Monthly Archives: September 2019

Nick Harris blog: car keys and what’s for dinner?

It all looks so easy but it’s not. Take the lead from the very start, pull away from the pursuing pack in the early stages or as Marc Marquez did on Sunday on the first lap and then cruise to victory without a care in the world. Ask any rider who has the talent to be able to perform such an act and they will all tell you it can be one of the toughest methods of securing 25 World Championship points.

Double 500cc World Champion Barry Sheene told me it needed more concentration and resolve to prevent the mind wandering as lap after lap all that was in front of you was empty tarmac with your pity board the only reality check to the real world. It was important to keep up your lap times at a constant fast pace, not only to prevent your pursuers to get a sniff of catching you but also to keep your mind focused. He told me it was so easy to let those lap times drop and his mind would start to wander towards the most bizarre thoughts that had absolutely nothing to do with Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Where have I left my car keys, what times the flight home tonight and what have we got for dinner were the most common. In those days such was the diversity of the field and the machinery they were riding, lapping backmarkers was a welcome exercise to sharpen the mind and bring you back to reality.

I’m sure it was vital for 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini to have a few riders to lap to keep fully focused as he dominated those 350 and 500cc Grands Prix in the late sixties and early seventies. In 1969 Ago, riding the MV Agusta, won the 183.300 kms 500cc race at the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps by four minutes 19s from the Triumph of Percy Tait lapping everybody but the British rider who brought the current day Moto2™ engine supplier their one and only premier class podium. Just a week later he lapped the entire field in the East German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Ago did what he had to do but I’m sure those epic battle with the Honda of Mike Hailwood and then bringing Yamaha that first premier class two-stroke 500cc World Championship brought him more satisfaction on route to those record-breaking 122 Grands Prix wins.

We have been so spoilt in the last couple of decades watching such close racing at the very front. Fifty two overtaking manoeuvres in that epic Phillip Island battle four years ago. The three Grands Prix before Aragon this week produced last bend showdowns that have all involved Marquez. The Repsol Honda displayed with his masterful ride on Sunday that sometimes you just have to get out in front from the start and concentrate to the very end. World Champions can win in any circumstances and his last two wins have shown why he could clinch his eighth World title in Thailand in a couple of weeks’ time.

By | September 26th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Nick Harris blog: car keys and what’s for dinner?

Marc and Mike

I should be upset with Marc Marquez but how could I be after that fantastic race with Fabio Quartararo on Sunday. This time he came out on top in a last-lap head-to-head confrontation to win his 77th Grand Prix and that’s one more than my boyhood hero Mike Hailwood.

How could Hailwood not be my boyhood hero? He lived just a couple of miles over the hill from my Village just outside Oxford. His father Stan was the boss of one the biggest motorcycle dealers in the country with Kings of Oxford’s headquarters filling most of Park End Street with British built motorcycles. My Sister even danced with him once at the Oxford Jazz club but, to my disappointment, it turned out to be just that one dance. One morning on the way to school I was transfixed to see the pride of place in the showroom window was Hailwood’s 250cc four-cylinder Honda on which he just won the 1961 TT in the Isle of Man en route to the World title. Any thought of school lessons went out of the window for the remainder of the day.

I just dreamed of getting to the TT to watch my hero in action.  Four years later I made it and travelled to the Isle of Man on the overnight ferry across the choppy Irish sea to watch my first World Championship race. After the 50cc race in the morning, the moment finally arrived: Hailwood versus Giacomo Agostini in the six-lap 364.326km 500cc race and they did not let me down. Ago the new pin-up boy in the MV Agusta team taking on team-mate and World Champion Hailwood around the most famous and demanding race track in the World, the TT Mountain circuit.

Incredibly both crashed on different laps at Sarah’s Cottage. Ago was sidelined but Hailwood’s hero status reached new levels as he remounted the MV, restarted the engine by pushing down the wrong direction of the circuit, not surprisingly nobody dared complain, and continued on his way to win the race on a very second-hand motorcycle and sporting a bloody nose. Hailwood went on to win nine World titles before retiring and racing on four wheels. He won the European Formula Two Championship but is best remembered for pulling Clay Regazzoni out of a burning Formula One car at the 1973 South African Grand Prix. Two wheels were always in his blood and at 38-years-old he returned in 1978 to the Isle of Man to win on the Ducati and a year later I travelled to the Island to witness his last win at the TT, 14 years after that first trip tragically both Mike and his nine-year-old daughter Michelle were killed in a road accident in 1981.

Ago was at Misano keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. I don’t think the Italian legend should start worrying just yet. His 122 Grand Prix victories are still 45 in front of Marc although if those first 11 years of his amazing career is an indication it could get very close. I forgive you Marc but you never forget your boyhood hero.
By | September 19th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Marc and Mike

A very long last lap

I always thought by the time we arrived at Misano we were on the last lap of the season, but beware – many a race, or in most cases the World Championship, has been decided on that last lap. Sure, the Marquez brothers seem well on their way to an incredible MotoGP™/Moto2™ double but despite the nights drawing in and autumn approaching fast, there is still an awful long way to go before that prize-giving in Valencia on November 17.

To be precise there are still seven Grands Prix left starting on the Adriatic coast of Italy on Sunday. That’s well over one-third of the season remaining. Seven races in just nine weeks of frantic action and frenzied travel. One hundred and seventy-five points up for grabs in that period of time when MotoGP seems to fill every inch of your brain and every hour of your day. It’s tough; it’s tiring but so incredibly exciting and rewarding. Travelling with a group of like-minded souls across the globe and by the time you reach Valencia one part of you is glad the travelling is over while the other part just craves for one more adrenalin rush before Christmas arrives. Then the process starts all over again.

The real crunch period for the riders and the teams are those three races in two weeks starting at Motegi in Japan, then just popping down to Phillip Island in Australia before starting back home via Sepang in Malaysia. Seventy-five points that have so often decided the outcome of the Championship even before that final round in Valencia. Three races staged on three so different race tracks. Three races held in often totally contrasting weather conditions. There can be fog in Motegi, rain and wind at Phillip Island and then searing heat and torrential rain in Sepang while adjusting to just travelling to and then around three such contrasting countries and lifestyles.

My other memory of Misano is after weeks of speculation at last finding out the provisional calendar for the next season and then working out the best time to tell your loved ones back home especially with the massive end of season trip about to start. When I started covering Grand Prix racing in 1980 there were ten races on the calendar although it dropped to eight with Venezuela cancelled because of financial problems and Austria snowbound. Next year there is double that number scheduled in an amazing calendar that crisscrosses the globe in almost nine months of racing and travel.

As round 13 approaches this weekend I’m sure Marc and Alex Marquez and Lorenzo Dalla Porta know that so much can change so quickly in the next nine weeks. I hope that everybody planning to embark on next year’s adventure have already shown the 2020 calendar or perhaps at least given a hint to their loved ones about their plans for next year. Don’t leave it until Valencia.

By | September 13th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on A very long last lap