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.
To finish first, first you must finish
Why discretion may be the better part of valour during the 2016 MotoGP season
This year’s MotoGP world championship will probably be won by the rider who crashes out of the fewest races.
There’s a straightforward reason for this: a front-end slide is much more difficult to save than a rear-end slide. When MotoGP moved to Bridgestone, riders had less rear but more front grip – easy to deal with. Now they’ve returned to Michelin, they’ve got more rear and less front grip – infinitely trickier.
That’s why riders have been losing the front and crashing with depressing frequency. And why discretion may be the better part of valour this season, with the smartest riders prioritising points-scoring results over riskier all-out performances.
In fact, MotoGP riders are already used to losing the front, but in a very different way. Some of them would lose the Bridgestone front many times during each race, with barely a spike in heart rate, because they were so familiar with the procedure.
They would charge into a corner, braking and leaning harder and harder (“with the front tyre completely locked and your knee on the ground,” as Aleix Espargaro put it), amazing themselves that they weren’t already eating gravel. And all this time the front tyre would dig in deeper and the bike would turn harder, because the magic of Bridgestone’s front was that the more riders abused it, the more the contact patch expanded, so the better the grip and the turning. Occasionally a rider would ask too much of the tyre (give a racer an inch and he’ll always try to steal a mile), so the rubber scrubbed across the track and he ran wide, but still he didn’t crash. Well, not always.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.