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.
Team spirit, not team orders
The dust has settled on Sunday’s frantic season finale at Valencia; so it’s time to decide: was Jorge Lorenzo right or wrong to refuse assistance to his team-mate?
Team orders suck, right? Yes, they do. But team orders aren’t always what you think they are. If you are a professional racer and you race for a factory team in MotoGP you will have at least a hundred colleagues. You may be the star man, the best-paid employee, the worker who’s on the telly, the guy who gets chased by the ladies, but you go racing on the backs of everyone else. Without them, you are nothing. There is not a rider on the MotoGP grid who doesn’t know this.
On Sunday, Ducati had a chance to win the MotoGP world championship. A tiny chance, but a chance nonetheless. For several months Jorge Lorenzo had told us that he would happily help team-mate Andrea Dovizioso at the last two races. He made all the right noises and at Sepang last month he did indeed make way for Dovizioso. Everyone assumed he would do the same at Valencia.
But he didn’t. Lap after lap, he rode around behind Johann Zarco, Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa, with Dovizioso right behind him. The sense of dismay in the Ducati garage was palpable. Lorenzo knew exactly what was up, but he failed to do what any reasonable team-mate would do – team orders or not – move aside and let the world-title hopeful decide his own fate.
Most likely, Dovizioso wouldn’t have won the title anyway. He needed to both win the race and for Marquez or Honda to make a major mistake, so the odds were stacked firmly against him. He was relaxed all weekend, most likely because he knew his chances were tiny. But that’s not really the point. Lorenzo should have left it to Dovizioso, not because he should obey team orders but because he should respect team spirit.
For many years I’ve tried hard to like Jorge. It’s not my job to like or dislike riders, my job is to write about bike racing, but bike racers are humans, they’re not just names on a result sheet. I’ve known some sweet riders and some nasty riders, but if they’ve got riding talent they deserve respect as racers, if not as human beings. And in twisted way I enjoy the company of some of the dodgier types, because they are red in tooth and claw, which is much of what it takes to be a racer.
Obviously, Jorge couldn’t care less if I like him or not, or indeed if anyone else likes him, because he’s not a popstar, he’s a racer. His job is to win races, not to court record sales or TV ratings.
But I think he did the wrong thing on Sunday. It’s no big deal to swap fourth place for fifth, so why didn’t he? It would’ve saved him a lot of hassle from various journalists (especially the Italians) and it would’ve saved me from writing this blog.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.