Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Will Yamaha choose its champion?

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.


Will Yamaha choose its champion?

If you were the main man at the Yamaha Motor Company, who would you want to win this year’s MotoGP world championship? Before making your choice, you need to consider that Yamaha’s main reason for being in MotoGP is to market its motorcycle and scooter products around the world.

There’s only one answer, isn’t there? Which is why the conspiracy theorists are already muttering in the shadows, suggesting that a Valentino Rossi victory could be worth an extra 100 or maybe 200 million to Yamaha. So I ask them, 200 million what? Euros, dollars, yen? They don’t say, they just nod sagely. And they are probably right, up to a point.

If we humour the conspiracy theorists for a moment, we have to ask this question: would Yamaha consider taking sides in the Rossi versus Jorge Lorenzo duel? Would it, could it, should it?

We don’t know the answers and neither do the conspiracy theorists, so all we can do is look back in history and search for precedent.

Way back in 1968, Yamaha was in an identical situation, with two star riders duking it out for the most important prize in motorcycling. Only one thing was different: back then the biggest prize was the 250 title, because the 500 class was in a state of atrophy, with MV Agusta enjoying a long and tedious reign over a bunch of impoverished privateers.

The Yamaha rivals were two Britons – Phil Read and Bill Ivy – and there was an added complication. Yamaha had assumed command of the smaller classes, so it carved up the 250 and 125 spoils according to factory whim, imposing (illegal) team orders: Ivy would win the 250 title and Read would take the 125.

Read was deeply unhappy with the arrangement. He was usually the faster rider, so the orders were bad news for him, and he was convinced Ivy had gone behind his back to help himself to the 250 crown. Also, he felt hard done by, because he had won Yamaha’s first world titles and he had helped Ivy get his ride with the factory. If they had once been friends, they certainly weren’t in 1968, just like Rossi and Lorenzo now.

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

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Comments

The case when honda been the major player in motorcycle industry but was taken by yamaha when rossi switched to yamaha. Looks like the sale went down when he switched to ducati though. Will soon see the fx if he grabs this year title, IF.

If indeed it is all about spending a gazillion $$$ to race in Moto GP to market scooters and "sheep in wolfs clothing" small bikes in the emerging markets of Asia then Yamaha folks have got it right and Honda have not.

I live in Thailand and have to laugh at the advertising during the Moto GP telecasts. Yamaha have an ad featuring both Lorenzo and Rossi together storming around tracks on the Yamaha R3..a very convincing marketing strategy...immediately followed every time by a couple of unknown Thai kids [not even Willarot] on Honda CBR 300s [with 23hp to boot!!]...there is no comparison when it comes to effective marketing IF and I repeat IF the whole aim of racing is marketing to the new markets of Asia. Honda have failed massively and Yamaha have maximised their stars. [not a sign of Marquez or Pedrosa in ads here]

Not sure whether or not the marketing is working or not though or if Yamaha are selling more scooters than Honda here.

And yamaha japan have responded well their market in Indonesia by revealing their 2015 motoGP bike here in Bali for the 1st time. Not many owns 250cc or 500cc let alone 1000cc, but million sales of 130cc scooters are too big to ignore by the japs factory. This might answer that 200Mil questions already. Call me a conspiravy theorist but it is what it is. And btw did you ever known that Valentino actually speaks very lil english in indonesian tv chanel? He speaks fluent bahasa indonesia LOL
oh for those who doesn't know what the word "SEMAKIN DIDEPAN" means, it reffers to hondas that has long been out raced or sale by yamaha. Means "even further in front". Honda play nice with their "SATU HATI". it probably aims at bigger audience across south east asia that's why this year I only see the words in english as "ONE HEART"

I work on an offshore gas platform in the Timor Sea and recently had a great conversation with one of the young East Timorese lads after seeing "93" in perfect hand drawn font permanent markered onto his hard hat and boots. He couldn't get enough of Marquez, seeing Rossi as yesterdays hero and Lorenzo as a "book keeper" which I thought was an interesting observation.

