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.
MotoGP Assen: thrilling… scary… boring?
There may never have been a more thrilling Grand Prix race than Sunday’s spectacular at Assen, so why does Rossi say racing is more boring than it used to be?
Wow. Epic MotoGP race. One of the best ever. More overtakes than in a decade of Formula 1. Closest top 15 in 70 years of Grand Prix racing. Hugely entertaining. And scary as hell.
Of course, motorcycle racing is supposed to be scary. It’s almost half the fun, whether you’re actually racing or just watching. I enjoyed every millisecond of Sunday’s race, but sometimes I could hardly hear what was going on for the ringing of alarm bells.
I hate to be the canary in the coalmine, but I know I’m not the only one. Those in charge of MotoGP left the paddock on Sunday night grinning from ear to ear, then breathing the biggest sigh of relief, happy to have witnessed such a breathtaking battle and delighted that everyone got away with it.
Assen is a unique racetrack. It’s very fast, very narrow and very ziggy-zaggy. And on Sunday it was very windy too. The circuit isn’t as quick as Phillip Island, that other MotoGP venue renowned for fierce battles, but many of the corners are faster, with little room to manoeuvre and with riders constantly changing direction and sometimes thrown onto each other’s lines, even when they don’t plan it like that. And there’s nothing in MotoGP like Hoge Heide, where riders flick from right to left at around 150mph, muscling a motorcycle that weighs almost 180kg in the early laps. If there’d been a multiple contact there, it would’ve been like a plane crash. That’s why I watched much of the race like I’d watch a horror movie – peeping through my fingers.
Valentino Rossi knows this better than most. When he clattered into Jorge Lorenzo at the preceding Meeuwenmeer right-hander he knew he was lucky not to go down. After the race the nine-time world champion seemed to thank a higher power for his survival, crossing himself in his garage, even though he’s not a religious man.
That lead bunch of eight riders – Rossi, Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Maverick Viñales, Alex Rins, Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco – were mesmerising to watch, like fighter pilots in a dogfight: diving, swerving, chasing their prey, avoiding their predators. As Márquez said afterwards: “attack and defend, attack and defend!”. Which isn’t an easy thing to do when you’re shifting along in fifth gear, one rival six inches from your left elbow, another six inches from your right elbow.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.