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: an American renaissance?
MotoAmerica’s Wayne Rainey is working to make the USA a global racing force again
Empires come and go: the Greek, the Roman, the Portuguese, the British... It’s the same in sport, especially sports linked to industry and technology.
America’s grand prix empire reigned from 1978 to 2000: 14 500cc world titles in 23 years, then only one since. And nothing before, either.
Britain’s racing empire lasted longer, from the birth of GP racing until Barry Sheene’s final victory: 358 GP wins in the 32 seasons from 1949 to 1981. In the 37 seasons since then, British riders have won just 24 GPs.
What might explain these strange patterns in racing history?
British riders and manufacturers ruled motorcycle racing from the 1920s, largely thanks to lessons learned at Brooklands and the Isle of Man TT. When the world championships commenced in 1949, British and Italian riders and bikes led the way. It wasn’t until 1953 that another country won a riders or constructors title. And even when the British industry collapsed, foreign brands continued to hire British riders, until other nations got up to speed.
Since then Italy and Spain have become bike racing’s strongest nations. Both had important motorcycle industries, and even though Spain’s industry is no more, powered two-wheelers are still a big part of national culture in these sun-blessed Mediterranean lands.
But how come the American empire crumbled? This wasn’t an industry thing. US racers disappeared from grands prix because racing technology improved and riding techniques changed.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.