Editor's Blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “You release the brakes and believe”

Dovizioso and Márquez could hardly see where they were going at Motegi, yet their duel was reminiscent of one of the greatest of all time

It's been a generation since I have been so overawed about a motorcycle race: since Sunday May 26, 1991, to be precise. That’s the last time I recall witnessing such a heart-in-the-mouth finish to a premier-class Grand Prix that held a world championship in its hands: big speed, big risk, big heartbeat.

Of course, there have been numerous classic encounters over the years. We could argue about them forever.

But there was something different about Sunday’s race, something that reminded me of Hockenheim 1991, when Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey were fighting for the 500cc world title at one of the fastest, scariest circuits of them all. Motegi isn’t particularly fast or frightening, but it’s terrifying in a torrential downpour, when riders can hardly see where they’re going, blinded by spray from the rain and by steam from the engine. Unless you’ve been there, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine what it’s like to be hauling along at 185 miles an hour, peering through the murk for your braking marker, then slithering the front tyre all the way into the corner.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Riders: behave yourselves!

MotoGP has got its work cut out dealing with Moto3 maniacs hunting for slipstreams and by riders in all classes who get greedy with the asphalt runoff

If MotoGP was a high school, Moto3 would be the class of misbehaving young bad boys and girls that sends its teachers home each evening sobbing into their hankies.

There is no naughtier class in MotoGP than Moto3. The smallest category causes head teacher more of a headache than the other two classes combined. That’s right, Race Direction spends more time policing Moto3 than it does MotoGP and Moto2.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - What is Bradley Smith’s problem?

Bradley Smith has struggled since the start of 2016 – this is what has wrongfooted the Briton

Changing tyre brands can make or break bike racers. There’s a long history of top riders riding the crest of a wave, changing tyre brands, then disappearing without trace.

In 1998 Simon Crafar was riding high on 500s. This was the New Zealander’s rookie 500 season and yet by Assen he was already hassling Mick Doohan, then at the peak of his towering career. Next time out at Donington Park, Crafar left Doohan trailing, beating the reigning champion by 11 seconds. It was probably the biggest defeat ever inflicted on Mighty Mick.

Crafar nearly did it again at Phillip Island, Doohan’s home race, breaking the lap record and crossing the line eight-tenths behind the Aussie hero. No doubt about it, Crafar was the Next Big Thing. His Red Bull Yamaha team believed it could challenge for the title in 1999, so long as it changed to Michelin, then the dominant force in 500 GPs. Michelin also wanted Crafar on its side, so the team switched from Dunlop.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Minor and major miracles at Arágon

Márquez’s win, Rossi’s Lazarus-style comeback and the performance of Aprilia and KTM made Arágon a special MotoGP weekend

Motorcycle racing is all about winning: at every race you get one winner and 20 or 30 losers.

However, every now and again you look down the finishing order and there are major and minor miracles everywhere. Sunday’s Arágon Grand Prix was like that.

Firstly, to finish first, first you must finish. So congratulations to MotoGP’s king risk-taker Marc Márquez, who won at Arágon to become Honda’s second most successful rider premier-class rider after Mighty Mick Doohan.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer's Rider Insights On Aragon, Tires As A Factor, And Rossi

MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. Every week after each MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.

The latest episode of Freddie Spencer's video blog focuses on an eventful weekend at the Motorland Aragon circuit. Fast Freddie starts off with a note on Joan Mir, and the incident with Fabio Di Giannantonio down the back straight at Aragon. He then moves on to talk about the Michelin tires, and the role they played on Sunday's race, and how they affected the fortunes of both Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Which MotoGP bike will win the title?

Ducati, Honda and Yamaha all have a chance of lifting the MotoGP crown – so which factory has the technical advantage?

Five races to go, the top three riders on three different machines separated by 16 points, the top two equal. So what’s going to happen, who’s going to win?

MotoGP isn’t only about riders, it’s also about motorcycles, so it’s worth looking at where Ducati, Honda and Yamaha are by comparing their records since MotoGP changed so dramatically at the start of last season.

Since the arrival of control software and Michelin tyres, Yamaha has suffered worst. The brand has won 10 of the 31 races since the start of 2016, compared to the 15 victories it took in the preceding 31 races. That’s a disastrous drop of 33 per cent.

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Editor's Blog: Experimenting With Instagram Stories - A Weekend At Aragon

Inspiration comes from strange places. I was arguing – sorry, "discussing" – with the ridiculously talented MotoGP photographer Cormac Ryan Meenan about the relative value of various Social Media outlets. I am, as you may know, a big Twitter fan, and a fairly prolific tweeter. Twitter allows me to quickly post updates and respond to questions from racing fans. As I have little affinity with the graphic arts (a euphemism for saying I take rubbish pictures), I have no real time for Instagram. My primary method of communication is words, not pictures.

Cormac disagreed. He strongly believes in the value of Instagram as a means of communication, and especially in the power of Instagram Stories. Cormac, together with others like top photographer Tony Goldsmith and On Track Off Road kingpin Adam Wheeler, persuaded me that plenty of people would be interested in an Instagram story telling the tale of what an ordinary race weekend looks like for a MotoGP journalist. When I asked people on Twitter if they would be interested in such a thing, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer's Rider Insights On Misano, Rossi's Absence, And Mastering The Conditions

MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. Every week after each MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.

Once again, Freddie Spencer gives his insights into the weekend goings on after the latest round of MotoGP. This time it's Misano, and Fast Freddie first turns his attention to the track, and of course the absence of Valentino Rossi, who lives just a few km away from the track. Rossi was out due to an injury sustained riding enduro, and Freddie Spencer then discusses the benefits which riding off road, and especially riding dirt track can bring.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How Magic Marc walks the line

Eighty-five riders raced at rain-lashed San Marino GP on Sunday, and there were 80 crashes. How does Márquez stay on, let alone win, in such conditions?

