Monthly Archives: June 2020

NOISE OR NO NOISE – THAT IS THE QUESTION?

Delighted they may be but sports fans in England are now faced with a major dilemma. It probably will not make that much difference when MotoGP at last returns to our screens on July 19, but football fans in particular have a big choice to make. Background animated canned crowd noise or comments from players and Managers that remind me of many a cold wet Sunday morning league game at Cutteslowe Park in Oxford?

Like most I have tried both. At first no crowd noise and telling myself how interesting it was to hear the players shouts, claims and in some cases screams. Managers without face masks barking instructions from the side lines. All very grown up and educational to us football followers. After the first game I switched to the canned crowd noise channel. It was like one of those embarrassing comedy shows where the laughter and applause is popped on as an afterthought to make it feel live. I think the sound comes from the football video games and of course it has not got a hope in hell of replicating the Kop or the Holt in full cry. Is there a person sitting in a little studio, probably near Heathrow airport, with his hand ready to press the home or away supporters, foul, penalty or the ultimate home or away goal button? Sounds like a tough job especially with no laughter button that may be well received by Arsenal fans after witnessing their side’s attempts to defend.

I have gone down the canned noise route for now, but my big test is about to come when the mighty Oxford United travel to Portsmouth a week on Friday for the first leg of League One play-offs. There may not be a choice and at least United do not face Fleetwood who play Wycombe in the other play off. When they score at their Highbury home Fleetwood play the Captain Pugwash theme song. United have heard it far too many times and at least we should be spared at Wembley for the final if they both get through.

MotoGP will be much more like the real thing. No canned engine noise needed but just the real thing to get the adrenalin flowing once again. Will the riders miss the crowd noise probably nothing like as much as the media and other spectators? Just turn up at Mugello or as the riders will in three weeks’ time at Jerez as the sun rises over the surrounding hills on the Sunday morning of the grand prix for a wonderful reminder what this extraordinary sport is all about. Ten of thousands of fans have been partying on the hill sides all night and in the morning the flares, flags and air horns greet the gladiators as they arrive in the arena filled with noise and smoke. We will all miss that but when the lights change, nothing will change out on the track, crowd or no crowd.

No noisy celebrations, track invasions or Captain Pugwash but some racing to savour at last.

By |2020-06-25T08:57:43+00:00June 25th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on NOISE OR NO NOISE – THAT IS THE QUESTION?

JUST LIKE WAITING FOR A BUS

Sound familiar – You know that feeling waiting for a bus to arrive. Nothing for hours and suddenly they all come along at once which just about sums up the new MotoGP schedule. Nothing for months and then 13 races, all three classes in the space of 18 hectic weeks. Of course, there is no other solution in these extraordinary times and just having MotoGP back is such a boost although it may produce a very different Championship.

I have nothing but praise on how a championship in any shape or form has been organised and just cannot believe how the protocol announced is going to be instigated. I am just going to sit safely back at home and enjoy the sight and sound once again.

There is no doubt the riders will be prepared and raring to go but will such a tight schedule affect their desire to push to the very limit and beyond. Not only are there 13 races in 18 weeks but on three occasions there are three races in succession and two in succession in the other two. Recovery from an injury even for a couple of weeks could easily wreck any chances of championship success. You just cannot afford to be injured.

Thoughts turn to the Dutch TT next week. Where else would you think of being in the last week of June. Two contrasting episodes of riders crashing and just how their injuries in a normal schedule for the season affected their Championship chances. In 1992 Mick Doohan arrived in North Holland with a massive 53-point lead in the Championship after winning the opening four races. In the final qualifying session of pure carnage, the Australian Honda rider was one of the many top riders to crash, breaking his right leg in two places. A botched operation in the local hospital not only cost Mick the Championship but nearly his leg. He was only able to return for the final two races of the season with his precious lead slashed to 22 points. Brave was not a strong enough description as he fought through the pain barrier to protect the prospect of his first World title. He failed by just four points but happily for him his day, five days, was still to come.

Twenty-one years later Jorge Lorenzo crashed in the second wet practice session at Assen. It was obvious to us in the commentary box he had broken his collarbone as his left shoulder dropped while he limped through the gravel trap. We surmised when he would return and suggested perhaps in a couple of weeks’ time at the next round at the Sachsenring in Germany. One day later the World Champion flew back into Assen from a Barcelona hospital  with ten screws holding a titanium plate binding the snapped bones together. A day later Lorenzo finished fifth after 26 laps of the legendary venue, but the story has a precautionary ending to all riders competing in those 13 grands prix coming up. Obviously, he made it to the Sachsenring but crashed while looking so comfortable and re-broke the collarbone and missed the race.

Will those Championship contenders take note when they start the action on July 19? Will they be thinking about the packed schedule and staying clear of injury Probably not!

By |2020-06-18T09:19:58+00:00June 18th, 2020|Uncategorised|1 Comment

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITHOUT THE CAKE

It is somewhat ironic that just a week after the British Grand Prix cancellation announcement that 71 years ago tomorrow (Saturday)World Championship racing celebrates its 71st birthday on these very shores. On June 13th 1949 the 350 cc TT race in the Isle of Man heralded the start of grand prix racing on two wheels not only in this country but also across the globe. 

There has been a British round of the World Championship ever since until last week’s news. Torrential rain may have caused cancellation of the actual races at Silverstone two years ago, but they had been scheduled to run until the storm arrived on the Sunday morning.

