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.
How I ride: Franco Morbidelli
The 2017 Moto2 world champion has spent the last 12 years working with Valentino Rossi, so how does Franco Morbidelli ride a MotoGP bike?
Franco Morbidelli became Valentino Rossi’s first protégé when he moved from Rome to Tavullia in 2008, at the age of 13. And when Rossi established the VR46 Riders Academy in 2013 he became its first member. In 2017 Morbidelli became the first VR46 rider to win a world title, in 2018 the first to race in MotoGP and last year the first to ride the same bike as Rossi. In other words, no one else has learned as much from Rossi.
Last year Morbidelli joined the new Petronas SIC Yamaha squad, alongside rookie Fabio Quartararo, and quickly found himself eclipsed by the rookie sensation. However, his results weren’t at all bad for a relative beginner riding a new bike.
How do you rate your 2019 season?
During the first half we tried many things on the bike to find our own settings and our own base. In the second half everything was a bit more settled, because we had got so much data in the first half, so we were able to refine everything. From Silverstone and Misano we started fighting for the top five pretty much every weekend, apart from Australia. That’s quite a good level and I’m happy overall with the season, especially the second half. Maybe I had too many falls, but sometimes that happens.
It must’ve been difficult for you: you joined the Petronas team as the experienced rider, then suddenly your rookie team-mate was MotoGP’s new star.
Of course it was difficult. I think it was difficult for everybody, not just for me. Fabio sprung up like a mushroom – so quickly! He was riding super-fast laps, great performances and great results; unbelievable! It was difficult at the beginning but now he’s just another guy in the wild bunch. He earned what he achieved last season and he became my reference. Now I’m working my arse off to be prepared to give battle in 2020, not just to Fabio but to everybody on the grid.
From 2018 to 2019 you had two big changes: from Moto2 to a Honda RC213V and then from an RC213V to a Yamaha YZR-M1. It must’ve been like starting anew each season?
I’d say the biggest shock was from Moto2 to MotoGP because you have to adapt to many, many things: the power, the brakes, the electronics, the grip of the tyres and many more things. Then when I switched from Honda to Yamaha I already knew about MotoGP, so it’s just been a matter of changing my behaviour on the bike but keeping that general MotoGP nature.
Before you rode your first Grand Prix bike – a Moto2 bike at the end of 2013 – you raced a street bike in Superstock. That must’ve been another big change?
When I changed from Superstock to Moto2 it was really, really difficult to get used to a prototype bike. The stiffness of the bike and the tyres are the biggest differences – at first I couldn’t feel anything, so I crashed a lot. On a road bike you ride a bit looser – you have to feel the bike twitching beneath you. So when I first got on a Moto2 bike I was looking for the twitching, but the bike doesn’t twitch… there’s one tiny movement and then you crash!
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.