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.
Honda's failed Great Escape
A different front tyre may have changed the world champion’s race, but this isn’t the first time that the outside world has had its say in motorcycle sport
There are many good things about a MotoGP weekend, but one of the sweetest is living inside a MotoGP bubble for a few days and leaving the big, bad world behind.
Occasionally events in the big, bad world can puncture that bubble. That’s what happened almost exactly 35 years ago when the 1982 Grand Prix season got underway in Argentina, just as the Falklands War erupted. Most of the paddock only just made it out of the country in time, the vulnerable British contingent landing in Madrid, not London, because their Aerolineas Argentinas plane didn’t want to risk impoundment in Britain.
This year’s Argentine GP was also affected by outside events. A general strike gripped the country last Thursday, preventing Michelin’s harder construction front slick from making it to Termas de Rio Hondo in time. There’s no doubt that the strike cost Repsol Honda more than most: both its riders crashed out of Sunday’s race after losing the front. Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were among five riders who requested the stiffer front tyre following the season-opener in Qatar. The other three were Honda’s third man Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi, whose front-end issues have been well documented.
It is no surprise that Honda riders wanted the tyre more than anyone, because the RC213V was originally conceived to take advantage of Bridgestone’s ultra-high-performing slick during braking and corner entry. The bike still retains its original character and therefore needs a stiff-construction front. If the general strike hadn’t happened and riders had been able to use the stiffer tyre Sunday’s result might have been different.
On lap four Marquez had hardly started leaning into the turn two left-hander when the front was sucked away from him. The bumps between the first and second corners slightly unsettled the suspension of his RCV, unloading and then overloading the front tyre, which was enough to bring him down. Pedrosa’s crash, 10 laps later at the same corner, was pretty much identical.
Michelin’s 2017 front may be better than its 2016 front – there were 12 MotoGP crashes during the weekend compared to 25 last year – but it’s still an edgy tyre that forces riders to walk a very narrow line. Perhaps that line would’ve been a fraction wider if Marquez, Pedrosa and the others had got the stiffer front.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.