Mat Oxley's blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Sheene versus Roberts at Silverstone: 40 years on

Barry Sheene and ‘King’ Kenny Roberts fought a breath-taking duel for victory at the 1979 British GP, notorious for Sheene’s cheeky hand signal

On August 12 1979, Barry Sheene and ‘King’ Kenny Roberts fought one of the greatest and most important Grand Prix duels of all time. Their battle for British GP victory was unforgettable for all kinds of reasons.

First, the pair were two of motorcycle racing’s all-time greats. Roberts was the prototype Marc Márquez, who changed bike racing with a new way of riding that left everyone struggling to catch up. Sheene was the prototype Valentino Rossi, whose rock-star persona broke him into the mainstream.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati’s man-management disaster could cost it MotoGP glory

Ducati won its first MotoGP race in five months on Sunday, but the weekend proved that the Italian factory has forgotten how to look after its riders

MotoGP wasn’t supposed to have a silly season this summer, because all the big names have two-year contracts to the end of 2020 or one-plus-one deals that seemed certain to roll into next year. Then all of a sudden MotoGP is having a stupid season.

At Sachsenring last month Jack Miller announced that his 2020 contract renewal with Pramac Ducati was all but signed. “We’re just sorting out the pennies,” he said.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - When Mighty Mick won his first crown

It’s a quarter of a century since Mighty Mick Doohan won his first 500cc world title at Brno. Here’s how he did it...

There are many parallels between Mighty Mick Doohan and Magical Marc Márquez: their crazy talent to ride the ragged edge, their mastery of the front tyre, their premier-class records and milestones, their enjoyment of mind games and perhaps most of all their love for destroying and demoralising the opposition.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Take two naked MotoGP riders… Ducati's curious 2003 photo shoot, starring Bayliss and Capirossi

They say you have to suffer for your art and that’s exactly what MotoGP's Ducati riders Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi did in 2003 when the dudes at Marlboro must’ve been smoking something else…

Since this is MotoGP’s back-to-work week, here’s something to cheer up the paddock as it drags its collective backside off the beach and heads for Brno.

What follows is also a reminder of MotoGP’s good old days of bulging sponsorship budgets: those fat summers before the global recession and cigarette-advertising ban.

When teams could use 10 engines a weekend if they damn well felt like it and hire a globally renowned photo artist to shoot their riders in incongruous situations, if only to serve them right for earning several squillion bucks a year.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride: Fabio Quartararo

MotoGP’s latest rookie revelation talks about controlling wheelspin with his right wrist, saving front-end slides and how his doldrum years made him a better rider

Why do you think you’ve had more immediate success in MotoGP than you had in Moto2 and Moto3?

I think that to be fast in this category you don’t only need a good bike. You need a good bike and good people around you: good mechanics, a good crew chief, everyone must be a family. Also the Yamaha suits my riding style – it’s the bike that needs to be ridden really smoothly. I remember Jorge Lorenzo rode the Yamaha really smoothly and that’s why he won a lot of races. I think I’m quite a smooth rider, that’s why it’s all going well.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Ducati in MotoGP: looking for the perfect motorbike

Like Eldorado, the perfect MotoGP bike doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean Ducati’s Gigi Dall’Igna can stop searching. We spoke to him at Assen

Ducati likes to build a MotoGP bike around its engine. The factory literally did this for its first nine seasons in the championship, when the Desmosedici was essentially an engine bolted to a steering head and swingarm.

Focusing on horsepower can make a lot of sense, because it’s easier to overtake in a straight line than around a corner. So that’s always been Ducati’s way – build a bike that allows its rider to get through the corner as best he can, then pull the trigger.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - After the first MotoE race, it’s not the present that really matters — it’s the future

Sunday’s historic electric first MotoE race at a grand prix event was only the very beginning of EV motorcycle racing

MotoGP’s first MotoE weekend was certainly historic. I’m 100 per cent certain that during the entire history of motorcycle grand prix racing there’s never been so many painful puns broadcast by commentators: the charge to the first corner was awesome, the racing was electrifying and there were plenty of shock overtakes. I could go on, but I’ll save you.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The birth of modern motorbike Grand Prix racing: talking with Kunimitsu Takahashi

It’s very nearly impossible to speak to the dawn of modern racing. But it happened at Assen, with Kunimitsu Takahashi, the first Japanese rider to win a motorbike Grand Prix

To celebrate the 60th anniversary of its first world-championship race, Honda flew Kunimitsu Takahashi to the Dutch TT. Nineteen-year-old Takahashi joined Honda in late 1959, taking part in the factory’s first Continental campaign in 1960, after its exploratory visit to the Isle of Man TT the previous summer.