It was difficult to watch Sunday’s race without imagining a kind of Gollum conversation taking place inside Marc Márquez’s head between his risk-taking self and his risk-averse self (if he has such a thing).

However tiny Márquez’s risk-averse self might be, it was in charge for most of the 28 laps. He wisely decided to let Jorge Lorenzo go about his business and then just as wisely decided to stay behind Danilo Petrucci, allowing the Italian to set the pace. All this while his risk-taking inner beast was surely fighting to get out…

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How Lowes can you go?

Who is to blame for Sam Lowes’ MotoGP demise: the rider, Aprilia or someone else? Look behind the scenes and there’s an obvious answer few have noticed

Silverstone was a weird weekend for Sam Lowes: his first and possibly (but hopefully not) last British Grand Prix as a MotoGP rider.

Lowes’ unceremonious sacking during the preceding Austrian Grand Prix caused a minor furore in the paddock and asked some major questions.

Most obviously, what is a contract worth? That’s an easy one to answer: a contract is worth next to nothing if someone is prepared to buy themselves out of it, to some extent. Lowes wanted to continue his MotoGP learning process with Aprilia next year, but all he will receive will be his salary. No bikes. It’s a miserable deal, but that’s the way the world works.

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Subscriber Blog: If You Were Lin Jarvis, Who Would You Choose?

Imagine you are Lin Jarvis, boss of Yamaha. It is Thursday evening, and you are in the car, driving home from Yamaha Motor Racing's headquarters in Monza. Your phone goes, and you answer it. It's someone from Valentino Rossi's entourage, calling to tell you that Rossi has crashed his enduro bike out training, and has been taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg. What do you do?

Well, first you call William Favero, Yamaha's communications manager, and sort out the communications process. But after that, and once you get confirmation that Rossi's leg really is broken – a double break, tibia and fibula – then you start to think about whether you will have to field a substitute rider for the upcoming races. Who do you call?

A lot of people have been playing this game since late on Thursday evening, when news of Rossi's injury broke, but very few have been able to put themselves into the position of Lin Jarvis. Instead, the suggestions offered have been made from the perspective of possible future configurations of the Yamaha MotoGP team, or riders who deserve a chance in MotoGP, or just a particular fan's favorite rider, who they would like to see get a ride somewhere. So who are the candidates? Who will get the call? And more importantly, what motivates the decision that Lin Jarvis will eventually have to make?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Rossi is back in the game

Valentino Rossi told us at Silverstone he doesn’t have the late-race speed to win the title, but recent bike improvements suggest otherwise

As we all know, on Sunday afternoon Valentino Rossi became the first motorcycle racer to contest 300 Grands Prix in the premier class; a statistic that makes your head swirl. If he had started his debut 500cc race in March 2000 from his hometown of Tavullia and kept racing westward on the same latitude he would already have completed a full circumnavigation of the earth and be well into his second lap at full-race speed, heading past Montréal, Canada, at around 220 miles an hour.

At Silverstone the 38-year-old led all but three laps of his 22nd British Grand Prix (including the only one that matters) to finish less than a second behind winner Andrea Dovizioso and place himself within 26 points of the championship lead.

So here’s the big question: can Rossi be world champion at the end of his 306th premier-class race?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Is Ducati’s grip computer-enhanced?

The Ducati MotoGP team is using trick new software created to improve tyre performance, so how important is this technology to the factory’s title challenge?

It looks like we may get away without a proper soaking at Silverstone this weekend, but that won’t make it much easier for riders and teams trying to choose the best tyres for Sunday.

This year tyre choice is by far the most important factor separating MotoGP victory from defeat, so the teams clever enough to find their way through the Michelin maze have a crucial advantage on race day.

Ducati is currently the most successful factory out there, with three victories from the last six races, which suggests that its engineers have become very good at choosing the right tyres. But how?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s first Honda v Ducati title duel

Sunday’s breath-taking Austrian GP heralds the first-ever Ducati versus Honda duel for a MotoGP crown

Incredible but true: Honda and Ducati have never battled each other for a Grand Prix world championship. For one reason or another, each factory’s best years have never coincided with the other’s. Until now…

When Casey Stoner won Ducati’s first Grand Prix crown in 2007, Dani Pedrosa finished second, but the Honda man was never in the hunt, ending the season a whopping 125 points down. The only other time Ducati came close to winning a GP world title was in 1958, when Alberto Gandossi rode Fabio Taglioni’s first desmodromic engine to second in the 125cc championship, just seven points behind MV Agusta’s Carlo Ubbiali. Honda entered the Grand Prix arena a few months later.

Now, here we are, seven races to go in the 2017 MotoGP Championship and the season is developing into a Honda versus Ducati duel, rather than the usual Honda versus Yamaha fight, the recurring theme of the last 35 years.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer's Rider Insights On Austria, And The Importance Of Tire Management

MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. Every week after each MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.

Freddie Spencer kicks off this week's video blog with his own memories of the Austrian Grand Prix, though when he was riding it was at the Salzburgring rather than the track that is now the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. That was a different track, but suffered some of the same concerns with the weather.

Next up, Freddie Spencer looks at the challenges of the circuit, and goes on to talk about the weight of expectations resting on the shoulders of the Ducati riders at the track. The former 500cc world champion discusses the fortunes of the Hondas and Yamahas, and provides a truly fascinating insight into tire management, and how you conserve tires as a rider.

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