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 Márquez checked out in Australia
Marc Márquez's Phillip Island victory was arguably his best so far; surviving that vicious six-rider brawl, then going on to win by almost two seconds.
There must’ve been times in the early stages of that race when Marc Márquez must’ve thought he was waking up from a nightmare.
The previous weekend at Motegi he had fought wheel to wheel with Andrea Dovizioso, both men walking the line for five extra points. Situation normal: two rivals risking everything for the crown, each of them with as much to lose or gain as the other.
Phillip Island was the total opposite. For much of the race, Márquez found himself in the nightmarish position of being the only rider in the lead group with everything to lose, surrounded by rivals who mostly had nothing to lose. There’s no worse place to be if you’re chasing a title.
While Márquez absolutely needed to avoid an accident, Johann Zarco risked everything to get his first MotoGP win, Andrea Iannone tried for his first Suzuki podium by any means necessary, Jack Miller wanted a home MotoGP podium and Valentino Rossi wanted his first win since he broke his leg, or indeed as much as he ever wants a win. Maverick Viñales was the only other rider in the title fight, but only just, and he was out of it by the end of the race.
Márquez finished the 27 laps with the seat unit of his RC213V smashed by a divebombing Zarco and his leathers scuffed with rubber from rivals’ tyres. Whose rubber? Who knows? There was so much rubbing going on that the riders didn’t even know who had barged into them. They certainly didn’t have time to look back and check. Except Márquez, who several times looked over his shoulder, searching for Dovizioso.
This was MotoGP at its best and at its scariest. In recent decades huge efforts have been made to make all forms of motor sport safer, but motorcycle racing can never be made safe like car racing. Plenty of those collisions during Sunday’s race could’ve turned into huge accidents because Phillip Island is so fast, but the best riders in the world are just as good as getting themselves out of danger as they are at getting themselves into it.
Although I’d never argue for more danger, the races that make my heart beat fastest happen at those tracks where the riders are fully aware of the consequences of getting it wrong. Which means the fastest old-school tracks, like Phillip Island and Mugello. Places like Valencia and Misano never get my heart beating that fast. I want to see riders teetering on the brink through third- and fourth-gear corners, their bikes shimmering and shaking beneath them, not fiddling their way through chicanes and hairpins.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.