Editor's Blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - When MotoGP riders strike!

Talk of a riders’ strike didn’t last long at crazy-bumpy COTA, so when did MotoGP riders last go on strike and how did it happen?

How close did MotoGP riders come to going on strike at COTA last weekend?

Not very. Not very, at all.

Only a few riders suggested that the grid should withhold its labour because working conditions at the Texan circuit were unacceptable. Chief among these was Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaró, who’s never afraid to speak his mind.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Rules, Damn Rules And Sparktistics

I guess it is a credit to modern motorcycle engineering that so few bikes that get looked after properly in racing break down in actual races any more. With major parts of most WorldSBK machines coming from a production line somewhere, along with the rest of the bikes destined for the street, that’s remarkable in itself. Given that they all have upper rev limits and just a little bit of something in reserve on the computer design screen simply because you have a very limited engine allowance through the racing year, overstraining even your purpose-built racing components is a risky business nowadays.

Especially as in all but a few straights, the electronics spend a lot of the time attenuating the power you already have. Most of these bikes make too much power now, so the way it makes it matters more.

The reason I mention this potential race bike breakdown thing is that as I am clattering the keyboard in a hotel in Murcia, halfway between Barcelona and Jerez, the championship lead is a mere point, with Toprak Razgatlioglu just one ahead of Jonathan Rea. But, without an unfortunate front-running breakdown, due to an electrical charging system and voltage drop problem in Race One in Catalunya, Razgatlioglu would be leading by quite a few more points. He’s running away with this championship, if only he didn’t keep losing points.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Factories shouldn’t have the possibility to lock young riders for five years’

Red Bull KTM’s hugely successful rider programme has got other factories worried – is that a problem or not?

The tighter and more competitive MotoGP becomes the more everything matters.

MotoGP’s current technical regulations guarantee that all the bikes have similar performance. Thus the rider becomes an ever-more important part of the equation because he or she is the surest way of making that vital difference.

So how do you find the best riders? You open your wallet, of course. But what if someone else has flashed the cash before you and locked a talented youngster into a long-term deal?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Will F1 tyre-cooling wheel rims soon feature on MotoGP bikes?

Controlling tyre temperature and pressure is vital to winning MotoGP races, so how long before F1’s special tyre-cooling wheel rims arrive in MotoGP?

Tyre temperature and pressure are everything in motor sport – and not only in MotoGP. In Formula 1, or any other category where the stakes are high and the lap times are close, half a degree here or half a psi there can make the difference between victory and defeat.

Formula 1 engineers fuss over their tyres as much as MotoGP engineers do. The only difference is they have more money to spend on fussing about with temperature and pressure.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - A tale of two 170mph crashes – 46 years apart

Marc Márquez walked away from his 170mph tumble at Silverstone, while Barry Sheene spent weeks in hospital after his 170mph accident at Daytona in 1975. The big difference? Huge advances in riding kit

In March 1975 British youngster Barry Sheene was in Florida, USA, trying to conquer the Daytona 200, at that time the biggest motorcycle race of them all.

Sheene was a factory Suzuki rider, equipped with XR11 two-stroke triples, powered by heavily tuned 115-horsepower GT750 road-bike engines. These big two-strokes represented a seismic and overnight shift in performance, from 155mph British four-stroke 750s to 175mph Japanese two-stroke 750s.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘We build our MotoGP engine so the electronics have to do as little work as possible’

Kurt Trieb designed the engine of KTM’s RC16, which has won as many races as Ducati’s Desmosedici over the past season and a half. Trieb tells us about his design philosophies and reveals that the RC16 isn’t a 90-degree V4

KTM entered MotoGP four years ago and is already battling with rival manufacturers who have been racing in the premier class for decades. Only Yamaha has won more races since the start of 2020, with KTM’s five victories equalling Ducati’s win rate and bettering that of Aprilia, Honda and Suzuki.

At the heart of KTM’s RC16 is its engine, the same 1000cc 90-degree V4 configuration used in Ducati’s Desmosedici, Honda’s RC213V and Aprilia’s RS-GP. At least, that’s what we always thought. Except that our recent chat with KTM’s Head of Engine Development Road Racing Kurt Trieb revealed that the RC16 isn’t a 90-degree V4, after all.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: Time And Tide (Wait For No Man)

I am striking while the iron of competition is hot here. In addition, it is halfway through the season now, so time for a recap. This is a chance to indulge in a bit of fortune telling and then possibly a nightcap when the laptop lid closes on another busy workday.

It’s just a short time since the racing fates piled into the 2021 WorldSBK street fights that took place in the shadow of a heavenly Czech Castle in Bohemia and the reflection of a ‘flame-off’ from whatever satanic mill was blasting away just down the hill from the Motodrom Most.

At a characterful but sporadically outdated new WorldSBK venue, the 2021 WorldSBK championship trendometer swung to full scale deflection once again as those aforementioned racing fates jumped on Toprak Razgatlioglu’s pillion and helped him win two, and nearly three, races on his factory Yamaha. Fairly turbocharged him they did, and a treble was almost achieved.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Happy 50th MotoGP birthday to Ducati and two-stroke 500s!

