Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why did MotoGP get nasty?

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.


Why did MotoGP get nasty?

Who to blame for the poisonous end to the 2015 MotoGP season: (in alphabetical order!) Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez or Valentino Rossi? Or how about none of them? How about thinking about the problem a little more deeply and investigating its root causes?

Here’s a theory. This problem has been coming for years and we’ve been cheering all the way, unaware of what’s at the bottom of the road we’ve been travelling down. We get excited when the first four rows of the grid are separated by just one second and last April we greeted the Argentine GP – the first premier-class GP in which the top 20 finishers were covered by less than a minute – as a wonderful moment.

Which it was, in a way. Back in the 1960s and 1970s races were often won by several minutes, which can’t have been much fun. Now races are often won by several tenths of a second, which is fun. The 1991 season – Wayne Rainey vs Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan and the rest – was the closest of GP racing’s last golden era, but it wasn’t as tight as last season. We all want exciting racing and that’s what we’re getting, because this is another golden era of Grand Prix racing, but sometimes there is a price to pay.

The various fall-outs between MotoGP’s three greatest rivals can all be traced back to the riders wanting the same piece of racetrack: Lorenzo and Rossi colliding at Motegi 2010, Márquez and Lorenzo at Jerez 2013, Rossi and Márquez at Rio Hondo and Assen 2015.

Collisions have become a more common occurrence in recent years, largely because the motorcycles are so damn good. Way back in 2009 Rossi told me “now the bikes are too good and the tyres are too good”, and they are even better now.

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

Total votes: 86
Total votes: 138

Back to top

Comments

I take exception to the notion that Jorge Lorenzo holds any blame for the poisonous end to the 2015 season. Really, I think Mat owes him an apology.

Total votes: 163

I don't think that was the point of the article. It was about the racing of recent years, not one specific part of that racing.

Total votes: 150

Maybe he had some harsh reactions, but his reaction can never have started the initial action, now can it?

Total votes: 148

I laughed real hard at this. Someone doesn't remember anything Lorenzo said or did at the end of the season.

Total votes: 139

"The hardest part of the race was to see Pedrosa get very close. I thought I would run the risk of ending up third and lost the Championship, but in the end, they surely realized that there was a lot at stake for me, maybe in another type of race they could risk more and pass me. Instead they were very good because the title would remain in Spain (…) I always try to be honest, the truth is that I did a race in which I gave my best always, however sincerely today the Honda, it was very difficult to always keep the concentration and stand in front of them. They are Spanish like me and knew what was at stake, so I benefited because maybe without that little help, maybe considering that Valentino did a great race comeback from last to fourth place, he could win the Championship. So this title is mine, it is ours, but also of Spain."

Completely neutral...

Total votes: 161

He says he raced his ass off and is happy the title remains in Spain.
Sure, P&M did not risk everything and helped L that way. Seems logical: they could not risk a crash, or they would have decided the championship. Not to mention they would have been grilled at home. Not to mention Race Direction had made it clear to Marquez that he had to ease down a bit.

Now let's move on.

Total votes: 130

Yes, he raced his ass off and yes, he's happy the title remains in Spain (or more importantly that he nabbed it). My point isn't to say that he's the one to blame, but rather that he is not a neutral part in this, so having him in the list when asking the question of who's to blame isn't wrong.
But blaming a single riders would be a gross simplification of the events, IMHO. It's a combination of actions and statements from several riders (perhaps even ones not included in Mat's list) that resulted in the sour ending of 2015.

As for the example above, the wording he used, though maybe not deliberate, was unfortunate. It fuels the notion that there was some sort of "agreement" between the spanish riders, or at least between MM and JL (as JL expressed concerns about DP catching up). This doesn't really make the situation better in the end.
However, as I just wrote, it could be (and probably was) just a bad choice of words and not intended to add to the feud. Fingers can be pointed, if you absolutely must, to unintended actions causing unintended consequences as well. One does not have to have bad intentions to be under scrutiny.

Now, for full disclosure - I am a Rossi fan. I am also a Marquez fan. A Lorenzo fan I am not, however. Regardless of that - here's my opinion (not that you asked, but anyway):
The biggest fingers must be pointed to VR/MM, with a bigger lean towards VR than MM (though MM is no saint in this, IMHO).

Most of JL's actions and statements were "forced", like when he requested to be included in the hearing regarding the VR appeal in the MM/VR clash penalty dispute.
The statement by JL in my post above is an example of when it wasn't forced. I am willing to call it a bad choice of words, or at the most a light jab.

Is JL to blame? If at all, then very very very little. Should he be excluded from the list of "suspects"? Absolutely not.

In the end I think JL winning the championship was the most fair outcome. I would have loved VR to take the crown, but JL rode better even though not as consistent as VR. And this is coming from a Rossi fan that is not very fond of Lorenzo.

Total votes: 114

This is a great article, in that Max brings in the history of past seasons and the performance of the bikes, into how we view racing today.

