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.
MotoGP preseason testing: Ready, steady...
The MotoGP grid concluded preseason testing in Qatar yesterday, with Maverick Viñales fastest. But riders weren’t just evaluating new parts and settings…
When I was a kid I had a Scalextric car racing set that included a trackside garage. Inside the garage was a clockwork car that would reverse onto the track, drive back into the garage, reverse onto the track and so on. It was a good way of livening up the racing.
During final preseason testing in Qatar, riders tried a new long-lap penalty system, a concept that will send penalised riders down a side road on the entry to turn six, costing them a couple of seconds before they re-join the track on the corner exit. It is MotoGP’s version of the naughty step, hopefully a better way of punishing miscreant riders than telling them to drop a position, which is an inconsistent penalty and difficult to implement effectively when the racing is frantically close, which it usually is.
Most riders seem to like the new idea, which race direction hopes to duplicate at most other tracks. If it does work, perhaps MotoGP’s great and good should consider using this idea to add entertainment value.
Maybe the side road could include a jump, perhaps across a small-scale replica of the Isle of Man’s Ballaugh Bridge, acknowledging the birthplace of world championship racing. Or maybe a penalty shootout, with the rider getting the chance to regain one second if he scores the goal or lose a second if he misses. This would have the added attraction of tapping into the football market.
Alternatively, penalties could be specifically tailored to suit individual sponsors: Jorge Lorenzo could suck on a Chupa Chups, Valentino Rossi could quaff a can of Monster, Marc Márquez a can of Red Bull.
Which reminds me of the late, great Swedish motocross legend Håkan ‘Carla’ Carlqvist, who won his final grand prix victory despite a voluntary ‘pit’ stop on the final lap. The twice world champion was so far ahead at the epic Namur circuit during the 1988 Belgian GP that he stopped by the track, took a bottle of beer from a team member, downed the amber nectar, popped a wheelie and rode on to the chequered flag. Luckily, doping wasn’t such a big deal back then.
Going even further back, boozing and racing weren’t as mutually exclusive as you might think. During the early years of grand prix racing in the 1920s and 1930s, riders drank before races and during races.
“My mechanic, God bless him, had got my customary mid-race bottle of beer ready, but he had exceeded his instructions, by gathering a small bottle of cognac, too,” wrote GS Davison after winning the rain-lashed 1922 Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps.
Anyway, back to preseason testing, up to a point.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.