It was a clear dry morning in the Isle of Man which has not always been the case before or since, as the riders lined up to start the seven lap 350 cc race round the infamous mountain circuit. This was no modern day 20 lap dash round a purpose-built circuit but a 264.11-mile (425.047 kms) battle with the 37.73-mile (60.721 kms) mountain roads. After over three hours in the saddle Freddie Frith riding the Velocette crossed the finishing line to become the first ever winner of a World Championship Motorcycle race. Later in the week the bespectacled Harold Daniell won the premier class 500cc race riding the Norton while Irishman Manliff Barrington brought Moto Guzzi success in the 250cc race which was also held over the obligatory seven laps. Former Lancaster bomber pilot Les Graham won the very first six round 1949 500 cc World Championship, but tragically lost his life in the Isle of Man 67 years ago today (Friday). He was 37 years old when he won the title making him the oldest ever winner of the premier class World Championship. TT winner Frith was crowned 350 cc Champion, Italian Bruno Ruffo claimed the 250cc title and another Italian Nello Pagani, who was runner up in the 500cc Championship, was crowned the very first 125 cc Champion.

The British round of the World Championship remained at the TT until 1977. When many of the top riders including 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini refused to race in the Isle of Man because they thought it was too dangerous the Silverstone purpose built circuit, that 27 years earlier hosted the first ever Formula One car World Championship race, took over. Bad weather and crowd problems at Silverstone resulted in the British Grand Prix switching to Donington Park where it remained until 2010 when it returned to Silverstone.

It had to be a strange new MotoGP calendar that was revealed this week but at least there will be some racing this year. Two thoughts came to mind scanning the new schedule. We may be disappointed in Britain, but what about those passionate fans in Holland where the legendary Assen circuit does not host a World Championship race for the very first time in 71 years. For British fans, the chance for a British rider to win the Premier Class race (MotoGP) for the first time since it came to mainland from the Isle of Man back in 1977 will have to wait for yet another year.

I am sure that wait will be worth it and then we can bake that birthday cake and blow out those candles.

By |2020-06-11T16:13:55+00:00June 11th, 2020|Uncategorised|Comments Off on HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITHOUT THE CAKE

NO IDEA ADVENT OF DYNASTY HAD ARRIVED

Come on admit it we had no idea what the next ten years was going to bring. Personally, I just enjoyed commentating on the cracking 2010 125 cc Italian Grand Prix at Mugello with the first four riders covered by less than two tenths of one second after 20 laps around the legendary venue.

When  17 year old  Marc Marquez had fought off the challenge of Nico Terol, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith to win his first grand prix I didn’t prophesy that this was the start of a dynasty that would completely take over the World for the next ten years.

For me it was another young Spanish rider winning his first grand prix. Of course, like many of them before and since Marc was talented and perhaps a future World Champion. Eighty-one more grand prix victories and not one World title but eight, might be a clue I should have taken a little bit more notice.

My memories up till that fateful day where of a young rider with a fearless riding style and attitude that often resulted in some spectacular crashes and plenty of finger wagging from other riders. I remember remarking that perhaps he should be at school rather than standing on the Donington Park podium when he finished third at the British Grand Prix two years earlier after finishing third behind Scott Redding and Mike Di Meglio. It was the first of his 134 podium finishes, although that first grand prix win was still two years away. When it came the floodgates opened in a deluge that grand prix motorcycle racing had never experienced.

Riding the Derbi he won the 125 cc World title the same year and switched to Moto2. In 2012 riding the Suter he added the World title to his collection winning nine races, before joining the elite a year later. Would the teenager win grand prix that year and could he finish in the top three against the likes of Rossi and Co where the questions posed. The answers came back thick and fast. He won just second time out at Austin to become the youngest ever winner of a premier-class grand prix. He went on to become the youngest ever premier-class World Champion in 2013 riding the Repsol Honda. The record books were ripped apart by the teenager from Cervera with the ant emblem on his helmet. Five more premier class World titles thanks to 50 more grand prix victories. Ten successive grands prix wins in 2014 to match his peers Giacomo Agostini and Mick Doohan. That same year he won 13 grands prix. Last year he won 12 races on route to that sixth premier class title amassing a record number of 420 points. Over the last six decades the Sachsenring in Germany has learnt a thing or two about world class riders – Marquez has won there for the last ten years in a row.

Dominating the proceedings, the way he has over the last ten years is obviously down to sheer raw talent. Marquez has that talent in bucket loads, but great World Champions have so much more. He has overcome a number of career threatening injuries. In 2011 he could not complete the Moto2 season with an eye injury that threatened to end his career. Crashes especially while training have broken many bones and it was not a rare sight to see him pop a dislocated shoulder back into place and go on and win the next race. His aggressive style has upset the authorities and he has been penalised by having to start from the back row of the grid, of course going on to win the race. 

His biggest off-track triumph was taking on the king of the mind games Valentino Rossi in 2015 and not succumbing the pressure that has destroyed many others.

To say it has been an amazing decade since that day in Mugello is a vast understatement. Where will it all end?. Then there is his younger brother Alex. He has already won the Moto3 and Moto2 World titles and joins Marc as team-mate at Repsol Honda this season. The Marquez dynasty is set to continue for at least another decade.

Must be something in the water of Cervera.

By |2020-06-04T14:24:59+00:00June 4th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on NO IDEA ADVENT OF DYNASTY HAD ARRIVED