Monthly Archives: February 2018

LAWN MOWER AND PARISH NEWS REPLACE VALE AND MARC

I’d be lying to say I do not feel a bit strange at the moment as the new MotoGP season beckons. For the first time in 38 years I’m not involved but I’ve filled the time in by buying a lawn mower and writing features for the Cumnor Parish News. I’ve also had a bit of a think what I will miss most about not being in Qatar for that opening race in three weeks’ time.

Saturday and Sunday breakfasts at Ducati where they called me Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. Best scrambled eggs in the world.

The very British IRTA enclave in the paddock with cups of tea and British television on tap. Keith Huewen from BT Sport was a great tea maker.

Watching Premier League football with Matt Birt and Steve Day in Alpine Stars Hospitality on Saturday nights while discussing the fortunes of Cornish Pirates Rugby Club with Jeremy Appleton over a beer. It was always good if Arsenal and Leicester won and Spurs lost.

Alerting the Manchester – based studio of BBC World Service it was time to put the kettle on because I always rang at tea time, 15.00 on a Sunday afternoon with the race report.

Sneaking a read of the free copy of the Daily Mail on British Airways flights without Gavin Emmett from BT Sport noticing.

Suppressing uncontrollable laughter when somebody, often myself, had produced a rather nasty smell in the commentary box. Very childish but very funny.

Remembering Dylan’s name down in pit lane.

Practicing the pronunciation of the name of the Tissot Representative who was awarding the Qualifying watch winners, with MotoGP Media Manger Frine Velilla. I still got it wrong.

Checking the Oxford United full time score on my phone while the pole setters were answering my questions in the Qualifying press conference.

Locking myself in my office at Phillip Island in Australia when the python arrived to be draped over the riders shoulders in the pre-event photo-shoot.

That first cold beer on a Sunday night when work had finally finished.

Hoping that Valentino Rossi would not say f….. too many times in the press conference.

Trying to compose good questions for Cal Crutchlow because his answers sometimes scared me.

Trying not to say thank-you too many times to Marc Marquez in the press conferences.

So many great bars and restaurants but must mention Don Pepe in Jerez, Isle of Wight Pub in Phillip Island, The Brewery in Brno and the Sami Sami hotel bar and street food in Malaysia to name but a few.

Trying to keep up with Matt Birt as he strode through airports like Usain Bolt at a million miles per hour. It was something I never achieved especially on those escalators.

Being told to shut the f…… up in my headphones by Spanish producer Victor when the TV broadcast was coming to an end.

Staying at a Castle with a moat and drawbridge in Austria.

There are very a few things I won’t miss but seriously I’m already missing so much this truly incredible sport and the amazing people who work in it. That’s it, no more time for reminiscing I’ve got to trim the hedge and get that lawn ready for its first cut!

By | February 22nd, 2018|Nick's Blog|11 Comments

THE GOLDEN ERA OF GRAND PRIX RACING

There is often debate on which is the “Golden Era” of motorcycle grand prix racing. Is it the early years of the world championship in the 1950’s, or perhaps the 1960’s when the Japanese manufacturers invested huge amounts to become successful. Or maybe the 1970’s which saw the start of what we now consider the “modern era” of grand prix racing when the original closed road circuits gave way to purpose built tracks. Or the great times of 1980s into the early 1990s when fierce rivalries between a handful of riders from USA and Australia tamed the fearsome 500cc 2-strokes. Then there is the emergence of the four-stroke MotoGP class in 2002 which also coincided with the career of one Valentino Rossi.

