Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - I’m (almost) speechless

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.


I’m (almost) speechless

I have no words after watching an old man win in the riskiest of conditions, but that wouldn’t make much of a blog…

In October 2011 a photographer and I flew to Bergamo, Italy, for an audience with 15-time world champion Giacomo Agostini. Ago and his wife Maria welcomed us into their home and ushered us straight to the dining table: it was lunchtime. Lunch was served by the family butler – dressed all in white – and the world’s most successful motorcycle racer was his usual charming self.

The reason for the visit was simple. For many years the racing world had been wondering if Valentino Rossi would one day eclipse Ago’s record of 122 Grand Prix victories. By the end of his first miserable season at Ducati, there was a lot less wondering.

I’ll raise my hand and admit that I thought Rossi was already done, that his time as a winner was over. I presumed that a second dismal season on the Desmosedici – by then it was already obvious there was little chance of a miracle in Bologna in 2012 – would have him drifting into luxurious retirement. The headline to my Agostini interview was ‘The only guy Rossi won’t beat’.

Rossi’s Dutch TT win was his 115th Grand Prix win, so Ago’s record is still a long way off and may forever be out of reach. But let’s not worry about that right now.

Assen wasn’t an ordinary win, which would’ve been remarkable enough. It was victory in the scariest, most treacherous conditions: slick tyres in the drizzle, riding around one of MotoGP’s fastest tracks, which only the previous day had proved ice-like in the rain, claiming no less than 32 Moto3 victims in just two sessions.

These are the kind of risky, dangerous conditions that should suit keen, young riders, those who haven’t yet become accustomed to the taste of hospital food, rather than wizened, creaky veterans.

Racing on a damp track on slicks is fine, for a while. If you keep riding at full speed the tyres stay hot enough to keep gripping, with a little luck. But as soon as you back off even a fraction, tyre temperature drops and grip decreases. Then comes that horrible moment when the tyres reach critical temperature, when all of a sudden they cease to grip at all. One second you’re riding around on damp asphalt, the next you’re on ice. And the moment the front goes, with no warning, it’s not coming back; which would be especially unpleasant heading into 140mph Meeuwenmeer or 130mph Ramshoek.

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

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Total votes: 57
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Comments

"Only two riders resolved to keep going as close to full speed as they dared, shifting the risk and the fear into some dark recess of their minds"... nope... a 3rd was faster than Rossi & only a smidge slower than Petrux over those last, rain affected laps... our own Cal kept it pinned & closed in on all of them, reasserting his quality.

Total votes: 105

What's interesting with Rossi's situation is this year, without a rookie mistake at Le Mans and his training accident prior to Mugello, he could already be at 3 wins.  Last year's engine blow up at Mugello and his mistake in the rain while leading at Assen could add two more.  If a few things had gone his way, he would already be at 119 wins.  Of course, every racer says, "If I would've, could've, should've", but with Rossi, you have to believe he could have won those races. 

Total votes: 97

Despite the naysayers he is still there, what, 7 points down mid-season?

I could have made a lot of money betting with journalists.  

Total votes: 79

the comments from readers on motomatters are always more interesting and considered, and less combative, than in other sites. Sorry Mat but that includes your publication...

All I can say, is that after watching Federer's ridiculous win in the Australian Open, while supporting Nadal, I was just full of admiration for his competitive effort. As an older dude I also appreciated his effort relative to his vintage.

I have thought that Rossi has gone too far in a competitive sense at times, but his effort this year to work through his challenges and deliver that performance just screams class, effort and craftsmanship. It was incredibly satisfying to see him win, even if you were supporting another rider.

All that, and for those in OZ, we really enjoyed seeing that Miller ended up in a vertical position after the finish line, in a pretty fast race. Hope springs eternal.

Total votes: 89

- Jorge used to make it look simple, get out of first corner and switch on metronomic mood

- Dani used to catapult into the lead and in a couple of corners the race will be decided.

- Casey made the ridiculous Ducati do things that no one can do.

- Marc follows the lead person at ease and strike as and when needed.

But the certain 9 times world champion brings in a lot of Aura to all of his races, pulls out a miracle to win races and makes it so so much interesting in the course of the whole race. The clinical passes and couple with some unbelievable ones as well.

A true champion and a class entertainer. 

I hope he races till 2020, but we never know what future holds for him. I wish him all the best till he races and a safe and happy retirement.

Total votes: 78