Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Do MotoGP greats need to prove themselves on different bikes?

 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.


Do MotoGP greats need to prove themselves on different bikes?

There’s a theory going around that top MotoGP riders, such as Marc Márquez, must prove themselves by winning titles with different brands. And it’s nonsense...

Marc Márquez’s current HRC contract expires on December 31, 2020. That’s 600 days away. And yet journalists are already hammering away at their keyboards, wondering aloud which brand of motorcycle he will race in 2021: will he stay at Honda or will he go somewhere else? Of course, it’s all guesswork, because no one has a clue what Márquez will do.

A lot of the speculation about the world champion’s future eddies and flows around that fashionable racing untruth: that top riders must win races and titles on different brands of bike to gold-plate their legend.

This is nonsense. It’s not about the bike you’re riding, it’s about how you’re riding. If you’re riding well, you’re riding well. Simple as that.

Many of the greatest riders in history stayed loyal to one brand: Mick Doohan, ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and so on. Does the fact that they didn’t switch manufacturers lessen their talent or their achievements? Of course not.

Winning on different motorcycles is an accomplishment, but it doesn’t make you a better rider. Adapting from one bike to another is just one talent in the huge array of skills possessed by fast racers. And anyway, all top riders have already proved their ability to adapt, by graduating from one category to another.

It’s also worth noting that it can be even more challenging to switch from one tyre brand to another, but no one gets excited about who’s won titles with different tyre companies.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

Total votes: 39
Total votes: 46

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Comments

Just ask Rossi about throwing two years of his racing life away. Ask Jorge if in retrospect if he should have stuck it out with Yamaha. Stay where you are and continue to rack up wins and titles. Simple as that.

Total votes: 32

A) Marc HAS - The Honda he started on was a different one than the 2015. Which was a different bike than this one (thank God).

B) Winning on different marques is a point of pride. Taking a struggling or 2nd best bike to win is admirably impressive.

C) Marc never needs to move, and won't. It isn't his way. And, it is Honda. I see value in a rider being a one brand rider too.

D) I knew Lorenzo could do it on the Duc, bet on it and won (even called the when). He will get the Honda working, will win a race. And never a championship while Marc is healthy.

E) Rossi has adapted well to a number of bikes, ever evolving his style. That ore Gigu Duc wasn't one. I don't really care.

F) Vinales is doing on the Yam much what Jorge did w the Duc. But this bike has been in a deep rut.

G) More good bikes are out there, and closer in performance. Aprilia purgatory excepted, and KTM not quite yet, but FOUR brands in Factory AND SATELLITE/JR TEAMS can win. Honda doesn't have a lock on the great riders like they used to. Aliens schmaliens, yet...wishing underdog bikes had overdog riders.

H)ave to think
I)
J)ust
K)ind of
L)ike
M)arc going Suzuki or KTM
N)ow,
O)bviously
P)ointless
Q)uestioning his
R)iding
S)kill in
T)his
U)nneccesarily
V)apid and narrow
W)ay though?

eX)iting Y)ammering on, Z)ipping out for lunch and back to work.
Cheers!

Total votes: 52

going to a different brand but they certainly stamp their mark when they do, and especially if they win another WC.

Lawson made an enormous impression on me by being the first rider I actually witnessed achieve the feat. As much as I praised Mighty Mick I was always pissed off/dissapointed when he kept saying how the other brands were fine and he could win on them....  he never even tried.  Regardless of the reasons that Rossi and Stoner switched brands their results had a profound influence on how I would rate them against others.  Until the rider actually does it there will always be the question.

Total votes: 46

Sometimes it seems that the hardest task is to stay with the same manufacturer and fight them to make sure they don't stuff up a good bike by "improving" it.

 

Total votes: 46

Mick Doohan saying the other bikes were just as good/he'd win on them was just another example of the Master of Mindgames at work. 

He was on the best bike, and he knew it - he'd developed it just the way he wanted it after all - so why change marques. All he cared about was riding the best bike, faster than than anyone else could. Winning was just a bonus. 

