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.
What really happened in MotoGP’s 2015 finale
I’ve never done this before, but I think now the time is right. It’s time to come out: as a Valentino Rossi fan. Social media has been so poisoned by Rossi fanatics in recent weeks that I’ve been judged guilty a thousand times for the crime of trying to be objective in the face of the facts. I’m not the only one. Many other MotoGP journalists, respected for years and years by their readers, have been subjected to the same abuse for the same crime of attempting to uncover the truth.
I’ve liked Rossi since the summer of 1996 (below), when he started hanging out in the press room on Sunday evenings, laughing and joking with journalists and generally having a fun time like no other rider. A couple of years later we got together and I started writing his columns, which required me to hunt him down on Sunday evenings (even then not an easy proposition) to chat about the race and what he’d been up to in the previous week or so. One of these chats was conducted beside a swimming pool in Rio de Janeiro, Rossi full of beer and champagne, while his friends and crew got flung in the pool, just a few hours after he had won the 250 title. He was always funny; bubbling over with enthusiasm for racing and for life itself.
Our contract regarding his columns – which were published in ‘bike magazines around the world – was hilariously amateurish and all the better for it. He gave me half an hour of his time at each race and I gave him a CD. I was deep into London club-land at the time, so I brought along weird drum and bass records, like Goldie’s game-changing Timeless. “Strange music, this Goldie,” he grinned.
Another couple of years later he agreed to let me write his biography, which entailed many hours hunkered down in his rather gloomy serviced apartment in St James Square, London.
We sat there talking about his past, while best-mate Uccio (Salucci) lay snoring on the sofa, sleeping off another heavy all-nighter in some bangin’ house club. Usually, Rossi’s latest 500cc winner’s trophy sat on the sideboard among the detritus of a crazy life lived on the road.
Writing his biography also took me to Italy where I spent time with his wonderful dad (one of my childhood racing heroes) and his warm and bright mother. His mum told me plenty of interesting tales about her boy, but what struck me the most was the stories he told her when he got home from the minimoto track, buzzing on adrenaline and talking ten to the dozen. She said it wasn’t just the racing that Valentino loved, but everything about paddock life. He loved it all and that is surely the main reason for his astonishing longevity.
I like Rossi because I like the way he races, like a warrior. Even more than that I like him as a person: bright, funny, liberal-minded, as are his parents. I have little doubt he’s a good human being; something which can’t be said of many racers clawing their way to the top of a cruel and vicious sport.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.