Monthly Archives: November 2021

No Luthi or Petrucci but memories of Bayle

At least they had three days before the new season got underway although they had to travel to Jerez. How the riders, teams and let us be honest many of the media, hated it when the next year’s testing started the day after on the Monday morning following that final round in Valencia. No time to party, celebrate or commiserate just turn up the next morning at the same circuit and start the new season. Some teams softened the blow for the riders by letting many an ill-prepared journalist ride a MotoGP™ bike for the first and only time before serious testing got underway.

This year the testing started at Jerez on Thursday although the provisional 2022 entry lists appeared on my computer on Tuesday morning. Of course, for the first time in 22 years, there was no number 46 on the MotoGP™ list. There were other absentees that did not attract the same attention but will leave enormous gaps when the new season gets underway beneath those Qatar floodlights next year.

No Danilo Petrucci in the MotoGP™ class and no Tom Luthi in Moto2™ meant that two such special riders had called it a day after distinguished but very different careers. The ever-cheerful larger than life Danilo and the former World Champion Tom who competed in a record-breaking 233 intermediate Grands Prix will be sorely missed.

After the tears in the Valencia paddock on Sunday evening, the two times MotoGP™ winner Petrucci said goodbye and prepared for the next challenge. The Italian will place everything on the very limit when he competes for KTM in the toughest test for man and machine in the World, the Dakar rally. It will be a unique experience, if that is the correct word, for a MotoGP™ winner but there has been a rider who made the reverse journey.

In 1992 Frenchman Jean Michel Bayle shocked the Motocross world when he announced he was switching to the tarmac. The rider regarded as one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest, decided not just any strip of tarmac for his road racing debut. The former 125 and 250cc World Champion and who had won the AMA Supercross, 250 and 500cc titles in America the previous year chose to make his debut in the 250cc French Grand Prix at Magny Cours in the same Rothmans Honda team of World Champion Luca Cadalora.

Bayle finished 24th in his debut race but returned the next season on Aprilia machinery. His best result was a fifth-place with one pole position at Argentina in 1995. He switched to the 500cc class with Yamaha in 1996 and then Modenas a year later. His best result was fourth at Imola in 1996 and he took two pole positions at Brno in 1996 and Imola two years later.

Tom Luthi seems to have been around forever and it was sixteen long years ago he brought Switzerland the 2005 125cc World Championship three years after his Grand Prix debut. He is fourth in the all-time list of Grands Prix starts. The race in Valencia was his 318th Grand Prix, a number only bettered by Rossi, Capirossi and Dovizioso. He won five 125cc Grands Prix and twelve intermediate class races resulting in two runner-up Moto2™ Championship positions in 2016/17.  Only Rossi, Nieto, Capirossi and Dovizioso have a longer period between his first and last podium finish which was an extraordinary 16 years 155 days.

I hope everybody including Danilo and Tom found time to celebrate and party at Valencia on Sunday evening with no next day test to worry about. May I assure you that you all fully deserve a bit of a party after producing yet another amazing season despite everything the modern-day world could throw at you?

By |2021-11-24T21:09:38+00:00November 24th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on No Luthi or Petrucci but memories of Bayle

Three of a kind

Apart from those incredible and very loud fireworks, the event I really enjoyed in Valencia was always the photocall on the grid for the new World Champions. I would look out of the media conference room window before the final conference of the season to see the new World Champions standing on the saddle of their Championship winning machines as the cameras flashed and clicked. This year was a unique occasion for Fabio Quartararo, Remy Gardner, and Pedro Acosta. For the first time in 15 years all three of them were crowned World Champions for the very first time. It is only the ninth time in the 73-year history Grand Prix racing this has happened.

The fact that Quartararo is the first French premier class World Champion, Remy Gardner is only the second father and son to win a World title and Acosta is the second youngster ever 125cc/Moto3™ World Champion is special enough in itself, but first-time winners make it even more unique

The last time this happened was in 2006. Nicky Hayden clinched the MotoGP™ title at the final round in Valencia after a season-long battle with Valentino Rossi. Jorge Lorenzo won the first of his World titles in the 250cc class while fellow Spaniard Alvaro Bautista was the 125cc World Champion. Six years earlier it happened again with Kenny Roberts Junior MotoGP™ Champion, Olivier Jacque 250cc and Roberto Locatelli 125cc Champions, respectively. It turned out to be the only World titles in any class for the three of them.

