Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP: ballet or battle? 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.

MotoGP: ballet or battle?

Rossi’s COTA penalty came from MotoGP’s ever-growing rulebook, so is there a chance that micromanagement could ruin MotoGP?

And so to Jerez, the place where MotoGP’s modern era of gladiatorial combat began at 2.45pm on Sunday, April 10, 2005.

Bumping and barging have been going on ever since people started racing motorcycles, but Valentino Rossi’s last-corner attack on Sete Gibernau at Jerez 2005 was probably the start of the tactics we now know so well.

In case you don’t remember, Rossi shadowed Gibernau throughout the race, then dived up the inside at the final the hairpin, colliding with Gibernau. Rossi crossed the finish line while his rival extricated himself from the gravel trap. No penalty was issued.

We have seen Marc Márquez do the same to Jorge Lorenzo and many years ago Lorenzo do the same to a rival at the same place. Some people think this kind of riding is okay, others don’t, but motorcycle racing is a rough sport, always has been. It’s a battle and a ballet (quasi-acronyms, see), which is surely its greatest allure.

Wayne Rainey, three-time 500cc world champion, says that racing was like “going out to fight”, 2008 250cc champion Marco Simoncelli said “during the race you want to kill the other riders”. He was talking metaphorically, of course, conveying the intense feelings involved in racing bikes. The emotions are truly savage, so don’t let MotoGP’s snazzy paintjobs and hip hairdos deceive you: motorcycle racing is a vicious business.

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


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The 0.3 second penalty did kind of complicate matters. All things being equal I prefer to watch a race where the finishing positions are final. Maybe the better policy would have been to just tell Rossi to concede the position to Zarco. Such a penalty would have been justified, as although Rossi couldn't have seen him coming, Zarco was fully alongside him before Rossi left the track. Seeing as how Zarco's attempted pass was deemed to be within the rules, that means the only reason Rossi managed to stay ahead was because he shortcutted the track. Otherwise he'd have been forced wide and Zarco would have been through. So not only did Rossi gain advantage on the bikes in front, but also be also prevented Zarco getting past illegally. The 0.3 penalty handed out in the end was probably too lenient as well as overly complex.