Guest Blog: Mat Oxley: Rossi’s wooden spoon 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.

Rossi’s wooden spoon

Valentino Rossi had his best race weekend in almost three years at Misano. For the first time since the last few races of 2010 he was on the pace every day, declaring that his YZR-M1 had never felt better.

On Friday afternoon he spent half the session chasing Marc Márquez, matching him pretty much yard for yard, lap after lap. Afterwards he was buzzing from the experience of riding with the youngster and not watching him disappear into the distance. “I enjoyed that a lot,” he beamed. “Marc’s style is very, very funny – a great show!”

Things were looking up. Then on Saturday Rossi made the front row for the first time this year without any of his major rivals absent, having solved one of his biggest problems. “Usually I suffer more in qualifying, but this time I could push a lot with new tyres,” he said.

Yamaha’s new ‘seamless’ gearbox was helping in all kinds of ways. “The bike is more stable in acceleration so it’s less demanding, so you can be more consistent and more precise, with less effort,” he added. “The only difference in set-up is the electronics: you get less wheelie, so you need less wheelie control [which means more horsepower and more acceleration].”

In other words, the new gearbox delivers better handling, better steering, better acceleration and keeps the rider in better shape over race distance.

And yet Rossi still ended up fourth on Sunday. In racing there is no more hated result than fourth – and this was his fourth consecutive fourth place.

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

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There, now that Rossi's weight is officially holding him back, people are going to start crying for a combined bike + rider weight in MotoGP. I'm all for it, but, whenever someone would say Redding needed that in Moto2, to reduce his disadvantage, experts all over would say that was rubbish. Look where Redding is now.

I was astonished to read they even apply that in F1.

Those saying it was not hindering Redding (and was an excuse) have been proved utterly wrong. At hilly tracks like Brno, Redding still loses at Brno on the uphill straight, remember it is a minimum combined weight, and Scott is still way over that weight even though he is a skinny guy.

It does seem unfair that larger guys are disadvantaged over the horse jockeys but they are unlikely to change the rules any time soon, the complication is where to put the weight, you can't move it around like when it's on the rider!

Which is what the small guys argue (with some justification)!

Who knows the answer.

Anyway, I hope Rossi can get nearer the front, should improve the current three horse spectacle.

Lorenzo is 2 kg more then Rossi and seems to be winning some races. Lame excuse.

There are rider Bios on that give height and weight at the beginning of the season.
Pedro - Mass: 51kg; Height: 160cm
Marquez - Mass: 59kg; Height: 168cm
Lorenzo - Mass:65; Height: 172cm
Rossi - Mass: 67; Height: 182cm

My mistake on the numbers this morning on Lorenzo being heavier, but it is only 2kg.

Does basketball seem unfair to someone who is short? Does track seem unfair to someone who is slow? Does NASCAR seem unfair to someone who is smart (this one is only for laughs). Physical prowess / ability / stature by itself seems unlikely to be termed 'fair'.

So a taller / stronger rider can move more body mass around and exert more influence on the motorcycle. But that comes at the cost of potentially slower acceleration (due to the additional mass). Is there a balance?

At the present time, it may be that a lighter rider has an upper hand. But we can image (and/or remember) a time when being stronger would have been more of an advantage.

I'm not quite sure if there is or is not a need to change the regulations for motogp. I suppose that if the ultimate goal of the motogp business is larger viewership (popularity, in other words) being leveraged by closer and more exciting racing , it might not be a horrid idea.

Personally, as a racer more impaired by gravity, I can voice a desire to have my competitors handicapped with more weight to level the power to weight ratio.

Do track and basketball players use gasoline for their sport? No.

So they don't have to deal with 21 or 20L fuel restrictions either.

Please, don't forget that, even if the weights were the same, smaller riders will always have more top speed because they can tuck in better than the tall ones. One might argue that would compensate for not being able to move the weight around.

I doubt a larger fairing totally eliminates the problem. After all, it's a larger fairing. It's still better to be smaller.

Maybe someone with an aerodynamics background could chime in here.

