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.
‘He was already world champion!’
Maverick Viñales started this season as MotoGP title favourite. But he’s not won a race since May. What went wrong?
It’s been a strange year for Maverick Viñales. He has lived his first season in the shadow of the sport’s brightest sun – Valentino Rossi – and has become a shadow of his former self.
Since Qatar his gait has changed entirely, so much so that he looks a different man. Back in March he was all relaxed smiles, now he looks worried, haunted, defeated.
And with good reason. Preseason was a dream: Viñales and his Yamaha YZR-M1 topped all three tests, then he comfortably won the first race in Qatar and ran away with round two in Argentina. “He was already world champion!” recalls Marc Marquez, who had amassed just one quarter of Viñales’ points haul after the first two races.
But that’s when the nightmare began. Viñales crashed out at COTA. “I don’t know what happened, I did nothing wrong… I’m pissed off, because when you crash like this it’s not normal. You get confused.”
The confusion would only get worse. At Jerez, he slithered around in sixth place, 24 seconds behind the winner.
Normal service was resumed at Le Mans, where he won for the third time; except that this wasn’t normal service. A few weeks later at Barcelona he was 10th and then he crashed out at Assen. He hasn’t won a race since Le Mans.
At Barcelona, his M1 and the Michelins hated each other, so that every session he would shuffle into his garage, shaking his head in bewilderment.
“We’ve modified the bike a lot: more weight on the front, more weight on the rear, but the problem remains the same,” he said. “I have wheelspin all the time. The front feels okay but the rear is terrible. The bike isn’t turning and it’s moving a lot. I don’t know what to say. I’ve never been on a bike with no feeling.”
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.