MotoGP has two big 50th anniversaries coming up: the first two-stroke 500cc GP win and Ducati’s MotoGP debut

This Friday, August 14, it will be 50 years since the two-stroke’s first MotoGP victory. And four weeks later, on September 12, it will be 50 years since Ducati entered its first MotoGP race.

Both these anniversaries are significant landmarks in the history of motorcycle grand prix racing, signalling a generational change in technology, just as we are currently seeing a generational change of riders in MotoGP.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s greatest paradox: why isn’t Moto2 racing closer?

Moto2 riders use the same engine, tyres, software, fuel, oil and gearbox, so why is the racing more spread out than MotoGP and Moto3?

Dorna’s big push over the past decade has been writing technical regulations that shrink the gap between the best and worst motorcycles, thereby creating thrilling racing that gets hundreds of millions of people turning on their televisions

The premier MotoGP class features many such rules – 81mm bore limit, spec tyres, spec electronics, a relatively high minimum weight limit and so on.

Moto3 is even stricter, with the same tyres, same electronics and engines randomly allocated to riders to prevent factory teams gaining an advantage.

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: New Lamps And Old Flames

Assuming we really do have a full 13 round WorldSBK Championship in 2021 (and we all know what assumption is the mother of, don’t we?) then we will be starting new racetrack romances and rekindling old paddock flames from now until we arrive in the tropical idyll of an Indonesian Island racetrack, just in time to get some global Christmas shopping in. Well, mid-November, in reality.

Maybe my memory is misfiring but that seems very late for WorldSBK to park the Covid testing bus for a well-earned rest. But if we get all 13 rounds in without any changes from now until then, we will not be doing just well, we will be doing better than MotoGP, as they are having to change as they go, it appears.

Our principal 2021 changes since the last WorldSBK calendar released on 29 April have been more related to new and returning circuits, when we compare 2021 to the weirdest season of all time last year.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Kevin Schwantz: How I Rode Part 2

Kevin Schwantz, the hugely popular 1993 500cc world champion tells us about some of his scariest moments, some of his nastiest crashes and his greatest victories

Kevin Schwantz won 25 500cc grands prix and one world title between March 1988 and July 1994 but his impact on the sport of motorcycle racing was much greater than that.

The American’s wild riding technique, his ability to magic victories apparently out of nowhere and his willingness to ride way beyond the limit – sometimes with painful consequences – made him a huge favourite with fans.

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Editor's Blog: Plans For The Summer Break

As some of you might have noticed, updates to the site have been less frequent over the past week. This is in part because, with MotoGP on a five-week hiatus, there is not much going on in the world of Grand Prix motorcycling, other than a lot of managers frantically texting Lin Jarvis and Johan Stigefelt about the vacant Yamahas for 2022. But it is too early for anything to come of that.

The other reason for posting to be a little slow on the site is also because I need a break too. It has been a very long, hard 12 months: first, the insanely compressed 2020 MotoGP season, with 13 races in 18 weeks, and barely a moment to catch your breath. Then I traveled to the UK to help my mother and brother care for my severely ill father. And after he died, I have had to balance the care for my grieving mother - nearly 57 years is a long time to spend together, and the loss of that love has left a gaping hole in her life - with covering the start of a fascinating 2021 MotoGP season.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Kevin Schwantz: How I Rode Part 1

Few grand prix stars are as revered as Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 500cc world champion, who rode with an ocean of natural riding talent and a tidal wave of aggression

Kevin Schwantz helped define an era of grand prix racing that’s rightly considered one of the sport’s golden ages. The American’s vicious battles with countrymen Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson and Australians Mick Doohan and Wayne Gardner are the stuff of legend.

Who better to explain those days than Valentino Rossi, who grew up watching these races and idolising Schwantz?

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Gordon Ritchie WorldSBK Blog: The Inside Jobs

After the first few races of the 2021 WorldSBK championship some trends have already become apparent.

One, the usual one, is that nine races/nine podium man Jonathan Rea is leading the championship by a fair margin of 20 points. That’s equivalent to a second place in a full race. Four 2021 race wins under his awning already, he became the first rider to smash through the 100 race victory barrier in WorldSBK history at the opening round.

Two, Toprak Razgatlioglu is now turning into the more rounded, consistent force his talents have always pointed towards. Maybe his factory Yamaha too? Hence it is he and not two-time race winner Scott Redding who went from 35 points behind Jonathan Rea after Estoril to 20 points behind after the long-awaited return of Misano after two years. Redding is himself a full race win of 25 points behind Razgatlioglu. So that’s 45 points - yes, numerology is clearly not just for cranks and conspiracists - of deficit to the leader for the person many thought would challenge Rea most strongly after his great 2020 ‘rookie’ season. And he still might, of course. He’s still many people’s best bet, for obvious reasons.

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