New Champions in the nineties were more common. In 1990 Wayne Rainey won the first of his three 500cc titles while John Kocinski, who went on to win the World Superbike title was crowned 250cc Champion and Loris Capirossi the youngest ever 125cc Champion. Three years later in 1993 Kevin Schwantz clinched his one and only 500cc title while Tetsuya Harada and Dirk Raudies followed suit in the 250 and 125cc classes. A year later Australian Mick Doohan won the first of his 500cc titles for Honda. Max Biaggi won the first of his 250cc crowns with Kasuto Sakata successful in the 125cc class.

In the 1980s, no season produced new World Champions in every class but 1978 was a significant year. Kenny Roberts arrived from the States and blew Europe apart winning the first of his three successive 500cc titles. South African Kork Ballington won both the 250 and 350cc World titles for Kawasaki. Eugenio Lazzarini was crowned 125cc World Champion while the rider who the Valencia circuit is named after, Ricardo Tormo won the first of his two 80 cc World titles.

Seventeen years earlier in 1961 Rhodesian Gary Hocking brought MV Augusta both the 350 and 500cc titles. Mike Hailwood won the first of his nine World Championships in the 250cc class with Honda’s first-ever Grand Prix winner Australian Tom Phillis crowned 125cc World Champion.

Of course, it happened in the first year of Grand Prix racing in 1949 when Les Graham, Freddie Frith, Bruno Ruffo and Nello Pagani were crowned the first-ever World Champions, but since then it has only happened eight times including Valencia this Sunday

Just to emphasise what a special season we have witnessed Quartararo is the first rider to win a first premier class title without having won a title in one of the smaller classes since Casey Stoner brought Ducati success in 2007.

When will this all happen again? Times are changing fast and long may it continue.

By |2021-11-17T17:10:53+00:00November 17th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Three of a kind

I jumped on the Vale rollercoaster and held on tight

I just jumped on the rollercoaster and hung on tight for the next 17 remarkable years and had absolutely no idea what lay ahead but the timing was perfect. I arrived back full time in the MotoGP™ paddock following six years of Formula One adventures in 2000. The same time and place that the 125cc and 250cc World Champion Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) made his premier class debut at Welkom in South Africa.

Eighty-nine Grand Prix wins and seven World titles later, Vale says goodbye this weekend after taking all of us on a journey that none of us will ever forget.

I had worked with and commentated on some truly great World Champions over the previous 20 years. I had arrived from a Formula One World Championship, after witnessing the sheer power and wave of publicity that great drivers such as Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher had generated throughout the world, but nothing had prepared me for the Valentino Rossi effect. I do not think anybody ever doubted his ability, apart from perhaps Casey Stoner at turn one at Jerez in 2010, but the rest of it was truly amazing.

MotoGP™ had experienced a tough time in the late nineties. Mick Doohan and Honda dominated. In Britain World Superbikes led by Carl Fogarty stole all the headlines and so just what happened?

Suddenly everybody knew who the Doctor, number 46 and Vale was. A young man who came from the Adriatic coast of Italy and raced motorcycles for a living had become a World star, a celebrity. A charismatic, cheeky, fun-loving World Champion who became a true legend; I just jumped aboard and loved every minute of it. In Britain just 18,500 fans watched Vale win his first-ever 500cc Grand Prix at Donington Park in 2000. A year later the crowd had doubled, three years later trebled and four years later quadrupled.

I commentated on every one of those eighty-nine wins and hosted the press conference afterwards. I tell a small lie. I was in the commentary box but had lost my voice for one of the greatest battles of them all in 2008. The epic encounter between Vale and Casey Stoner and all I could do was croak my approval. A victory only surpassed by the win at Welkom in 2004 on his first ride for Yamaha.

Vale was the only person I knew in international sport that could regularly use the f… word in press conferences and nobody told him to stop. There were plenty of those conferences to remember. I loved it when he won a Grand Prix because, after a long weekend, all I had to ask was how the race had gone and then just sit back as he explained every aspect and every lap. Of course, some did not go quite as smoothly. Most riders found attending the pre-event Press Conferences of Thursday afternoons a bit of a bore. Vale was no exception but sometimes more than livened up the proceedings. Two at Sepang in Malaysia when he just dived headlong into the reputations of Sete Gibernau, and Marc Marquez I will never forget. It was rarely boring.

Hosting a Yamaha function at Phillip Island in 2017 I was feeling a bit sorry for myself with just three Grand Prix remaining before I retired. Unbeknown to me, Vale had just recorded a wonderful message for my retirement video. He came up to me put his arm around my shoulder and declared. ‘Oh f… what am I going to do without you Nick because now I will be the oldest person in the MotoGP™ paddock!.’ After Valencia, this week I am sure it is a title he will not mind losing

No sport better than MotoGP™ understands the need for change and progress. On the track, the sport is in such a good place with that new breed of young riders and World Champions ensuring the future is bright. Of course, it will continue to flourish without Valentino Rossi but to be honest I do not think it will ever be quite the same without the Doctor.

