Monthly Archives: November 2018

COUCH POTATO

It’s amazing how much easier it is to commentate on a MotoGP™ race from your couch at home with a cup of tea in your hand. Why is it you see everything that is going on? Every pass, every mistake and every fastest lap just comfortably appears in front of you with such great clarity while in the confines of the commentary box with all the relevant facts and figures pinned on the wall around me, I could still miss things. I certainly now understand why viewers can get so annoyed and shout at the screen – Perhaps it’s that cup of tea that makes the difference. 

For the first time in 39 years I watched this year’s MotoGP World Championship from the outside and it was amazing experience for somebody who has been so involved for so long. It certainly made me realise what a truly unbelievable Championship it is. It’s absolutely made for the television viewer and very rarely have they switched over to watch its four wheel counterpart while any of the three Championship races have been on screen. 

Watching at first was so difficult but I got used to it and to the relief of the people around me stopped commentating from the couch by the time we got to Assen. I thought Dovizioso was going to win the title and just loved those battles with Marquez. I marvelled at Marquez’s ability to hang on and even pop his shoulder back into place when he didn’t. I so enjoyed watching that pure style of Lorenzo at last getting to grips with the Ducati and raised a glass to Rossi. Signing a new two deal with his 40thbirthday on the horizon, setting up a team that won the Moto2™ World Championship for Peko Bagnaia, cheering his step – brother on to his first grand prix win is the story of a true legend. I just wish he’d won in Malaysia. I celebrated that Moto3™ title with Jorge Martin after handing over so many Tissot Pole position watches to him over the years and woke up the neighbours celebrating Cal Crutchlow’s win in Argentina. I was sad to see the departure of Scott Redding and not just for those amazing haircuts. He’s done so much to increase the popularity of the sport in Britain since that 2008 win at Donington Park. Also the departure of the likeable Alvaro Bautista after an amazing career in all three classes.

Of course I missed so many things apart from the racing. Breakfast at Ducati, watching the football over a beer and discussing the prospects of the Cornish Pirates Rugby team at Alpine stars. The commentary box humour, checking how Oxford United have fared on my phone in the middle of the Qualifying press conference and of course the friendship and camaraderie that so long in the paddock brings.

Most of all I’ve missed that amazing feeling at 14.00 on a Sunday afternoon when the lights switched from red. That’s a unique moment that is such a privilege to have  experienced and can never be repeated.

By | November 23rd, 2018|Uncategorised|Comments Off on COUCH POTATO

Dani Pedrosa – a MotoGP legend?

Dani Pedrosa draws his career to a close this weekend in Valencia after a long and successful career, prompting discussion about what does a rider need to achieve to be given the designation of a legend. Well let’s look at what he has achieved:

  • This weekend he will be making his 295thGP starts. Only Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi has made more GP starts.
  • 54 grand prix wins – making him 7thin the all-time GP winners list.
  • 31 wins in the premier-class – 8thin the all-time list
  • 153 grand prix podium finishes – third on the all-time list after Rossi and Giacomo Agostini (Lorenzo is currently on 152 podium finishes, so could equal Pedrosa’s total this weekend)
  • 112 premier-class podium finishes – third on the all-time list after Rossi and Lorenzo.
  • He has won at least one grand prix every year for 16 successive years from 2002 to 2017. This is the record as the longest sequence of successive years that a rider has achieved at least one grand prix victory.
  • He won at least one race in the MotoGP class every year for twelve successive seasons. The only other rider to have achieved this in the premier-class is Giacomo Agostini.
  • He has had the fourth longest winning career in grand prix racing after Rossi, Capirossi and Angel Nieto.
  • He has the third longest winning career in the premier-class after Rossi and Alex Barros.
  • In 2003 he became the second youngest ever 125cc world champion after Loris Capirossi.
  • In his debut race in the 250cc class in South Africa in 2004 he became the youngest ever 250cc grand prix race winner.
  • Also in 2004 he became the youngest ever 250cc world champion and the youngest rider to win a title in two different classes.
  • In 2005 he retained the 250cc world title making him the youngest rider to be three times a world champion.
  • He has been runner-up in the MotoGP world championship on three occasions; in 2007 behind Casey Stoner, in 2010 & 2012 to Jorge Lorenzo.
  • Comparing to the rider some think of as the greatest of all-time: in his thirteen years in the MotoGP class he has finished ahead on Valentino Rossi in the world championship on six occasions.

Although Pedrosa never achieved that dream MotoGP title, that is perhaps due to circumstances outside his control: his small physical stature, a fragile body and being around at a time when the premier-class is more competitive than ever with such other great riders as Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo and Marquez.

