Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP’s young guns and old dogs

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.


MotoGP’s young guns and old dogs

That Qatar race was pretty special and not only because it was hugely entertaining, but because one of the riders battling for victory was almost old enough to be the other’s dad.

Valentino Rossi turned 35 in February, just a few days before Marc Márquez hit 21. That’s an age difference of 14 years, which isn’t something that happens very often in professional sport; in fact, has it ever happened before in motorcycle Grand Prix racing?

Past battles

The question prompted me to trawl through my history books for evidence of a similar generation gap at the sharp end of premier-class GPs.

Leslie Graham is the oldest rider to be crowned 500 king. He won the inaugural 500 World Championship in 1949, just a few days short of his 38th birthday, but he mostly raced against similar-aged racers who like him had had their early racing careers rudely interrupted by the Second World War. Graham had been an RAF bomber pilot, flying Lancasters over Germany.

Of course, it happened on the other side too. Fritz Hillebrand was a Luftwaffe fighter pilot who got shot down and ended the war in a POW camp. In 1957 he won the sidecar world title, but lost his life in a race at Bilbao before the end of the season. Graham had been killed at the TT a few years earlier.

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

Comments

What happens when you get older?

Does fear and common sense start to set in and you take less risks?
Do your feel and senses star to diminish and you are simply less capable?
Do you lose your balls?
Do you lose the fire and desire to take that extra step?

Qualifying seems to be where Rossi is missing it most...isn't that when you need the most balls? In race pace, he can deliver at times, so seems his skills have not really diminished, although they started at the highest level. What about Colin? He was never the fastest, but the way he is being whipped right now implies he just doesn't have it any more at 40. To be THAT far off your teammate on identical machinery....he never was that far behind before, even against Rossi.

I think Rossi will be the most interesting story over the next few races along with Aleix. If he is uncompetitive just like he was last year, why go on racing? He won't get any faster next year!!! I feel this will be the talk of the entire season....

I hope he does well and stays for a couple more years. The sport is better because of his history, personality, fighting spirit and graciousness. And I sooooo want him to beat Jorge (I can dream)!

Food for thought.... :)

Total votes: 47

What makes you think that

What makes you think that Colin is on the same bike?

Total votes: 13

Is he not?

I thought he was. Please explain.

Total votes: 19

At least...

Different fairings, rest is the same

The bikes are identical except for the aerodynamics. Yamaha M1 chassis engine, swingarm, suspension, brakes, etc. just the fairings are different. But the FTR fairing isn't worth 1 second or more.

Total votes: 11

I think if you are battling

I think if you are battling the youngster phenom late in the race for the top step and only finishing 2/10ths behind you are competitive and should probably stick around. Nobody else took it to Marquez in that race...................

Let's see what happens at the next 2 tracks, the Honda favored ones...

Total votes: 39

Quick quiz

What changes/what works?

I think you do get more 'sensible', risk averse or whatever you want to call it. I don't rate Rossi as 'past it' though - you only had to see him at Assen last year or on Sunday to know he can bring a gun to the fight. He has never been a 'qualifier'. I've lost count of the races he starts from the 3rd row, or worse.
Only he and Yamaha probably know the full truth of what changed over the winter. The crew and us can only judge by performance. It seems to be something to do with the front end and his braking style from what gets said.
I think Edwards performance is as much the bike as him. He's a bit older than VR but as his teammate he was always slightly slower, (well, nearly always) but he seemed to gel with the bike that VR liked. Now he has a JL style M1, which Rossi didn't like either. The team cannot afford the same development as the factory, so he has to ride what he's given. Aleix may have the benefit of having a much more JL style in that he uses the rear more than the front, which Colin definitely doesn't according to his interviews over the weekend.
Rossi has been fortunate enough (seemingly, from the tests and this one race) to get the bike changed for his style. CE hasn't. CE has said he wants the FTR frame (which is probably a design he has influenced) whilst Aleix has said he wants to stick with the Yamaha one.
It's not so much the rider as the bike - like golfers/tennis players etc. get clubs etc. tailor made, top racers need their bikes to suit their style. It's not a 'get on and ride it' game IMO.

Total votes: 26

Dogs and sticks and balls

Such interesting stories within stories re the bikes and their fit to certain riders and styles, AND how they evolve and mutually change each other.

