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.
How Lowes can you go?
Who is to blame for Sam Lowes’ MotoGP demise: the rider, Aprilia or someone else? Look behind the scenes and there’s an obvious answer few have noticed
Silverstone was a weird weekend for Sam Lowes: his first and possibly (but hopefully not) last British Grand Prix as a MotoGP rider.
Lowes’ unceremonious sacking during the preceding Austrian Grand Prix caused a minor furore in the paddock and asked some major questions.
Most obviously, what is a contract worth? That’s an easy one to answer: a contract is worth next to nothing if someone is prepared to buy themselves out of it, to some extent. Lowes wanted to continue his MotoGP learning process with Aprilia next year, but all he will receive will be his salary. No bikes. It’s a miserable deal, but that’s the way the world works.
Cal Crutchlow, a good friend of Sam’s, is typically forthright in his view of the situation. “I think it’s a disgrace, there’s no other way to put it,” says the LCR Honda rider. “What did they expect him to do in his first year in MotoGP on that package? It’s not a Yamaha! I look at my first year on a MotoGP bike [a Yamaha] and mine was probably even worse. They’ve treated him like crap. He’s not doing a bad job – you cannot imagine how many times he’s been sat in the garage during practice sessions with his bike not running.”
Not only has Lowes had to contend with below-par machinery, his dismissal sets a worrying precedent. It is important for MotoGP rookies on two-year deals to know that they’ve got the time to get up to speed, so they can focus on learning during their apprenticeship season, without the pressure of taking big risks to get results; then the following year they can start pushing harder for results. The sacking of Lowes means that other rookies coming into MotoGP will be concerned that the same fate may befall them, which means more pressure, which isn’t a good thing when you’ve got L-plates on your MotoGP bike.
Lowes has faced his dismissal with equanimity and good humour. During a busy media debrief he accidentally knocked a journalist’s voice recorder to the ground. “Sorry, I’ll buy you a new one,” he grinned. “Though I haven’t had many bonuses this year…”
Of course, there is always more than one side to a story, so what might be the other sides to the Lowes/Aprilia saga?
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.