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.
“You release the brakes and believe”
Dovizioso and Márquez could hardly see where they were going at Motegi, yet their duel was reminiscent of one of the greatest of all time
It's been a generation since I have been so overawed about a motorcycle race: since Sunday May 26, 1991, to be precise. That’s the last time I recall witnessing such a heart-in-the-mouth finish to a premier-class Grand Prix that held a world championship in its hands: big speed, big risk, big heartbeat.
Of course, there have been numerous classic encounters over the years. We could argue about them forever.
But there was something different about Sunday’s race, something that reminded me of Hockenheim 1991, when Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey were fighting for the 500cc world title at one of the fastest, scariest circuits of them all. Motegi isn’t particularly fast or frightening, but it’s terrifying in a torrential downpour, when riders can hardly see where they’re going, blinded by spray from the rain and by steam from the engine. Unless you’ve been there, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine what it’s like to be hauling along at 185 miles an hour, peering through the murk for your braking marker, then slithering the front tyre all the way into the corner.
Anyway, let’s go back quarter of a century to the summer of 1991 and a forest near Heidelberg, where the Germans had opened a new racetrack in 1932, just a few months before Adolf Hitler took power.
In May 1991 the main men in 500 GPs were Schwantz on his Lucky Strike RGV500, Rainey on his Marlboro Team Roberts YZR500 and Mick Doohan on his Rothmans Honda NSR500. During that Hockenheim race Doohan’s rear tyre chunked, so he left Rainey and Schwantz to duel it out.
On the final lap, racing through the forest in top gear, their 500s yowling like a thousand angry chainsaws, Rainey was ahead by a few yards, Schwantz tying his RGV in knots trying to stay with him, a bit like Márquez on the last lap at Motegi, losing the rear of his RC213V so badly that he was half off the bike. This, in fact, was the moment that decided Sunday’s race.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.