But why was this the dawn of modern Grand Prix racing? Because racing was never the same after the Japanese factories arrived in Europe: Honda in 1959, then Yamaha and Suzuki in 1960.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride a TT Zero electric motorbike: Michael Rutter

Just over one week before MotoGP’s first MotoE race we find out how the world’s top electric motorcycle racer wins with sparks instead of explosions

Motorcycle racing’s first major electric championship gets underway at next weekend’s German Grand Prix, a decade after the sport’s first major electric race.

The Isle of Man TT staged that historic EV (electric vehicle) event in June 2009, when the winning speed for the one-lap race was 87.4mph. Three weeks ago the 2019 TT Zero race was won at a speed of 121.9mph. That’s some progress. If superbikes had improved at the same rate the outright TT lap record would now stand at 183.6mph.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s aerodynamic advances: wings are creating more wings

What’s the story behind the fuel-tank wings appearing on MotoGP bikes? It’s all about the extra grip offered by the latest aerodynamics

MotoGP riders pull 1.7g on the brakes, which sounds like nothing when Formula 1 cars pull 5g. But an F1 driver is strapped into his car with a seven-point harness, similar to those used in fighter jets. A MotoGP rider holds on by curling his hands and fingers around the handlebar grips.

In fact, this isn’t enough, so riders use their thighs, feet and backsides to help grip the bike, by gripping the tank like a vice with their knees, digging their feet into the footpegs, (at least until they dangle a leg) and jamming their backside against the seat hump; basically trying to wedge themselves into the bike.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Do MotoGP greats need to prove themselves on different bikes?

There’s a theory going around that top MotoGP riders, such as Marc Márquez, must prove themselves by winning titles with different brands. And it’s nonsense...

Marc Márquez’s current HRC contract expires on December 31, 2020. That’s 600 days away. And yet journalists are already hammering away at their keyboards, wondering aloud which brand of motorcycle he will race in 2021: will he stay at Honda or will he go somewhere else? Of course, it’s all guesswork, because no one has a clue what Márquez will do.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - 220mph and airborne - the Mugello corner that scares MotoGP riders

Mugello’s 220mph kink is MotoGP’s fastest, scariest, riskiest corner, but for how much longer?

If you’ve been around racing long enough you mourn many things: most of all you mourn the riders who have lost their lives, but you also mourn the legendary race bikes of old and you mourn the awesome corners that have been lost in the quest for greater safety, so that we have to mourn fewer dead riders.

Here are just two corner sections that are greatly missed. First, the terrifying 180mph/290kmh Armco-lined and cliff-lined left/right flick at the top of the hill at the Salzburgring: front end shaking, back end breaking loose. “To me, riding a bike like that at those speeds is why I liked racing,” remembers Mick Doohan.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Take a record-breaking IOM TT ride with Peter Hickman

Saturday marks the start of the 100th Isle of Man TT, so this is a good time to ride with Peter Hickman on his mind-boggling 135.452mph record lap

It’s time to take a ride with Peter Hickman, his Smiths Racing BMW1000RR and the world’s most famous dead bug in last year’s Senior TT. We are starting the last of six laps, the final 37 ¾ miles of a 226.5-mile race that’s been run every year since 1911, apart from during the two World Wars and the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak.

At the end of the fifth lap Hickman crosses the start/finish trailing rival Dean Harrison’s Kawasaki ZX-10R by almost two seconds. He has a mountain to climb, literally and metaphorically.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Will KTM make it in MotoGP?

Austrian factory KTM chose a unique path when it entered MotoGP three years ago, so will the RC16’s differences help it succeed or make it fail?

Two weeks is a long time in MotoGP. Sunday night at Jerez wasn’t a good time to hang around outside the Red Bull KTM garage. The factory had had a horrible weekend, its fastest rider finishing 20 seconds behind the race winner and its prize signing throwing his toys out of the pram in front of a TV crew.

The Jerez sufferings of Pol Espargaró and Johann Zarco made headlines – many of which insisted that KTM’s three-year-old MotoGP project is doomed to failure until the factory bins the RC16’s tubular-steel frame and its WP suspension.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why MotoGP has gone soft

Frame flex is the black art of MotoGP chassis design. Here’s why chassis are getting softer, not stronger, despite ever-increasing speeds and horsepower

Study this photo of the front end of a Repsol Honda RC213V, particularly the upper triple clamp. Notice how the underside (between the two HRC logos on the left and right) has been scalloped out, so that much of the triple clamp can only be a few millimetres thick.

What does this tell us? That Honda, like everyone else, is making its MotoGP chassis softer and softer.

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