Monthly Archives: November 2019

Valencia vibes

Twenty years pass in a blink. Was it really two decades ago that Regis Laconi became the last Frenchman to win a premier class race at that very first Grand Prix at the circuit on the outskirts of Valencia? So much has happened to MotoGP™ since that September afternoon. The circuit, named after local hero and World Champion Ricardo Tormo who died of leukaemia, has staged some memorable races in the last 20 years. Since 2002 the track has been the venue for final Grand Prix of the season. Many a World Championship in all three classes has been decided on the tight twisty 4-kilometre circuit, and all witnessed by vast, noisy and patriotic crowds. The track is surrounded by packed grandstands and produces an atmosphere more akin to a big football stadium. Then, there are the fireworks!

Where do you start? Valentino Rossi signing off his Honda career with victory in 2003 on the machine sporting an Austin Powers paint theme. Three years later the late Nicky Hayden winning the MotoGP™ World title in the race in which Rossi crashed and World Superbike supremo Troy Bayliss secured his one and only Grand Prix win. Certainly in the paddock, and especially the media centre, Hayden’s third place and subsequent World title was the most popular of the past two decades.

In 2011 we arrived in Valencia grieving the death of Marco Simoncelli at the previous round in Malaysia. The weekend was a poignant reminder to us all just how dangerous the sport we love can be. Michele Pirro celebrated and honoured the life of his team-mate Marco with victory in the Moto2™ race for the devastated Gresini team. Casey Stoner then rode the finest ever final bend of the season to prevent Ben Spies winning his second Grand Prix in an amazing finish – Marco would have approved.

Nobody was prepared for 2015. The atmosphere coming into that final round of the season may have been toxic, but it was both exhilarating and so exciting to be involved. War had been declared at the previous round in Malaysia between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. It started with words, continued on the track and then in the Stewards Office. There were no grey areas for the millions of fans worldwide. Social media exploded in support of the two protagonists. Tickets for the final showdown were sold out within minutes, riot police were on standby but never required, media accreditation applications poured in from all over the World and Formula One drivers hired private jets to ensure they were there. Global interest and media coverage surrounding Grand Prix motorcycle racing had never experienced or felt anything like this before or since. By the time the 30-lap race finally got underway at 14:00 on an October afternoon, the circuit was at boiling point and ready to explode. Despite the considerable efforts of the aggrieved Rossi, it was Jorge Lorenzo who won the race from Marquez and Pedrosa to clinch the World title to conclude a couple of weeks the sport will never forget.

For me, that day in Valencia was so special and it had nothing to do with Rossi or Marquez. I’d been reporting on Grand Prix racing for 37 years and it was such a barren time for British riders. The likes of Jeremy McWilliams, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding had brightened the gloom with Grands Prix wins but never had I witnessed a British World title since Barry Sheene way, way back in 1977. A lad from the West Country changed all that in Valencia. Danny Kent’s ninth place in the Moto3™ race, at last, brought Great Britain a World title after such a long wait.

No World titles to be settled on Sunday as the curtain drops on the season but Valencia never fails to come up with the goods. Hopefully, we’ll be treated to some late autumn sunshine, the fireworks and, of course, the end of season party.

By | November 14th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|0 Comments

Blood brothers

The Marquez family can never do things by half. Brothers winning Grands Prix is not enough for them. For the second time in five years older brother Marc and his younger sibling Alex have grabbed the ultimate accolade and won world titles. In 2014 it was Moto3™ and MotoGP™. On Sunday in the searing heat of Sepang, it was MotoGP™ World Champion Marc who led the wild celebrations when Alex clinched the Moto2™ title.

They are the only brothers in the 70-year history of the sport to win titles in the MotoGP™ World Championships. Others have tried and both won Grands Prix but never World titles. There are brothers of World Champions you probably have never heard off who were tempted to follow their sibling onto the race track.

Felice Agostini, younger brother of 15 times World Champion Giacomo, finished eighth in the 250cc race at the 1975 Nations Grand Prix at Imola. Scott Doohan finished 12th riding the 500cc Harris Yamaha at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix at Eastern Creek. Brother Mick finished third at this opening round of the year in which he went on to win the first of his five 500cc World titles. The legendary Roberts family are best known for father and son World titles but Kenny Junior’s younger brother Kurtis also competed for their father’s team. His best result was a 12th place in the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring riding the KR212V MotoGP™ machine.

The most successful brothers, apart of course from the Marquez boys, are the French Sarron brothers. Older sibling Christian won six 250cc Grands Prix and the 1984 World title. He switched to the 500cc class and won the 1985 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. Younger brother Dominique won four 250cc Grands Prix and finished third in the 1988 World Championship. The three Japanese Aoki brothers came so close to re-writing the family tree. Younger sibling Haruchika won nine 125cc Grands Prix on route to the 1995/96 World titles. Older brother Nobuatsu’s only Grand Prix win came in the 1993 250cc Malaysia Grand Prix at Shah Alam while the middle sibling Takuma failed by just two seconds to beat Alex Criville to victory in the 500cc race at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

Onto this season and Valentino Rossi’s stepbrother Luca Marini has found success in the Moto2™ World Championship. Pol and Aleix Espargaro fight it out in the premier class. Younger brother Pol is a 15-times winner in the 125 and Moto2™ classes and won the 2013 Moto2™ World Championship. Aleix still waits for that first Grand Prix win but has a couple of poles and a podium finish in the MotoGP™ class. The 2016 Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder has tasted Moto2™ success this year before moving up to MotoGP™ next year while younger brother Darryn plies his trade in Moto3™.

There have been plenty of other brothers facing the ultimate test on two wheels including the Kallio’s, Sayle’s, Hayden’s, Barros’, Van Den Goorberg’s and Bolle’s. One thing for sure there is certain to be many more while Marc and Alex Marquez concentrate their sights on both winning MotoGP™ World titles – that should be interesting and test that brotherly love to the very limit.

By | November 7th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Blood brothers