With the continual advancement in technology this has allowed MotoGP racing to be as close as it is in Moto3.

So buckle up; MotoGP in 2016 will be even closer than 2015. :)

Total votes: 153

Most of the younger generation coming into MOTOGP now are from the ME generation, where they have been told all their young life that they can do anything they want & the world is theirs. Marquez is a great example of this, he barges his opponents out of the way as if they are not there, he doesn't cleanly pass other racers. He has been allowed to getaway with these actions with minimum penalties, so a precedence has been set. I like close racing, but when deliberate contact is made to pass someone, then it has gone too far, with possible dangerous consequences or death.

Total votes: 156

Yeah but you know, Marquez has gotten to be alot more of a sportsman compared to his Moto2 days. He's definitely cleaned up his passing.

This isn't saying anything about motivation, but the technique is much better.

I don't think Matt's article really asked the right question. Racing is closer... so what? The real question is how will the racers learn to continue racing closely at the front and be more civil?

Too much civility is boring, but Vale and Marc both stepped over the line.

Let's face it, Marc went down because he reverted to younger Marc and tried to bump his way passed Rossi. He turned into Vale with aggressive intentions. That BS about trying to anticipate Vale taking off doesn't fly.

Total votes: 130

Interesting article... It seems to be dismissive though of the actual problem -- poor behavior, seemingly due to/perpetuated by infantilism.

I'm sure your (Max's) intention isn't to absolve these riders of their poor behavior (if memory serves you've touched on it before), however, I've not seen/read/heard, with any consistency, riders at this level admit to poor behavior much less take personal responsibility. It would seem also their respective team management is not adequately holding their rider's accountable for such behavior, probably in fear of losing the rider to another team (ie, rider takes his skills and goes to play elsewhere); this of course further perpetuates the problem (ie, children will be children when there are no adults).

I don't expect these guys to be perfect or even close to it; no human being can attain such... but I do expect them to behave like adults in public, not children, showing good sportsmanship; is this asking/expecting too much? Well it shouldn't be; we (fans, journalists, teams, sponsors, etc.) should all expect such, as anything less feeds the problem and infers acceptance.

Some may argue this behavior should be accepted/tolerated at this sporting level; this is said as if one could not otherwise achieve such sporting success otherwise. Come on, really? Clearly, those believing such don't hold these riders in very high personal esteem; Jorge, Marc, and Valle are better than the behaviors they displayed.

The racing year was fantastic... Close racing is what the fans want to see and, I'd bet, close racing is what most of these riders want as well (ie, better to eek out position/victory, especially in the closing laps, than to be riding alone much of the race, not in a fight at the end). Yes, during the race a racers adrenaline is rushing, pushing on track aggressiveness, but this isn't a war against enemies, it is a race against competitors; each rider should have an appreciation and respect for the other (regardless as to whether you like them or not), as it is they who are pushing them to achieve more than they could on their own AND it is they to which victory is that much sweeter.

Total votes: 137

I think you have too much faith in humanity. The only thing stopping the average adult from behaving this poorly -or worse- is that they don't have to fight for much.

Put two accountants in the same cubicle and tell them that the better performing one will take half of the lesser performing one's salary, then see how much guerrilla style vandalism goes on. Repeat that experiment with with brick layers or electricians and you have a health and safety nightmare.

Riders are not saints. To us this is sport, entertainment, but to them it's the acme of their life's work.

Total votes: 134

It seems you read more into my statement than was intended... Humanity is not something one should place faith; selfishness is our natural state.

We are not talking about saints, we are talking about being a good sport. I have to say again, if you think they are incapable of learning and applying good sportsmanship then you think far, far less of them than I do; they are capable. The question is, will they? For their sake, I hope so.

Think of the battles on and off the track between Ben Spies and Mat Mladin; both great riders fighting for championships. Ben is not a saint, but his behavior was a good example of sportsmanship. Mat's was not.

Total votes: 119

By asking in the first sentence, he promotes the notion. Lorenzo didn't say anything he didn't say during Sic's dust ups. Watch Hitting the Apex.

Total votes: 135

The desire to win is fundamental to all competitive sports. In MotoGP the competition is at such a high level, the desire to win is constantly testing every other value that gets in the way. I am most impressed by riders who can win races without selling out their humanity. There is a line I don't want to see crossed, as a habit. You can put your own life on the line for a win, but not anyone else's. I've seen riders who have consistently crossed that line without showing remorse. They are hugely popular with the fans and promoted heavily by the powers that be. Some people figure the rivalry and controversy are good for business. Looks like they are right. Rollerball anyone?

Total votes: 105

To anyone who says Lorenzo bears no blame: He did come to some chances to be gracious and stay out of the Rossi-Márquez beef, and chose to go in another direction. I've been a Rossi fan for fifteen years, and I think I remain one (ask me at middle of next year), but I have to agree with some others that it was Dani Pedrosa (not to mention about twenty other guys) who showed everyone how to behave in the last month or two of the past season.

Total votes: 114