Just as in Thailand the bikes are tiny but he was an avid tinkerer and despite not having anything like a paved race track they organise street drag races where he displays his skills. It helped that he was built like a racing sardine, 50kg's of sinew and bone.

Boys and their toys, we're the same the world over.

I think they will get more headlines with Rossi, but either way Yamaha wins being 1st and 2nd in the Championship. I don't think they would take sides.

Dorna however has much more invested in who wins. A Rossi win equals butts in the seats (as proved by the Misano sold-out race).

If the championship goes to Valencia, you can pretty much guarantee that it will sell out.

I love a bit of history, and the old pics too, look at those lids they were wearing in '67!

He came to Yamaha, and won the title in his first 2 years, and another 2 in '08/'09.

Has a good shot of winning it again in '10 until he breaks his leg in Italy of all places.

Leaves Yamaha and has 2 horrible seasons.

Returns to Yamaha in '13 - wondering if he could still be competitive, and is clearly the 4th fastest rider on the grid with 8 4th place finishes, and ends up 4th in the championship with a win at Assen highlighting his year.

Then he says he will make a decision after 6 in '14 races to see if he will continue on after this contract or not. Fires long time crew chief Burgess.

'14 he's way more motivated, beats his team mate straight up in 10 of 18 races, with 2 wins and 2nd in the Championship.

And then of course there's this year - Starting the season off with 2 wins in the first 3 races, the dramatic cross country win at Assen, the win at Silverstone in the rain.

Lorenzo's story is good too - Breaking his collar bone at Assen in '13, and still managing to race and finish 5th after having it plated. Then crashing at Germany and breaking the plated collar bone again, and still coming close to winning the title, losing by 4 points. In '14 his season started off awful,but finished strong.

And of course '15 he came in feeling like he's in the best physical shape in his career. Wins 4 in a row after not having a podium in the 1st 3 races.

Both of the stories are good, restored glory, but Rossi's is the more dramatic since he's the veteran and hasn't won a championship in 6 years, and pondered retirement after '13.

And of course Marquez can still play the spoiler - yes he's down some points, and a long shot at this point, but Lorenzo and Rossi could also fall into bad luck. However if something happened to either Rossi or Lorenzo, it'd be really hard for Marquez to catch the other one since there really aren't any riders running up front with the top 3, and taking 5 points a race from the leader just isn't enough.

I try not to be a true fan of the racers, because I just want to enjoy the race, and not have it ruined if my guy has a bad race. but my thoughts are Lorenzo is younger, and will have more shots at the championship, while this could be Rossi's last shot.

But really, either story is fine for me - I'm just glad I'm here to see it, and watch the story unfold in the last 5 races.

I'm not so sure the factories still race to win on Sunday and sell on Monday. MotoGP bikes are no where close to anything I can buy. It's almost like NASCAR where the sponsors count minutes of screen time their logo was visible regardless of who wins. And what of Moto 2 where everybody runs the same engine? Is Kalex, Suter, or Speed Up going to sell me a chassis for my bike? Or Moto 3 where the only Mahindra I can buy in the USA is a tractor! They race??? They must be sum fast ass tractors says I!
No, I think the factories race for the sport of it. Until the bean counters decide OK you guys have spent enough money for now. Like Kawasaki or until recently Suzuki.
Nonetheless having said all which would you rather have a Rossi Championship themed Yamaha R1 or a Lorenzo R1? I thought so...

No, win on Sunday sell on Monday still in effect. Yamaha, for example have made great strides to market how similar they are, the R1 to the M1. They've made the new R1 to look similar to a M1, same engine configuration, electronics (nannies) derived from their MotoGP effort, etc. Their marketing is based in this comparison stating it's a MotoGP bike for the street. 10-15 years ago it was WSBK they compared their roadbikes too, now it's MotoGP. And I hear Ducati are bringing a new V4 s shortly for the exact same reason.