Little did I realise when I arrived at Welkom back in 2000 on that March morning what lay ahead. It is two decades of my working life I will never ever forget.

 Ciao Vale and thank you.

By |2021-11-10T20:41:13+00:00November 10th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on I jumped on the Vale rollercoaster and held on tight

Valentino Rossi career facts, stats and trivia

  • Rossi and Phil Read are the only riders to win world titles in the 125, 250 and 500cc classes. (Note: Marquez has won titles in 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP)
  • Valentino Rossi is the only rider to have won World Championships in four classes: 125, 250, 500 and MotoGP.
  • Rossi and Giacomo Agostini are the only two riders to have won premier-class titles on both 2-stoke and 4-stroke machinery.
  • His win at the 2004 season-opening GP in South Africa made him the first rider to take back-to-back premier-class victories on different makes of bike.
  • In 2004 he became only the second rider to win back-to-back premier-class titles on different makes of machinery.  Eddie Lawson was the first, winning on a Yamaha in 1988 and a Honda in 1989.
  • He holds the record for successive premier-class podiums, scoring 23 successive top-three results from the Portuguese GP in 2002 to the South Africa GP in 2004.
  • Rossi had the honour of scoring the 500th victory for Honda when he won the Japanese 500cc GP in April 2001.
  • He is the only rider to win the premier-class title on four different types of motorcycle: 500cc 2-stroke Honda, 990cc 4-stoke Honda, 990cc 4-stroke Yamaha, 800cc 4-stroke Yamaha.
  • Rossi has won GP races on seven different motorcycles: 125cc Aprilia, 250cc Aprilia, 500cc Honda, 990cc Honda, 990cc Yamaha, 800cc Yamaha and 1000cc Yamaha.
  • His eleven wins in 2005 is the highest number of premier-class victories in a single season by a Yamaha rider
  • He is the only rider to win five or more successive premier-class races on a Yamaha.
  • He is the only rider in history to have won five or more successive races on two different makes of bike (Yamaha and Honda).
  • He is Yamaha’s most successful rider of all-time with 56 race victories on their bikes.
  • His 89 race victories in the premier-class are more than any other rider in the history of Grand Prix racing (second on this list is Giacomo Agostini with 68 premier-class wins).
  • He has won 115 GP races across the three classes.  Only Giacomo Agostini with 122 wins has stood on the top step of the podium more in grand prix racing.
  • Valentino Rossi’s third place finish at Jerez in 2020 was the 199th time he has stood on the podium in the premier-class, more than any other rider (second on this list is Jorge Lorenzo with 114 premier-class podiums).
  • He has been on the podium 235 times across all classes, which is more than any other rider in the history of Grand Prix racing (second on this list is Giacomo Agostini with 159 Grand Prix podiums).
  • The Valencia GP will be Rossi’s 432nd Grand Prix start. This means that he has taken part in 44.4% of all grand prix events that have taken place since the world championship series began in 1949. (The rider with second most GP starts is Andrea Dovizioso with 332 by the end of 2021).
  • Rossi’s final total of premier-class GP starts will be 372 including the race in Valencia; this is more than any other rider (second in the list is Alex Barros with 245 premier-class GP starts).
  • Rossi has the longest wining career in the premier-class of GP racing, with his latest win at the Dutch TT in 2017 coming 16 years 351 days after his first 500cc GP win at Donington in 2000 (the rider with second longest winning career in the premier-class is Alex Barros – 11 years 204 days).
  • He also has the longest winning GP career across all classes; 20 years 311 days between his first GP victory in the 125cc class at Brno in 1997 and his last GP win at Assen in 2017 (second in this regard is Loris Capirossi with a GP winning career of 17 years 49 days).
  • During his career Rossi has competed at 38 different grand prix circuits.
  • Of these 38 circuits, he has taken at least one GP win at 29 of the circuits.  No other rider in the history of motorcycle grand prix racing has won at as many different circuits as Rossi.
  • The circuits at which Rossi has had most GP wins are Catalunya and Assen where he has won ten times at each of these two circuit. 
  • In the premier-class Rossi has competed at 29 different circuits.
  • He has won in the premier-class at 23 of these 29 circuits.
  • The circuit where Rossi has had most premier-class wins is Assen, with eight.
  • The circuit at which Rossi has made most grand prix appearances is Jerez, where he has made  27 GP starts across the three classes, including 23 in the premier-class.
  • During his Grand Prix career Rossi has shared the podium with 55 different riders. The rider he has stood on the podium with most often is Jorge Lorenzo – 53 times.
  • In the premier-class Rossi has shared the podium with 38 different riders.
  • The last time that Rossi shared a podium with a rider older than himself was at the 2008 Czech Grand Prix, that rider being Loris Capirossi.
  • With Valencia being Valentino Rossi’s last event it will very likely be the last time that a rider born in the 1970s will start a Grand Prix race.
  • There are three riders Rossi has shared a premier-class podium with without standing on a higher step: Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo and Stefan Bradl.
By |2021-11-09T11:06:22+00:00November 9th, 2021|Martin Raines Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Valentino Rossi career facts, stats and trivia

Who will Fabio follow? – Ago, Barry or Kenny JR?