I have been following motorcycle grand prix racing for 50 years, covering most of the era’s mentioned about, but for me it is none of these. The Golden Era is now! When I ventured this opinion of Twitter recently, someone asked, why do I consider this the Golden Era. Well here are a few reasons:

  • Fantastic depth of talent: Of the 24 riders on the full-time MotoGP entry list for 2018, 12 are grand prix world champions and 21 of them have stood on the top step of a grand prix podium, with a total of 461 GP victories between them.
  • Competitive machinery: All 24 riders on the grid have bikes either supplied direct from the factory or indirectly as a “satellite” rider. Added to this the rule changes over recent years have resulted in bikes that are more closely matched than ever before.
  • Close racing: Due to the great depth of talent and competitive machinery, the racing last year was closer than ever with seven of the twelve closest premier-class grand prix races occurring in 2017 (more detail in my previous blog: www.nick-harris.co.uk/how-close-will-motogp-be-in-2018)
  • Unpredictable: Over the last 50 MotoGP races there have been nine different winners. Over this period no single rider has dominated in terms of race wins, Marquez with 15 victories is the rider who has stood on the top step of the podium most. The other wins are distributed as follows: Lorenzo – 10, Dovizioso – 7, Pedrosa – 5, Rossi – 5, Vinales – 4, Crutchlow – 2 and one each for Iannone and Miller.
  • Nineteen races: The 2018 race schedule has added another new circuit to the calendar to bring the number of races up to a record 19, across 15 different countries. Although the addition of an extra race is not universally popular with everyone working in the MotoGP paddock, it is great for the fans!
  • Great worldwide following: As Nick stated in an earlier blog (www.nick-harris.co.uk/over-two-and-a-half-millions-fans-cant-be-wrong/), the number of fans turning up at the race tracks to watch the races is at a record level and the TV audience continues to increase each year. Added to that is the enormous number of fans who follow the sport online and on Social Media.
  • Fierce rivalry: The rivalry between the current top riders means that on track no quarter is asked or given, providing incredible close racing.

So while it is always fun to look back nostalgically to past era’s and discuss the great races and riders (through rose tinted spectacles?), never forget that in 20 years’ time what is happening NOW will be remembered as THE “Golden Era”.

By | February 15th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|1 Comment

ILL – YOU WOULD HAVE NEVER GUESSED

The great thing about us blokes is we never moan or go on about it when the dreaded flu or in most cases heavy cold strikes at the end of January. I would not think of telling just how rotten I’ve felt for the last week and a half because we just get on with it and never moan especially to our partners.

However, while not moaning of course, it did give me the chance of taking a longer look than normal at some other sports on the television and in the newspapers. The superb three days of MotoGP testing went ahead in Sepang unnoticed and in most cases totally unreported which is no great surprise on the evidence of last season. The 2018 MotoGP season looks like another superb spectacle of close racing and pure excitement in front of record crowds and especially at the new Far East venue in Thailand. So how are the other Motorsport World Championships reacting and shaping up.

I was excited to find a double page spread in my favourite Daily Newspaper, despite the paper failing to mention Marc Marquez had clinched the 2017 Moto in their Monday edition after Valencia, about the Formula One World Championship. Would it look into new rule changes and plans to freshen up the sport they devote so many column inches to during the season. I was disappointed to find that while the Sepang test was not mentioned a lot of space was taken up telling us how Formula One was going to replace Grid Girls with Grid Kids this coming season. Some would argue replacing some of the complicated rules and making the racing a trifle more exciting might have been a greater priority.

Football rules in Britain and most of the world which is reflected in its wall to wall coverage. While not moaning of course, I even had to miss Oxford United’s brilliant away win at Charlton on Saturday because of my ailment, blimey I must have been actually poorly. One of the big talking points has been the use of Video Action Replays in certain games to check if the ball has crossed the line and important offside positions. The trouble was it took a long time for the video referee back in the studio on some distant trading estate to make the final decision. It was a bit like not letting the riders onto the rostrum because VAR had still not decided the winner. It will work in football with a bit of fine tuning and you only have to look how Tissot’s instant finish line pictures determine race and rostrum finishers in MotoGP.

I watched and marvelled at the unbelievable play of Roger Federer in the Australian Open Tennis. What an athlete and competitor showing as much unbridled enthusiasm and pure joy of playing his chosen sport as a young teenager in his very first season. It all has a familiar ring to it. Swap the tennis court to the race track and there stands Valentino Rossi. Proper sporting legends are few and far between and these two are right up there with the gods of their chosen profession.

