Monthly Archives: August 2021

Silverstone – The First Ten Years

The first Grand Prix to be held at Silverstone was in 1977, when the British round of the world championship was moved from its previously traditional home of the Isle of Man TT circuit.  The Grand Prix was held for ten successive years at the Northampton circuit, before moving to Donington:

1977 – This was the final race of the season and British hopes were high for a win in the 500cc class by a home rider, with reigning champion Barry Sheene qualifying on pole on his factory Suzuki.  However Sheene retired with mechanical problems on lap nine.  This left the door open for team-mate Steve Parrish to lead the race into the closing stages only to crash with a couple of laps to go.  Fellow Britain John Williams then moved into the lead before he also crashed out.  Finally the third factory Suzuki rider, American Pat Hennen, took the victory.  Kork Ballington had a double victory in the 350cc and 250cc classes on his private Yamaha machines and in the 125cc race, Pierluigi Conforti took his only ever GP victory.

1978 – The 500cc GP ended in chaos, after rain started to fall mid-way through the race.  With no specific rules to deal with such a situation, the riders had to enter the pits to change tyres.  Barry Sheene (Suzuki) was by far the quickest rider after the tyre change but suffered with a pit stop that took over 7 minutes.  By contrast the eventual winner Kenny Roberts (Yamaha) was in the pits for less than 3 minutes.  Splitting these two riders on the podium was Britain’s Steve Manship, who had gambled on starting the race with intermediate tyres.  Kork Ballington (Kawasaki) won the 350cc race from British riders Tom Herron and Mick Grant.  Toni Mang scored the first of his record 33 victories in the 250cc class, with Herron once again finishing second.  Angel Nieto won the 125cc race riding a Minarelli from British rider Clive Horton.

1979 – The two top riders of the day, Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts, exchanged the lead throughout the 500cc race.  Roberts eventually took the win by 0.03 seconds in one of the closest finishes of all-time.  In the 250cc race Morbidelli factory rider Graziano Rossi (Valentino’s father) fell on the final lap of the race when holding a two second lead.  Kork Ballington (Kawasaki) took advantage of Rossi’s misfortune to win the race and then did the double by winning the 350cc race.  Angel Nieto repeated his 125cc victory of the previous year.

1980 – After a great battle early in the 500cc race, Randy Mamola (Suzuki) pulled clear of fellow American Kenny Roberts to win the race with Marco Lucchinelli finishing third and Graziano Rossi finishing fourth.  Toni Mang (Kawasaki) won the 350cc race and Kork Ballington (Kawasaki) was once again victorious in the 250cc class.  In the 125cc class Loris Reggiani (Minarelli) took his first ever Grand Prix win.

1981 – The edge was taken of this race as early as the third lap when race leader and pole position man Graeme Crosby crashed and took out Barry Sheene and forced championship leader Marco Lucchinelli into the catch fencing.  Dutchman Jack Middelburg (Suzuki) went on to win the race from Randy Mamola and Kenny Roberts.  This was the last time that a premier-class GP race was won by a true privateer rider.  Toni Mang (Kawasaki) won both the 350cc and 250cc race.  The home crowd were given something to cheer with Keith Huewen finishing second in the 350cc race.  Angel Nieto (Minarelli) won in the 125cc class at Silverstone for the third time.

1982 –   Barry Sheene had a huge crash in practice that eliminated him from the 500cc race and Kenny Roberts’ race was short lived with a crash at the first corner.  With his two main challengers out of the race, Franco Uncini (Suzuki) cruised to a comfortable victory which effectively sealed the world title.  Jean-Francois Balde (Kawasaki) won a tremendous 350cc race and Martin Wimmer (Yamaha) won the 250cc race from pole having crashed out of the earlier 350cc race which he also started from pole.  Angel Nieto won the 125cc race once again – this time riding a Garelli.

1983 – The 500cc race was run in two parts, after the race had been stopped due to a big crash in which Norman Brown and Peter Huber lost their lives.  Kenny Roberts took overall victory from great rival Freddie Spencer with Randy Mamola making it an all USA podium.  There was an historic win in the 250cc race with Jacque Bolle giving Pernod their one and only GP victory.  Angel Nieto won the 125cc race at Silverstone for the fifth time.

1984 – Riding as a replacement for the injured Freddie Spencer, Randy Mamola won first time out on the V-four Honda from fellow American Eddie Lawson and British rider Ron Haslam.  Christian Sarron (Yamaha) won the 250cc race on the way to taking the world title and Angel Nieto won the 125cc race and in doing so clinched his 13th and last world title.

