Mat Oxley's blog

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Could Quartararo be MotoGP’s first non-factory champ?

Most MotoGP titles are won by factory-team riders, so will Fabio Quartararo make history if he wins the 2020 crown for Petronas Yamaha?

Any talk of Fabio Quartararo winning the 2020 MotoGP world title is hugely premature, because things can change more instantly and more drastically in motorcycle racing than in just about any other sport. Just ask Marc Márquez, Mick Doohan, Wayne Rainey and many, many more.

Quartararo goes into this weekend’s third of (hopefully) 14 races enjoying a 10-point advantage over Maverick Viñales and a 24-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso. He is also 50 points in front of Márquez. Until yesterday this wasn’t an insurmountable disadvantage for the reigning world champion, who won last year’s title by 151 points, but yesterday’s second operation to fix his right humerus surely changes that. Then again, you can never tell with these people.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Fabio is so accurate – that’s his advantage’

Petronas Yamaha’s Johan Stigefelt reveals the secrets of championship leader Fabio Quartararo and discusses the first races of MotoGP’s weirdest season

During this period of Covid-19-affected races, during which journalists are not admitted to the paddock, we get the story of the weekend from a leading MotoGP personality. After the first races of 2020, dominated by Fabio Quartararo, it’s the turn of Petronas Yamaha SRT team director and former 250 and 500 GP rider Johan ‘Stiggy’ Stigefelt.

“It’s been tough here at Jerez with the Covid situation, but what an amazing two Sundays with Fabio! We saw his potential last weekend and today he was in another league to everyone else. Fantastic!

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Can Rossi find a way out of his nightmare?

MotoGP’s old warhorse had a dismal start to his 25th season of world championship racing, complaining of the same old rear-grip issues

Poor old Valentino Rossi. Another year and he still sounds like a broken record. At Jerez his problem was the same as it’s been for the last few seasons: too much rear-tyre temperature and therefore not enough grip or tyre life.

Michelin has heard the story so often that its MotoGP chief Piero Taramasso was moved to suggest that the problem was Rossi’s own. “Rossi has a particular style – he leans off the bike less than the others, which stresses the edge of the tyre more, so the temperature rises,” said Taramasso on Friday.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “I’m happy I don’t race with Marc!”

Five-time World Superbike king Jonathan Rea evaluates the talent of six-time MotoGP champion Marc Márquez as the Spaniard aims to continue his march into history at Jerez on Sunday

Every year is a big year for Marc Márquez but 2020 will resonate more than most, if he can retain the MotoGP world title. So far the 27-year-old has won eight world championships – six in MotoGP, one each in Moto2 and 125s. If he does win this year’s MotoGP crown he will equal Valentino Rossi’s tally of nine world titles – seven in the premier class, one in 250s and one in 125s. That would be an important milestone.

Most racers deny any interest in records and racing history, until they grow older and become more aware of their place in the world. Mick Doohan, Honda’s most successful grand prix racer until Márquez took that record last summer, insisted records meant nothing to him, until the all-time 500cc victory record of Giacomo Agostini hove into view; then he thought seriously about trying to beat it, until serious injury stopped him in his tracks.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - ‘Anthony Gobert wanted a dancing girl in the pit!’

More gripping racing yarns from Stuart Shenton, the man who helped Kork Ballington, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardner and Kevin Schwantz to world title glory. And he might’ve done the same with Anthony Gobert…

In 1984 Stuart Shenton had been with Honda for 18 months when HRC engineer (and later HRC president) Satoru Horiike wandered up and asked a question.

“He said, if Honda were to build a 250, what should it be like?” says Shenton, who had already played a crucial role in Kawasaki’s domination of the 250 and 350 classes during the late 1970s and early 1980s. “So I asked him straight: are you building a 250? No, no, he said, this is just a casual question. Going back to my experience with Kawasaki, I told him a 250 must be on the minimum weight limit, it will need this much horsepower and it will need twin front discs. So at the end of 1984 I went to Japan and there was this 250, a fabulous piece of kit.”

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - The MotoGP spannerman’s tale, part 1

Stuart Shenton was a race mechanic when he was still at school. Jobs with Kork Ballington, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardner, Kevin Schwantz, Anthony Gobert and Loris Capirossi followed, as did world titles with Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki. He’s a man with plenty of tales to tell…

Stuart Shenton’s first experiences as a teenage factory race mechanic quickly taught him that racing isn’t all about spinning spanners and twisting throttles.

In 1975, Kawasaki unleashed its water-cooled KR750 on the F750 World Championship, originally created for bikes with streetbike engines. Only one problem, the factory hadn’t built enough bikes for homologation.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP faces its toughest season ever in 2020

Last year’s MotoGP season counted 19 races over 37 weekends – the new 2020 calendar starts with 13 races over 18 weekends. How will riders and teams cope?

Much excitement last Friday at the publication of the long-awaited and heavily rewritten 2020 MotoGP calendar.

Racing starts at Jerez on July 19! Fourteen rounds, maybe more! Yay, let’s rejoice and go racing!

