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.
Why Rossi must reinvent himself once again
Rossi’s third-place finish in Qatar suggested he has fixed the front-end problem that haunted him during testing. Or was the result just a desert mirage?
Despite the lack of a refreshing gulp of Cava, no man on the Qatar GP podium was happier than Valentino Rossi. Maverick Viñales and Andrea Dovizioso had fully expected to be there, but not MotoGP’s ageing veteran. A miserable pre-season test programme followed by a lowly 10th place in practice had some people muttering in Losail’s pit lane: is this the beginning of the end?
Of course it wasn’t.
Rossi is nothing if not a Sunday man. From 1.1-seconds behind Viñales in practice, he finished the 20-lap race 1.9-seconds behind his team-mate.
But does this mean he has fixed his front-end problem or was the result a factor of Losail, MotoGP’s most slippery track, which can prevent riders with better set-ups from exploiting their full potential?
After the race Rossi hinted he had made a settings breakthrough during practice but wouldn’t reveal specifics. However, key members of his crew aren’t so sure and are still wracking their brains to fix his front-end woes.
Rossi’s concern is adapting his bike and riding technique to Michelin’s 2017 front slick, which features a larger profile for more mid-corner grip, the lack of which was the downfall of many riders last year. Michelin made a prototype 2017 front available at last November’s Valencia GP. Most riders raced with the tyre because they liked the extra grip, even though its more rigid construction caused some chatter.
Over the winter Michelin combined the 2017 profile with the 2016 carcass to create a front with more grip and less chatter. Everyone prefers this tyre, except Rossi.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.