I also remember back in the early 'aughts that Ducati found that Loris had a significantly higher speed than his team mate, who I think was Bayliss at the time, who could not find a tuck as efficient. I believe it was in the movie Faster.

Bigger riders probably suffer a bit in corner exits/accel and long straights, and maybe gain a little back in braking. Although, I suppose it's possible in some circumstances that the extra weight might help them find a little more traction. It's hard to say.

You're on the right track.

1. Aerodynamics comes down to two things:

Drag coefficient - this is what a better fairing and sitting position can fix it's important as it's a multiplier of the second variable, which is

Frontal area - this is where physically bigger riders lose out no matter what. Physics says it will take more power to move the same mass against air resistance if it has a larger frontal area. Even worse as it's an area based variable the power requirement is exponential.

2. Rider Mass - this is more complex but generally the more you have the worse it is.
a. Power to weight - bigger riders will have less of this
b. braking power - same, the tyre also has exactly the same maximum contact patch for both large and small riders
c. suspension/handling - this is where it gets complex. A motorcycle in motion is a very complex system, moving masses and force being applied in many vectors. You could probably make a case for both lighter and heavier riders but in the end it'll come down to the distinct chassis, unsprung weight ratios and bike set-up.

On balance a heavier rider has far more disadvantages. It's also interesting that physics effects don't scale linearly with size; this is why in physics there's a the saying for scales: on falling; a cat lands, a human breaks and a horse splashes.

Someone like Dani Pedrosa is well known to have huge out of corner acceleration supposedly due to his lightweight that's true, but it's also pretty obvious, at least to me, that his "midget" profile is a weakness when it's time to out break the opposition. He's been struggling to stop his bike on late breaking since day 1 of his motogp career.

Back in his 990 glory years, Biaggi,Capirossi and Melandri never stopped him playing the fool with them except on a rare occasion. What's the issue now all of a sudden re combined mass and race results. I'm totally opposed to combined mass in any form of motor racing. The only mass limitation should be based on the wet dead weight of the machine on the start line. Really! Next thing they will be wanting to compromise results and change rules based on the mass of rider A's ass vs rider B's ass and the consequent resultant based on the effect of a lower centre of gravity by virtue of the way they were born. Ass and centralized mass.
Why not go full circle and handicap the results according to age. Let's say one 1 second a lap/year over race distance relevant to age difference. Marquez finishes Misano about 12 seconds ahead of Rossi. Marquez is 20, Rossi is 34. Therefore on handicap Rossi beats Marquez by 2 seconds and George wins from Pedrosa and Rossi by a reduced margin.
Go figure. They should scrap this rubbish in M3,M2 and F1. I never heard Floyd Mayweather bitch about his age and weight disadvantage last weekend. He just got on with it and Alvarez was pretty magnanimous about it in defeat. Rossi never stops moaning in a very media focused way. Credit to him though,he knows how to play suckers for punishment. As the premier ambassador for the sport,I don't hear him complaining about the current 3 horse state of affairs. Of course he won't. The bigger the gap Yamaha can give him between Ducati/Sat and CRT riders,the more he likes it. 4th still gives him some spotlight.
Obviously my age/1 second scenario won't be an option as Ago could win another title finishing 2 minutes late on a CRT (Insert brand and model here).

... that, in the premier race series, there should be no compromises & that combined weights shouldn't become a regulatory factor. However, in the lower classes, where the weight of the rider is far more of a factor I think it's fair to consider... the idea is to build to a top MotoGP ride & ultimately a MotoGP championship... if Redding or anyone else was denied that because of disadvantaged results in the support series it would be a loss to the sport.

Redding's closest rival is 12kg lighter & 13cm shorter than him... Pol is probably the ideal weight/height for a moto2 bike to hit the current limits... Redding is over. Next year, with around twice the hp these differences will pale to roughly half of what they are now.

It's not Rossi's size, it's the problem that restricted fuel gives larger riders. It's not saying Rossi is slow because he is big and disadvantaged, he simply uses more fuel to move a larger weight.

That is something which I believe should not be an issue... He shouldn't be limited by fuel because he's bigger. Scrap the 21L!

