Mat Oxley's blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Is MotoGP’s tail wagging the dog?

Should the riders have raced on Sunday? Do they have too much say in their own safety?

MotoGP has always existed on a knife edge, which is why we love it. And despite safer tracks, better riding gear and everything else, the riders exist on that knife edge more now than in many a year, because getting them and their 220mph motorcycles around a racetrack with no major injuries or fatalities is quite a feat, even on a sunny day. This miracle occurs almost every race, which fools some people into thinking that MotoGP can’t be that dangerous. But believe me, Race Direction leaves the track most Sunday evenings with a huge sigh of relief: we got away with it again!

However, sometimes things do go wrong.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Rossi’s solemn Silverstone mission

Can the arrival of a new electronics engineer help Valentino Rossi save Yamaha from equalling its longest victory drought since the 1990s?

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales have a solemn mission to perform this weekend at Silverstone. The pair needs to win Sunday’s race or the next one at Misano to prevent a sad new chapter being written in the annals of the Yamaha Motor Company.

If it fails to achieve victory at Silverstone, Yamaha will have gone 22 races without a premier-class win, equalling its worst victory drought since the 1990s, between Loris Capirossi winning the 1996 Australian Grand Prix and Simon Crafar winning the 1998 British GP.

And if Rossi and Viñales fail again at Misano next month, Yamaha will suffer its worst racing crisis since the company first entered the class of kings in 1973.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Lorenzo: ‘We will win every race!’

That’s Jorge Lorenzo's MotoGP prediction – IF Ducati can fix the Desmosedici’s last big problem

On the eve of his epic Austrian Grand Prix victory Jorge Lorenzo and several other top MotoGP riders were asked to design their ideal racetracks.

Lorenzo was the only one who drew two different layouts: the first for this season, the second for next year when he will ride a Repsol Honda RC213V.

This year’s design was a square: four 90-degree corners. The inference was straightforward – this is the kind of corner preferred by Ducati’s Desmosedici GP18.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The magic of the Michelin mystery

MotoGP is in a great place at the moment – brilliant racing and unpredictable results – thanks partly to the work of one company

Motorcycle racing is all about grip and traction. That’s all that really matters, because everything is worth zilch unless you can transfer it to the racetrack. You may have the fastest engine, the best brakes or the sweetest-handling chassis, but none of these things mean much unless you have the grip to exploit them.

This is the reality in MotoGP now more than ever. And this is one reason why MotoGP is so unpredictable.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Making Márquez faster

The first in an occasional series of chats with MotoGP’s top crew chiefs – this week it’s Santi Hernández, right-hand man to Marc Márquez

How did you get into 'bikes?

My father was a race-'bike mechanic and my brother raced in the Spanish championship at the same time as Alex Crivillé, in the early 1980s. At that time I was very young, so we’d go to the circuits, with me sleeping in the van, between the 'bikes. There were always 'bikes around the house, but I didn’t like 'bikes, I was focused on soccer.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Now the proud cockerel is a bit upset’

Some experts tipped Johann Zarco to challenge for this year’s MotoGP crown. So what has become of him? Best ask Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal…

It’s time to examine the strange case of Johann Zarco. Last year the French rookie bulldozed his way into our hearts by bruising egos, ruffling leathers and almost sawing Marc Márquez’s seat unit in half at Phillip Island. And all this on a second-hand motorcycle that wasn’t particularly adored by its previous owners.

No wonder the Frenchman was tipped to challenge for the 2018 MotoGP title. And he did, at least for the first few races. The 27-year-old qualified on pole in Qatar and led the race until he ran out of front grip. Two weeks later, he missed out on his first MotoGP victory by two-tenths of a second and another two weeks later he finished on the podium at Jerez. France was agog with excitement. More than 100,000 fans turned up at Le Mans to see him win. And he might have done if he hadn’t crashed out.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Dani's golden, uphill career

Pedrosa's MotoGP career may have been blessed with the HRC golden ticket, but racing, regulations and broken bones have (mostly) conspired against him

Dani Pedrosa was once king of the Sachsenring. He won the 250 race in 2004 and 2005, then a hat-trick of MotoGP victories in 2010, 2011 and 2012, before Marc Márquez came along.

But that’s another story. Today we are talking about Pedrosa, MotoGP’s pint-sized perennial performer who, last Thursday, announced his retirement.

Pedrosa has broken a few records and many more bones during a long career during which he’s never quite lifted the MotoGP crown. But if you think he’s just been unlucky, you don’t know the half of it.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The end of Márquez's happiest hunting ground?

