Mat Oxley's blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - After 117 years: Triumph’s first GP win

Triumph has been around since 1902 but has never won a Grand Prix. That will change soon, with Triumph set to become Moto2’s sole engine supplier

MotoGP looks set to throb to the mellifluous tone of Triumph triples from 2019, when the British brand is expected to take over from Honda as Moto2 engine supplier.

This is good news. Motorcycling needs classic brands shining in MotoGP’s limelight, and there are few older marques than Triumph, which started selling motorcycles (or motor bicycles as they were called back then) 46 years before Honda, 48 years before Ducati, 50 years before Suzuki and 52 years before Yamaha.

Triumph was established in Coventry by German immigrants Maurice Schulte and Siegfried Bettmann, who later became mayor of the city, only to be stripped of his office when the First World War broke out. The company’s first motorcycle was powered by a Belgian Minerva engine, but Schulte soon designed his own three-horsepower single, which was good enough to win the brand the nickname ‘Trusty Triumph’.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How MotoGP engine-braking control works

High-performance MotoGP engines create a lot of negative torque on the overrun. It is the EBC’s job to control how much gets to the rear wheel

If you’ve been into MotoGP since the early days of 990cc four-strokes you will surely remember watching in delight as a rider braked hard with the rear wheel slewing this way and that, before flopping the bike into a corner.

These were the infant days of engine-braking control (EBC), when the hardware and software weren’t clever enough to reduce negative torque on the overrun, so the engine locked the rear wheel. The riders were left to cope with the consequences as best they could.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2017: revealing the factories’ R&D plans

We are in the midst of MotoGP’s winter testing ban but work never stops in race departments across the globe. This is what the big six have planned for 2017

The 2016 MotoGP championship was a season of technical transformation. There will be no big rules shake-up in 2017 but the factories are still hard at work getting to grips with last season’s changes.

Most factories describe their 2017 priorities thus: better turning and better corner-exit performance. In other words they are still getting their heads around the Michelins. In the Bridgestone era, the way to make a race-winning lap time was on corner entry; now the place to make a lap time is from mid-corner to the exit.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How MotoGP anti-wheelie works

The second of our in-depth look at MotoGP rider aids explains how anti-wheelie works – a handy gadget when you’ve got 260 horsepower on tap

Why were winglets such a big deal during the 2016 MotoGP season? Because the anti-wheelie program in Dorna’s unified software is the weakest of all the rider aids, so the downforce created by the wings helped keep down the front wheel during acceleration.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How MotoGP traction control works

It’s one of the great mysteries of modern racing: how does traction control work? We tell you how, with a little help from MotoGP electronics providers Magneti Marelli

Until last season the workings of MotoGP rider aids were unknown because the factories kept them a closely guarded secret. But the introduction of control software for the 2016 MotoGP championship changed all that.

Last summer all I had to do was walk into the Magneti Marelli truck and ask to see some data traces that would help me understand how MotoGP traction control, wheelie control, engine-braking control and launch control do their jobs. Vicente Pechuan-Vilar and Maurizio Scrignari at Magneti Marelli were only too happy to help, although they may have changed their minds when I took up hours of their time asking one stupid question after another.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - One MotoGP season – more than a thousand crashes

One MotoGP season – more than a thousand crashes

During 2016 there were more than a thousand crashes in a MotoGP season for the first time in the sport’s history. What does this tell us about what’s going on?

There are two ways to judge how a rider and his motorcycle are working together: how many times the rider ends up on the podium and how often he ends up in the gravel.

Inevitably, the two stats tend to be diametrically opposed. And rarely more so than in 2003 when Alex Barros scored one podium from 16 races at the cost of crashing his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 14 times.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Lorenzo’s big message to Ducati

Why Jorge Lorenzo’s fourth win of 2016 was possibly the most important victory of his MotoGP career

A few months ago, many people believed that Jorge Lorenzo had given up on the 2016 season because his title defence had collapsed like a game of Jenga played by a bunch of two-year-olds.

You can perhaps understand his critics’ way of thinking. After winning three of the first six races, Lorenzo apparently fell to pieces. He was beaten at Assen, Sachsenring, Red Bull Ring, Brno, Silverstone, Misano, Aragon, Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang. That’s 10 consecutive races, with just three visits to the podium; his worst-ever performance in MotoGP, even worse than his bone-crunching rookie season in 2008.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Marquez is still under pressure

He may be 2016 MotoGP world champion but Marc Marquez still has two important duties to perform at Valencia

You would think that Marc Marquez will be under no pressure this weekend. The 23-year-old wrapped up his third MotoGP title in Japan last month, so presumably this Sunday’s season-ending Valencia Grand Prix will be a heroic homecoming, a chance to glad-hand his Spanish fans and enjoy himself, free of any real concerns.

