Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Rossi is back in the game

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.


Rossi is back in the game

Valentino Rossi told us at Silverstone he doesn’t have the late-race speed to win the title, but recent bike improvements suggest otherwise

As we all know, on Sunday afternoon Valentino Rossi became the first motorcycle racer to contest 300 Grands Prix in the premier class; a statistic that makes your head swirl. If he had started his debut 500cc race in March 2000 from his hometown of Tavullia and kept racing westward on the same latitude he would already have completed a full circumnavigation of the earth and be well into his second lap at full-race speed, heading past Montréal, Canada, at around 220 miles an hour.

At Silverstone the 38-year-old led all but three laps of his 22nd British Grand Prix (including the only one that matters) to finish less than a second behind winner Andrea Dovizioso and place himself within 26 points of the championship lead.

So here’s the big question: can Rossi be world champion at the end of his 306th premier-class race?

This is probably the closest battle for the kings of crowns in 69 years of world-championship motorcycle racing. Dovizioso, Marc Márquez, Maverick Viñales and Rossi are within 26 points of each other with six races remaining, so everything is to play for.

So far each of the three leading factories – Ducati, Honda and Yamaha – has won the same number of races, four each, although Honda and especially Ducati have been stronger in recent weeks. Could that be about to change? Championship battles usually swing this way or that for two reasons: rider injuries or machine adjustment.

On Sunday Dovizioso scored his fourth victory from the last seven races, but the biggest improver at Silverstone was Yamaha. Rossi led 17 laps and Viñales crossed the finish line 0.115 seconds off the win. Incredibly, this was Movistar Yamaha’s first podium double since Argentina.

The reason? The factory’s post-Austrian GP tests at Misano, where they worked on the problem that has haunted them for a year and a half: excessive rear-tyre degradation.

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

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Total votes: 20
Total votes: 33

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Comments

Whether he clinches title ten or not--and despite my HRC allegiance, I can't help but root for the "old man"--watching Rossi right now is an absolute pleasure. His performance is still phenomenal, and he seems to be luxuriating in the wealth of his experience. 

Watch Rossi in the post race press conference at Silverstone. He is totally at ease, gamely sparring with the press when they dare to suggest he may be past his prime. Recognizing a theme with one reporter, Rossi, dry as an over-priced martini, responds, "This is the same question as yesterday, yes? I am very old." Then has the room teach him a new English word, so he can pointedly assert the offender's true motive for the question, "'Envious.' You understand?" 

Championship or no, the man is still putting up career highlights against kids who were in preschool when he bagged his first WC. He's as impressive and entertaining as he's ever been, and I hope he's got a few years left in him yet, even if his last title is behind him. MotoGP just won't be the same when he goes. 

 

Total votes: 60

I'm pretty sure this race was a perfect example of why Rossi is not going to win a championship again. Perfect start, everybody fighting behind him and perfect conditions after a pretty much perfect weekend.

Yet, everybody behind him in the race was happy letting him lead, knowing full well he would not get away. Rossi is very lucky Marquez blew up otherwise he problably would not even have made the podium.

So unless there's going to be more crazy weekends like Assen I don't see it happening.

Total votes: 61

I get it, you don't like the guy. But that race proved nothing. Or rather, proved that they still have some tyre issues in the final laps.... correct me if I'm wrong : which guy almost made pole with spectacular speed in the first 3 sectors and got second for less than a breath away from poleman Marquez? Do you really think that as of today any of the young guns wishes to have VR breathing down their necks on a last lap ? I don't think so. Did you hear Dovi in the press conference? He said that he saw Rossi struggling with his rear tyre and knew he could pass him. The key word being "struggling with tyre". So no, none of those guys underestimates VR when he is happy with his bike. Not right now. With a championship so close. But maybe i misunderstood your comment and I'm more than glad to be enlightened

Total votes: 42

it was a surprise to me that first and second place said a great deal of the race was about conserving tyres (of which VR probably knows most about) and yet VR seemed to be wanting/trying to gap it from the get go.  Maybe he figured there was nothing he could do.

Pretty hard to discount any of the top 4 from the championship at the moment but two favourites do seem to be appearing.

Total votes: 37

So Dovi, Maverick, Marc and Cal knew "full well he would not get away"?  You must know something they didn't.  

They would have been very relieved to see the gap stabilise, and they would have been simply hoping and praying that Rossi hadn't played things a little better than they had, because one thing they did know was that Rossi had the pace to win in qualifying.

They also knew that in 2016 Maverick had done exactly what Rossi tried to do and simply rode away from everyone for his first win.