You voted 1. Total votes: 37

It's a much harder task to switch manufacturers.  Rossi would have 2-3 more MotoGP titles if he'd stayed at Honda.  But Honda didn't do him right in 2003.  The customary awarding of the championship winning bike wasn't extended to him.  Even Hayden's championship, Honda gave him the bike.  Honda is a very very conservative company, even by Japanese standards.  So Rossi's cool down lap celebrations and general extrovert behavior wasn't anything they cared for or liked by any stretch which let to his treatment.  I remember those days well, and quite fond of the the first get 4 strokes, especially the V5.  Honda told Rossi he would not be the #1 rider the following season.  He had just won 3 titles in a row for HRC and HRC got cocky, saying anyone could win on it, rider didn't matter, therefore the following year all riders would start on the same spec and whomever started getting the results would get the parts.  Rossi got quite pissed off at all this, and left.  The rest is history.

Honda is NASA in this space.  They spend more money than anyone else.  And these days Ducati are spending the closest to them.  Marc, imo, should bounce at some point, and jump on the Suzuki, the Yamaha, one of the other mfr's and drive it home that he is the greatest of all time.  But he isn't like that.  Marc, like MJ, is a competition freak, and hates losing at anything.  He'll come close to a win, finish second, say it's OK in parc ferme, but the keen eye can see through his PC training, and notice he is pissed.  Marc's mentality is he wants to be first in every session, pole position, and win every race.  Failure to complete any of this pisses him off.  He is the king in his mind.  I think he has matured some in recent years and a session doesn't bother him as much as it did.  But make no bones about it, he wants the pole and win at every single race.  This is why he is so hard to beat.  He is the perfect size, has the mentality of a mad man, and is flowing with natural talent, desire, and never stops learning.  And he is a physical specimen in person.  For lack of a better term, Marquez is ripped for a MotoGP rider.  Thin layer of muscle everywhere, physical fitness second to none.  And he knows he rides for the best mfr. so he isn't going anywhere.  He is sitting in a lap of luxury with the chief and mechanics and personnel he wants, all wrapped around his finger.  Rossi had a point to prove to Honda and wanted to rub their noses in doo doo and did.  Pissed Honda brass off so much that they plucked a small rider to beat him, and made an 800 to his spec thinking his size would dominate.  It didn't work.  Marc doesn't care about such things, at all.  Wins and titles are all that matters to him and he'll continue to stay on the best bike in the paddock and exploit it year after year.  I'd be shocked, compared to any other rider before him, if he left HRC for a lesser mfr.  Rossi handed his and Jerry's development (RC211V), with a bow wrapped around it, to his fiercest rivals and said F U, come beat me on the Yamaha.  Marc isn't Rossi and doesn't care about that kind of thing at all, at least not right now at this stage of his career.  Fabio is on a satellite bike, and got pole, and Marquez took notice and is watching El Diablo and everyone else like a hawk.  He is not ashamed to tow any of them to learn their strengths and weaknesses and exploit any advantage.  In other words, Marquez is the blueprint of a MotoGP rider.  Size, physical condition, mentality, and natural talent.  Anyone taking him down to win a title will be a feat. 

Total votes: 50

doesn't so much prove a rider's talent/greatness as add some perspective.  How many people dissed Stoner when he won on the Ducati, saying it was all about the bike?  How many had to eat their words when he climbed on the Honda and did what Pedrosa couldn't, decimating the field in 2011? 

Of course it goes the other way too, and some of the biggest reputations in the sport have been battered when the move doesn't pay off, so it takes a certain level of intestinal fortitude to jump off a bike you know you can win on.  Lorenzo is one of my least favourite riders but I'll happily give a doff of the cap to his courage in stepping away from Yamaha.

So I guess Mat is kinda right, the greats don't need to change manufacturers....but I can't help feeling it says something extra about them when they do step outside their comfort zone.  Like a high diver receiving extra weighting for attempting the more difficult dives so the leap of faith when changing manufacturers deserves recognition. 

Total votes: 41

Swapping to a manufacturer that has a strategic drive to win is a good move.

Rossi's move to Yamaha exemplifies this. They had not won a WC since 1992 and they assembled a team to change this. Furosawa was a large part of this and Rossi and Burgess were the cream. The result was the prototype of the modern MotoGP bike in that the 2004 M1 had modified firing order to enhance traction and reverse engine rotation. Both of these had been used before on two strokes. The 2004 M1 was arguably at least as good as the RC211V and the 2005 was better and these great M1 bikes were the reward for the switch.

What manufacturer has a strong enough strategic desire to win to attract MArquez to leave Honda when the RC213V has been changed significantly in the last few years to make them better and more suited to Marquez? Honda don't seem to be sitting on their laurels this time.

Total votes: 41