Not quite. Marquez will be under some serious pressure from Honda, because while he may have won his title, he hasn’t yet won Honda its prize. Honda currently leads Yamaha by 21 points in the constructors' world championship, so it’s not over yet.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Nine MotoGP winners – will it ever happen again?

Maybe not, because this season’s thrillingly unpredictable racing has much to do with the moment of transformation in MotoGP’s technical environment

Nine different winners in one season – something that’s never happened before in a championship that started shortly after the end of the Second World War. Amazing stuff.

But do the historic successes of Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Jack Miller, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales prove that we are now in a new era of enjoyably chaotic MotoGP racing that will continue for the foreseeable future?

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Cal joins the Pommie pantheon

Cal Crutchlow dominated at the greatest MotoGP track of them all. What a shame that some fans spoiled a great day by cheering Marquez’s crash

Cal Crutchlow’s second MotoGP victory was even better than his first, mainly because every rider knows a dry win counts for more than a wet win. He now stands alongside Leslie Graham, Geoff Duke, John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read and Barry Sheene as the only Britons to have scored two premier-class victories in one season. In other words, he’s in the Pommie pantheon.

Once again Crutchlow showed aggression and intelligence – he was one of the few to choose Michelin’s hard-option front slick and understood that whenever the sun disappeared behind the clouds the track temperature dropped, so he had to push harder (but not too hard) to keep the tyre hot enough to grip the track.

Marc Marquez and Aleix Espargaro chose the same front and both fell, proving the tyre had riders walking the narrowest of lines. Managing tyre temperature is a big part of MotoGP and Crutchlow did it perfectly. He beat the best in the world by over four seconds, which is proper domination during an era of close finishes. Even nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi couldn’t match the winner’s pace during his inspired comeback from 15th on the grid.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Mighty Marc: life on the knife edge

How does Marquez ride the way he does – apparently always over the limit – and get away with it?

All of racing – if you are anywhere near the front – is a knife edge. And the closer you get to the front, the sharper that knife edge becomes. MotoGP is a razor edge, sharpened to the point where any normal person will bleed if they even dare touch the blade. MotoGP is not a forgiving environment, no matter how easy it looks through the lens of the television cameras. Despite all the smiles, the sponsor meet-and-greets, the armies of PR people marching this way and that, it is a mean, vicious and pitiless sport. Like cage fighting, but at 200 miles an hour.

I am not a great follower of Formula 1 car racing, but I was glad to find out a few weeks ago that Nigel Roebuck, doyen of F1 reporting over the past few decades, is a big fan of MotoGP. It reminds him of how F1 was many years ago: men putting themselves out there in a wild world of risk, walking the line, because that’s what excites them.

“I never miss watching a race,” he told me when we met at a Motor Sport magazine do a few weeks ago.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Jorge and Ducati: how will it go?

Yamaha may have refused to give Lorenzo full early release from his 2016 contract but there are other factors that will have much greater effect on his 2017 form

Who knows why Jorge Lorenzo and Yamaha have had a falling-out – maybe we’ll find out when we get to Motegi, or maybe we won’t.

The factory’s decision to allow its three-time MotoGP champion to test with Ducati just once before the winter testing moratorium suggests that the two have had a squabble and this is Yamaha’s way of rapping his knuckles.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘And so I flipped him the bird!’

MotoGP is suddenly all afroth about rudeness and lewdness; but does it really matter?

Next week the MotoGP circus heads to Japan, possibly the politest nation on earth, so this may be a good time to investigate MotoGP’s new penalties created to stop riders being rude to each other.

In fact, there’s no specific new rule that punishes riders for making obscene gestures, but there’s a catch-all in the disciplinary code of the MotoGP regulations.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s new golden era?

Don’t believe the hype – it’s not what you think

What an amazing season! The most thrilling and unpredictable in recent memory and eight different winners in eight consecutive races, something that’s never happened before in almost 70 years of premier-class racing. It seems like MotoGP is entering a new golden era, the like of which we’ve never seen.

All thanks to Dorna, of course, for forcing the manufacturers to lease fully competitive motorcycles to independent teams and telling them to junk their priceless, tailor-made electronics in place of Magneti Marelli’s same-for-all unified software. Suddenly it seems like pretty much everyone has a chance of winning a race because the machinery is so equal.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - A petrol-head soap opera?

After Misano, let’s hope the off-track chatter at Aragon doesn’t once again eclipse the on-track action

Right now the world’s MotoGP media is all agog, counting down the minutes and seconds to 17.00 hours on Thursday. The reason: a live edition of the latest episode of the MotoGP pantomime, a kind of petrol-head’s soap opera, during which Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will be encouraged to say nasty things about each other by journalists hungry for Friday morning newspaper headlines, or Thursday afternoon clickbait.

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