Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Grand Prix

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.


The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ Grand Prix

Four races into 2017 and the racing is more unpredictable than ever, which is why even MotoGP’s cleverest engineers left Jerez confused

In 1991 Wayne Rainey referred to the start of the European Grand Prix season as the start of “the ground war”, because in that year the GP circus arrived at Jerez shortly after the first Gulf conflict.

Many riders still think of Jerez as the place where the title race gets real, because the out-of-Europe season-openers can be a bit rare-groove. Even Valentino Rossi still holds that opinion, kind of. “I don’t want to say Jerez is the start of the real championship, but…” said the seven-time Jerez winner on the eve of the 31st GP at the Andalusian track.

Rainey spoke of the ground war as separate from the rest of the championship because European tracks are different, because teams operate out of elaborately equipped trucks, instead of flight cases, and because the riders live in the paddock.

Well, the MotoGP riders do. They luxuriate in motorhomes so shiny that they hurt your eyes, while the Moto2 and Moto3 riders commute in and out of the paddock in rentacars, unless they can afford 2500 euros a weekend to stay in one of the truck-based hotel pods owned by GP-winner-turned-banging-DJ Fonsi Nieto.

The European paddock is still a special place but it's a shadow of its former self. It’s no longer the rambling campsite where the millionaires’ motorhomes were parked next to the rusting campervans of the strugglers. And no longer is each evening enlivened by the mouth-watering smell of a few dozen barbecues and soundtracked by parties thrown by riders and friends, either celebrating the joy of victory or drowning the sorrow of defeat.

Sorry, I’m getting all misty-eyed with nostalgia and badly side-tracked. What I’m trying to say is: the results of the flyaways can be a bit misleading, so Jerez is usually the first race where we can have a proper go at figuring out what’s happening.

But not this time. MotoGP fell through a rabbit hole on Sunday, just like Alice did in Wonderland. Logic turned into nonsense, just as the hopes of some riders turned to dust.

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

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