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.
Rossi: ‘we’ve stopped thinking about performance’
How come Valentino Rossi went from zero at Phillip Island to (fallen) hero at Sepang on Sunday?
Sunday was Rossi’s greatest ride in more than two years – 46 races since he defeated a hard-charging Marc Márquez at Barcelona in June 2016. (It was a sign!)
First of all, his speed and consistency may shut up the armchair racers who suggest he is past it. When the bike and the tyres do what he wants them to do, Rossi can be as fast as anyone, even in suffocating 34 degC heat. That is nothing short of a miracle for a 39-year-old lining up on a Grand Prix grid for the 382nd time, with the dolce vita always awaiting him at home, whenever he so chooses.
He led with an almost superhumanly metronomic pace, his lap times over the first three quarters of the race never varying by more than 0.275sec. Afterwards Jorge Lorenzo took to Twitter to congratulate his former team-mate, because this is usually the Spaniard’s territory.
And for most of that time he had Marc Márquez bearing down upon him, like Jaws. But this was no great white shark playfully hunting a helpless swimmer. This was arguably the two greatest riders the world has ever seen biting chunks out of each other; just like they used to in 2015. Well, not quite. At first Rossi took a few tenths out of Márquez, then Márquez took a few tenths out of Rossi.
And then, queue the Jaws music: from lap 12 the great white got closer and closer and closer. “I understood that Marc would arrive, but I wanted him to arrive as late as possible. It could have been fun, because I was quite strong, so I could fight.”
The big question is, of course, why was Rossi so strong at Sepang? The previous Sunday he had cut a disconsolate figure in the Phillip Island paddock, utterly dejected by a miserable sixth-place finish, caused by a lack of drive grip out of the circuit’s numerous left-handers.
The man to answer that question is his crew chief Silvano Galbusera.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.