I thought that the factories requested these fuel limits - 21L and now 20L.

I can only guess that they see it as a way of limiting the potential threat from new factory entries. If you want to run a factory bike with custom ECU software, you are going to have to deal with the fuel limit, and that is going to be very difficult.

Suzuki are apparently struggling with this issue, and Aprilia are undecided about their 2014 entry status for the same reason.

Honda requested it, Ducati and Yamaha went along to answer the engineering challenge. Honda's goal ( in my estimation) is to outspend everyone to win the championship. They don't care if the racing is boring.

Perhaps now we can all understand why Stoner ran out of patience.
MotoGP - the top class of motorbike racing - is mostly processional and dull. Only four riders are riding competitive machines - the role of the others is to serve as additional advertising space. Whatever the rules are in Moto 2, they need to be duplicated for multiple manufacturers in MotoGP. If somebody doesn't get the balls to kick Honda where it hurts, MotoGP is going to become irrelevant.

The fuel limits and advanced electronics are killing the spectacle.

Give them ALL a spec ECU with spec software, and 24 litres of fuel, and watch the sparks fly.

Remove the fuel limits altogether, remove the engine size restrictions - let them race V8's with 40L of fuel if they want! This is supposed to be prototype racing, so they've gotta stop trying to control everything and let people just build unrestricted racing machines!

Aside from electronics... let them do all they want with electronics, but ban traction control and other "rider aids". Then Casey Stoner would come back to MotoGP and there would be a real show to watch once again...

If combined rider weight and bike weight is a good idea, with the exception that the heavier riders get an "advantage" of being able to move the weight around . . . why not add the weight to the riders gear or suit to distribute evenly throughout. Not exactly rocket science.

The emphasis on light weight humans is bad for the sport. Ultimately we want the most talented people in the world riding in MotoGP, not the skinniest/shortest as the first criteria with the next then being talent to ride fast.

Obviously then where do you draw the line at what a healthy combination of bike and rider is?

I guess it was directed at me. To tell you the truth I was never a fan of Mayweather either. At age 36 he convinced me. Rossi has yet to. All he has to do is win a race for Ducati and that ain't going to happen ...ever.
That's a prophecy. For your sake I hope he finds a front end setting that suits his age,weight and style over race distance. Tell you what. Endurance racing may be a good option to explore...seriously. I don't doubt his racecraft and that is one great 2 wheel sport that needs ressurection. In my book it was better than GP in the 70's. Rossi holds a charisma monopoly on 2 wheels. He should actively promote no holds barred 24 hour endurance racing with minimalistic rules intervention and create a second carreer path. Hell! I might grow to like him.
Anyway. GP current sucks and I don't see it changing untill it collapses totally financially.
We will have 4 or 5 champions this year.

No doubt,the best riders in the world are mixed up in this mess of the law of unintended consequences and their legacy will be tarnished accordingly.
You know,something like Stoner only won because the Ducati was sooo fast in 2007 and Rossi won because the MI was sooo sweet handling.

Anyway. Lets hope the GPC scrap a lot of their idiotic rule book and get the sport back on track. Prototypes and prototype tyre war would be a fine starting point in my book.

In every interview I have ever heard from him he says... "I am not as fast as the front guys".

Never once has he said... "The reason I'm not winning is because of my weight, corner entry, braking, etc."

He's struggling, and the things he lists are what he thinks he needs to improve to be more competitive. Just like Lorenzo with his braking problems, just like Dani with his edge grip, and just like Marquez with his lack of experience. Those are "excuses" they all have publicly used lately why they have not won.

They all have things they think they can improve. But never have you heard Rossi say, once I get those things fixed, I will win every race. Don't confuse excuses with trying to improve.

I am in total agreement that no weight limits should be implemented. Your first post is absolutely correct in that aspect. It would never end. It's not like the weight difference is sooo huge anyway.

Simoncelli. He did just fine without a combined weight minimum. And the bikes have only gotten heavier since.

