in the 70's,I figured I should be less than 5 seconds a lap slower
than the leader,anymore and I should go home!!
how many of us would be less than 5 seconds behind any of the grid on sunday,

OOPs,sorry about that,bit sidetracked,
I hope the film does Moto gp justice,

Total votes: 107

Ill just put this here as its the latest thread.
Here is solid hocus pocus numerological proof rossi will win this years championship.
Rossi started the premier class in
2002.
2 squared is 4
It is 2015
1 + 5 is 6
We are left with 46 which is also his number.
Ok so now add those two numbers together
4 + 6 = 10 which will be the number of championships rossi will have won at the end of the year.
And so it is written.

Total votes: 121

Its all good im not an out right fan of any rider. Just bored on my break at work :)

Total votes: 117

i really feel he will not retire until he get's his 10th championship. but 2000 was his first year in the premier class.

Total votes: 100

2002 was the begining of motogp. 2000 would not have worked :)

Total votes: 104

that the the demise of the 2-strokes and the arrival of these fat, heavy diesels and their evil spectacle-sapping electronics was the END of grand prix racing. :)

Total votes: 95

four wheels four strokes, two wheels ................. ;-)

Total votes: 104

Anyone want to know the accumulated race time difference between Rossi and Lorenzo in 2015? Sometimes a rider is lucky championship-wise because some riders may fall in front of him, but what about the actual race time?

Rossi against Lorenzo 2015 race times
Silverstone: -5.726
Brno: +10.397
Indianapolis: +5.278
Sachsenring: -4.32
Assen: -14.576
Catalunya: +0.885
Mugello: +6.661
Le Mans: +3.82
Jerez: +11.586
Argentina: -10.192
Texas: -3.562
Qatar: -2.707
SUM: -2.841 sec.

So it seems that they are pretty close. They have beaten each other equal amount of times and the distance between them after some 300 laps is just 2.841 in favor of Rossi. It's open for me...

Total votes: 137

bognick that is an awesome stat. What's the total time?

Total votes: 111

I didn't compute the total time sorry...

Total votes: 103

*See my post below about starting grid*

But also riders will slow down on their last lap (especially if they are riding a lonely third)

Could you do the same comparison based on each of the rider's fastest lap for each race?

Total votes: 98

You are right that a lonely 3rd doesn't motivate you to fight to the last corner, but so does a lonely 1st, etc. So I think that the anomalies pretty much even out.

As for the fastest lap here you go:

Fastest laps 2015 Rossi against Lorenzo:
Silverstone: -0.43
Brno: +0.578
Indianapolis: +0.195
Sachsenring: -0.17
Assen: -0.14
Catalunya: +0.131
Mugello: +0.473
Le Mans: -0.125 (though Lorenzo won)
Jerez: +0.451
Argentina: -0.576
Texas: -0.210
Qatar: -0.161
SUM: +0.016 sec.

So Rossi is just 0.016 sec. slower than Lorenzo in terms of fastest laps. That was somewhat unexpected. Because if David's claim that Lorenzo is faster under normal conditions holds true, then the 2015 MotoGP doesn't seem to be so normal after all.

Total votes: 104

remarkable stats, and know doubt an eye opener for a lot who have just succumbed to thinking Lorenzo is faster this season due to his runaway wins.

You don't lead the championship in this day and age without being the fastest for a good portion of the time.

Total votes: 91

Also take into account that Rossi started behind Lorenzo in most of these outings. So Rossi covered more ground in less time.

Total votes: 106

this was in response to bognick's post about accumulated times

Total votes: 93

You are right that if we wanted to know who's the strongest racer we would have to take their starting position into account.

But what I wanted to compute was a number, an evidence representing the chances of either of them winning the championship. And the inability of Rossi to earn a good grid position will continue to factor in. So I didn't want to exclude it from my calculations.

Total votes: 95

Could someone post a link for a non-facebooker plz? I'm a black belt in google-fu & cannot find it. Thanks

Total votes: 91

Bells Peeling??

Oooopps Max...! Oh dear, it's no good using fancy words like 'campanology' when you can't get that right, mate. I was enjoying your erudition until this elementary spelling error slapped me in the face.

Oranges peel, bells peal. Bells always have done, even electronically operated ones. If they peeled every time they pealed, there would soon be nothing left of them.

Total votes: 101

What was that word Oxley used some months back to describe the state of having a nice ass? I need to try to remember that one!

Total votes: 98

I don't have much expectation but if its on par with Faster but with different/newer footage I'm sure it will be enjoyable.

Interesting to see how much Ducati/Rossi era stuff is included, or if they gloss right over it and go to 2013 onwards

Total votes: 94

LLM,
I think you'll be happy with the very well balanced view of the major protagonist as well as the VR Ducati years.

Total votes: 90

I'm never sure whether I find them appalling or appealing. ;)

Total votes: 99