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.
“Marc is a freak!”
Another race, another victory, so what exactly is Marc Márquez’s big secret?
I’m stood in the Le Mans pitlane, chatting with a venerable MotoGP engineer, trying to eke from him the relative merits of every bike on the grid.
“The holy grail of motorcycle racing has always been to come up with a device that can save front-end slides, and now Honda has one…” he says, pausing for effect. “He’s called Marc Márquez.”
And that there is the story of MotoGP right now. Love him or loathe him, Márquez is on another level to everyone else. He has an ability that none of the others possess. That doesn’t mean he’s unbeatable, because he’s not always the fastest man out there, but it’s this unique talent that helps him to make the difference.
Most people only notice Márquez sliding the front tyre when he’s saving a slide, or not quite saving a slide. But his uncanny ability to play with the front tyre isn’t merely about trying to save crashes; it’s about using the front-tyre slide as a performance tool, to help pivot the bike at the apex of the corner to tighten his line and therefore cut faster lap times.
His almost supernatural ability to save front slides was especially noticeable at Le Mans, where there were no less than 109 crashes over the three days, more than twice the total at Jerez a fortnight earlier.
Márquez was one of those fallers. On Saturday morning he was, as always exploring deep into the unknown when he tipped into the Turn 3 left-hander, lost the front at 56 degrees of lean and crashed his Repsol Honda RC213V. But the crash was a long-time coming, especially in super-slow-mo. The front tyre folded to the left a few degrees, the handlebars swung the same way by a few degrees and the bike stayed like that for what seemed like an eon, as he fought to stay in control, by digging his left elbow into the kerb, by digging his left knee into the asphalt, by adjusting his body position and by gently opening the throttle take load off the front tyre. Throughout these few seconds the tyre had already lost grip, it was merely skating across the asphalt, while Márquez scrambled to remove some load, slow the skid and give the rubber a chance to regain traction.
Finally the battle was lost, the handlebars swung to full lock and he was down: scraping the bodywork, breaking the aero and snapping a footrest. Márquez got straight to his feet, picked the bike out of the gravel, bumped-started the engine and carried on like nothing had happened, upping his pace over the next few laps to go second quickest in the session, even though the RCV’s lopsided aero made the bike pull to the right whenever he hit the brakes.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.