Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “You release the brakes and believe”

Dovizioso and Márquez could hardly see where they were going at Motegi, yet their duel was reminiscent of one of the greatest of all time

It's been a generation since I have been so overawed about a motorcycle race: since Sunday May 26, 1991, to be precise. That’s the last time I recall witnessing such a heart-in-the-mouth finish to a premier-class Grand Prix that held a world championship in its hands: big speed, big risk, big heartbeat.

Of course, there have been numerous classic encounters over the years. We could argue about them forever.

But there was something different about Sunday’s race, something that reminded me of Hockenheim 1991, when Kevin Schwantz and Wayne Rainey were fighting for the 500cc world title at one of the fastest, scariest circuits of them all. Motegi isn’t particularly fast or frightening, but it’s terrifying in a torrential downpour, when riders can hardly see where they’re going, blinded by spray from the rain and by steam from the engine. Unless you’ve been there, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine what it’s like to be hauling along at 185 miles an hour, peering through the murk for your braking marker, then slithering the front tyre all the way into the corner.

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Grand Prix Commission Restricts MotoGP Testing From 2018

MotoGP testing is to be further restricted from next season. At the meeting in Motegi of the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule-making body, the teams, factories, FIM, and Dorna agreed to limit the amount of testing which can be done next year and in 2019.

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Broc Parkes To Replace Jonas Folger at Tech 3 For Phillip Island MotoGP Round

Broc Parkes is to step in to replace the still ill Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team at Phillip Island. The Australian veteran is already part of the Yamaha family, riding for the manufacturer-backed YART World Endurance team. 

Parkes is an obvious choice, being both Australian and having previous MotoGP experience. Parkes previously rode for the PBM team in 2014, when he was teammates with Michael Laverty aboard Aprilia-based ART machines.

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2017 Motegi Race Round Up: Battle Of The Titans

Motegi was tempestuous, in every sense of the word. It was as if the elements were conspiring to become a metaphor for the 2017 MotoGP season. The weather is always a factor in an outdoor sport such as motorcycle racing, and in Japan, the elements threw almost everything they had at MotoGP, the cold and the rain leaving standing water all around the track, throwing yet another spanner into the works.

The teams had seen almost every variation of wet conditions during practice, from soaking wet to a dry line forming, so they at least had an idea of what to expect. What they feared was that each rider, each team had their own Goldilocks zone, the precise amount of water on the track in which their bike worked best. For one rider, too little water meant they would eat up their tires, whereas for another, a track that was merely damp was just right. For one rider, too much water meant not being able to get enough heat into the tires to get them to work and provide grip. For another, a lot of water meant they could keep the temperature in their tires just right, and really harness the available traction.

One man seemed immune to this Goldilocks trap. Whatever the weather, however much water there was on the track, Marc Márquez was there or thereabouts. He was quick in the wet, he was quick in the merely damp. So confident was he at Motegi that he even gambled on slicks for his second run in qualifying, which meant he missed out on pole and had to start from third. But would it make any difference? Would anyone be able to stop Marc Márquez from taking another step towards the championship?

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2017 Motegi MotoGP WUP Result: Marquez Masters Mo-Soggy


Pos. No. Rider Bike Time Diff. / Prev.  
1 93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 1'56.719    
2 41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia 1'57.125 0.406 / 0.406
3 42 Alex RINS Suzuki 1'57.215 0.496 / 0.090
4 99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati 1'57.303 0.584 / 0.088
5 9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 1'57.435 0.716 / 0.132
6 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 1'57.473 0.754 / 0.038
7 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda 1'57.493 0.774 / 0.020
8 29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki 1'57.554 0.835 / 0.061
9 31 Kohta NOZANE Yamaha 1'58.023 1.304 / 0.469
10 44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 1'58.115 1.396 / 0.092
11 76 Loris BAZ Ducati 1'58.141 1.422 / 0.026
12 46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 1'58.364 1.645 / 0.223
13 22 Sam LOWES Aprilia 1'58.382 1.663 / 0.018
14 5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha 1'58.424 1.705 / 0.042
15 25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 1'58.451 1.732 / 0.027
16 21 Katsuyuki NAKASUGA Yamaha 1'58.708 1.989 / 0.257
17 8 Hector BARBERA Ducati 1'58.723 2.004 / 0.015
18 53 Tito RABAT Honda 1'58.943 2.224 / 0.220
19 26 Dani PEDROSA Honda 1'58.959 2.240 / 0.016
20 7 Hiroshi AOYAMA Honda 1'58.999 2.280 / 0.040
21 38 Bradley SMITH KTM 1'59.515 2.796 / 0.516
22 19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati 2'00.200 3.481 / 0.685
23 17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 2'00.356 3.637 / 0.156
24 45 Scott REDDING Ducati 2'01.902 5.183 / 1.546


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2017 Motegi Saturday Round Up: When Gambling Doesn't Pay

If anyone needed an argument that MotoGP's current system of qualifying is arguably the best available, Saturday at Motegi was proof positive. There are plenty of arguments that can be made against it: there are fairer systems imaginable, and there are simpler systems imaginable, but in the end, the element of chance the current system injects opens up opportunities for riders to seize. And it can either reward or punish those willing to gamble.

The weather at Motegi provided ample evidence of the spoils on offer, and the risks involved. A wet morning practice, a damp FP4, and a track which was starting to lose water from the surface. As Q1 progressed, the faintest hint of a dry line started to appear. Still too wet for slicks, but perhaps the ten minutes between Q1 and Q2 would be just long enough for the dry line to consolidate itself. Would anyone be brave enough to go out on slicks?

Valentino Rossi would be, and so would Marc Márquez. They both went out to test the waters, or lack of it, on slicks, hoping a high-stakes gamble would pay off. Rossi tried it early, Márquez tried it late, but both met with the same result. Yet one of the two will start from the front row, while the other finished dead last in Q2, and will start from twelfth. Timing proved to be everything, and the time was never really quite right. Only once Moto2 got underway did the track start to dry out sufficiently for slicks to be a viable option.

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