Marc Márquez better make sure he enjoys this weekend at his favourite racetrack, because he may never race there ever again

The last time Marc Márquez left the Sachsenring without a winner’s trophy was during his second season in the world championship way back in 2009. Every July since 2010, the Spaniard has climbed to the top step of the podium at the German venue. That’s eight consecutive victories, across the 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP classes. In other words, the track is as close as it’s possible to get to a dead-cert 25-point haul for the reigning MotoGP world champion.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP Assen: thrilling… scary… boring?

There may never have been a more thrilling Grand Prix race than Sunday’s spectacular at Assen, so why does Rossi say racing is more boring than it used to be?

Wow. Epic MotoGP race. One of the best ever. More overtakes than in a decade of Formula 1. Closest top 15 in 70 years of Grand Prix racing. Hugely entertaining. And scary as hell.

Of course, motorcycle racing is supposed to be scary. It’s almost half the fun, whether you’re actually racing or just watching. I enjoyed every millisecond of Sunday’s race, but sometimes I could hardly hear what was going on for the ringing of alarm bells.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The grandfathers of Márquez’s RC213V

When octogenarian HRC mechanic Carlo Murelli turned up at Mugello, he brought memories of two of Honda’s greatest race bikes flooding back

During the Barcelona MotoGP weekend there was lots of talk about Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Márquez and the HRC legacy. The coming together of the two Spaniards at Repsol Honda next year creates the strongest line-up in HRC history: the company has never put two riders on the grid with seven MotoGP world titles between them (and probably eight by the end of this season).

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why Lorenzo is winning

The vital importance of straight-line braking in MotoGP’s Michelin era explained and the big question: can Lorenzo win the title for Ducati?

Over the years there have been many weird and wonderful world championships, but this year’s may be the weirdest and most wonderful of all.

There’s a three-time MotoGP world champion struggling to find his way with a recalcitrant motorcycle. His lack of results cause him to fall out with the factory management, so he looks elsewhere for employment, but none of the other factories want him. There are rumours of retirement and talk of a ride with an independent team, which doesn’t even exist. But this seems his only option.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Lorenzo and Honda: will they win?

Jorge Lorenzo’s shock move to Repsol Honda caught pretty much everyone by surprise. What are the precedents and how will the deal work out?

In December 1988, a letter from Rothmans Honda chattered through fax machines of editorial offices around the world, announcing that reigning 500cc world champion Eddie Lawson was quitting Marlboro Yamaha Team Agostini to race Rothmans Hondas the following season.

Editors and journalists stared at the letter in disbelief.

A few days later their befuddlement was complete when a fax arrived from Marlboro Yamaha Team Agostini, announcing that Rothmans Honda’s former world champion Freddie Spencer would ride YZR500s in 1989.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2018: peak silly season

Where will Joan Mir, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone end up next year? MotoGP’s silly season is about to reach its climax

Many MotoGP journalists spend a lot of time chasing contract stories. I gave up years ago, even though I know that you lot love wheeler-dealing tales from the paddock.

I gave up partly, mostly because when journalists put contract questions to riders, personal managers, team managers and factory bigwigs, they are answered with forked tongues. And how could it be otherwise? There’s a lot at stake – the careers of riders, the reputations of manufacturers and many millions of Euros – so why would anyone in their right minds tell a journalist the truth?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “Marc is a freak!”

Another race, another victory, so what exactly is Marc Márquez’s big secret?

I’m stood in the Le Mans pitlane, chatting with a venerable MotoGP engineer, trying to eke from him the relative merits of every bike on the grid.

“The holy grail of motorcycle racing has always been to come up with a device that can save front-end slides, and now Honda has one…” he says, pausing for effect. “He’s called Marc Márquez.”

And that there is the story of MotoGP right now. Love him or loathe him, Márquez is on another level to everyone else. He has an ability that none of the others possess. That doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable, because he’s not always the fastest man out there, but it’s this unique talent that helps him to make the difference.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s next electronics ban

Dorna is so convinced that most teams are fiddling their ECU sensory systems that it will banish tailormade IMUs from 2019

MotoGP is better than it’s ever been for several reasons, including 2016’s move to control software.

Dorna’s control software narrowed the performance gap between the motorcycles and most importantly gave control back to the riders, so when you see Marc Márquez or Johann Zarco smoking the rear tyre, that’s their right wrists playing the game of risk versus reward, rather than a little black box playing rhythms with its algorithms. Up to a point, anyway.

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