Of course teams customize their fairings to reduce the extra drag the bigger riders have to deal with, but, modify all you want, like they did in Simocelli's case, by cutting the side panels to allow him to tuck his elbows in, the frontal area on his bike would always be larger than with a smaller rider. Had he had one less disadvantage to deal with, namely his weight, I submit we would have had the pleasure of seeing him battle at the front much more often than we actually did.

Sorry to not bow before the media's golden goose sir Oxley, but a decent analysis of a motogp race (and its approximately 100 kilometers distance) should be more sophisticated than putting one single lap under the microscope.

I don't know where Rossi's issues [especially to keep up with Jorge] are coming from, I'd guess the development of the M1 the past 2 years, to fit Lorenzo's very unique riding style is not necessarily helping, and from an entertaining point of view I hope they're going to fix it rather quickly...

..But I sincerely feel ike the whole "oh look at his best race lap time/ why not combined weights ?" are far from being decent arguments to help Valentino's case. In fact it feels like excuse to me and I know il Dottore is better than that.


One lap says nothing about the race. Big deal about the time difference, consider the entire race. If you want to compare/contrast look at maybe the first 5 laps vs the last 5 laps of the race. That could be a more interesting story the one lap.

Rossi Lorenzo
1 1'39.975 1'38.345
2 1'34.964 1'34.127
3 1'34.496 1'34.020
4 1'34.474 1'34.098
5 1'34.220 1'38.345

24 1'35.091 1'34.374
25 1'34.790 1'34.573
26 1'35.029 1'34.470
27 1'35.491 1'34.242
28 1'37.198 1'35.068

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The extreme efforts that F1 teams apply to reduce weight and the effect of fuel load upon lap times is clear.
The days of 'just ride the thing' are long gone. Unless you optimise everything you will be back in tenth place at best.
Sure, there are compensating issues for being either big or small as a rider, but once you start restricting fuel use you lose lots of things like drivability from low speed/revs and ability to run full power at longer or faster circuits. Why did Rossi run out of fuel at Silverstone? That wasn’t a mistake; they used almost exactly what they predicted. 21l is (currently) not enough at long, fast races.
A race, never mind a championship, decided by such factors is against the principles of fair racing.
You only have to look at Redding’s performance this year – I very much doubt that if they had not adjusted the weight rule he would be where he is in the championship. He is still heavier/larger, but he has a chance. He wants it.
The best riders do not need absolute equivalency. But they do need a fair chance. Talent can only do so much – DP and MM is a reasonably ‘fair’ match. Race ability will tease out the winner.
Look at Yamaha's/Crutchlow's issues over fuel weight/position. Stoner would burn-off fuel and ensure his tyres were properly warm before pushing harder.
I think F1 estimates a tenth of a second per lap per 3 kgs., or thereabouts. You do the math.
Add in aerodynamic effects (again the effect is not rocket science – it takes more energy to push a larger frontal area through the air) and larger riders not only have a further disadvantage at high speed, but they provide a better tow to smaller riders behind them because of the larger ‘hole’ they create.
This isn’t psychology, it’s fact. JL can overcome his weight disadvantage, clearly, but to say it doesn’t matter is clearly wrong.
Anyone who has driven a kart against smaller/lighter drivers knows this.

Weigh definitely matters in cars, the driver is in basically a fixed piece of ballast. Less weight equals faster speed. Simple. On a bike its not so simple, first of all the rider is not in a fixed position, they move their weight around on a bike to get best performance. A larger rider has a greater range of movement which is an advantage. Secondly on a powerful bike is rare to be accelerating at the engines maximum capacity, these motogp bikes would probably loop in 6th gear of the anti wheelie was disabled and the throttle pinned. So while a smaller rider should be able to shoot out of the turns marginally quicker they will lose out in other areas. Comparisons to 4 wheeled motorsport don't always apply

I'd love to do the maths and prove it out, but I think drag is not as much the issue as people are thinking. The aerodynamic drag caused is as much about flow convergence as frontal area, and in these instances I think the frontal area differences would not be so much as to make a significant difference. Things might get different if we actually looked at rider positioning, and being consistent and accurate in the "tuck" position is as much a part of being a GP rider as any other rider/bike interaction.

