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.
Mat Oxley’s 2020 MotoGP Top Ten
Joan Mir won the 2020 MotoGP World Championship, but was he the strongest rider last season?
What’s the point of a journalist conjuring up his own MotoGP top ten when the championship does exactly that?
Not much really, but looking beyond race wins, podiums and points allows us to take into account other factors, like the quality of a rider’s machinery, the strength of his back-up crew and the depth of his experience.
This year’s MotoGP top ten is a strange one, because for the first time in two decades neither Marc Márquez nor Valentino Rossi feature. Márquez, because he only started one race and didn’t finish any, Rossi, because for the first time since he joined the premier class in 2000 he doesn’t deserve to be considered one of the best riders in the championship.
1: Franco Morbidelli
Morbidelli was overshadowed by rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo during his first season at Petronas Yamaha. While Quartararo became Marc Márquez’s toughest rival in 2019 Morbidelli reconfigured his riding technique to take advantage of the Yamaha’s strong points after spending his first premier-class season on a Honda.
Quartararo rides very much on natural ability, perhaps too much. Morbidelli goes to work in a different style – he takes his time to find the limit, working towards it step by step, never trying to run before he can walk. Only once he’s got the bike where he wants it and only once he feels comfortable taking it to the limit does he find that something extra.
Morbidelli had a point to prove in 2020. He was denied the chance to race Yamaha’s latest-spec YZR-M1, so he went into the season riding a second-hand bike. Indie M1s have traditionally performed well, with Johann Zarco and others onboard, but had never won a MotoGP race, until Morbidelli came along and won three.
That was hugely impressive, because while Morbidelli may have Ramon Forcada on his side he doesn’t have the vital electronics and data resources enjoyed by factory riders.
His three victories – at Misano, Aragon and Valencia – were achieved in the usual Yamaha style: leading from start to finish, with no one getting in the way to disturb his wide, sweeping corner entries or overheat his front tyre.
Morbidelli will once again ride 2019-spec M1s in 2021. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on the quality of the 2021 factory bikes.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.