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.