If we are to be believed that Jorge really does carry as much extra corner speed as it appears from the cameras, then I would propose the biggest reason for his lower fuel consumption is his reduced loss of speed in the turn. This could explain how he is able to "get away". His wide fast lines reduce the need to accelerate as hard, and therefore the less fuel consumed would allow him to use more of the engine's horsepower. Drag him back into a dog fight, with hard late braking, and perhaps he would lose a few HP. I believe this is why he is so keen to break away as soon as possible - he is riding to the bike's, and his own strengths/weaknesses.

You could make an argument that a few extra kilos would reduce the ability of Rossi to run the wide/fast lines as Jorge does; ultimately the extra lateral forces would be compensated by a little extra grip, but results in higher tyre wear. It's marginal though, and I would argue it's just not Rossi's style.

On reflection, I'll add to this - in my mind the "Rossi" bike would:
a) Have more fuel (i.e. best available horsepower for corner exit)
b) Have a solid front end that responds well under braking and entry
c) Not be so concerned about what happens mid-corner

Sounds like a Honda.....

Without getting into a debate about rider standards over the years, this would also explain why he didn't enjoy the same domination of the 800s as previously of the 990 and 500 incarnations of the GP premier class.

One final thought, Lorenzo recently said in interview "he would prefer the electronics to stay" in MotoGP. At the time I questioned whether he relied heavily on traction control, but now I think he knows that without fuel management, and with a fuel limit, perhaps Yamaha would be in serious trouble.

At the end of the day it's the right rider on the right bike. I'm of the opinion that Jorge's style wouldn't work on the Ducati, or that Casey's style wouldn't work on the Yamaha.

They have to adapt to survive.

Or don't, and come 4th ;-) (that's a joke before I get slaughtered.....)

What I like to see in terms of MotoGP-rules has been demonstrated succesful during the developement of the F-16 Fighting Falcon:
Col.John Boyd wrote the RFP(Request for proposal) and reduced it to a paper that was only 24 pages.Normaly if the Pentagon asks its suppliers for a proposal, it sends out a mountain of paper.Col.John Boyd described in his paper only what the maximum flight envelope should be, but because he was a real genius he knew exactly what makes a good fighter (he developed the Energy-Maneuverabillity-theory-google it yourself) and it lead to the best fighter there is today (pls don´t involve me into F-22/F-16 comparison debates please, because thats not the point here).

So my rules(and I´m surely no genius) would limit only the budget(and THAT would really change things), engine capacity, weight, tire dimensions and keep the fuel limit at 21l.

Let them develop whatever they wan´t and what they think is the fastest vehicle/engine combination arround a track for the given money.
This would really start a process that would help the bikes on the street and would provoke some serious outside of the box thinking.

So the quintessence is: Less is more!
A few rules only and a fixed budget that is agreed on by all competitors would level the field immensly and would lead to some extraordinary effective bikes the commercial world would really profit from.

If you are looking for the best rider only, you should look at a cup series typ of format-but this is the MotoGP.
Its all about the bikes and how an experienced rider can ride an everchanging machine under all circumstances against the best to victory.

I think you've overlooked the awesomeness that is the F-35. I heard the latest variant will come with built-in bluetooth, an extra compartment for golf clubs, and will return over 60MPG.

I can only assume for the F-35 that they have reverted to excessive paperwork at the Pentagon.

I think there is a lot of truth in what you say, and have thought this for a long time.

For me the rules today are too restrictive, and essentially force all creativity out of the engineering process. The V5 990 for instance was a work of art, but today with fixed capacity, stroke and cylinder count - there are less possible solutions.

The more restrictive you make the rules, the more you create a situation that only has one or two possible solutions. For me, this is because people look at controlled classes (like karting) and say "Look at how great the racing is? That's because they are all in the same kart!".

For me this is nonsense; a lot of the great races (also in superbikes) actually come about because riders/drivers make mistakes. What did Cal say was the toughest thing about coming to GP? These guys don't make mistakes.

