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.