Guest Blog: Mat Oxley: Bike racing’s long and winding road
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 will be featuring sections of Oxley's blogs, posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website, over the coming months.
Sunday’s opening superbike round at Phillip Island was interesting in all kinds of ways, but what struck me was where the riders doing the winning had come from.
They certainly weren’t men steeped in the ways of four-stroke production racing from their earliest days. Factory Aprilia riders Eugene Laverty and Sylvain Guintoli – who won a race each on Sunday – did their World Championship apprenticeships on struggle-street in 250 GPs, battling against the odds on ancient machinery.
It’s never much fun seeking out the dispossessed in the GP paddock – you take a long walk to find them, past the gleaming factory team juggernauts, past the glittering hospitality units and there they are at the poor end of pit lane, nursing their bruised talent and looking miserable because they know they are fighting an impossible battle. In fact both Laverty and Guintoli wore brave faces during their early days on the world scene, but that never hid the fact that they worried their talent might never be rewarded with the right machinery.
Laverty did 250 GPs in 2008 and 2009, and it was hard not to feel sorry for him throughout those two seasons when even a top 10 finish was just a crazy dream. In 2008 the Irishman rode an old Aprilia RS250, and when I say old, I don’t mean last year’s, or even the year before that, or the year before that. The Aprilia that Laverty raced against the box-fresh factory bikes of Marco Simoncelli and Alvaro Bautista wasn’t that far off being considered eligible for classic racing. It had been manufactured in 2002!
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.