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.
The Easy Rider in Valentino Rossi
The nine-time champion hasn’t just changed his riding style to stay on top; he’s changed his whole lifestyle
I watched Easy Rider on the plane home from Sepang and thought about Valentino Rossi. There’s more than a tenuous link here, honest. Rossi would do almost anything to have been born thirty years earlier, so he could’ve been racing and generally having a good time in that wildest, most excessive of eras.
He may have disagreed with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper on matters such as steering geometry, riding position, front/rear balance and handlebar angle, but I’ve not a shadow of doubt that he would’ve dropped whatever he was doing and happily joined them on that road trip to end all road trips. Barry Sheene, who also knew a bit about living, hopped on a Harley chopper at Daytona in 1972 – that’s him in the photo looking all young and innocent (ish) with the bike’s owner, Carlos Romero – brother of Gene Romero, who won the Daytona 200 in 1975, the year of Sheene’s 175mph smash.
I can see Rossi chugging down some Stateside freeway astride Easy Rider’s legendary Captain America chopper, exchanging peace signs with sidekick Uccio, who would make a perfect stand-in for Hopper, and getting up to all kinds of mischief. And I can see Sheene riding pillion with VR, standing in for Jack Nicholson.
Rossi was only just born in the 1970s (16 February 1979, to be exact) but he is very much a child of those times. His dad is a hippy (bless him), his favourite band is The Doors and he has huge admiration for other icons of the age: Johnny Cash, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and so on. He appreciates the music and the style of that era as the real deal, but most of all he adores the freedom people had in those days, mostly the freedom to have a riot of a good time.
Back then Sheene and the rest didn’t spend their lives pumping iron in the gym, frying their pupils in front of computer monitors and meeting and greeting press and sponsors. As soon as they could they got the hell out of the pits and spent their off-track hours getting up to no good in the bar, the disco and the bedroom.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.