Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - One MotoGP season – more than a thousand crashes

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.


One MotoGP season – more than a thousand crashes

During 2016 there were more than a thousand crashes in a MotoGP season for the first time in the sport’s history. What does this tell us about what’s going on?

There are two ways to judge how a rider and his motorcycle are working together: how many times the rider ends up on the podium and how often he ends up in the gravel.

Inevitably, the two stats tend to be diametrically opposed. And rarely more so than in 2003 when Alex Barros scored one podium from 16 races at the cost of crashing his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 14 times.

Working out the sum of that glory-versus-disaster equation was an epiphany for Yamaha’s embattled race bosses; it was the moment when they realised they better get serious and spend some proper money to build the best bike and buy the best rider, or otherwise take the M1 home to Hamamatsu and never come back.

In 2004 Masao Furusawa’s big-bang engine, Jeremy Burgess’s chassis tweaks and Valentino Rossi’s sublime riding gave Yamaha a very different sum-total: nine race wins, two further podiums and a world championship at the cost of just four tumbles. (A crash-rate nevertheless fourfold Rossi’s 2003 accident rate when he rode Honda’s brilliant RC211V.)

During his first sojourn at Yamaha, Rossi crashed his M1 on average 4.5 times each season. When he defected to Ducati he suffered much like Barros had done eight years later: Rossi dumped the Desmosedici 12 times during 2011, an almost threefold increase, for the sake of one podium.

So you see how the glory-versus-disaster equation often adds up to the truth; which underlines the value of the annual crash report published by Dorna and motogp.com.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 65
Total votes: 66

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Comments

The way they are building and 'modifying' the tracks nowadays is the biggest factor in my opinion. Those massive tarmac run-off areas are inviting riders to take more risks, because you can totally afford to miss the corner. Not just because there's little chance that you'll crash, but you probably won't even lose time. All you have to be careful of is not to gain a place.

Mat does mention this aspect, but I feel it's still underestimated how serious this factor is. Apart from having an adverse effect on safety in several ways, it also is polluting the races by letting riders get away with serious mistakes and still be in the fighting group, and getting podiums at the cost of riders who do stay on track. All that nonsense with endless penalties for 'exceeding track limits' isn't exactly making things better either, now you have to wait for a jury to know who qualified where and who is going to have time added after his race. That in turn gives rise to discussions over and over again, it's annoying.

Apart from all that it also makes the tracks bloody ugly. It doesn't even look much like a road anymore, which for me starts to take away much of the feeling of speed and sensation that resonates with riding bikes 'in reality'. I want to see a strip of tarmac surrounded by a grass field or hills, with gravel traps where neccessary. I have read some comments from riders this year that Spielberg felt a bit like that, like riding in the countryside, and that they loved that.

Of course we want safety, no question, but we also want good honest racing. So running off track should cost you LOTS of time. Get rid of those tarmac areas, bring back gravel traps, sand traps and grass land. Maybe long grass is an idea. Or maybe even small shrubbery instead of gravel traps, who knows. For a long time now, everytime when more accidents happen because of riders running off track, the 'solution' of the organisers is to create even more tarmac run-off. They totally ignore the obvious fact that riders will change their riding to use that. Please stop ruining all tracks, it does not work! 

Total votes: 87

Just goes to show that rider aids are so much more for performance and lap times than they are for safety.  As big of deal as the manus make out of them, reality is much different, which makes them more of a marketing tool.

Total votes: 73