Monthly Archives: July 2019

Northern soul

There has been plenty of midnight sun, ice racing, vodka sampling, saunas in the forests by the lake, smorgasbord, Mika Kallio and even the end of the Abba era but there has been no grand prix motorcycle racing for nearly three decades but this could change in the future.

The long awaited and much anticipated return of MotoGP to Scandinavia took a giant step forward with the first test at the brand new KymiRing circuit in Finland.

It’s 29 long years since the last Swedish Grand Prix was held at the Anderstorp circuit. You have to go back another eight years to the last grand prix to be staged in Finland in 1982 at the legendary Imatra circuit.

Two more contrasting circuits both on and off the track would be hard to imagine. Anderstorp the flat aerodrome track south of Gothenburg which you entered through an industrial estate. Imatra the road circuit snaking through the forest next to the lake and the outskirts of the town just a couple of kilometres from the Russian border.

Anderstorp where it was difficult to buy alcohol and where a gang of Hells Angels had set up camp in the nearby forest. Imatra where buying alcohol and especially vodka was never a problem and where the partying in the midnight sun was a legendary part of the weekend.

Anderstorp where many a Championship was won and lost because the Swedish Grand Prix was always near the end of the season. Freddie Spencer and Kenny Roberts had a mighty coming together on the last lap in the penultimate round in 1983. Freddie surprised Kenny with his aggression to take a famous victory to set up his first World 500cc title. Two years later Freddie clinched the 500cc part of his historical double. I celebrated Barry Sheene’s last grand prix win with his great friend Marco Lucchinelli clinching the 1981 World title and Wayne Rainey blew away his Championship chances in 1989 when he crashed chasing Eddie Lawson’s Honda.

Imatra was so different and so dangerous. I will never forget my first visit in 1980 with the smell from the massive wood pulp factory a constant reminder of how close was the Russian border, the midnight sun, the long nights of partying and those white leathers of Dutchman Wil Hartog flashing between the trees at over 200 kph on route to his last grand prix win.  Barry Sheene took me down to the infamous corner where the riders raced over the railway lines. Barry, who a year earlier had burnt down the appalling paddock lavatories, told me the only surprise about the track was that they actually stopped the trains running on race day. The 500cc machines stopped a year later and in 1982 grand prix racing tragically came to an end following the fatal accident of my great friend World Sidecar Champion Jock Taylor.

The new era of grand prix racing starts in Scandinavia at the KymiRing next year. Welcome back but beware of that midnight sun and vodka.

By | July 25th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|1 Comment

Still ten to go

The summer break has arrived and while you soak up the sun on the beach or by the pool contemplate and even predict what is going to happen when the riders return to action in Brno for the final ten grands prix with the help of some vital clues courtesy of the good doctor – Dr Martin Raines.

The answers will be revealed on Sunday November 17th at 15.00.

 

  • Can Valentino Rossi become the fourth oldest rider in the 70 year history of World Championship racing to win a premier class grand prix?

In Argentina Rossi became the first rider to finish on a GP podium after turning 40 years old since Marcellino Lucchi in the 250cc class at Brno in 1998, and the first in the premier-class since Jack Findlay in Austria in 1977.

He was the 14th rider to finish on a GP podium in the premier-class after turning 40 years old.

 

  • Can Alex Rins become the first Suzuki rider in the MotoGP era to win two grands prix in one season?

Even though Rins has failed to score in the last two races, his score of 101 points is the highest points total by a Suzuki rider after nine races in the MotoGP era.

In Austin the age difference between Rins & Rossi was 16 years 295 days, the largest age difference between the top two finishers in a premier-class GP race since 26 year old Giacomo Agostini won the 1969 German 500cc GP at Hockenheim, from 46 year old German rider Karl Hoppe.

The win by Rins in Austin was the first ever premier-class GP win for Suzuki in the USA. The only other Suzuki GP wins in the US were when Daytona hosted the GP. Hugh Anderson won the 125 & 50cc race in 1964, and the 125cc race in 65. Ernst Degner won the 50cc race in 65.

 

  • Can 20 year old Frenchman Fabio Quartararo secure his first premier class win in his debut season?

At Jerez, at the age of 20 years 14 days Quartararo took the record for youngest premier-class pole setter from Marc Marquez who was 20 years 62 days when he qualified on pole at Austin in 2013.

At the Catalan GP Fabio Quartararo became the fifth youngest rider to finish on the podium in the premier-class, after: Randy Mamola, Eduardo Salatino, Norick Abe, and Marc Marquez. Quartararo was just eight days older than Marquez was when he took his first MotoGP podium.

