Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Like Maradona driving a hot-hatch 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.

Like Maradona driving a hot-hatch

Sunday’s Argentine MotoGP Grand Prix was like a Gaucho rodeo ride: chaotic, painful and unmissable

First, I have a confession to make: I like a bit of chaos. Few things are more over-organised than modern sport, which mostly runs like a well-oiled machine, so sometimes it’s good to see a spanner thrown in the works.

It’s not unusual for this to happen in South America. Some years ago during the Brazilian GP in Rio de Janeiro, practice had to be stopped because the circuit had a power outage. The owners hadn’t paid their electricity bill, so the electricity company waited for the perfect moment, then pulled the plug. Practice continued once they’d got their money.

This sort of thing rarely happens nowadays. Like I said, everything is too well organised, there are too many rules and very often there is too much health and safety. So I hugely enjoyed Sunday’s action, with a few obvious exceptions. To me, one of the joys of motorcycle racing is that it is a kind of chaos, even when it’s not particularly chaotic. I don’t think any other sport better fits George Orwell’s famous words, written in December 1945, when his mind was already working towards writing 1984.

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.”

Thirty years later, the writer who created the movie Rollerball had similar ideas. “When I look at the film now, I feel like a prophet,” said William Harrison. “In Roman times they had death sports in the Coliseum and the Circus Maximus. They’ve been toned down now into NFL and other sports but they’re still there. When I wrote Rollerball, sports were becoming dark and violent. There was a general nastiness, which I picked up on.”

The disregard for the rules started before Sunday’s race had started, the general nastiness later. Okay, the mass walkout from the grid wasn’t against the regulations, but 23 of 24 riders sauntering back into pit lane to switch to their spare bikes equipped with dry settings looked like a copout, especially if you were sat where Jack Miler was sitting.

At this point race direction seemed to forget there is a rule specifically designed to deal with this instance, introduced following a similar occurrence at the Sachsenring in 2014, when most of the grid started the race from pit lane, elbow to elbow, handlebar to handlebar. That was scary to behold; thrilling too. I enjoy a bit of chaos – did I already say that?

And then there was Marc Márquez, stalling and bump-starting his bike, then committing the cardinal sin of riding the track in the wrong direction. It was obviously an illegal manoeuvre, given a hint of comedy by IRTA’s Tony Congram chasing the world champion around the grid like a copper trying to apprehend a joyrider.

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


Back to top


Ouch. I usually admire Mat Oxley's writing but here he makes the same mistake as lesser pundits when comparing Argentina 2018 to Sachsenring in 2014. In Germany the riders decided to switch bikes after the warm-up lap, in which case rules do indeed require them to start the race from pit lane. But in Argentina they opted to switch after the sighting lap and before the warm-up lap. Under those circumstances they're required to start the warm-up lap — not the race — from pit lane... and then go to the back of the grid for the race start. (In his Sunday round-up on MotoMatters David Emmet, as usual, got it right: "The rules dictate that any rider can leave the grid after the sighting lap can start the warm up lap from pit lane, but they will have to start from the back of the grid.")

Granted, the rules were bent a little by not making all 23 riders start their warm-up lap from pit lane, but it's not as if there's an advantage to be had by "winning" the warm-up lap!

The biggest sin of race direction, IMO, was taking so long to realize this themselves and work out a solution.

If you look at the last lap barges MM made against Dovi, and the antics of this weekend, does anyone believe he’s going to stop doing what he does best?  I love Marquez and am glad he is in the sport but there is a clear pattern of disregard.  

A race ban is the only clear message.  Remember when Marquez missed the Moto2 finale because of his eye.  He absolutely HATED not being out there.   I think he should take a race off and come back and beat the field properly.  

Not mentioning the achievements of Miller, Zarco en Rins, and the rookies that score a lot of points is a shame in my opinion. 

In this way the loser take it all.. not exactly my favorite perspective for looking at sports

I think as a motogp journalist Matt makes a perfect fit to the category of journalists Cal mentioned in the media debrief. He has been warned!

Plenty of chaos if that's what you like, control is an illusion.

"Any rider who stalls his engine on the grid or who has other difficulties
must remain on the motorcycle and raise an arm. It is not permitted to
attempt to delay the start by any other means."

"Your laws do not apply to me" Billy Bragg

Bring on Cota. Apical 86

Billy Bragg has a fabulous point indeed when struggling with fascism. Perhaps the way Ducati did things in the face of Honda dictating the rule book is a better recent GP example there? Or maybe the way Stoner went fishing in the face of systemic struggles and expectations? Oh! Hayate and Melandri taking the old green bike in black and forward!
However...this is more like Wilco telling Bragg they would do the Woody Guthrie project as equals instead of him relegating them to backing band.

I appreciate perspectives shared here. Multiple perspective taking and allowing evolving of ours both individually and together is a good thing.

After we say simple "good/bad" about things based on a concept adhered to or reaction that "has us" more is possible. Note that this article doesn't support previous assertions of Rossi favoritism eh?

