MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Is Rossi’s title challenge over?
Three podiums at the first three races and none since. Rossi needs a miracle if he’s to win a 10th world title
“It was strange because I won without pushing 100 per cent and this has never happened to me before… I don’t know why we won the last two races,” said Andrea Dovizioso after his second win in a week. And when a rider says something like that, you know that something strange is afoot.
Dovizioso’s favourite phrase has always been “the reality is…” and the reality of Sunday was that while the sun burned down, you could’ve been forgiven for thinking it was drizzling. The riders weren’t riding to their own limits or to the limits of their bikes, they were riding to the limit of the asphalt and the tyres.
The once-great Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is a horrible mess. The ancient asphalt is overused, bumpy, hellishly slippery and burns up tyres, which is why Michelin says it’s MotoGP’s most challenging track, even worse than Phillip Island. And when temperatures exceeded 50deg C during the weekend the tyres just couldn’t cope.
Dovizioso won his second consecutive race because his team worked well and because he rode well, using the Desmosedici’s superior horsepower very cleverly. He was gentle with the throttle to baby the rear tyre and he didn’t brake too aggressively to save the front tyre.
Between corner exit and corner entry he used the desmo V4’s speed to make the difference, even though he had to modulate the throttle to minimise wheelspin. He knew he would have to do this because he had so much wheelspin during practice that he was almost tailgated on the start/finish by Aleix Espargaro’s slower Aprilia.
The Desmosedici’s straightline grunt is one reason why the bike is so fast in the wet: when there’s so little grip that you can’t make up time in the corners, you really benefit from extra horsepower on the straights.
“We realised very soon that the condition of the track wasn’t so good and that rear-tyre consumption was very high,” said Dovizioso. “During practice we didn’t focus on being fastest, we focused on riding the bike with used tyres in the heat. Nobody had grip, nobody could push, because everyone had to save the tyres, a lot.”
Marc Márquez, as always, gave it his best shot, never mind his five crashes in the previous 24 hours. But he didn’t have the grip to make the difference. “What we lost on the straights we couldn’t gain in the corners because the limit was the tyres,” he said.
Rossi meanwhile struggled with all kinds of problems: his 2017 YZR-M1 doesn’t turn well, so he quickly burned up the rear tyre trying to get the bike through the corners.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.