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.
Will Yamaha choose its champion?
If you were the main man at the Yamaha Motor Company, who would you want to win this year’s MotoGP world championship? Before making your choice, you need to consider that Yamaha’s main reason for being in MotoGP is to market its motorcycle and scooter products around the world.
There’s only one answer, isn’t there? Which is why the conspiracy theorists are already muttering in the shadows, suggesting that a Valentino Rossi victory could be worth an extra 100 or maybe 200 million to Yamaha. So I ask them, 200 million what? Euros, dollars, yen? They don’t say, they just nod sagely. And they are probably right, up to a point.
If we humour the conspiracy theorists for a moment, we have to ask this question: would Yamaha consider taking sides in the Rossi versus Jorge Lorenzo duel? Would it, could it, should it?
We don’t know the answers and neither do the conspiracy theorists, so all we can do is look back in history and search for precedent.
Way back in 1968, Yamaha was in an identical situation, with two star riders duking it out for the most important prize in motorcycling. Only one thing was different: back then the biggest prize was the 250 title, because the 500 class was in a state of atrophy, with MV Agusta enjoying a long and tedious reign over a bunch of impoverished privateers.
The Yamaha rivals were two Britons – Phil Read and Bill Ivy – and there was an added complication. Yamaha had assumed command of the smaller classes, so it carved up the 250 and 125 spoils according to factory whim, imposing (illegal) team orders: Ivy would win the 250 title and Read would take the 125.
Read was deeply unhappy with the arrangement. He was usually the faster rider, so the orders were bad news for him, and he was convinced Ivy had gone behind his back to help himself to the 250 crown. Also, he felt hard done by, because he had won Yamaha’s first world titles and he had helped Ivy get his ride with the factory. If they had once been friends, they certainly weren’t in 1968, just like Rossi and Lorenzo now.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.