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.
MotoGP’s first Honda v Ducati title duel
Sunday’s breath-taking Austrian GP heralds the first-ever Ducati versus Honda duel for a MotoGP crown
Incredible but true: Honda and Ducati have never battled each other for a Grand Prix world championship. For one reason or another, each factory’s best years have never coincided with the other’s. Until now…
When Casey Stoner won Ducati’s first Grand Prix crown in 2007, Dani Pedrosa finished second, but the Honda man was never in the hunt, ending the season a whopping 125 points down. The only other time Ducati came close to winning a GP world title was in 1958, when Alberto Gandossi rode Fabio Taglioni’s first desmodromic engine to second in the 125cc championship, just seven points behind MV Agusta’s Carlo Ubbiali. Honda entered the Grand Prix arena a few months later.
Now, here we are, seven races to go in the 2017 MotoGP Championship and the season is developing into a Honda versus Ducati duel, rather than the usual Honda versus Yamaha fight, the recurring theme of the last 35 years.
Why is this so?
Several reasons, of course. But as usual in racing it’s mostly down to the tyres, especially in an era of control tyres. Remember the first years of the Bridgestone control tyre era? Honda took almost four seasons and many more frame modifications to make the RCV work with the tyres. Ducati never got the best out of them, at least not after it had lost its Aussie magician. The only factory that got along with those tyres from the outset was Yamaha.
Now it’s Ducati and Honda making the best job of getting the most out of the Michelins. Ducati has won three of the last six races, Honda two, Yamaha only one.
Ducati is currently the cleverest at squaring the circle of tyre choice, it has found the key to the Michelin conundrum. On Saturday in Austria Andrea Dovizioso qualified on the front row using the medium-compound rear and used the soft rear for the 28-lap race. Weird, eh?
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.