Stand up and take a bow Dani – a true motorcycle grand prix racing legend!

 

By | November 17th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|Comments Off on Dani Pedrosa – a MotoGP legend?

Party time in Valencia

No World Championships to be decided this time round and so it’s party time in Valencia before the 2019 season gets underway on Tuesday. Enjoy Sunday night because by Tuesday morning those 19 Grands Prix this year are a thing of the past as the first test of the new season get underway. MotoGP™ can certainly never be accused of standing still but thank goodness the test does not start on the Monday as it used to. Plenty of sore heads out on the track, in pit lane and in the media centre on those best to be forgotten Monday mornings which would also include test rides on the MotoGP™ machines for selected members of the media causing more headaches for the teams and not caused by the night before.

This is the 20th Grand Prix to be staged at Valencia with that first race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in 1999. The circuit has staged the final Grand Prix for the last 17 years making it the venue that has staged the final event on most occasions. The MotoGP™ title has been decided on four occasions in Valencia. Who will forget 2006 when Nicky Hayden clinched the title finishing third after Valentino Rossi had crashed out. The decency and sportsmanship of Nicky’s Dad Earl knocking on the door of Rossi’s motorhome to offer his condolences before returning to celebrate his son’s title. It was a total contrast in 2015. Never in the 69-year history of the sport has there been such a poisonous acrimonious build up to a race, let alone before one that would decide the title. Never has a race sparked so much global interest in the Marquez/Rossi war that resulted in the title going to Jorge Lorenzo. There was certainly no knocking on motorhome doors that time round. Marquez clinched his first MotoGP™ title at Valencia in 2013 and his fourth last year.

Beware this year’s World Champions Marc Marquez, Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin. There has never been a year when the three Championship winners have all won their respective races since the final round has been staged in Valencia.

Dani Pedrosa bows out of Grand Prix racing on Sunday at a circuit he has won more races than any other rider. Four MotoGP™ wins are joined by two 250s and one in the 125cc class. A final goodbye from Dani with a victory would certainly spark a big party. Not perhaps everybody in the fountain, hotel furniture in the swimming pool, Brazilian police being called with the hotel waterfall being diverted into the lobby and guns being fired into the ceiling of the Zoom Zoom club in Goiania in the hellraising non-social media days of the eighties and nineties but never the less one hell of a party to rightly celebrate a fantastic career.

By | November 16th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Party time in Valencia