Contrary to your assersion that Rossi was "lucky Marquez blew up", I kinda think that Marc being Marc he may well have complicated things just enough for Rossi to sneak a win.  How often do we see the chasing pack trip each other up?  Despite knowing it is the worst thing to do when trying to reel in a gapping leader, it happens time and time again. However I found this race suprising in that for once they seemed very much aware of having to work together to keep Rossi in sight, there was very little jockeying with only one real minor time loss incident....but I'm not sure that Marc would have followed the script approaching the closing stages as the others did.

Long time Dovi/Duc fan here, not a big Rossi fan, but I recognise how easily things could have turned out in his favour.

 

Total votes: 38

That is precisely what i was wondering when i saw the article.

Rossi qualified second, got the lead by the first turn, was leading the race till the final three laps and finished 3rd. He was 33 points behind MM at the start of the race and is now 26 points behind Dovizioso. Made up 7 points.

Maverick Vinales qualified fourth, finished second inspite of being behind Rossi till the final three laps. He was 24 points behind MM at the start of the race and is now 13 points behind Dovizioso. Made up 9 points.

Andrea Dovizioso qualified sixth, finished first inspite of being behind Rossi till the final three laps. He was 16 points behind MM at the start of the race and  now leads by 9 points Dovizioso. Made up 25 points.

Dont know based on which conclusion did Mat Oxley come to the conclusion Rossi is back in the game based on that?

I like Mat's blog and read most of his  articles but he spends too much coverage on Rossi. For e.g, the below are his articles on Rossi from 1st Jan 2016 to current. Even when you look at his previous article on Rossi (after the Barcelona GP). Rossi was still 28 points behind. So it is very difficult to understand the thought process based on which he came to the conclusion that Rossi is back intthe game, also when keeping in mind that the other contenders like Dovi and Vinalez have actually improved their chances better?

 

Rossi is back in the game 29-08-2017
Is Rossi's title challenge over 14-06-2017
Why Rossi must reinvent himself once again 04-04-2017
Can Valentino Rossi win in 2017 15-02-2017
Next: The Rossi Musuem 13-06-2017
Could 2017 be Rossi's year 25-05-2016
Rossi's Secret 25-04-2016
Dorna: iunfavor, por favor 20-04-2016
The Easy rider in Valentino Rossi 10-02-2016

 

Total votes: 32

I can understand your bewilderement but you must remember that Mat is not just a journalist and a reporter. He is a storyteller. And if for a moment we forget about technicalities and specifications and ktm improvements and Ducati fairings and Michelin.... So if we put all that aside and we concentrate purely on that rare breed of men taming those powerful twowheel beasts then Rossi is still worthy of attention. The main story this year is no doubt the rise of Dovi. And he deserves our full attention. But then what other epic story is worth one thousand words? Vinales being fast and soon (if not his year maybe next) world champion? Marquez being....Marquez? Lorenzo still struggling? This is fine but rather boring from a literary point of view. Then you have Rossi... chasing that bloody 10th title. Written off 7 years ago and back in the game. Almost world champion again. Second 3 years in a row against many odds.breakin almost every record of longevity. Still scaring most of his competitors.... How can you not not want to write about it? This is dream material for the writers room! No matter how you look at it the "old dog" is still spicing up the race on Sunday. And the sheer passion and effort he puts in to still be competitive at the top level it's something we 're lucky to witness. And this is the stuff that makes up for great stories. That we enjoy reading. And just to underline the extent to which his story has almost an epic feel just think of precise moment, in Laguna Seca 2013 or 14 : we have the new kid on the block blowing everybody's mind with his raw talent. And instead of creating his own story he trains in order to repeat the corkscrew pass to the man who...."invented" it. Personally i find it rather pathetic. But that's just my opinion. What matters is that a young talented person wanted to emulate the epic actions of someone considered a sort of legend. Maybe the press exaggerated with the rossi obsession. Still he has given so much to the sport that it's not difficult to paint him as a hero when you are a writer

Total votes: 33

Simple...want to satisfy a large group of your readers, generate interest and get clicks? Write a good article toying with the emotions of Rossi lovers and Rossi haters. You get the sense that he really enjoys writing about Rossi as well. Personally, I appreciate every piece of content on Rossi because he brings so much to the sport and who knows how much longer he will continue.

From a life perspective, Rossi is one of those rare people who appears to have found the perfect balance of excelling in his craft, competition, developing youth or other passionate causes, humor, and general joy of life. Marquez is similar. I admire that!

Total votes: 32

"Rossi is back in the game" He has been in the game for over twenty years. Now he is out of the championship for another year, with another broken leg. This to shall pass. Long live the goat.

Total votes: 27