Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP: no one — not even Márquez — gets to ride the magic carpet for free

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: no one — not even Márquez — gets to ride the magic carpet for free

Marc Márquez’s injury struggles shine a light on the dangers faced by motorcycle racers and remind us of the painful journey taken by another Honda superstar

A motorcycle cartwheels down the track and into the dirt. Medics arrive on the scene. They lay the injured rider on a stretcher and load him into an ambulance. Sirens wail. The crowd’s attention returns to the racing.

“Is he hurt pretty bad?” asks a woman.

“I dunno,” her photographer husband replies. “Somebody said he broke his back.”

“My, how’d he do that?”

Another racer has overheard the conversation. He sidles up to the woman. “Cycles is a mean toy, lady,” he says and walks off.

We all know motorcycles can be dangerous – whether you use them as toys, modes of transport or tools of your trade – but here we are.

The latest medical interventions to save Marc Márquez’s career have focused attention on this reality.

Most of us have been there, to a greater or lesser degree. If you ride motorcycles you will fall off. That’s pretty much the law. And if you fall off you will most likely get hurt. This is the contract we all sign somewhere deep inside our subconscious, however much our conscious tries to convince us that it will never happen to me.

The subconscious deal we make goes something like this: yes, we may fall off and, yes, we may get hurt but, you know what, that’s okay, because no one gets to ride the magic carpet for free.

Moving rapidly through space on a motorcycle does something to you that driving a car doesn’t. You are not separated from reality by the vehicle, you are part of reality. That’s the thrill and that’s the risk, right there. And of course you can’t have one without the other, that’s the deal.

I accept the physical risk because the psychological risk might be greater. Riding a motorcycle, even down the shops on a sunny day or off to the airport on a rainy day, makes me happy. Everything about it, from controlling the machine as well as I can to controlling the risk as much as I can involves me totally. You have no option but to be in the zone, because the price of being elsewhere will most likely be more than you want to pay.

Motorcycle racers sign essentially the same contract, but there’s more pain in the small print. Bike racers 100 per cent know they are going to get hurt. Repeatedly. Because you can’t live on the limit without going over the limit now and again. Simple as that.

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

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Comments

Appreciating this! ^ And, need someone be a victim to be victimized? What about negligence? True that he has some responsibility. Can it also be true that HRC does? We can parse it out. Each has THEIR role functioning, eh? 

I don't see HRC responsible for what M.Marquez does/doesn't should/shouldn't much. The problem is, nor do I see them responsible for what they do/don't do that is theirs. 

When Yamaha was negligent, it wasn't unsafe and they publicly fessed up and started changes. (That flopped, plenty of other time for that eh?). Honda? Let the rider blame the Dr, be indignant and smug. 

M.Marquez did just what he does in everything, as with a corner. Throw everything at it over the limit then find the far side of it. This whole time we have been watching and waiting for the dice to come up snake eyes. NOW, by necessity motivated to get out of the toilet because Marc finally got struck by their bike, they start to shift the 2020 bike towards reasonable rideability. 

Engine? Brilliance! Money and sponsorship? Unparalleled. Spain's best and Honda has much to be proud of. The 2019 bike chassis direction is not one. Nor letting M.Marquez train so intensively or return so fast even when he wanted to. Especially when he wanted to. The whole thing smells like ass from several years and continents away.

I also appreciate your sentiment.

When Maverick jumped of his bike after brake failure was it Brembo's fault ? Yamaha's fault ? Or Maverick ? Post event much was said about what was previously known and questions asked as to why Maverick was not using the new calipers. Mir even suggested that Maverick was guilty of unsafe riding because he continued racing despite experiencing brake issues.

Marc has always been a crasher. His crash tally has always been in double figures whereas over the same time frame Dovi has always been in single figures. Dovi was previously on the Honda and then the Yammy and eventually the Ducati. 2011-2020 Dovi's largest number of race weekend crashes for a season is 6, smallest is 3. 2013-2019 Marc is 27 and 11.

Now Marc has not been alone. Cal has run him close and even beaten Marc in 2016. That year Marc was also beaten by Jack who ran Cal very close but was one crash short of drawing level. Not insignificant to notice that they were all riding Hondas. However, Cal's season by season tally reads very much like Marc's regardless of the bike being a Yamaha, Ducati or Honda. The same can be said about Jack up until this year, but 2020 was a shorter season so time will tell. No Yamaha in the mix with Jack either.