Valencia Grand Prix facts and statistics

  • This year will be the 20thGrand Prix of Valencia, which has been held every year at the Ricardo Tormo circuit since the first visit in 1999.
  • This will be the 17thsuccessive year that Valencia has hosted the final race of the season, making it the circuit that has been the venue for the final event of the year on most occasions. It has been the final event of the year throughout the MotoGP era.
  • The Valencia circuit is named after Spanish racer Ricardo Tormo, who won the 50cc world title riding for Bultaco in 1978 and 1981. In addition to his 15 Grand Prix victories in the 50cc class he also had 4 wins in the 125cc class.  His career ended in 1984 due to leg injuries suffered in a crash whilst test riding. Tormo sadly died from leukaemia in 1998.
  • Dani Pedrosa is the most successful rider at the Valencia circuit with seven wins; four in MotoGP, two in 250cc, and one in the 125cc class. The next most successful rider is Jorge Lorenzo with four wins in Valencia, all in the MotoGP class.
  • The premier-class race at Valencia has been won ten times by Spanish riders; Sete Gibernau won the 500cc race on a Suzuki in 2001; Dani Pedrosa won the MotoGP race in 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2017; Jorge Lorenzo won in 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016; Marc Marquez won four years ago.
  • The last non-Spanish rider to win the MotoGP race in Valencia was Casey Stoner in 2011.
  • Since the introduction of the four-stroke MotoGP formula in 2002, Honda has been the most successful manufacturer with nine victories at the Valencia circuit, including last year with Dani Pedrosa.
  • Yamaha has had five MotoGP wins at the Valencia circuit, the last of which was with Jorge Lorenzo in 2016.
  • Ducati have had two MotoGP wins in Valencia: with Troy Bayliss in 2006 and Casey Stoner in 2008.
  • Andrea Iannone’s third place finish in 2016 is the only podium at Valencia by a Ducati rider since Stoner finished second in 2010.
  • Suzuki’s only podium at Valencia in the MotoGP era is a third place finish with John Hopkins in 2007.
  • The MotoGP race at Valencia has only twice been won by a rider who has not qualified on the front row –  Marc Marquez in 2014 and Dani Pedrosa last year, on both occasions from fifth place on the grid.
  • At least one of the three classes at the Valencia Grand Prix has been won by a Spanish rider for the last nine years.
  • Valentino Rossi is the only rider to have competed at all nineteen previous grand prix events that have taken place at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
  • There has never been a year when the three world championship winners have all won their respective races at the final event of the season since it has been held in Valencia.
  • The MotoGP title has been decided on four occasions in Valencia: in 2006 in favour of Nicky Hayden, 2013 – Marc Marquez, 2015 – Jorge Lorenzo and 2017 – Marc Marquez.
  • The eight Moto2 races that have taken place in Valencia have been won by eight different riders: 2010 – Karel Abraham, 2011 – Michele Pirro, 2012 – Marc Marquez, 2013 – Nico Terol, 2014 – Tom Luthi, 2015 – Tito Rabat, 2016 – Johann Zarco and 2017 – Miguel Oliveira.
  • The Intermediate-class world championship has been decided on four occasions in Valencia: in 2003 the 250cc title in favour of Manuel Poggiali, 2006 – Jorge Lorenzo (250cc), 2009 – Hiroshi Aoyama (250cc) and 2011 – Stefan Bradl (Moto2)
  • The six Moto3 races that have taken place in Valencia have been won by six different riders: 2012 – Danny Kent, 2013 – Maverick Viñales, 2014 – Jack Miller 2015 – Miguel Oliveira, 2016 – Brad Binder and 2017 – Jorge Martin. Prior to Martin’s win last year on a Honda, all of the Moto3 races at Valencia had been won by KTM.
  • The Lightweight-class world championship has been decided on eight occasions in Valencia: in 2002 the 125 cc title in favour of Arnaud Vincent, 2005 – Tom Luthi (125cc), 2007 – Gabor Talmacsi (125cc), 2010 – Marc Marquez (125cc), 2011 – Nico Terol (125cc), 2013 – Maverick Viñales (Moto3), 2014 – Alex Marquez (Moto3) and 2015 – Danny Kent (Moto3).
By | November 14th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|Comments Off on Valencia Grand Prix facts and statistics

So close

It was so so close to the absolute perfect day in Malaysia for a rider who has experienced so many in that amazing career. Four laps from the finish of the MotoGP™ race at the Shell Malaysia Grand Prix on Sunday Valentino Rossi was on course to experience a day that most sportsman at any level can only dream about.

His step brother Luca Marini had just won his first Grand Prix after victory in the Moto2™ race. Marini’s team-mate Francesco (Pecco) Bagnaia clinched the Moto2™ World title after finishing third in the same race and both riding for Rossi’s Sky Racing Team VR46 team. Could it get any better – yes was the answer because Vale himself was leading the MotoGP™ race as they flashed across the line at Sepang with four laps remaining. Just over 22km remaining on the red-hot tarmac before the 39 year old Italian would be celebrating his first win of the season to end a perfect day even by his incredible standards.

Nine World titles and 115 Grands Prix wins in 22 years of Grand Prix racing have taught Vale never to count his chickens, never presume in any circumstances in a sport that has a habit of wrecking the party just as you are putting up the decorations and the guests are about to arrive. Less than ten seconds after racing past his pit board telling him Marc Marquez was closing he went down at turn one in front of a sea of yellow flags in the Rossi grandstand.

The perfect day may have been ruined but this should take nothing away from the Sepang experience that is the perfect illustration on why the man from Tavulla has had a bigger impact and influence both on and off the track than any other rider in the 69-year history of the sport. Who else at 39 years old could lead a MotoGP™ race for so long in such sweltering conditions around one of the most demanding race tracks in the 19 race calendar? Who else would form his own team after being dismayed at the lack of young Italian talent on the world scene and then build a dirt track and ranch to train with the youngsters who have gone on to become World Champions? Who else could protect and deal with the publicity the arrival of his step brother in the World Championship generated and then help him become a Grand Prix winner.

Who else would have already announced his plans to carry on racing for at least two more years as he approaches that dreaded 40th birthday? Who else would just relish the fact that his protégés are now lining up to take him on in the ultimate MotoGP™ test with the latest World Champion Bagnaia joining Jack Miller next season in the Alma Pramac Ducati team?

There is nobody else because there is only one person and his name is Valentino Rossi.

By | November 9th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on So close

The Times They Are A-Changin’…..