Edwards for instance was a 250 rider before the RC51. What a change there! Point on my mind though is that he is a good fit for the Yamaha in general as a front end rider...but the Yamaha has changed so much since Rossi left and Lorenzo was the rider of focus. Was it just me that assumed Edwards would get on great w the 2013 Tech 3 Yamaha right off the bat? He is good at sorting a bike. I want to hear more technical specifics from him particularly around how the chassis has changed, the new Bstone, and most importantly the electronics as they sit now. He may have some room for potential growth.

I am often thinking of what Rossi would be doing on Dani's bike right now. Much better fit.

How well can the 'old dog' get the young pup's ball to fetch when he always used a stick? How much do the big balls of the youngster weigh against the skill of the veteran? It is going much better than I expected for Rossi. He is big and 20L on that bike is crap. LOVE seeing him ride, love seeing him smile, love reading us consider racing rather than rules. Ahhhhh, Spring.
:)

Total votes: 30

Rossi and Marquez

Battling all season long. This is gonna be epic...

Total votes: 21

1:1

Nobody seemed to notice, what we've actually seen on Sunday evening. We saw Rossi in a dogfight for a victory. More than that. We've seen him lose!! a dogfight for a victory. Worlds greatest got beaten fair and square. Truly, I can't remember when was the last time he fought so hard, one on one, and lost.

I dearly hope, that 46 can fight on all races. But let's not forget, in Qatar 2013 He was ultra awsome. And after that, reality kicked in.

Total votes: 22

dogfight for victory lost

The last I remember is against Stoner in Barcelona 2007...

And before that, against Biaggi in Assen 2001 ...

That's not a lot, fight has always been where Rossi is the best, but Marquez is a special pilot...

Total votes: 18

Sorry IML8

I enjoyed the live feed all the way from M3 through MGP and the GP race was certainly worth a re-run. I enjoyed it last night with far less emotional involvement as is oft the case from the couch in the heat of the moment live.
The old dog has certainly not lost his street smarts within the context of any race. This old jaundiced eye questions the race within the prevailing circumstance at the time. Lorenzo out was a bonus, then Bradl, Smith and Bautista bomb. That left Valentino on it against Marc. The penultimate lap was glorious to behold, but the last lap was a damp squib. Dani hates the place.
The damp squib. Valentino and nailbiting sundry races. I can't list them here. Those who have been around the block know my angle. Bottom line, had it been Biaggi, Gibernau, Stoner or Lorenzo alongside him on the last lap, they would have been tossed under the bridge or dumped in the gravel. Why all the courtesy afforded to Marc? Not that he gives a hoot anyway. Hug a snake and he will still bite you. Highlight for me was Ducati's statistical progress. Not position per se, given the attrition, but elapsed time circa the winner. Joe Maniac ... damn! He was running podium pace, while he was on board. To go full circle, that is Valentino's great strength, self imposed crashes have never been his forte'.

Total votes: 16

Kid Gloves

Well, maybe Rossi handled the kid with kid gloves. Maybe not.
I agree he's made harder passes on other opponents, but that doesn't mean he was taking it easy last Sunday. It was the first race of a long season. With Lorenzo sitting in the pits, maybe Rossi thought it wiser not to incur every possible risk.

Marquez was out of shape on a few occasions. If he had taken Rossi out, the headlines would read, "Young upstart not mistake-proof yet." People would grumble, Marquez would get some sort of penalty point(s), and that would probably be the end of it.

If Rossi had taken Marquez out, the headlines would likely have been something like, "Fading veteran makes desperate, ill-advised maneuver in futile attempt to hold back the new king of Moto GP." As the older, wiser statesman, Rossi is held to a different standard, and he knows it.

Having said all that, if the championship is close later in the season, I have a feeling Rossi will be in the mood to take risks.

Total votes: 24

Exactly

I don't think Rossi has really changed. Hard and sometimes a bit unfair fights in the past were against pilots for championship contest: Biaggi (+ they hate each other), Gibernau, Stoner, Lorenzo.

Against Barros, Gibernau before 2004, Melandri, Pedrosa = no title contest and Rossi was "cool".

Today he is a guy with 3 victories in 4 years ... and Marquez the new hero.

If by some miracle (i have some doubts), he can fight for the title, his behaviour will change.

Time will tell.

Total votes: 15

practice

it just came to me that the first round, there is extra practice.
a few years ago dorna dropped the amount of practice by quite a bit. Around the time rossi started to loose touch. could that be one answer to rossi woes.

Total votes: 11

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