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.
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.
And then there was the 150mph/240kmh right/left flick at Assen, called Veenslang. Every racing connoisseur religiously watched the 500s there: the fast guys would get it just right, keeping the engine on the pipe, revs rising suddenly as they flicked the bike onto the side of the tyre, the front end fluttering wildly as the 500’s torque drove the rear tyre into the asphalt.
Both these sections made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. But they are no longer, so how much longer before Mugello’s sixth-gear kink – the corner with no name – gets a makeover to reduce the risk of something really horrible happening.
Currently this hair-raising section of race track is MotoGP’s own little bit of the Isle of Man TT: full gas, 220mph/355kmh, swerve left over a blind brow, both wheels off the ground, then grab the brakes to scrub off 160mph/257kmh for the San Donato right-hander.
Six years ago Marc Márquez crashed there at 191mph/336kmh – he was leaning left over the hump, with minimal load on the tyres, so when he braked the front locked and down he went. Last year Michele Pirro crashed there at 165mph/265kmh after a headshake over the brow pushed his Ducati’s brake pads back into the callipers, so when he hit the brakes they didn’t work, then when he pumped the lever the brakes locked, flinging him over the front of the bike.
Neither rider was seriously hurt, both a miracle and a testimony to modern riding gear. But the next MotoGP rider to crash there might not be so lucky. Hence the talk of somehow reducing the danger of this epic section of MotoGP’s greatest track, its Holy of Holies.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.