1985 – In horrendously wet conditions, Freddie Spencer (Honda) won the 500cc race after finishing fourth in the earlier 250cc race to clinch the world championship title.  British rider Alan Carter had led the 250cc race until mid distance before crashing and re-starting to finish seventh.  Toni Mang (Honda) took the 250cc race victory from Reinhold Roth and Manfred Herweh in an all German podium.  Austrian rider August Auinger (Monnet) won the 125cc race.

1986 – As in the previous year, the event was held in terrible wet weather.  Wayne Gardner (Honda) had a start to finish win in the main race after starting from pole position.  Winner of the 250cc race was Dominique Sarron (Honda) – brother of the winner of the race in 1984.  Alan Carter crashed out of the 250cc race once again; this time on the last lap while challenging for the lead.  August Auinger (Bartol) repeated his 125cc win of the previous year.  History was made in the 80cc race held in the dry weather on Saturday, when Ian McConnachie (Krauser) became the only British rider to win a Grand Prix race for solo motorcycles around the Silverstone circuit.

By |2021-08-26T19:03:44+00:00August 26th, 2021|Martin Raines Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Silverstone – The First Ten Years

Stick or twist in British casino

Brad Binder showed just what a good poker player he would be with that victory in Austria. The KTM rider stuck and stayed out in the rain while others twisted and came in to change tyres. The riders arrive at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix this week knowing such poker decisions have won and lost races both at Silverstone and Donington in the past – it probably has something to do with the weather

It started back in 1978 and just the second time Silverstone had replaced the Isle of Man as the British venue for the British round of the World Championship. The result 43 years ago is still hotly disputed. The 28 lap 500cc race, that played a massive part in the outcome of World Championship battle between local hero and World Champion Barry Sheene and the American ‘upstart’ Kenny Roberts began in the dry. The majority of the riders started on slicks but somebody with a bit of local knowledge knew better. British Champion Steve Manship looked at the dark clouds rolling over the flat Northamptonshire countryside and went for intermediates, the cross between slicks and wets on his Suzuki.

When the rain arrived, it arrived in true British style. Big wet heavy drops of liquid falling out of the leaden sky soaking the Silverstone tarmac in seconds. The wet patriotic British crowd had come to support Sheene but soon realised from underneath their umbrellas that Manship’s gamble could bring home success. At the end of lap 13 Roberts twisted and pulled into the pits realising if he had any chance of winning, he had to change tyres. No jumping from one Yamaha to other in those days but just getting down to the business of changing wheels. The Cal Carruthers led Robert’s team were experts. They had started the season with just one Yamaha and were experienced at the complicated and precise procedure. This was no modern Formula One wheel change, but they still managed it in two and half minutes. Others such as Sheene’s Suzuki team were less experienced and took up to seven minutes.

It was a total nightmare for the lap scorers. Peering through the fogged-up windows and driving rain with stopwatches in hand trying to note down the riders’ numbers as they raced through the spray to start a new lap. Nobody was absolutely sure the exact positions but with 15 laps remaining it appeared that Roberts was lapping ten seconds a lap quicker than leader Manship. Going into the last lap Manship was still leading but Roberts passed him halfway round the 4.170 kms circuit and was declared the winner. Second placed Manship and third placed Sheene were not so sure, but the result remained, and Roberts was on route to that first 500cc title.

Probably the best-remembered twist or stick decision at the British Grand Prix came 22 years later in the 2000 250cc race at Donington Park. The 27-lap race started in slightly damp conditions. The majority of the riders started on slick, or hand-cut slick tyres. Ralf Waldmann and Naoki Matsudo decided to take the gamble on starting on wets and it appeared very much wrong decision. Olivier Jacque led the way on the Tech 3 Yamaha but with nine laps remaining the rain arrived. At this stage Waldmann on the Aprilia was one minute 40 seconds behind the leader. He was cutting great swathes out of that time advantage lap by lap but with two to go he was still 24 seconds behind the Frenchman. Coming into the last lap they were still separated by the length of the start and finish straight but on the run to the finish line Waldmann raced past the future World Champion for a famous victory. The gamble had paid off, but it doesn’t always.

In 2009 again at Donington it misfired for the Ducati duo of World Champions Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner. They chose wet weather tyres at the start of the 30 lap MotoGP™ race. The track was damp, and rain was expected. It came but not in enough quantity to help them. They eventually finished 15th and 14th respectively in the race won by Andrea Dovizioso on his one and only victory for Repsol Honda.

The riders arrive at Silverstone knowing that those big decisions can and have played such a massive part in the outcome of the race. Hopefully there will be no stick of twist decisions to make, and the sun will shine all day on Sunday.