R1's here in the states selling well, all R1M models moved quick also. And they used to say a $20k+ Japanese bike wouldn't sell in the states and that has been proven wrong, with authority.

As far as Matt's article, bahooey. Engines are sealed and each rider's crew has their own laptop jockeys who could check code/software. Just another article to bring hype, and sell website hits in between races.

This is true because even though I can't afford a new bike, I lust after that new M1 and would undoubtedly put a 46 decal on it somewhere and rock my Rossi AGV.

The geometry and electronics of the new R1 are virtually identical to Lorenzo's 2012 M1. This has been confirmed by people on the Yamaha team. It looks like an M1. It's the literal bike if my dreams . I bought one of the first ones to arrive. Two respected magazines have stated : "you owe it to yourself to try this bike". It has beaten the previous top bike, the bmw s1000rr in every magazine's lap time comparisons.( the bmw makes more hp though).

Race on Sunday did sell on Monday in my case. I've been waiting for this bike for a long time ( while riding an heavy underseat exhaust laden 2009 r1 and complaining about why don't they make it look more like an r6 or an m1). Sorry for my long word vomit; this is the best bike I've owned in 36 years of riding. This old man still wants to ride litre bikes!

Engine-wise perhaps its firing order is similar, but you can be certain that your chassis will never behave like an M1 even if you strip it of every road accessory.

For a start it is not designed for the track, its wheelbase is different and i doubt very much that you'd be happy riding Lorenzo bike with his settings, particular chassis, fork and swingarm.

Everything is different down to flexibility.

A RD 350 was a lot closer to the racer TR/TD than the M1 will ever be to the M1, granted, and i don't know why Yamaha keep misleading people into thinking they are so similar when even Rossi is training with his and say they are not.

I pretty much agree with you. I have to larf at all the talk of how MotoGP "MUST" be a tech fest, "it's the pinnacle of the sport", the tech "filters down to road bikes" yada yada when for the last 6/7 years Yamaha and Honda have had the lowest tech litre bikes on the road! WTF?!

Yamaha have finally made a move catching up to what BMW, Kawasaki, Aprilia... the guys NOT competing in MotoGP...have been doing for years. It is almost like if you want a decent superbike DO NOT enter MotoGP.

Meanwhile Honda continue to pump out a slightly evolved version of what the produced in 2008, and Suzuki much the same. Ducati, typically Italian, being the exception that proves the rule, ironically using FAILED MotoGP tech to produce a great Superbike, go figure.

Actually I guess the old skool R1's and CBR1000RR's DO prove the "win on Sunday sell on Monday", there was/is absolutely no other reason to buy a new R1 (until recently) or CBR1000RR when you could buy a sweet low mileage example from 2008/9 for a fraction of the cost and get the same bike.

for Rossi.

I think riding the Duc set his skills back a bit because of the guys he ended up typically racing with. Back on the Yamaha and it just took some time to get back some of that, though I still don't believe he is at the best he's ever been like some of the TV guys sometimes say. I think those days are past for him, but the fact he's even remotely close to a title is incredible.

Like Matt Birt wrote, if he wins another title, he then has to be considered the greatest ever regardless of whatever argument you want to make. He'll have beaten the best of multiple generations in their prime.

I agree that MM is a long shot, but I believe he has a better shot as long as both Lorenzo and Rossi are close in points. 5 races to go, anything can happen and it usually does.......

Rossi is already the best in history, in MotoGP. His name stands at the very top of a long list of MotoGP winners. He's had more wins than anyone in the class, eclipsing Agostini and Doohan many years ago.

Rossi currently has 86 in the premier class. Next is Ago, at 68. Rossi bested Ago's 500/MotoGP win total in 2008, at Indy. So 7 years ago he was the greatest, ever.

