Editor's Blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why Lorenzo is winning

The vital importance of straight-line braking in MotoGP’s Michelin era explained and the big question: can Lorenzo win the title for Ducati?

Over the years there have been many weird and wonderful world championships, but this year’s may be the weirdest and most wonderful of all.

There’s a three-time MotoGP world champion struggling to find his way with a recalcitrant motorcycle. His lack of results cause him to fall out with the factory management, so he looks elsewhere for employment, but none of the other factories want him. There are rumours of retirement and talk of a ride with an independent team, which doesn’t even exist. But this seems his only option.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Lorenzo and Honda: will they win?

Jorge Lorenzo’s shock move to Repsol Honda caught pretty much everyone by surprise. What are the precedents and how will the deal work out?

In December 1988, a letter from Rothmans Honda chattered through fax machines of editorial offices around the world, announcing that reigning 500cc world champion Eddie Lawson was quitting Marlboro Yamaha Team Agostini to race Rothmans Hondas the following season.

Editors and journalists stared at the letter in disbelief.

A few days later their befuddlement was complete when a fax arrived from Marlboro Yamaha Team Agostini, announcing that Rothmans Honda’s former world champion Freddie Spencer would ride YZR500s in 1989.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2018: peak silly season

Where will Joan Mir, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone end up next year? MotoGP’s silly season is about to reach its climax

Many MotoGP journalists spend a lot of time chasing contract stories. I gave up years ago, even though I know that you lot love wheeler-dealing tales from the paddock.

I gave up partly, mostly because when journalists put contract questions to riders, personal managers, team managers and factory bigwigs, they are answered with forked tongues. And how could it be otherwise? There’s a lot at stake – the careers of riders, the reputations of manufacturers and many millions of Euros – so why would anyone in their right minds tell a journalist the truth?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “Marc is a freak!”

Another race, another victory, so what exactly is Marc Márquez’s big secret?

I’m stood in the Le Mans pitlane, chatting with a venerable MotoGP engineer, trying to eke from him the relative merits of every bike on the grid.

“The holy grail of motorcycle racing has always been to come up with a device that can save front-end slides, and now Honda has one…” he says, pausing for effect. “He’s called Marc Márquez.”

And that there is the story of MotoGP right now. Love him or loathe him, Márquez is on another level to everyone else. He has an ability that none of the others possess. That doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable, because he’s not always the fastest man out there, but it’s this unique talent that helps him to make the difference.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s next electronics ban

Dorna is so convinced that most teams are fiddling their ECU sensory systems that it will banish tailormade IMUs from 2019

MotoGP is better than it’s ever been for several reasons, including 2016’s move to control software.

Dorna’s control software narrowed the performance gap between the motorcycles and most importantly gave control back to the riders, so when you see Marc Márquez or Johann Zarco smoking the rear tyre, that’s their right wrists playing the game of risk versus reward, rather than a little black box playing rhythms with its algorithms. Up to a point, anyway.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer On That Incident At Jerez

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

In his latest video blog, Freddie Spencer takes a look back at the eventful Jerez round of MotoGP, and examines its repercussions on the championship. He starts off with a look back at his own first experiences of what is a fiery and passionate event, and his own first visit to the Jerez circuit. He then takes a quick digression to discuss the benefits and risks of rider training, with a view to Remy Gardner's injury picked up in an MX crash.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Is Zarco complètement gaga?

Johann Zarco is one of MotoGP’s most talented riders, but he’s signed with a factory that hasn’t come close to the podium, let alone victory. Has the Frenchman lost his mind?

The normal trajectory for an up-and-coming MotoGP superstar goes something like this: prove your talent in Moto2 or show your skill aboard a so-so MotoGP bike, sign with a winning factory, then become MotoGP world champion.

Johann Zarco’s MotoGP stock couldn’t be higher than it is right now: the Frenchman is a front-row and podium regular on a second-hand motorcycle that was designed for the 2015 season, to work with Bridgestone tyres and tailormade factory electronics. And yet despite all this he might just become the first privateer premier-class world champion in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Rossi is a poet, Márquez is Hendrix

As MotoGP heads to Jerez for the first classic event of the year, the red and yellow fans will be out in force. Let’s hope for a good-natured weekend

MotoGP is in a great place right now. Every other weekend we get to watch arguably the two greatest riders of all time and now we go to Jerez, where the febrile crowd sends goose-bumps down your spine.

It’s a brilliant era. I look forward to going to races now as much as I did when we rocked up to watch the Schwantz versus Rainey show, which included some great battles at Jerez, both on and off the racetrack.

Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey didn’t get on, but at least their teams made sure they always had a good time after races. “We weren’t all friends but on Sunday nights everybody went out and had team dinners,” Schwantz recalls. “So the teams would end up bumping into each other and the boys would end up at the bar, having beers, telling war stories: ‘I’m gonna kick your ass next weekend!’ and ‘well, whatever, you kick my ass if you think you can!’

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer On A Controversial Race In Argentina

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

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The end of MotoGP aero?

MotoGP has only just started its second season with radical aerodynamics but most manufacturers are already against aero devices

Aerodynamics has been MotoGP’s biggest tech talking point of the past few seasons, if only because it’s easier to spot a redesigned winglet or aero surface than a rewritten traction-control map.

Perhaps not for much longer. It seems that most of the factories have had enough of MotoGP’s new-age aero – mainly because they think they are spending too much money for too little gain.

There are currently two reports being compiled: one by Dorna’s technical staff and the other by the MSMA (the Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association). Both may offer the same conclusion: to ban aerodynamics in its current form and return to the conventional bodywork of a few years ago, before Ducati got clever with its winglets. The main concern is cost – a lot of money can be spent on aero development, which is still very much a nebulous science in motorcycle racing.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Bike racers were never choirboys

Just in case you think motorcycle racers used to be different, here’s something I wrote back in 2003

“This is bike racing, not classical music,” opined former 250cc world champion Max Biaggi after Doriano Romboni accused him of dirty tricks on the last lap of the 1994 250cc German Grand Prix.

Pretty obvious, really, because there’s not a half-successful racer in the world who doesn’t get up to some kind of mischief in his quest for glory.

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Guest Video Blog: Freddie Spencer On A Controversial Race In Argentina

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

There was certainly a lot for Freddie Spencer to talk about after an eventful Argentinian round of MotoGP, and the former world champion starts his latest video blog off with a memory of the only time he got to race in the country, his very first race in his first full season 500cc.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Like Maradona driving a hot-hatch

Sunday’s Argentine MotoGP Grand Prix was like a Gaucho rodeo ride: chaotic, painful and unmissable

First, I have a confession to make: I like a bit of chaos. Few things are more over-organised than modern sport, which mostly runs like a well-oiled machine, so sometimes it’s good to see a spanner thrown in the works.

It’s not unusual for this to happen in South America. Some years ago during the Brazilian GP in Rio de Janeiro, practice had to be stopped because the circuit had a power outage. The owners hadn’t paid their electricity bill, so the electricity company waited for the perfect moment, then pulled the plug. Practice continued once they’d got their money.

This sort of thing rarely happens nowadays. Like I said, everything is too well organised, there are too many rules and very often there is too much health and safety. So I hugely enjoyed Sunday’s action, with a few obvious exceptions. To me, one of the joys of motorcycle racing is that it is a kind of chaos, even when it’s not particularly chaotic. I don’t think any other sport better fits George Orwell’s famous words, written in December 1945, when his mind was already working towards writing 1984.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP's roulette wheel

Riders want a more consistent tyre from Michelin, but a faster tyre? That's the last thing MotoGP needs

MotoGP is more unpredictable than it’s ever been, because the grid is more closely matched than ever and because each rider’s tyre choice can make or break his race. This is great for fans.

However, there is one cause of the unpredictability that isn’t so great. In recent months many riders have complained about getting dud tyres from Michelin. Quality control is vital in racing, because, if a rider tries out tyre B and finds it works better for him than tyre A or C, he will fit a B for the race and know exactly what lap times he will be able to run, to within a tenth or two.

But if there is a glitch with the tyre carcass or rubber, his whole race will be thrown out of kilter, like he’s gambled his result on a roulette wheel. This problem isn’t exclusive to MotoGP, it also happens with Dunlop in the lower Grand Prix categories and with Pirelli in World Superbike. And tyres have been failing for as long as people have been racing, all the way back to Brooklands and the Isle of Man TT in the early days of the 20th century.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati's cornering tool: press to turn

Ducati’s fastest three MotoGP riders all use a thumb-operated rear brake, 25 years after Mick Doohan introduced the system to Grand Prix racing

Look at this photo of Jorge Lorenzo riding through a right-hander during preseason testing. He’s at the apex, or thereabouts, with his knee on the asphalt and his elbow almost kissing the kerb. He is already looking out of the corner, working hard to turn the bike as quickly as possible, so he can segue into the acceleration phase. Now look at his left thumb: he’s at pretty much full lean, but the thumb is operating the rear brake via a custom-made thumb-brake lever.

Most of us would crash if we used the rear brake in the middle of a corner, but the brake is an essential cornering tool for most top racers, who use it in many ways that everyday motorcyclists don’t.

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