Mat Oxley's blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Valentino Rossi win in 2017?

A faster motorcycle, a more focused mind and a better atmosphere in the Yamaha garage. Could this be the year Rossi wins his tenth world title?

Last May I wrote a ridiculously premature story on this website, headlined: could 2017 be Rossi’s year?

The premise was straightforward. Jorge Lorenzo had already signed for Ducati, so I suggested that “the Desmosedici will do what he wants at some tracks but not at others”. Maverick Viñales looked set to take over Lorenzo’s user-friendly Yamaha, “but at some tracks he won’t have the experience of the bike to nail the set-up to the nth degree, without which he won’t win the title”. And Honda needed to build Marc Márquez a bike “that will allow him to do what he did in 2014”, when he walked the title, winning ten consecutive races.

In other words, if Lorenzo, Viñales and Márquez aren’t at 100 per cent, then Rossi could win the 2017 title because he alone will have a bike that “he probably knows as well as he knows his mum and dad”.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - An anti-chatter jounce box?

Last year Ducati’s Gigi Dall’Igna maddened many with his wings, now he may have solved an age-old problem with Formula 1-inspired jounce-dampers

This year’s brand-new MotoGP bikes are currently on their way from Malaysia to Australia for the second preseason tests, which take place next week at Phillip Island.

If you are a motor sport fan of a James Bond bent it’s tempting to imagine an industrial-espionage agent dodging through airport security to stow away aboard Dorna’s cargo plane, where he prises open Ducati’s flight boxes to disassemble that little black box at the back of Jorge Lorenzo’s GP17.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - It's Vinales versus Marquez

But what is Ducati up to – we reveal the secret (possibly) of the GP17’s so-called salad box

“If you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans.” They certainly saw us coming this time at Sepang.

The tropical skies opened on two of the three days, sending riders scurrying into the pits because they were there to work on their new bikes at the limit, not tiptoeing around on a wet track.

But the rain itself wasn’t a huge problem. In the steamy equatorial heat, Sepang used to dry very quickly. No longer, however. Ten months ago the circuit underwent a much-needed resurfacing, which also included adding cambers at some corners to improve draining and safety during torrential downpours.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - More silverware for Crutchlow

Yesterday Cal Crutchlow received Britain’s most prestigious motorcycling award and revealed that he is already close to signing a new deal for 2018

MotoGP preseason testing starts next week and no one will ride out of the Sepang pitlane more of a changed man than Cal Crutchlow.

Crutchlow wasn’t last year’s only first-time MotoGP winner but he was almost certainly more affected by his debut victory than Maverick Viñales, Andrea Iannone and Jack Miller were by theirs.

Most of us always knew Viñales would win a race, even if he didn’t, whereas Iannone always knew he was going to win a race, even if we didn’t. As for Miller, neither he nor we can be sure he will repeat his 2016 success.

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How MotoGP launch control works

Launch control is the rider-aids programme designed to help MotoGP riders when they rocket away from the grid at the start of races. This is how it works…

Overtaking in MotoGP gets more and more difficult for all kinds of reasons, from the reduced braking distances allowed by carbon brakes to the fact that all the bikes now have very similar performance.

This is what makes the start of a race more important than ever and this is why launch control was invented. Launch-control programmes are designed to help the rider use maximum acceleration when he dumps the clutch on 260 horsepower. But like all MotoGP rider aids, Dorna’s recently introduced unified software is significantly less clever than the tailormade software created by the factories during the first decade or so of MotoGP.

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.

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