At the Dutch GP the three riders on the front row: Quartararo, Vinales and Rins, made up the youngest top three on the grid in the MotoGP era. The youngest ever top three on the grid in a premier-class GP was at Le Mans at opening 500cc race 1976, with Barry Sheene at 25 years of age on pole from Marco Lucchinelli at 21 and Johnny Cecotto at 20.

 

  • Can anybody stop Marc Marquez winning his sixth MotoGP World title and his fourth in succession?

Marquez leads the MotoGP championship after nine races with 185 points, his highest score at this stage of the season since 2014 when he won all of the first nine races.

At Jerez for the first time since he moved up to the MotoGP class Marc Marquez was the oldest of the three riders on the front row of the grid.

 

  • Can Danilo Petrucci finish in front of his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso in the final points scoring and win his second grand prix?

At Mugello Danilo Petrucci became just the seventh rider to win a MotoGP race having never competed full-time in either of the smaller GP classes, joining: Crutchlow, Hayden, Tamada, Bayliss, and Vermeulen & Spies.

Only two riders have scored points in all nine MotoGP races of 2019: Petrucci and Pol Espargaro.

 

  • When will Pol Espargaro bring KTM their first premier class podium of the season?

 Espargaro has scored 56 points from the first nine races, which is already five points more that he scored in the whole of 2018.

 

  • What new records are going to be established during the next ten races?

At Mugello Jack Miller set the fastest lap of the race. All 21 other riders who completed at least one lap set a lap time within one second of Miller’s fastest lap.

At the Barcelona GP there were 10 MotoGP race winners lining up on the grid. The previous occasion that 10 premier-class race winners lined up on the grid was Valencia 2009: Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo, Hayden, Elias, Dovizioso, Capirossi, Vermeulen, Melandri and Stoner who didn’t start after crashing on the warm-up lap. All 10 riders started previous race at Sepang.

By | July 18th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Still ten to go

Racers with the precise touch of a surgeon

Two names struck a chord with me last week reminding me of the most difficult to ride Grand Prix racing motorcycles ever built. Stefan Dorflinger was rightly inducted as a MotoGP™ Legend at the Sachsenring while ‘Mr Suzuki’ Mitsuo Ito passed away in Japan.

Dorflinger won eighteen 50 and 80cc Grands Prix en route to two 50cc and two 80cc World titles in the eighties. Ito is the only Japanese rider to have won a TT race on the Isle of Man legendary mountain circuit when he brought Suzuki success in 1963 50cc race before playing a massive part in Suzuki Grand Prix participation and especially Kevin Schwantz’s 1993 500cc World title.

Two heroes in a class of racing that produced truly remarkable tiny racing motorcycles that needed the delicate touch of a surgeon to ride to the limit. The 50cc ‘tiddler’ class started in 1962 and switched to 80cc 22 years later before leaving the Grand Prix scene in 1989. Don’t be fooled by their size, these machines were mechanical masterpieces ridden by a unique breed of riders.

This was not just a case of wind open the throttle to obtain maximum revs through a six-speed gearbox helped by traction control, rev limiters and other electrical aids but a balancing act of precision while keeping the tiny engine buzzing at well over 20,000 revs per minute through a gearbox that often had 12 selections. Keeping those revs within a 500 rpm band was the touch of the master. Let it drop below that vital red line on the rev counter and the power would drop away like an electric plug had been pulled out of its socket. Going above that red line and it likely the overworked motor would cry enough and seize. While completing this delicate balance of throttle control with eyes glued to that red line rev the riders also had to race at top speeds over 100mph on skinny tyres and tiny drum brakes.

No wonder it produced legendary World Champions such as Angel Nieto, Jorge Martinez, Heinz George Anscheidt and of course Dorflinger. In Great Britain, it also provided the racing starting point for many a champion in the making including the likes of Mike Hailwood and Bill Ivy cutting their racing teeth on 50cc single cylinder Italian Items. Barry Sheene is the only rider to have won a 50cc and premier class (500cc) Grand Prix. Short of money to fund his 125cc title bid in 1971 he rode the Kreidler to 50cc victory round the old Brno road circuit in Czechoslovakia.

Two–strokes dominated apart from one year when Honda build an amazing twin-cylinder four-stroke 50cc machine. They were rewarded with the 1965 World title on a machine that was reported to have a 22,500 rev limit. The year Ralph Bryans won the title I went to the Isle of Man to watch my first ever World Championship race. It was day trip to the Island and the highlight was the first 500cc clash between Hailwood and Agostini riding the MV Agustas on the mountain circuit. Before the main event was the three lap 50cc race and it was a sight and sound I will never forget. I lost count but I reckoned the riders changed down eight times racing down the mountain to Creg Ny Baa before disappearing towards Brandish changing up eight times to reach maximum speed – riders with the precise touch of a surgeon.

By | July 11th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Racers with the precise touch of a surgeon