Mat shares appreciation for the excitement of this wild cowboy shoot out spectacle (me too!), and yes this can fit with damning certain actions and tendencies of Marquez. Huge appreciation for the riding skill of Marquez, considering it and his red-mist - oddly fearless/reckless fury as complexly inter-related. And same for Cal, his boister and determination are of his core drive. Rossi's Peter Pan at play in ethereal dance nature has both adaltive brilliance and self involved petulance over the years. One could go on and on, but where I now go to is good old Professor Dovisioso as a welcome contrasting salve.

Agreed that it is a big deal that Canet got a pass. More so that Marquez should have gotten a one race penalty to sit out Austin. Why?

Compounding multiple transgressions, I would not just do addition amongst them, but a multiplier. They stack and become as a whole different in nature. And practically, just like starting on the grid rather than pit lane for everyone but Jack, is just wisely establishing basic safety. Putting MM at the back of a grid in Austin is a paradoxically unwise action. He needs to sit on the side, a time out. Then welcomed when he articulates how he needs to ride to join the racing again.

This is not just a matter of a race in which he continued to ride unsafely despite penalty. It is a third or fourth manifestation of the same sort of thing. First in Moto2, then here.

Marc isn't unique this way. Jorge had his gold helmet disregard for the limit. It was dynamically interrelated with his excellence and triumphant development (his first GP was impossible). Sense was knocked into him by the ground. In this case, the ground would be the chair in his garage during the next race. This is literal.

In the moment, I DID enjoy the Abbott and Costello nuttiness of Marquez bump starting his bike. I wanted him to get back for the start. It was exciting. It was near the end of the race when talking with an old racing friend who, amongst what I think could be described as partial awareness or "Rossi fan" skew, helped me see the big deal safety issue of a start with a racer out of synch. What if the lights had gone out, and the Marshall of all people got caught up in it, not to mention a backwards #93?

I wish Rossi and his team had a bike right now that could give the Honda a good go in all grip levels right now. We could be able to witness a manifestation of this difficulty on the track. Perhaps not for the championship itself (without unusual circumstance), but of race battles. Oh, Yamaha. And Honda - your 2018 bike is amazing.

The one thing I would disagree about here with Mat: remember that there are many sinners at the Argentina race? Yes, of course. (Poor Pedrosa's wrist, hurt yet again. And yes, even he sinned once with his team mate). Not all sins are the same in nature. Patterns of sinning is qualitatively different than one or the occasional. Not excusing Zarco's move, we all saw it and knew it was an unsafe ask given track conditions. But I don't make it an equivalent of MM93's.

"That shalt not covet thy neighbor's race position," that is just a desire or preoccupation. Every racer is guilty of this. Repeated actual forced adultery with many neighbors' positions? Different sin, different sinner. And "thou shalt not kill" is being broached upon here, cardinal offense nudged. Not hyperbole, I lost a friend to a racing incident. My life was changed by a head injury secondary to MY obnoxious prideful spiteful red mist in my last race. Our list of GP racers killed on track is plenty big. Sufficient safety, THEN let the battle commence.

Good article with rather unique perspective, particularly given the subject matter.

"What if the lights had gone out, and the Marshall of all people got caught up in it, not to mention a backwards #93?"..... 

The lights are not on a timer. They need to be activated and at that stage the RED lights hadn’t even been activated, so that is poor reasoning from your friend.  The “riding in reverse direction” penalty was only given as a bureaucratic excuse to issue a penalty.  There was clearly no danger in it being done. 

Who but Marquez could have jumped off his bike with such speed and got it started?  Who but Marquez could have got the bike turned around and back to his grid position in such a small amount of time.  A+ for effort.   If we really consider, it would have taken more time to organise his exit off the grid than it was for him to perform his repositioning in his grid slot. Just a shame that miscommunication set such crazy events in motion to follow...

"Marquez should have gotten a one race penalty to sit out Austin. Why?"

Well of course so someone new gets a chance to win that GP! ;)

Actually one thing that does strike me as odd and that is that I would think all racers have it ingrained that you can never travel in the reverse direction of the race course, at any point, at any time the circuit is active. I believe this is true whether it be two or four wheels. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong but as soon as he turned the bike around I immediately thought, you can't do that! Then I recalled Scott Russell @ Mid-Ohio:

This is in response to those people pointing at Rossi's past misdemeanours where he collided or ran someone off the track, and how that supposedly makes his complaints about Márquez irrelevant. Any time Rossi has been in a conflict it’s while he’s been battling with someone. That’s the big difference between his “hits” and what Márquez did in Argentina. Márquez was far faster than the riders he punted out of his way. There was no battle. It was pure disregard for riders he was passing. That’s the key difference and the one that makes Márquez the culprit this time. It’s similar to when he was intentionally blocking Rossi in Sepang when Rossi called him on it and they collided. Marquez plays by different rules and has no respect for his fellow competitors.