So, if you have 20 riders not making mistakes, and 20 bikes designed by the rulebook, they sort themselves out into pace order during qualifying, and proceed to follow each other for the race. Throw away the rule book, and the bikes will be very different, the lines will be different, the braking and throttle points will be different, and so will the results.

All of the factory bikes today, as far as I can see, are built around their engines, which have been determined almost entirely by the rules.

The Yamaha is smooth and thirsty: so the bike carries momentum and lean angles.

The Honda is frugal and powerful: so the bike dives for apex' and charges straights.

The Ducati engine? Well, it's Italian. Don't worry about it - let's get lunch.

I believe MotoGP should be a research area that provides doctrine for the design of streetbikes.
Research about the physically limits of friction and finding an engineering strategy to achieve the lowest laptime humanly possible.
Today´s MotoGP is faaaar from that.

What about the tires?
Set a fixed budget for R&D and lets see what they come up with!
Do you know what carbon-nano-tubes will do to tirecompounds?
I don´t, neither do the guys from Bridgestone and if you stick to your old stuff its death to all better things of tomorrow!

If Rossi wanted to put his money where his mouth is he should have his team turn off all fuel management. Then he could race like he claims he otherwise can, take first position, run out of gas towards the end of the race, and point in the general direction of the rule-makers. I'm a Rossi can but the truth is likely a combination of multiple factors (especially considering Lorenzo doesn't weigh that much less than Rossi).

There is something else everyone is forgetting about with this weight thing.
Because all the riders are super lean, heavier riders are always taller riders, if all else is equal taller riders can brake later than shorter riders because they can move their weight further rearwards on the bike.

Their initial acceleration out of a corner is also faster (in theory) by being able to move further forward on the bike (although this may be limited by the fairing screen).

This was demonstrated a few years ago where the braking distances of the top riders were measured at Mugello. The shortest braking distances were by Rossi and Simoncelli and the longest was Pedrosa followed by Stoner.

The fuel usage verses weight IS an issue ...but in my opinion, if the fuel allowance was increased the riders weight would be pretty much irrelevant (as it was in the days of 500GP with virtually unlimited fuel many 55KG riders won world championships back then?)

one could argue that Rossi used that to his advantage in his earlier days, and then had the tyres developed to suit that style. Now you have higher weight, combined with his higher weight and on top of that bridgestone supplying a tyre that is 'softer'

If he tries to stop the same way, he overloads the front end to an extent that he cannot manipulate out of (with his height) and this is the end point. He is close, but no cigar.

A combined weight limit would likely not help, as the bikes are substantially heavier, that the actual proportion of rider mass to total mass is smaller. (and where the lanky build creates a higher COG/COM compared to a short rider).

At the very least there should be more options for tyres, and more fuel for everyone.

If anyone thinks that Honda are not leading this or are doing this just for engine tech, I think that is under-estimating them.
They have light riders and a small bike. This fits their strategy perfectly.
I absolutely do think that they pushed this rule through because it suited them. Keeping Suzuki out would suit them too.
I may seem cynical but that's how business works. HRC want to dominate as a manufacturer, not compete in a race between riders. Making the rest look technically inept or under-resourced suits that just fine.
Quite how the 20l thing came up I don't know, but from what has been said on this and other sites I doubt that Ezpelata thought it through or consulted about it before swallowing the hook, line, and sinker.
OK, I'll take my paranoia pill now.

David has related Dorna's misgivigs in past articles. The official reason for the fuel limits is to provide the factories with a technical challenge that they can sell to the management to justify the cost of racing. Fuel efficient technologies are obviously a giant hot button. I don't doubt that Honda and maybe some of the other factories have some other ulterior motives, too.

Dorna knows the fuel limit is a barrier to entry for new factories (See Suzuki and Aprilia) and it only raises the investment required to compete. Ezpeleta likely agreed to the limit to help the current factories stay in the series. But I'm sure he didn't like it. If he gets his way, the fuel limit will probably go away, along with much of the manufactuers' influence on the rules. We'll see if that happens in the next few years.