But the whole Greatest of all Time is a load of baloney. It is impossible to say who was best. Rossi's achievements mark him out unquestionably as truly great. But how are we to compare his titles to Spencer winning 250 and 500 in one year? Yes, Agostini was on the best bike, but the manner in which he destroyed the competition speaks volumes of his ability. How should we rate Jarno Saarinen, taken tragically from us before his time, and the one rider I wish I had been able to watch. How good was Geoff Duke? Mike Hailwood? How many titles and races will Marc Marquez go on to win? What about Fabio Quartararo?

On Monday, after recording the podcast, myself, Neil Morrison and Steve English of MCN all sat round drinking coffee discussing our top ten list of all time. My own top ten contained about twenty names. Putting them in order is even harder.

You can't compare different eras. How would Valentino Rossi have got along on the 1957 four cylinder Gilera of Libero Liberati? Could he have beaten John Surtees? How about Kenny Roberts? Yes, Rossi has more wins than Agostini, but he has 18 races a season, not 8, or 10. Statistics are a poor yardstick because the times were so very different. Winning in Brno in 2008 is a very different proposition to winning in Brno in 1965, on the terrifying street circuit which would through tree-lined forests and narrow town streets.

The truth is there are greats in every era. Valentino Rossi has left an indelible mark across motorcycle racing, and will forever be the face and name associated with the sport. He has replaced Giacomo Agostini and Barry Sheene as the face of racing in the public eye. He has beaten two generations of riders, and stands on the cusp of beating a third. Does that make him the greatest ever? I don't believe that is a useful term to use. Does it make him a legend? Absolutely.

I used to think that Kenny Roberts was the greatest rider I had ever seen. Then I thought Eddie Lawson was the greatest rider I had ever seen. Then I thought Valentino Rossi was the greatest rider I had ever seen. Then I thought that Casey Stoner was the greatest rider I had ever seen. Then I thought Marc Marquez was the greatest rider I had ever seen. Now I think I am just happy I got to see them all riding.

So please, let's not get into the whole GOAT debate. It's pointless, and always ends up in bitter arguments which I have to spend a lot of time policing. I would rather that debate stops here.

Ago was racing against a bunch of privateers most of his career. A bit like Marquez on the 213v racing against a bunch of open class machinery. So 8 races a season or not, these current guys don't have that kind of advantage. He also raced a number of different classes so that wouldn't be much different to the long seasons we have today.

Nevertheless, Ago, across all classes, has the numbers. Rossi has them in the Premier class. You are right David, comparing against different eras and such, that much I mostly agree with you. But as Nicky Hayden said, numbers don't l1e. All we can go on is who has the most. And In 500/MotoGP, Valentino Rossi is #1 on the list spanning back to 1949. And across all classes he's what, 10 or 11 races now from having that distinction as well.

The greatest rider I ever saw wasn't in MotoGP, 500cc, 250, 125, or WSBK. His name was Joey Dunlop.

The numbers don't lie....but they don't tell anything like the complete truth either. There is no context, no meaning, no weight of circumstances, when really context and circumstances are everything.

No, I disagree with your "all we can go on is who has the most" statement, there is far more to a career than just numbers.

So I'm with David on this one, it's baloney to compare the achievements of riders from different era's. I cant even imagine Lorenzo mowing his lawn, let alone racing at the Isle of Man.

The reaction of the public in Anderstorp, when both Spencer and Roberts were on the podium, or one round later in Imola when one retired as the "King" and the other one became 500 champion, one was GREAT, the other the news champ.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y9lDhtsoL0

From where i am standing there are things that makes great riders, for all categories and years, fairness is one, but it's just me.

At Yamaha Racing, considering where they were before Kenny Roberts, the way he turned the factory from 500 cc competitors to a dominant force, the riding technique he introduced in GP, together with development of the modern chassis needed for this technique, as a pilot and later as manager...

Roberts is UNIQUE, no other rider in the history of GP have achieved what he have done for the sport, even so his personal record doesn't show as many victories or two titles in a season.