Finally I love cricket and during the last couple of weeks have tried to recoup the considerable amount of cash I owe Jerry Burgess, Rossi’s former Crew Chief. For over a quarter of a century we have always bet of the England /Australia Ashes series and I think I’ve paid him enough cash to finance his times with Honda, Ducati and Yamaha all put together and this year looks no exception. Don’t worry I’ll get the call from Adelaide reminding me of the exact amount.

By the way thanks for asking and I’m feeling much better now. Not that you would have ever known I’d been ill.

By | February 8th, 2018|Nick's Blog|3 Comments

How close will MotoGP be in 2018?

All evidence from the first MotoGP test of the year in Sepang is that the racing in 2018 will be just as close and fierce as 2017 which was a record breaking season for close premier-class grand prix races.

Last year the record books were being re-written nearly every weekend, starting with the opening race of the year when the 15th place finisher Tito Rabat crossed the line just 29.47 seconds behind race winner Maverick Vinales. This was the second closest top 15 finish of all-time in the premier-class, after the 29.296 seconds covering the top 15 finishers at Brno in 2006. This was just a sign of things to come over the other 17 races of 2017.

There was another indication in Qatar that the depth of field in the MotoGP class, in terms of both riders and machinery, is greater than ever. Sam Lowes, who recorded the slowest “fastest lap” in the MotoGP race posted a lap just 1.891 seconds slower than the fastest lap of the race set by Johann Zarco. Never before in the MotoGP class have there been 23 riders that have posted a lap time within two seconds of the fastest lap set during a race.

At the second race of 2017 in Argentina, the fastest lap of the MotoGP was set by Maverick Viñales with a time of 1 minute 39.694 seconds. During the course of the race another sixteen riders set lap times within one second of this fastest lap time; the first time in a MotoGP race that seventeen riders have posted lap times within one second of the fastest lap of the race.

At the third race of 2017 in Austin, 11th place finisher in Austin, Jonas Folger, crossed the line just 18.903 seconds behind race winner Marc Marquez – the closest top eleven of the MotoGP era.

At Mugello, tenth place finisher Andrea Iannone, crossed the line just 15.502 seconds after race winner Andrea Dovizioso, which was the closest ever top ten finish in the MotoGP class in a race that has run for full distance. This record was re-written again during 2017 when 14.075 seconds covered the top ten finishers in Aragon.

It is worth noting that it was not only in the MotoGP class that records for close racing were being set; at Mugello the 15th place finisher in the Moto3 race, Jorge Martin, crossed the line just 1.553 seconds behind race winner Andrea Migno; the closest top 15 in any class in the 69 year history of motorcycle grand prix racing.

By the end of the season the list for closest top 15 finishes of all-time in the premier-class looked like this:

Year Circuit Race winner Time covering first 15 riders across the line (sec)
1 2017 ARAGON Marc Marquez 26.082
2 2017 AUSTRALIA Marc Marquez 26.168
3 2017 RED BULL RING Andrea Dovizioso 28.096
4 2006 BRNO Loris Capirossi 29.296
5 2017 QATAR Maverick Vinales 29.47
6 2001 PHILLIP ISLAND Valentino Rossi 29.738
7 2005 BRNO Valentino Rossi 29.768
8 2017 MUGELLO Andrea Dovizioso 30.779
9 2015 LOSAIL Valentino Rossi 33.625
10 2017 SILVERSTONE Andrea Dovizioso 33.901
11 2007 JEREZ Valentino Rossi 36.744
12 2017 SACHSENRING Marc Marquez 37.771

 

This shows that seven of the closest twelve races of all-time occurred in 2017! And it was not only down to 15th place that racing was close in 2017, on eight occasions the winning margin was less than one second.

The 2018 season will be the 70th season of motorcycle grand prix racing, and on an historical note, in 1949 only the first five riders across the line scored world championship points. The average time covering these top five riders in 1949 was 3 minutes 20 seconds (although it must be said that the races were rather longer back in 1949, taking anything from 1 hour 16 minutes, up to 3 hours!)

The opening test of 2018 is an indication that this close racing could continue in this season. How many days is it to the opening race if the year in Qatar?

By | February 1st, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on How close will MotoGP be in 2018?