So which World Champion is Fabio Quartararo going to emulate in the final two races of the season with that world crown firmly planted on his head? In decades past once they had won the ultimate prize the likes of Giacomo Agostini and Barry Sheene turned their back on the Championship. Others such as Kenny Roberts Junior set out to show the world just why they were a worthy Champion.

Competing in the World Championship in the sixties and seventies could prove an expensive business even if you were World Champion. Ago’s decision not to race at certain circuits once he’d won the 500cc World title was both down to safety and finance. Why risk your life at a dangerous road circuit, especially if you could ride at a non-championship race in another country on the same afternoon and earn more cash. Ago’s absence at those races produced some record-breaking results.

In 1969 he missed the penultimate round at Imola and the race was won by Alberto Pagani, the first time the son of a Grand Prix winner repeated the victory. A week later, at the Opatija road circuit in Yugoslavia with Ago again absent, Godfrey Nash brought Norton their last Grand Prix win. It was also the last single cylinder victory in the premier class.

Ago’s MV Agusta team-mate Angelo Bergamonti scored his one and only 500cc victory at the final round at Montjuic Park in the 1970 Spanish Grand Prix while his teammate rode in a non-Championship race in England. A year late at Jarama in Spain, Dave Simmons brought Kawasaki the first of their two premier class victories with Ago absent. In 1972, Ago again missed the final round at Montjuic Park and Chas Mortimer gave Yamaha their very first premier class win riding the 352cc two-stroke machine.

Barry Sheene missed the final three rounds at the Imatra, Brno and Nürburgring road circuits in 1976. Pat Hennen became the first American Grand Prix winner in Finland. John Newbold grabbed his one and only 500cc victory at Brno while Ago won for the last time on the four-stroke MV Agusta in Germany. It was the last of his 68 500cc victories.

Move the clock forward to 2000 and Motegi in Japan. Kenny Roberts junior brought the title to Suzuki with a sixth place at Rio in Brazil in a race won by Valentino Rossi, after a fantastic fight with local hero Alex Barros. It was the perfect ride by Kenny but was overshadowed by the Rossi/Barros scrap. Eight days later the new World Champion destroyed the opposition led by Rossi at Motegi to show the world just why he had followed in the footsteps of his illustrious father.

I had to smile last Sunday imagining the disbelief and then panic in press rooms, studios, and commentary boxes throughout the world when the unfortunate Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) crashed so close to the finish of the race in Misano leaving Quartararo as World Champion. We have all been there, script or copy written and ready to go at the final whistle or in this case, the chequered flag. Many times it has happened to me with a last-minute goal at a football match completely changing the whole story. On two wheels or three, I will never forget Brno in 1988. I sat with my feet on a spartan desk in the commentary box dreaming of a bottle of that pink Russian champagne you could buy at Brno for under five euros.

I was full of self-praise for what I thought had been a good afternoon work for the BBC. I had just interviewed new World 500cc Champion Eddie Lawson live on the radio and commentated on the race. I told the producer back in London best to wait for the final voice piece so I could add ten seconds on the sidecar race even though British World Champion Steve Webster was eighteen points behind Rolf Biland at this final round. Steve had little chance of the title that meant so much to British fans with no success in the solo classes.

Webster, with stand-in passenger Gavin Simmons, led the way with potential Champion Biland comfortable in fourth. Suddenly out of the blue Biland started to slow and then coasted over the start to a halt four laps from the end. Total pandemonium in the commentary box but I managed to commentate on the last two laps live and interview Webster. It had been close and certainly took longer than ten seconds, but it was well worth it when the National Anthem boomed out over the Brno countryside.

So, to all the media before the Algarve on Sunday, be patient. Do not start writing until those Moto3™ and Moto2™ races have finished. Fabio, I am certain will follow the example of Kenny Roberts to celebrate that MotoGP™ world title.

By |2021-11-03T19:36:48+00:00November 3rd, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Who will Fabio follow? – Ago, Barry or Kenny JR?