By |2021-08-26T10:05:03+00:00August 26th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Stick or twist in British casino

In safe, capable hands

I was asked in an interview last week if MotoGP™ can possibly survive without its talisman Valentino Rossi. I wish that conversation had been this week because any doubts the interviewer may have expressed were flattened after watching the amazing Bitci Grand Prix of Austria at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday. The future of this incredible sport is in such very safe, capable hands

Who would not miss the charisma and ability of number 46, who finally bows out at the end of the season. The fresh new breed of hungry warriors showed in the 28 laps of pure drama that we need not worry about the future. It really is the changing of the guard and if Sunday is a real indication, we are in for a treat.

Just where do you start? Brad Binder defying the rain, aquaplaning at around 200 km/h on slick tyres to bring KTM a victory in front of 80,000 patriotic fans. Pecco Bagnaia carving through the field on the last couple laps on the Lenovo Ducati shod with wet weather tyres so close to his first victory, and then Jorge Martin completing the podium just seven days after his maiden Grand Prix win

South African Binder and Spaniard Martin are absolute examples of why I’m so optimistic about the future. They simply just typify what the modern-day MotoGP™ rider is all about. Battle-hardened in Moto3™ and Moto2™. The first three on Sunday are all former World Champions. I remember Jorge always appearing with a smile at the Moto3™ Tissot Pole Position presentation. Plenty of poles but no wins but when he finally stood on the top step at the final round in 2017 the floodgates simply opened. He was crowned World Champion a year later after seven wins. Brad had won the title two years earlier.

Already these new MotoGP™ youngsters are emulating the true legends of the sport. Binder’s win on Sunday and Martin’s victory on the Pramac Ducati a week before placed them in a very select group of riders in the 72-year history of the premier class

It was Binder’s second premier class win. His first came last year on just his third premier class race at Brno in the Czech Republic. When you realise that legendary World Champions Kenny Roberts and Jorge Lorenzo also won for the first time in their third race you understand were the South African is going. Martin’s first premier class win came in just his sixth appearance. John Surtees, the only man to win Motorcycle and Formula One World titles took a similar amount of time.

Few have won first time out. Geoff Duke at the 1950 TT race in the Isle of Man, Max Biaggi at 1998 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and Jarno Saarinen at Paul Ricard in 1973 to name but a few. Marc Marquez got there second time out in 2013 at Austin as did the very first 500cc World Champion Les Graham. He won the 1949 Swiss Grand Prix after leading the very first 500 cc World Championship race in the Isle of Man before his AJS broke down

Others who have gone onto dominate have found it tougher. Thirteen times World Champion Giacomo Agostini had to wait seven races until that first 500cc win for MV Agusta over the railway lines at Imatra in Finland in 1965. Valentino Rossi had to wait even longer but it was worth it. Despite a trip to the local hospital the night before, that first 500cc win came at the 2000 British Grand Prix at Donington Park in his ninth premier class race and 88 more wins followed. Multi World Champions Mike Hailwood and Wayne Rainey finally achieved that first win at their 12th attempt but it’s five times 500cc World Champion Mick Doohan who was the most patient. His first win came after 26 Grands Prix. The Australian Honda rider went on to win 53 more on route to those five world titles.

So, can we expect more of the same for the remainder of the season and then for many years to come? Who will be the next rider to join that legends list? Perhaps the rain did help on Sunday but with Silverstone next on the schedule it really was good to get the practice in early!

 

By |2021-08-18T19:19:52+00:00August 18th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on In safe, capable hands

Vale – modern day Marco Polo

No Italian has conquered the world in the same way as Valentino Rossi. The likes of Marco Polo explored and discovered many new territories but the ‘Doctor’ simply conquered the complete globe in just 26 amazing years of adventure and fun.

You simply could not escape him wherever you found yourself in the World. On your holiday away from the intense hustle and bustle of a MotoGP™ weekend Vale was never far away. It just didn’t matter that the country you were visiting had never staged a MotoGP™ race

A magnificent journey to towering cliffs and lighthouse at Cape Wrath in Scotland, the furthest point north on the mainland of the British Isles was no exception. As we waited for the tiny ferry to take us across the Loch before embarking on a 20 kms minibus journey to such a desolate magic location a tiny Motorhome arrived with Italian number plates. In the back window, a massive number 46 sticker to remind us of the ‘Doctor’ was keeping an eye on us.

The Grand Anse beach on the Caribbean Island of Grenada was a wonderful place to relax but Vale was never far away. The guitar playing Reggie singer had replaced his obligatory Bob Marley tee-shirt with that brilliant Rossi sun design as he sang away in the sunshine.

There has never been a MotoGP™ race in Greece but once again Vale presence was so evident. The taxi driver who picked us up at Thessaloniki airport proudly wore his number 46 cap all the way to the hotel. He still had it on when he picked us up for the return trip seven days later

The four-wheel Formula One Championship craved such worldwide acclaim. Vale was quite simply the most popular competitor in World Championship motorsport, the number one sportsman in Italy and was high up the Forbes list of sporting millionaires, despite some well-publicised problems with the Italian tax authority.