These words from the Bob Dylan song came to mind as I watched the MotoGP podium presentation in Malaysia, with all three riders having graduated from the Moto2 class; the fourth time in 2018 that this had occurred (having only once happened prior to this year, at Misano in 2015). Is the balance of power finally changing in MotoGP from the dominance of the ex-250cc riders to riders coming through from Moto2? 

Looking at the numbers of podium finishers in MotoGP by Moto2 riders for each year since 2011:

2011 – 0

2012 – 0

2013 – 17 (Marquez – 16, Bradl – 1)

2014 – 15 (Marquez – 14, Smith – 1)

2015 –  14 (Marquez – 9, Iannone – 3, Redding – 1, Smith – 1)

2016 –  21 (Marquez – 12, Iannone – 4, Vinales – 4, Redding – 1)

2017 –  23 (Marquez – 12, Vinales – 7, Zarco – 3, Folger – 1)

2018 (with one race remaining)    30 (Marquez – 14, Vinales – 5, Iannone – 4, Rins – 4, Zarco – 3)

These number show that since 2015 there has been a steady increase in both the number of MotoGP podium finishes by Moto2 graduates and the number of riders achieving these. Irrespective of what happens in Valencia, the number of podiums by ex-Moto2 riders will be more than 50% of those available in 2018 and five of the ten riders who have finished on the podium this year also come from this group.

So does this confirm that “The Times Are A-Changin”? Well with the retirement of Dani Pedrosa, and Alvaro Bautista going to WSBK, the honour of the 250cc GP graduates now depend on just five riders next year in MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso, Karel Abraham, Aleix Espargaro, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Predicting what will happen next year in MotoGP is not something I will try, I would rather taking something from these  word of wisdom from the Bob Dylan song:

“Come writers and critics, Who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide, The chance won’t come again

And don’t speak too soon, For the wheel’s still in spin

And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’.

For the loser now will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin’.”

By | November 6th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|Comments Off on The Times They Are A-Changin’…..

Early start

The sold-out signs are being printed for Sepang this Sunday as MotoGP™ mad Malaysia prepares for the penultimate round of the Championship. What a turn around. Remember those early days at Sepang. You could count the number of spectators in some of those vast grandstands with the amazing roofs. We would sit in the stand that towered above the back straight eating our hamburgers purchased from a deserted stall in the mall watching a practice session and we would be the only people there.

I first went to Sepang which is situated close to Kuala Lumpur International airport in 1999 to work at the Formula Car race and returned a year later for MotoGP™. The contrast was enormous with Kuala Lumpur buzzing about the arrival of Formula One at this state of the art glitzy shiny circuit and paying little interest in the bikes; so what happened to produce such a total transformation in two decades. Formula One has gone through dwindling crowds and interest and MotoGP™ has exploded.

The very nature of the two sports has helped with the pure excitement of close racing and overtaking on two wheels bringing the crowds flocking. You only have to stop at any set of traffic lights in Kuala Lumpur to realise just what a vast market Malaysia and the rest of the Far East is to the major motorcycle manufacturers. Ticket prices and facilities to suit the customers by the forward-thinking SIC Ceo Dato Razlan Razali has embraced all these facts while four times Sepang has witnessed the crowning of a new MotoGP™ World Champion, being the penultimate round definitely has its advantages. Finally, the adulation of Valentino Rossi that has lifted many a circuit into the black and a decent bank balance has never been more obvious.

The Doctor has won six times in Sepang on both Honda and Yamaha machinery and in the 500cc and MotoGP™ classes. Three times he’s clinched the MotoGP™ World Championship in 2003, 2005 and 2009 with his then team-mate Jorge Lorenzo winning the title at Sepang a year later although typically Rossi won the race and stole the limelight.

You could not imagine the total contrast in the facilities between Sepang and when we arrived for that very first Malaysian Grand Prix 27 years ago at Shah Alam. Full marks to the old circuit which ironically was situated near the old International airport before they both switched to pastures new but just as close. Shah Alam laid the very foundations for today’s success story staging seven Malaysian Grands Prix before Johor took over for a single year. Sepang hosted its first motorcycle Grand Prix in 1999 with Kenny Roberts victorious on the 500cc Suzuki.

The Sepang circuit will be jammed to the very rafters of those amazing grandstands on Sunday. It’s more like being at a massive football match with adrenalin fuelled noise, excitement and colour; that’s before the racing even gets underway. The only problem is that you have to leave the hotel an awful lot earlier than you ever did all those years ago.

A very small price to pay to enjoy a Grand Prix that is the perfect illustration of the MotoGP™ revolution that has transformed the sport over the last two decades.

By | November 2nd, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Early start