Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ — the bare, lone MotoGP paddock

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.


‘Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ — the bare, lone MotoGP paddock

The MotoGP world championship goes on despite the Covid mechanics, but after attending two of the last three races I’ve seen how much has really changed

In just a few months the global Covid pandemic has taken grand prix racing back to where it was half a century ago. Now the paddock is what it used to be: a bunch of blokes (almost exclusively) tinkering with motorbikes and riding them around in circles as fast as they can.

Thus the MotoGP world championship is in its purest, most unalloyed state – those people who pine for the ‘good old days’ should be delighted.

During recent decades global TV coverage and corporate cash have fattened motorcycle grands prix into a vast, glittering pageant that few paddock workers would have imagined in the 1970s and 1980s, when the sport was a mostly shoddy circus – shiny on top, mucky beneath, struggling to make ends meet from one race to the next.

Now Covid has stripped the show clean, like vultures strip a sheep’s carcass. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless you’re one of the hundreds of paddock workers that’s lost their jobs.

The racing is as good as ever – maybe even better – but everything else has disappeared, like someone pressed the button marked ‘1970’ on the time-travel machine.

When you turn on your television on Sundays you hardly notice anything different. There are grids full of MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 bikes and there are all the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 riders, doing the crazy stuff they usually do.

The only immediately obvious difference is masks. Everyone is wearing masks, even the brolly girls, except the bearers of umbrellas are no longer attractive young women wearing next to nothing, they are hairy mechanics and crew chiefs.

That’s because no one is allowed in the paddock unless they are directly involved in making the wheels go around. In theory, at least.

So that’s it: all the superfluity – the so-called glamour, the celebs, the VIPs, the corporate guests, the PR people, the marketing executives, the poseurs, the hangers-on and the armies of hospitality staff – has evaporated, leaving the sport in its most unadulterated state.

And has that spoiled your enjoyment of the racing? Not at all.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Comments

for an interesting perspective.  My earliest forays to watch professional road racing here in the US were in the ealry 70's, before the glitz really began.  My few pics from the era show that early hard scrabble time.  Box vans with riders sleeping in them at the track and all.  It was, as you say, more in its pure form.  And you are right, that from my perch in front of my laptop these days, the racing seems to be as good as ever.  I still go out and race an occasional club race, and the environment there has changed only a little.  There is the natural separation of each riders paddock spot, and the focus on working on our bikes, etc.  We do tech inspections more out in the open and space the bikes out a bit.  Rider's mtgs are a bit more spread out, masks et al.  Fewer embraces with friends of old.  And the riding/racing is just like it was.  Nice to have a corner of life that seems a little normal.

To have the real 1970 vibe the teams should roll the bikes out to the car park and work out of old Ford vans in the gravel while the riders sit in folding lawn chairs. Then take all the sponsor stickers off the bikes except for the tire and oil companies. Oh and half the riders should be in black leathers (no knee sliders or airbags of course) and puddin' bowl helmets. Now that's racing.😆🏁

Its a strange world and who knows where it goes. BTW You are the first bike journo to my knowledge to quote Shelley. Top marks!