Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - A new way of riding, a new way of crashing

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.


A new way of riding, a new way of crashing

Well, it appears that whoever coined the term ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ didn’t know what they were talking about.

On Sunday in Italy a middle-aged man defeated a young phenomenon for several reasons. Firstly, he’s learned a new trick or two.

I can only assume that Valentino Rossi discovered his new way of riding his Yamaha YZR-M1 by reading old copies of Grand Prix annual Motocourse because he seems to have adopted the outlandish riding style of 1990s BSB champ James Whitham. The Yorkshireman rode in a highly unusual fashion, with upper body completely out of line with the motorcycle, neck craning towards the inside of the corner, as if he was literally dragging his machine to the apex.

Whitham developed that style while riding Suzuki’s recalcitrant 1992 GSX-R750 and it worked well for him in subsequent seasons. And now it seems to work just as well for Rossi who’s been thinking scientifically about what he can do to close the gap on young pup Marc Márquez, riding Honda’s quicker-steering RC213V.

“If you want to stay on top you must look at what the fastest riders are doing,” Rossi affirms. “I now use more of the top of my body to move outside of the bike to improve turning. I watch and I try to modify my position on the bike and the movement of the bike. I now move forward more to avoid wheelies.”

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

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Comments

This insight is exactly why I tune into this site and another reason I enjoy Mat's blogs. Great stuff! Vale is truly incredible. Colin Edwards was never on Vale's level, but he was a teammate and peer. He talked about just how difficult it is to try and change your riding style when he announced his retirement. Style has so much to do with confidence in feeling the limits. And when you've spent your entire career (most of these racers' lives) cultivating a style that allows you to maximize your efforts on the track that is your 'happy place' for lack of better words. To move outside of yourself, outside of your comfort zone at that speed and at that level is mind-boggling to this mere mortal. Valentino Rossi is, of course, no mere mortal.

But if it's faster good luck to him! I prefer Marquez's style where he keeps his body quite compact with the bike in corners, leaning a long way but with not much space between his upper body and the tank. The Colin, Whittham go go gadget neck thing looks less natural or something

Kinda funny that people seem to think Marquez fell because he couldn't keep up with Rossi. He himself has stated that he just made a mistake and was just following Rossi, not riding at 100%.

There a some things I´ve learned at the race track and one thing is: Everybody is always giving his best, whatever they say.
MM93 has made a mistake and you only make mistakes when you are at your mental limit.

... would Marquez admit that he couldn't keep up, in a competition as mentally challenging as it is physically, surely no rider would say "I fell off because I couldn't keep up".

You only have to watch the race and see how many apexes Marc missed, the front was washing in numerous parts of the circuit.

There's no denying that Marc is capable of a lap of Misano as fast as anyone else, but to be that close to the edge for a whole race was never going to happen. It was not the usual loose style we see from Marc, it was past that on this occasion.

Personally I think it was quite an obvious observation... but again, opinions are just that.

Marquez has always praised his competitors when he couldn't keep up with them. He says it like it is, so I'm inclined to believe him.

And he missed a few apexes on purpose, especially the last of those fast rights, to bring the bike up earlier to brake harder. You could see that's where he made up a lot of time.

So no, I don't think he was riding over his limit. Whether he could have passed Rossi is another matter but that he could keep up was pretty obvious to me.

Great article as ever Matt, what a good site this is.

I'm pleased to say I noticed the new riding style that Rossi was adopting too. Whitham was before my time so I'd never seen it before. In some bends VR was keeping the bike very upright and hanging off at a right angle, they don't teach you that in any school!

I think Firefly, MM wouldn't admit to not being able to keep up; and who'd blame him? To me it looked like he was struggling, and I was very surprised. He actually looks very in control this season, which is why he has been so utterly dominant. His crash count has gone down to a fraction of last year I'd bet.

MM is way still easily top dog, but good to see others trying to make a race of it.

Lorenzo next?

So my quess is that VR is no old dog which raises the question how old must a dog be before being considered old? Great to see him adopt to new styles of body weighting. No matter if it does help or not, it can boost moral and confidence enabling the rider to squeeze out that extra tenth of a second per lap. It certainly looks great!

Delightful. Thanks Mat!

Rossi was brilliant to behold. Pushing SO hard! Marquez is...human? And the Honda is...beatable.

Love the 'already on the ground' observation re Marquez. Saving it on your knee has become saving it on your elbow. Saving it on your elbow became, for that one wonky moment, saving it on your shoulder? Anyhoo, Marquez was doing things over the limit that don't look possible...alternate lines that just can't be done at that pace. Both MM93 and VR46 were BEAUTIFUL Sunday.

"I salute Rossi for the win that many of us thought would never come......"

Some of us always knew it would come, only a matter of when. A foolish journalist is one who doubts a man with 100 victories in this sport. Hopefully when Marc is in his 30's you won't wrote him off too.

Is it just me or did anyone else think 'colin edwards' and 'james whitham' in the same sentence?

That is a bit difficult to believe. With deep respect for Mat Oxley I would like to say that Whitham's time in Superbikes was average at best and maybe he did tame the wild Suzuki by riding the way he did. Whitham is very much in the distant past and I remember him only from his sporadic appearances in the WSBK but from what i can remember on his day, he was solid but most days were not his and he did have a tendency to crash. I am pretty sure that Valentino Rossi in order to change his style would have preferred to watch videos rather than read old issues of Motocourse. That explanation is a really long short Mr Oxley, very difficult to accept. Made a good read though.

You have to keep in mind that Whitham's career was interrupted by cancer which he overcome to return to racing. His achievements may not look much side by side compared to other riders, but he did not have the opportunity to fulfil his 'time' as a rider unfortunately.

I suspect Mat was using a little poetic licence, and did not mean the comment to be taken literally - he was simply saying that this wasn't the first time this style had been adopted.

The learn a new way to crash is hilarious. This is the first time this year when I felt like Marquez was pushing too hard for himself. Love the fact that the man is there to win not just cruise around no matter what the situation is. There are many others on the grid in his situation that would have given this soundbite, "I settled for second place after I felt the front move a couple of times." But not Marquez. Determined to a fault in this case to make sure Rossi did not beat him. Admirable. If he continues this way, wild style or not, he will be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest champions. Still the most talented rider on the grid IMHO.

Rossi's focus this weekend and steady improvement from race to race has shown that the man has a determination that few on the grid will ever have. The Yamaha now suits his style more, but he has developed himself to adapt and go faster in different ways than he ever has before. Brilliant at his age (in racer years). Which would be equal to someone in their mid 60s at a job that never used computers, now having to use them with no prior experience. Not only learning how to use a computer but learning how to use them as good as the IT staff that fix them. Not something most people are willing to do when at retirement age. Brilliant stuff.