Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Inside the Rossi/Lorenzo garage

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.


Inside the Rossi/Lorenzo garage

Here is photographic evidence of how nasty things are getting inside the Movistar Yamaha pit as the Rossi/Lorenzo title fight approaches its heart-pumping climax.

Above we see Rossi crew members Gary Coleman (left) and Alex Briggs (right) mugging Jorge Lorenzo mechanic Ian Gilpin in the paddock – the Northern Irishman never stood a chance against the Aussie pair.

It’s just as bad in the pits where the two opposing crews giving each other the dead-eye across the garage and plan their next act of sabotage or their piece snippet of misinformation…

No, I can’t keep this up. Let’s forget the tabloid fantasy and cut to reality…

Although everyone knows that Rossi and Lorenzo maintain only the thinnest veneer of civility between themselves, it’s different with the people working for them.

“There are no issues between us at all,” says Gilpin, cutting dead my hopes for a lucrative Sun exclusive. “Obviously both sides of the garage want to win, but it’s a good mix of people, we’re all professionals, we all get on and we have some fun together, so there’s no dramas.”

Gilpin is a recent addition to Lorenzo’s crew. Previously he worked on Ben Spies’ factory Yamahas and before that he was at Suzuki and at Team Roberts, working on Yamaha, Modenas and Proton machinery.

“Of course, there’s always piss-taking and it fires both ways across the garage. After a race we all say well done to each other and start working on the bikes or packing up. When Valentino wins or if Jorge has a crash, like at Misano, OK, we may be a bit pissed off for an hour, but then you get on with it. It’s not the end of world, is it? It’s only bike racing!”

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

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Comments

Nice article Matt, and well timed. At this point in this particular season it's all too easy to get fractious even as a spectator, and it's good to be reminded that it's just a game, nothing more.

I've always enjoyed these kind of articles, showing that there's a lot happening in the backstages that we're not imediately (or at all) aware. Nice one, Mat!

Also, the last paragraph/sentence is so revealing, just showing how brutal the cold calculations (and the sport) are.

I enjoyed the article--the behind the scenes perspective is always interesting--but it doesn't really surprise me that crew members would be cordial, or even friendly, towards each other. Economically, they just have a totally different set of considerations than riders do relative to each other.

A rider that displays open animosity towards another rider risks little. Everyone assumes every rider wants to beat every other rider, and there's a lot of social leeway for riders to be rude to each other, in the same way that elite performers across many social sectors are often given special permission to act like jerks (take Steve Jobs, for example, allegedly...). More importantly, riders aren't dependent on each other for employment.

The context for a crew member would seem to be totally different. There are only a few hundred jobs available for people who wish to do crew work at the elite level. For each individual role on a crew the options are even more limited. Competition is intense and job security is nearly non-existent (see: Jeremy Burgess). I imagine that today's rival becoming tomorrow's co-worker or employer is something that crew members deal with frequently. That doesn't really encourage a lot of trash talking (unless it's good natured, as described).

I think a better analogy for the riders would be their relationships with other manufacturers. Even riders who have spent years with the same factory are generally very diplomatic when discussing other manufacturers. You never know when you'll be looking for a job...

I enjoyed this article very much. At the end of the day these men are professionals, blessed to be working on some of the most exotic machines on the planet and competing at the highest level. The pressure has to be very intense, so it seems to me that humor and perspective would be the best tools to use in keeping one's self centered!

There is absolutely no doubt that each person there is going to do their level best to ensure that the bike that they have been assigned to performs at it's best. But again, they are professionals and know that this is true of every other person in that garage, regardless of which side of the garage they are on. It's only natural to want to win; It's the nature of the business. The perspective comes in when they look at their pay stubs and realize that those checks are not signed by V Rossi or J Lorenzo; they are all signed by Yamaha. They wear the same colors. There has to be some sense of brotherhood that comes with that.

Anyway, it's a fascinating dynamic and I'm glad that Mat explored it.

That is a boring story!!!

No hair pulling? Scratching? Slaps on way to podium a la Biaggi Rossi?

Would seem Hector Barbara and his girlfriend have more dust ups!! (Low blow. Couldn't help it).

This should basically be required reading for anyone who follows the sport. The number of fanbois who have gross misconceptions about how this stuff works is amazing.

So nothing like Hamilton v Alonso back in 2007 (F1, it's a sort of 4 wheeled motogp...) The FIA put observers in the McLaren garage to make sure the team didn't try to nobble Alonso at the last round. Didn't matter in the end, Ferrari and Raikkonen stole the championship.