Yay, yay and thrice yay! It’s not long since some people were predicting that the Covid-19 pandemic would prevent any MotoGP action this year, so everyone – riders, teams and fans – should be delighted that MotoGP 2020 is finally go.

But while we rejoice, we should also take a look at the drastically revised calendar and what it means to the men and women that make the racing happen. Because the logistical, physical, mental and mechanical challenges of MotoGP 2020 will be on a different level to anything experienced before.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - “We believe in the importance of reality” — why virtual MotoGP races fail to thrill

MotoGP esport is better than no racing at all, but it seems like some fans might be confusing the two

“Nowadays, with the spread of PCs and games, children tend to be satisfied with simulated experiences. But we believe in the importance of reality.

“Through motor sports, we will continue our daily activities so that as many people as possible can understand the preciousness of life and the excellence of experiencing with one’s own body.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How come Silverstone can’t host a MotoGP round but is hosting two F1 rounds?

Silverstone managing director explains why F1 but no MotoGP. Also, how Britain’s biggest racetrack is surviving Covid-19 and the latest plans for MotoGP 2020

This summer, for the first time since the birth of motorcycling’s world championships in 1949, the United Kingdom will not welcome the world’s greatest riders and motorcycles to its shores.

The not-unexpected cancellation of this year’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone was announced last Friday morning, when Moto3 bikes should’ve been riding out of Mugello pit lane to start first practice for the 2020 Italian GP.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Danilo Petrucci, “I don’t want Ducati to put me against Dovizioso”

The rumour that Jack Miller will join the factory Ducati team in 2021 puts Danilo Petrucci and Andrea Dovizioso in competition for the second factory Ducati seat. Petrucci tells us about his hopes for the 2020 season, his 2019 Mugello victory and his plans to do the Dakar

The MotoGP rumour mill usually does its work in the darker corners of the paddock, where journalists, rider managers and team managers arrange secret assignations under cover of team artics, during which they whisper the latest news (and lies).

This year is different: FaceTime, WhatsApp and Zoom is where it’s all happening.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Why inline-four MotoGP bikes handle better than V4 MotoGP bikes

V4 MotoGP bikes make more power, inline-fours handle better. That’s why Johann Zarco, Jorge Lorenzo and others struggle when they switch from inline-fours to V4s

Speak to most MotoGP engineers and they will tell you that the two most important words in race-bike engineering are balance and compromise.

Pretty much whatever you do to improve one area of performance impairs another: you make the bike turn quicker and it becomes less stable, you increase peak power and you lose midrange and so on.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP season opener to be confirmed this month

Dorna hopes 2020 championship will start in Spain in July, with strict medical protocols and quarantine rules in place

MotoGP rights-holder Dorna hopes to announce the start of the 2020 MotoGP world championship in the next few weeks. The Spanish-based company is aiming to get the racing underway in Spain in July, with ten or 11 races in Europe, possibly followed by several more outside Europe.

Currently, these races are expected to be viewed only on TV, with no trackside fans allowed, due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2020: Plans for an August start... and the doomsday scenario

Optimists hope the MotoGP season will start in August, while pessimists think that a single-class, three-race championship at one circuit is more likely

The 2020 MotoGP world championship could get underway at Red Bull Ring in August.

Following the cancellation or postponement of the first ten rounds of the 20-round series there is now the hope that the Austrian circuit will host the season-opening race on August 16.

The Formula 1 championship is aiming to start its season at the same venue, on July 5, with no fans allowed and COVID-19 testing required for all team staff. If that event goes off well, with no regional spike in COVID-19 cases, then MotoGP could follow six weeks later, using the same format.

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - What do Márquez and Viñales have in common with 1930s GP stars Meier and Serafini?

Eighty years apart, Márquez, Viñales and the rest of the MotoGP grid find their careers stalled - as did Georg Meier and Dorino Serafini in 1939

The last time grand prix racing was properly interrupted was in September 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, triggering the Second World War. Those circumstances and the circumstances of the coronavirus crisis may be very different, but the effect on racers is the same: young men in the prime of their lives having their careers stalled through no fault of their own.

Who knows when Marc Márquez, Maverick Viñales and the rest of the MotoGP grid (and every other grid, for that matter) will go racing again, and who knows what racing will look like? Teams and manufacturers are facing an unprecedented crisis, which mirrors the larger crisis that’s unfolding all around us. Even if race teams survive the pandemic, what about airlines and all the other industries that racing relies upon?

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Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - How I ride: Franco Morbidelli

The 2017 Moto2 world champion has spent the last 12 years working with Valentino Rossi, so how does Franco Morbidelli ride a MotoGP bike?

Franco Morbidelli became Valentino Rossi’s first protégé when he moved from Rome to Tavullia in 2008, at the age of 13. And when Rossi established the VR46 Riders Academy in 2013 he became its first member. In 2017 Morbidelli became the first VR46 rider to win a world title, in 2018 the first to race in MotoGP and last year the first to ride the same bike as Rossi. In other words, no one else has learned as much from Rossi.

Last year Morbidelli joined the new Petronas SIC Yamaha squad, alongside rookie Fabio Quartararo, and quickly found himself eclipsed by the rookie sensation. However, his results weren’t at all bad for a relative beginner riding a new bike.

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