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.
He’s old and he’s fat
I’m joking, of course, but not entirely
Valentino Rossi’s 113th Grand Prix victory was historic and much more. It was the success that brought him to within ten wins of Giacomo Agostini’s record of 122 victories, which for many decades was presumed forever impregnable. Hard to believe, but his 87th premier-class win was also the first time in 17 seasons in the big class that Rossi had led from pole position and from start to finish.
Rossi won his first Grand Prix in August 1996, three months after his first decent GP result, a fourth-place finish, just metres shy of the podium, at Jerez, funnily enough. After that race sidekick Uccio Salucci said, “that’s when I thought, hmm, maybe it’s possible that something good comes out of this, not just one victory or one podium, maybe something more…”
To attempt to fully understand the enormity of Rossi’s unique career it’s worth rewinding to 1996 to remind ourselves what else was going on in the world at the time.
Moto2 and Moto3 stars Alex Rins and Romano Fenati were born, John Major was British Prime Minister, Boris Yeltsin was President of Russia, Prince Charles and Princess Diana got divorced, the CIA’s role in importing crack cocaine into the USA was revealed, Osama bin Laden wrote his ‘Declaration of Jihad’ and the Ramones played their last gig.
Meanwhile Rossi just keeps on rocking. And, believe it or not, the 37-year-old’s new-found speed has plenty to do with his age. Rossi spent his first eight seasons in the premier-class riding Michelins, so he feels much more at home with the French rubber than do Jorge Lorenzo, who rode only his rookie MotoGP season with Michelins, and Marc Márquez, who has known them only for a few months.
The Michelins have changed since Rossi last raced them in 2007, but not so much. During last year’s post-Valencia tests he explained that the DNA of the French tyres will never change, just as the DNA of Yamaha’s and Honda’s MotoGP bikes has remained essentially the same over decades. After Rossi lost the front and crashed at Austin he explained that he doesn’t expect the front tyre to really change, so he thinks it’s up to teams to set their bikes to get the best out of the tyre and it’s up to riders to fully understand its limits.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.