Guest Blog: Mat Oxley: A changing of the guard in MotoGP

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.


A changing of the guard in MotoGP

That was quite a weekend in all kinds of ways. But most of all it was a changing of the guard. As Marc Márquez rode his victory lap at Valencia, cheered all the way by the frenzied Spanish crowd, Valentino Rossi rode back to his pit for the last time to be greeted by Jeremy Burgess. When JB and VR started working together at Jerez in December 1999, kid genius Márquez was six years old and had just started motocross.

You can imagine the atmosphere in both pits was somewhat different: complete joy at Repsol Honda, sad goodbyes on one side of the Yamaha garage, the inexorable rise of the young warrior and the gradual, inevitable demise of an old warhorse.

A history of success

I found myself getting a bit emotional about JB’s departure. During my rookie season as a GP journo – 1988 – JB was working with defending champ Wayne Gardner. WG was having a horrible year: every race looked like a fight to the death with his Honda NSR500. The previous year’s NSR had been a sweet-handling (ish) rocketship – good enough to take Gardner to the title ahead of Eddie Lawson’s Yamaha.

But, as was the tradition in those days, HRC changed their whole 500 GP engineering group for the following season and the new engineers created a horrible piece of machinery, which tried to kill Gardner every time he got on it.

Finally JB got out the hacksaw and the welding kit, cut and shut the frame and the swingarm and all of a sudden Gardner was on a roll. He won three straight races and was leading a humdinger of a race at Circuit Paul Ricard (arguably the greatest premier-class confrontation of all time) when his engine ate itself. The title returned to Lawson and Yamaha.

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

Comments

Terrific.

Well writen and personal without any unecessary sweetening of things. And it gives me a better perspective of the situation.

Read it guys.

Total votes: 30

Difficult to know

what is 'between the lines' in all this.
The strongest hint is perhaps JB seeming to say he doesn't know what could be done to make the bike faster.
If I was Rossi (which is difficult to imagine!) that absence of faith in being able to do something is perhaps the key to the question of 'why' the change was made.
Even Nakamoto is saying 'the bike isn't good enough we need to improve corner speed' - he wants the capability of the Yamaha and Honda combined. Rossi just wants the same.
I hope that in changing this '20%' Rossi can find that little extra, or motivate Yamaha to provide something. Superb performance demands commitment and belief from everyone. Nothing against JB in this - it is just that VR is perhaps less close to his retirement than JB was and perhaps it should have been boxed-off at the end of the Ducati deal.

Total votes: 30

Need more hacksaws

I love the story about fixing the frame. That probably took a day or 2 for JB to do and Gardner went from losing to winning.

How many frames did Ducati produce while JB/VR were there? And the Aluminum one was built to act like the carbon fiber one that didn't work!

One of the bad things about the CF frame was that it took so long to build. They had to cook it. The Aluminum one could be produced more quickly; it had less lead time. Unfortunately, the engine was big part of it.

Someone at Ducati needed to take a hacksaw to the frame and change things, but they kept insisting on doing things incrementally. Tossing out the CF frame was radical, but they wanted to keep the new one similar.

I hope the new management does something different. It may be less or more successful, but doing things the same isn't improving things.

To put this with the JB/VR thing, VR isn't getting the results he thinks he should be getting, so it's time for a change. JB has been phenomenal for every rider he's worked with. If JB were minded to, I'd imagine he could do great things for any rider. But... VR needs to change. It's not that JB isn't the best or anyone else would be better.

Total votes: 28

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