Yamaha only and truly claimed Roberts as the guy who made of them a genuine world force, in what used to be their wall of fame in their old website.

From then on looking at their own history, Lawson and Rainey were the only guys who had similar qualities in terms of settings, development and riding technique.

Once they were gone, Yamaha had to go trough 10 years without a title and wait for Valentino Rossi to join them to change that.

If we forget about fairness (and Spencer taking Roberts off the track to win a title, or Rossi tactics in a few occasions), from my humble PoV, these qualities are what distinguish great pilots from the good.

Now, i agree with you on the subject of statistics...

A similarly pointless GOAT argument currently rages in tennis. Unfortunately a definitive conclusion is always going to remain out of reach - the waters muddied by equipment differences and quality of opposition.
It's funny - I can never recall women bothering to discuss such matters. It always seems to be males in bovine head-butting mode - frequently in bars.

Because everybody knows women only ever discuss important matters such as who is the prettiest.

Are you for real or was that some sarcastic joke too sophisticated for my 'bovine head'? I really hope it was.

Oh and Rossi is the GOAT.

I must live a sheltered life - I've never heard women having that particular conversation. What criteria do they use to decide who is prettiest?
And apologies - I'd never accuse a dozy grizz of being a bovine head-butter.

I agree with you David, it is impossible to judge "greatness" by numbers alone.

Personally, in order to assess "greatness", apart from results I rate passion, love and dedication to the sport.

If these get taken into account Rossi raises head and shoulders above everyone else without a glimpse of a doubt. His winning career spans almost 20 years. 20 years, at this level of racing! With incessant passion and dedication. He runs a team in Moto3, organises a youngster riding academy in his home country and has been loved and adored by more fans worldwide than probably all the fans of other riders in the history of the sport combined. Who can beat all these factors put together?... To me, undoubtedly Rossi so far is the greatest. And I haven't always claimed thus... Only recently, after witnessing his perseverence, willpower and true commitment to winning another championship did I realise what a racer he is. Who in his right mind would have such an illustrious career (up to 2009) and then go without championship or even wins for so many years and still be there fighting at the very front end of the standings? Both physically but even more, psychologically, Rossi's achievements are those of a Titan, way beyond any other racer.

Nakamoto, head of HRC agrees with Hayden. Comparing Marquez to Stoner, he said "Marquez is extermely talented, but not a genius like Stoner. Stoner on the motorcycle can accelerate as fast as the laws of physics allow".

guy has raced against. He said Rossi was the best all round, and Marquez is extremely fast, but for outright speed he rates Stoner the quickest guy he's been on a track with. Which is not meant to have any bearing on the GOAT debate, just interesting.

Oxley is an "inside" man, no doubt about that, but time and again he has proven his tendency towards "grandiose" journalism. This time he is raising totally unjustifiable doubts and suspicions, to create intrigue out of thin air. It is more than obvious that -especially because of their points closeness and personal history- neither Rossi nor Lorenzo would ever accept to abide by team orders, and the idea of a sabotage is... well... simply preposterous. There is no smoke here, no fire and yet Mr Oxley is seeing Indians.

I can still remember the word "clown" attached to Rossi's name, in one of Mr Oxley's columns (I don't remember the magazine) in 2007 when he was eager to shout out loud "the king is dead, long live the king", announcing Rossi's demise and Stoner's coming. I mean seriously, "clown" - the word used by the then rampant anti-Rossi hooligans??? From a journalist of his "level" such expressions directed at such sportsmen are simply unacceptable and this simply shows the real quality that lies behind the facade of the respected journalist.

All in all, I think Oxley is conceited as a journalist and has a view of himself as an "engineer of opinions" and a tendency towards fake journalistic grandeur. And I simply dislike this kind of journalism. I have a mind of my own, thankyouverymuch Mr Oxley.