There are riders who consistently crash more than others, regardless of the bike they are riding, regardless of their levels of success, regardless of the reasons they find/seek the edge, year in year out. There are also riders who do not crash much at all. The scary thing about Marc is imagining what the number of crashes might be if he wasn't so gifted at saving low sides. It's impossible to say but i can well imagine Marc crashing just as much on a Suzuki, Ducati, Yamaha, Aprilia or KTM if that's a consequence of his way to extract 100% from the bike over the weekend. All of the bikes are very close.

I also think it's worth noting that it was Jerez 2 when Taka says he changed his way of riding the Honda and that changed his season. Early season Taka wasn't dropping the bike either. Yet this is the 'bad' Honda that was developed (and only developed because they were forced to through the absence of Marc) into the bike which ran so well at Aragon. Six of one, half a dozen of the other ? Or is it the rider that makes the most difference ? It all gets a little bit different because we are talking about Marc Marquez. Marc wins...not Honda. Taka does well...because of Honda. Yet his early season pace shows that it was the change in Taka that made the biggest difference to his performance on the 'killer bronco.'

Should Honda or Dorna or the FIM allow a rider with that kind of injury to get back on a bike (any bike) so soon ? Hindsight, obviously not... but how used have we become to amazing modern orthopedic methods and riders seemingly able to do the impossible ? The impossible of riding with broken bones, saving low sides, dirt tracking through the gravel trap and then making the rest of the riders look ordinary even though a good old slap on the arm is good enough to dislocate a shoulder or two. I mean...we might have been worried for the chap but we also wouldn't have been surprised if he bagged a podium out of it. We all thought it and we all thought it would be soooo Marc Marquez to do it too. Certainly a mistake they all regret.

He's not the son of god...he's a very naughty boy. Just glad i don't foot the repair bill.

Now we are cooking with race fuel! Thanks SO much for this post. Your friend Biggus Dichus has a wife you know...Intercontinentus Buttoks. Welease Bwian! 

There isn't a single thing you day that I disagree with friend. And there is an and. Take Mavericks wrong front brake selection for example (it isn't something of contention, just useful fodder). Reminds me of Redding running low rear tire pressure on a Bridgestone, big guy on a Pramac Ducati that blasted the shite out of rears. POP! And, changed the course of the whole season's mandatory guidelines for EVERYONE. That was some bullshit. Anyhoo...

Rather than looking at the situation to single out who is responsible/at fault for the particular incident from a "which piece was wrong here specifically?" what if we look at the opposite end and work the other way? 

Vinales, Brembo, or Yamaha. I suggest that it is vitally essential to get somewhere meaningful that we identify ROLE FUNCTIONING. And even a second derivative further, who is it who's role functioning it is to organize who has what role function to fulfill? Underfunctioning negligence up there is not only a thing, it can be seen as unknowing/passive through to aware/active. Both ends STILL account for responsibility. Negligence and abuse are quite similar.

Brembo, like Bridgestone, provide a product that has to work as intended. With sufficient guidelines of parameters of application. Vinales, like Redding, are responsible for their choices within given knowledge and awareness of the particular situation. (Lots can be said here about Maverick grabbing at outlier options for his bike as struggle with underfunctioning Yamaha bike design staff, and yes that matters). 

When we say "is Yamaha responsible?" I suggest we unpack a LOT more in there. "Yamaha" is a huge organization. In it, there are personnel with jobs. These roles have functions. They have clarity. 

Yamaha racing has a Brembo rep. Ducati, a Bridgestone guy. Mav's garage has a brake technician and a mechanic that puts them on the bike. Maverick says "give me the Moto3 brakes! (humor and pointmaking)." 

Aren't we forgetting two very important people? Whose job it is to look at each other with clipboard in hand? One with parts of a whole accounted for, and the other with the whole and a checklist that rubber stamps the program? And one more above them, not in the garage, that is responsible for the responsibilities placed into roles? And, more diffuse, brass securing sufficient resources. Adjunct, engineering of the bike, above it the build plan. Between, communication. Above again, facilitating the structural integration. But don't fall into either 1) looking at one end with a few simplified options, nor 2) gazing at the whole program and shrugging with a blank look. 

(Crew Chief primarily, secondary role holder perhaps SHOULD be clearer for the organization than it has been, and that responsibility then needs to lay with that individual and the Team Manager).