Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Rossi find a way out of his nightmare?

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.


Can Rossi find a way out of his nightmare?

MotoGP’s old warhorse had a dismal start to his 25th season of world championship racing, complaining of the same old rear-grip issues

Poor old Valentino Rossi. Another year and he still sounds like a broken record. At Jerez his problem was the same as it’s been for the last few seasons: too much rear-tyre temperature and therefore not enough grip or tyre life.

Michelin has heard the story so often that its MotoGP chief Piero Taramasso was moved to suggest that the problem was Rossi’s own. “Rossi has a particular style – he leans off the bike less than the others, which stresses the edge of the tyre more, so the temperature rises,” said Taramasso on Friday.

The seven-times premier-class champion didn’t appreciate the lesson in riding technique and responded robustly on Saturday.

“I don’t agree with Taramasso,” he said. “If you look at photos it’s clear I’m a long way out of the bike, because we work a lot on this. With the Bridgestones I was more out of the bike than I am now. With the Michelins you can be too far out.

“My position on the bike isn’t the problem. For example, [Andrea] Dovizioso is another rider whose style isn’t so far out of the bike. So for me this isn’t the problem. Usually in my career I always prefer hard tyres, both front and rear. In the past I’ve ridden the best races of my careers with hard tyres. Now the Michelins are very soft – very soft casing and very soft rubber – so for me it’s not easy.

“Also, I’m taller than average and although I’m very skinny my weight is quite high, because I’m quite tall. But on the other hand I agree with Taramasso that the problem is mine, not Michelin’s, because the other guys are fast, so I agree with him that we need to find a way, but I don’t agree that I’m not far enough out of the bike.”

Motorcycle racers have been hanging off their motorcycles to go fast since the early 1960s. Australian Tom Phillis was probably the first to use the technique successfully when he won the 1961 125cc world championship. Phillis began shifting his weight to the inside of the bike to improve handling. Leaning off achieves this by reducing lean angle and reducing the forces on the tyres.

Anyone who leans off their motorcycle does so for these reasons and to reduce centrifugal force while cornering, which helps the bike turn. During the last ten years, MotoGP riders have leaned even further off their bikes in search of faster lap times.

When Rossi arrived in 500s his upper body stayed pretty much in line with the rear tyre. More recently the rear tyre and upper body make a V shape, with the upper body at an even more extreme angle. Comparing photos of Rossi and Yamaha team-mate Maverick Viñales suggest that the Spaniard does hang off slightly more, but he’s lighter, so the physics are different.

Rossi is certainly correct when he says has always preferred harder tyres, both in construction and compound.

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

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Comments

Valentino has always preferred extremely hard tires.  Colin would try them when they were teammates, and Colin referred to them as "bricks" and said he absolutely could not use them.  So it's up to his team, and Yamaha, to figure it out.  When they can get the rear tire working properly over race distance, and get the front end setup where he can brake how he wants, hard, with multiple lines into a corner, he'll be there at the front.  Until then it's in the rear with the gear.  And if they don't or can't figure it out, I think he will leave on his own. 

If Michelin continue like this, I think in the future there will be no place for big riders like Rossi, Petrucci, Redding in MotoGP. I remember Rossi won 2015 Argentina GP and set fastest race lap record at the same time with Extra Hard Brickstone. Imagine that, winning with already very stiff and hard Bridgestone coupled with "Extra" on it.

Showing my ignorance here. Why doesnt he just use the hardest rear available. It might offer less grip but he can change the bike a bit to help with that and then he can rag it as much as he likes and have sone fun

I had the same thought, but also wondered if this is more about hardness of construction not of compound.

I guess it's more or less the Pedrosa problem, if the spec tyres are made for a different stature then they're going to hinder you and with such fine margins you can't make up for it in other ways.

He has a tough time at very high temps of late. Bike balance/set up for his taste. They should be able to sort that out well enough. The bike is good, outside of top end power deficit that will show more race 3. But different enough to 2019 to take extra sorting.

The construction of this rear is softer. Yamaha can't complain about this Michelin! Blue's choice to run Soft/Soft was shite. Maverick wanted to Jorge the opening laps, and did. Even with clean air the front overheated and early. Dunlop rubber brought race pace down a full second. It STILL was far too soft. Odd choice.

I don't see Rossi reacting so drastically to a challenge in base settings and tire choice. Nor do any "are people conspiring against him?!" ring true for me. He has a good bike. They have 4 bikes of data. The tire change is a step from previous that can make sense. Vale was running 9th, not TOO far off.

Many times in the past Vale flits about trying to get set up right through to Sunday warm up. How often do he and his garage "find something" before the lights go out? We say he is a Sunday guy, and tend to focus on his riding and racecraft. There is also the sorting and set up too. He is really good at it, but it didn't come last weekend. He also evolves and adapts his riding style well for someone that reaches back to 500s. I expect him to redouble efforts in FP now and bet he has been pouring over data and video from all four Yams. He is close to retirement, yes. But he finishes races well, even if he has a setback along the way. Waiting to hear him say "we found something on the bike," expecting it before Q.