As Oxley and David know there are forums out there that live and feed by those unjustified doubts and suspisions.
They conspirate over any information or even any result they find out of their "order". The chem trail believers are amateurs compared to 3-4 dominating members of those forums.
In that sense Mat's article were just a walk in the park, a mild breeze compared to the storm on those/that forum. And I understood the article as a look into their world, not as serious arguments.

I don't comment on here much anymore, usually the posts are so good, I don't feel the need to.

But, man, we have one of the best seasons of top level motorcycle racing I have ever seen. Protagonists galore, all fighting it out, fairly, equally, aggressively.... it's sublime. And now we have an incredibly respected journalist posting on my hands down absolute favorite site that the title could basically be a hoax at the end of the day?

Come on. If you have proof of what you say, please please let us know. We need that from you. It's what we expect from journalists of your standing.

But, this is nothing but rumor based on a whisper based on a 'sagely nod'. This is how something beautiful disintegrates into something ugly. And that really sucks.

I hope you're wrong, and you didn't have anything better to write about, and this goes away and doesn't start to catch fire because of an unfortunate article like this.

but that's all he's doing, he's not claiming it's going to happen.

Hell, you are naïve in the extreme if you think millions of dollars in potential income won't sway the minds of the decision makers in a company. I mean why are manufacturers involved in the sport to start with, they aren't doing it to spend their excess Christmas party money are they?

And Yamaha obviously have form, so why is what he's raised so blasphemous?

It's an expert journalists job to raise issues you haven't thought of, to make you think, and I don't see anything wrong with that.

I too live in Thailand and the scooter owners of today yearn to own a motorcycle. Check out the scooters in Indonesia http://motoblast.org/2014/12/22/just-for-funyamaha-jupiter-mx-150-valent... finished in Rossi styling, or the 150cc Yamaha R15 in Thailand
https://www.yamaha-motor.co.th/2014/uploads/image/Yamaha-YZF-R15-Poster.jpg
These are developing countries and the only way is up, but unlike western countries, almost everyone, and I mean Mum, Dad and all the kids, started on two wheels.

I honestly believe Yamaha will let this play out without putting a thumb on the scale. Besides, with the level of information that passes between teams, there is no way Yamaha could sneak a sunrise past the head rooster (Ramón Forcada).

With regard to the whole GOAT issue (and I like the Rossi helmet idea), I think I would use the Swahili concept of Sasha and Zamani….When the last person who knows a dead person, let´s call him Fred, dies, that person, Fred, is no longer attached to any living person and therefore moves into the realm of Zamani…those Freds and all the events surrounding them that are no longer connected to the present by a living soul. When the last person who knew you dies you graduate from Sasha to Zamini…the MotoGP class of eternal spooks.

So that´s why the GOAT debate is hopeless. For many of you Agostini, though very much alive, is Zamani to you who never saw him ride in anger….but for me he is Sasha. I feel I can compare all the riders I have truly seen when I was smart enough to know what I was seeing, but if you ask me about Stanley Woods or even Geoff Duke, you ask me to rank riders I have never seen…Zamani riders. And that can only be done via stats and hearsay.

How good was Ago really? Very frigging good, and it was not his fault that racing dried up around him and he spent the bulk of his career racing on the red MVs blowing off Liintos, Nortons, Matchlesses, 350 Yams and even a Konig (ridden by the great and brief Kim Newcombe). Ago´s greatest years were 66 and 67 when he, still something of a pup, raced and beat Hailwood in 500 (Ago on the MV and Mike on the Hodna), and 1974 and 1975 when he took on Phil Read (losing to Read as MV team mate in 74 and switching to Yamaha to beat him in 75).

As much as I like the Sasha and Zamani concept, I have not found the proper moment to introduce it in the flow of our live Spanish coverage on T5 and I am not sure what Nieto, who is Zamani as a rider to so many who only know him as a color commentator, would make of it. I think I will opt not to find out.

There, something completely different.
,