Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Mugello: Holy of Holies 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.

Mugello: Holy of Holies

The psyche of most racers is a precarious thing. Their confidence is like a magician’s conjuring trick – it can disappear in a puff of smoke. There’s something almost spiritual or hallucinatory about that inner belief: one moment it’s definitely there, though you’re not really sure why, then the next it’s gone, like you never had it in the first place and like you may never find it again.

Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo currently stand on the opposite sides of that trick of self-confidence (or self-delusion if you prefer). Confidence builds confidence which builds confidence. That’s where Rossi stands right now. Lack of confidence diminishes confidence which then further reduces confidence. That’s where Jorge Lorenzo sits huddled now.

These are upward and downward spirals and that’s the really tricky thing: finding the right part of that spiral to place your racing psyche and keep it there – week in, week out – is mostly impossible. Wayne Rainey – 500 world champion in 1990, ‘91 and ‘92 – was better at maintaining his psyche than most, but he also had team boss King Kenny Roberts on hand to help.

“When Wayne was down I was someone to talk to and lift him back up,” remembers Roberts, who won his own hat trick of 500 crowns in ‘78, ‘79 and ‘80. “And when he was too high I was somebody to say, ‘hey asshole! Just back her down a bit.’”

Beyond often complex technical reasons, this psychological fragility is why riders’ results improve or worsen apparently without reason. It’s also why it’s impossible to judge what’s going on in a racer’s mind.

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

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"So, Rossi has exceeded my expectations and I must eat my recent words that suggested he’s past his sell-by date."

Second journalist to have to admit it recently ;)

Good on ya mate!

And yes, I do think Mugello could be a cracker.
Marquez maybe, just maybe a little more cautious.
Rossi on a high.
Pedrosa recovered from his surgery.
And Lorenzo, I think it will not take too long for him to regroup. Sooner than later I think he is going to forget about Marquez and just focus on beating his teammate.

For all who love Rossi, this article is a must.
I really thought he lost his mojo ... and baah ... really enjoy what is happening, very rare in sport, 4 years far from 1st place, at this age, whith everybody including myself hoping for a decent retire ... he's now clearly in line to finish second behind an unbeatable young king.

If he's not the best of all, he definitly is not far ... Mugello could be history ...

Sorry for this Rossi "fan speech" ... and God knows I always respected all the others champions these last years ... but this guy definitly deserves a Hollywood movie.

And Im quite sure E.T./Marquez agrees :)

By the way, the season is long, and a lot can happen, Rossi can still finish 4th but the hope is there...

Come on, a last win in Mugello :)

I have been trying to see if the following has some deep inner meaning which I am unable to grasp. But I can't understand the usage of redundancy to establish a point. Oxley says "Confidence builds confidence which builds confidence. That’s where Rossi stands right now. Lack of confidence diminishes confidence which then further reduces confidence. That’s where Jorge Lorenzo sits huddled now".

In the past I have vehemently argued that a forum like this is not appropriate to point out errors of syntax and semantics. But this sentence just refuses to make sense to me. So I have broken the rule that I had made for myself. Apologies everyone.

But i am guessing you've not competed at sports? I bet it makes perfect sense to those that have/do still compete at something. Clear as a bell to me.

I have been a sportsman for a very long time. Competed in not one but two sports, though motorcycle racing is not one of them. Perhaps, the nature of competition and the vocabulary to describe that in motorsport is different, in which case I admit, that I have a befuddled brain.

There has to come a dezent fight yet between Rossi and MM93(Katar was not really a fight in my eye).
Until now, they were barely seeing each other at the track, because Marc was so far ahead.

So in Mugello the old sack of bones Rossi could finally get near Marc and I pray for Vale not to fold under pressure.

I believe he knows how painful it can be to crash there and he is still very aware that 0 points would totally collapse his chances to challenge Marc all season and to keep him in the headlines.

So I´m curious how tough Vale will be at Mugello.
I have my doubts that he still has the guts to do a desperation-end-move versus Marc.
For Marc its easy: he has such a tremendous cash advance in every perspective,whether its about moves he will make or crashing or becoming second-it will not shatter his followers.He is like Rossi in his best days.

Rossi on the other side must feel the little rabbit of fear deep inside his belly a little bit.Why?Because if he crashes, it could easily bring a forced end to his long career.
If he dares to make a Gibernau-kind-of move to MM93, he could loose out image wise pretty bad.
If he looses to MM93 fair and square at his home track, some might think he isn´t really that good after all and his titles were won against weaker riders only.

So the doctor has a lot on the line .
I can only hope that the inner strength has not left him and that he can find that extra energy to push Marc to the limit and beyond.

Rossi said: "Mugello is a question of honor..." now that was a bold statement. I,I pray to the lord of racing he can back it up with a result.
It would be a win for me already if he would crash together with Marc. I honestly don´t know if I can watch that race without tranquillizers calming me down:)

I guarantee you the Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez aren't contemplating all the ramifications that you have so thoroughly laid out. They are both Racer's Racers and the compete for the joy and challenge of racing. The moves that they execute on the track are performed on an instinctual level of immediate action and reaction that does not and cannot take into account how they will be viewed in the press afterwards.

That is a large part of the joy of watching Rossi and Marquez, none of these things matter to them while they are on the track. We are fortunate to have ability to watch and appreciate them but I wouldn't overthink things. That only takes away from the appreciation of what they're doing.

I thought the magnificent Mat Oxley did a masterful job of describing what goes on between the ears of the top racers. Thank you David for including his column in your superb site.

reading Mat Oxley's article. The guy is funny as well as truthful. I still believe Rossi has lost a step, still maintain he age is a factor. Not in him being scared, but losing that little something extra everyone has when they are younger. I think for him, he is adapting to what he has lost and creating something new to make up for it. He seems to like the challenge of getting back up to the top level, and figuring out if he can beat Marquez, then figuring out how to keep beating Marquez.

He sure looks like he is getting more and more near those goals. Would like to see them battle at Mugello like Rossi and Lorenzo at Assen in 2009. Rossi out front and Lorenzo hounding him until he could not anymore. There were better battles to choose from, but for my heart, I would like to see Rossi win Mugello like that race, with Marquez hounding from behind but never quite getting there.

All a dream, looking forward to the race!