Ferrari gave him a test drive and offered him a lucrative contract to switch to four wheels. He refused because he said he was having too much fun in MotoGP™ to even contemplate a switch. I remember going to Silverstone for the launch of the prestigious £40 million pit complex in 2010. The true greats of motorsport had assembled for the opening ceremony. But forget the likes of Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and even John Surtees – it was a thirty-one-year-old motorcycle race from the small town of Tavullia they had all come to see and shake hands with.

Of course, Vale will always be remembered for putting Grand Prix motorcycle racing in a place it has never been in before. His fun-loving infectious and mischievous personality brought our sport to people and places we had never dreamed of before. Sometimes with all that going for him it’s easy to forget just what a brilliant rider he was where it finally mattered out on the racetrack. You can play every trick prank and joke off the track but only after you have won the ultimate war on the battlefield

Vale is right up there with the true greats in the 72-year history of Grand Prix racing. He runs with the likes of legends Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Angel Nieto and Phil Read. It’s unfair to pick out the best in the very different eras. Like all great Champions of course Vale had that ruthless edge that separates World Champions from Grand Prix winners. Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau and Marc Marquez have all been on the receiving end.

One thing is for certain, it’s the most exciting 26 years in the history of the sport. Over two decades that we could have never prophesied or certainly dreamed about. All I can say after Valentino Rossi’s retirement announcement is thank you for such an amazing time.

There will never be another Doctor.

 

By |2021-08-11T19:33:52+00:00August 11th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|1 Comment

Don’t wait 11 years

Wild cards, rider replacements or comebacks, call them what you want as three-time World Champion Dani Pedrosa and three-time MotoGP™ race winner Cal Crutchlow contemplate their return to the battlefield in Austria on Sunday.

It’s a tough task and a brave decision for both MotoGP™ Grand Prix winners but there are some encouraging pointers. Former World Superbike Champion Troy Bayliss returned to MotoGP™ to replace the injured Sete Gibernau in the Ducati team at the final round at Valencia in 2006. The race may be best remembered as the day Nicky Hayden clinched the World title, but it was Bayliss who won the race to become the one and only rider replacement winner in the MotoGP™ eraThe year before at a soaking wet Shanghai in China Frenchman Olivier Jacque was drafted into the Kawasaki team to replace the injured Alex Hoffman. He finished a superb second behind World Champion Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) to bring Kawasaki their best MotoGP™ result.

Others have come back in different circumstances. Australian Garry McCoy was without a ride at the start of the 1999 season but was drafted into the Red Bull Yamaha team to replace Grand Prix winner Simon Crafer. He repaid their faith and took his big chance in spectacular style by winning three Grand Prix the next year and finishing fifth in the World Championships.

The likes of three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer and Gibernau struggled on comeback campaigns but there is one comeback in our sport that will never be equalled or even approached. Eleven years after retiring from Grand Prix racing Mike Hailwood returned to where it had all started, the legendary TT mountain circuit on the Isle of Man. Not only did the 38-year-old return to but he also won.

When Honda pulled out of World Championship racing at the end of the 1967 season, Hailwood retired from Grand Prix racing. A sport he’d graced with his very presence winning nine World titles in four categories, recording 76 wins in 196 races. He continued racing 350 and 500 Hondas in international non-Championship races the following year and rode for BSA at Daytona, but four wheels beckoned.

Hailwood won the European Formula Two Championship and finished on the Formula One podium on a couple of occasions. In 1973 he was awarded the George Medal for displaying outstanding bravery when pulling Clay Regazzoni out of a flaming car during the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. He retired from racing and moved to New Zealand but was bored. Hailwood was never going to settle for the quiet life and when others might have been contemplating fishing and golf the lure of racing on two wheels brought him back to the Isle of Man. Hailwood was never a man to live life in half measures.

The Isle of Man may have lost its World Championship status a year earlier, but it was still the ultimate test for man and machine and his return ticked both boxes. Never has the birth of Grand Prix racing witnessed such scenes of wild celebration and emotion when Hailwood rode the Ducati 900 ss to victory in the six-lap TT Formula One race. He set a new lap record beating 500 cc Grand Prix winner John Williams while seven times World Champion Phil Read retired with engine problems. I was lucky a year later to witness Hailwood’s last TT win with victory on the two-stroke 500 cc Grand Prix Suzuki in the six-lap Senior race. Tragically the man regarded by many as the greatest motorcycle racer of all time was killed in a road traffic accident together with his daughter Michelle in 1981.

Good luck to Dani and Cal on Sunday, and will Andrea Dovizioso return next season? One thing for certain is none of them will wait 11 years.

 

By |2021-08-05T08:25:15+00:00August 5th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Don’t wait 11 years