Nick Harris

About Nick Harris

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Nick Harris has created 74 blog entries.

RIDING OR DRIVING YOUR LUCK

Sometimes you just don’t realise just how lucky you are. Two features this week made me understand just how lucky I’ve been which I definitely did not realise at the time. The first feature was in the Times newspaper  all about the pressure on marriages and relationships for everybody and especially the teams working in the Formula One World Championship with yet another increase in the number of grands prix next year. The second on the television on Monday evening featured a Royal Navy frigate returning to Portsmouth after six months at sea. Waiting on the quayside was wives, girlfriends and children with welcome home balloons and placards, painted by the kids, to welcome back their loved ones after so long away.

Obviously I fully understood the dilemma of the Formula One teams after spending 38 years on the road working in both the MotoGP and Formula One. I’ve witnessed far too many times the gradual deterioration of a relationship with two partners constantly having to live separate lifes.Communication over the phone and later social media can wear very thin after so many years. Let’s be honest on the road doing a job you actually adore, a job that gives you so much excitement and satisfaction is a pretty good way to earn a very decent living. Of course you have to be focused but that focus can become totally obsessional and it’s so easy to lose sight of anything else and especially the more mundane but so important part of life back home. What happens if the drains are blocked, the car breaks down, the children are ill or often in my case there is a spider in the bathroom. The answer is simple when you are away around six months of the year your partner has to deal with it although in my case it was the next door neighbour who dealt with the spider. The person left at home running the show is the rock of these relationships. They keep the wheels of everyday life well-oiled while at the circuit practice and qualify performances, when and where is dinner and what time we are leaving for the circuit on Sunday morning takes over your life.

When I started covering grand prix motorcycling in 1980 there were just eight grands prix all in Europe. Next season there are 20 MotoGP events visiting 16 countries on five continents. The season with testing runs for almost 10 months which is a very long time. Of course the saving grace is coming home between races and testing which is absolutely crucial for both partners and especially the children. 

The thought of being wedged in a tiny bunk in the bowels of a Frigate in a force eight gale for six months, stuck in a desert hole with bullets flying your head in the searing heat or living underwater for brain numbing months in a submarine  does not sound a great deal of fun.

Of course we used to moan if the flight was delayed, the restaurant was closed and the bar had no draft beer. It’s only now I realise just how lucky I was.

By | December 4th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on RIDING OR DRIVING YOUR LUCK

NEARLY THREE MILLION FANS VOTE ON THEIR FEET

The weather was not always perfect and Mark Marquez may have clinched that MotoGP World title five rounds from the finish in Thailand but still the fans voted on their feet. To be precise an average of 150,691 pairs of feet propelled those fans to each grand prix this season. A staggering average attendance for the three days which makes up a grand prix weekend. Over two million eight hundred thousand race fans travelled to the 19 grand prix this season and next year with Finland making a welcome return to the 20 race calendar there are going to be more.

When I returned to full time grand prix motorcycle racing after a six year defection to Formula One 19 years ago there was concern about just how people were attending or in some cases not attending certain circuits. You could almost count the number of spectators on one hand in many of those vast empty Sepang grandstands in Malaysia. Just 18,500 fans made it over the three days for the 2000 British Grand Prix at Donington Park .Jeremy McWilliams who finished third behind Valentino Rossi and World Champion Kenny Roberts in the 500cc race, the Doctor’s first premier class victory, nicknamed Great Britain as Superbike Island and he was right.

Roll on 18 incredible years of four strokes, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez plus so much more and it’s a very different story. This year Sepang. which has dropped its Formula race because of poor attendances, attracted over 170,000 spectators cheering on their home based Petronas Yamaha SRT team. This year it was a case of counting the empty seats on one hand. Last year the British Grand Prix at Silverstone has to be cancelled on race day because of heavy rain which the new track surface could not handle. This year nearly 115,000 returned to this classic re-surfaced venue to witness a classic Marquez/Alex Rins fight to the flag. Even more will return next year.

Three circuits attracted over 200,000 spectators this season. The massive crowds packed two classic venues at the Sachsenring in Germany and Le Mans in France. Innovative marketing and spectator events such as concerts, stunt riding and rider appearances has doubled the Le Mans attendance over the last decade with double World titles for Johann Zarco playing their part.

There was no home – based World Champions or even race winner to cheer on in Thailand but still the Chang International Circuit at Buriram attracted the largest crowd of the season for the second year running. A staggering 226,655 fans travelled to the track in East Thailand. MotoGP has a massive new following in Asia and with Indonesia poised to join the Championship in the next couple of years those crowds are just going to get bigger and bigger.

Of course increased attendances are not the only indication of just how successful the MotoGP World Championship has been over the last couple of decades but surely 2,863,119 fans can’t be wrong.

By | November 27th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on NEARLY THREE MILLION FANS VOTE ON THEIR FEET

The Mike Hailwood of MotoGP™

When I was growing up with totally unrealistic dreams of actually racing a  motorcycle I eagerly devoured every  word in a book on just how to do it by my hero nine times World Champion  Mike Hailwood. The book suggested you should be able to place an imaginary sixpenny piece on every corner round the TT mountain course in the Isle of Man. Then for every lap of the six lap race, a mere 364 kms, you should be able to ride over every one of those sixpences to ensure smooth consistent lines. Hailwood could do it but very few others could. Without a shadow of a doubt Jorge Lorenzo would have hit that imaginary sixpence or euro in his case, on every single bend. In this era of tough aggressive encounters Lorenzo was almost a throwback who reminded me so much of the legendary Hailwood. Of course he could mix it and had to win those five World titles. Even the King of Spain had to step in to calm the explosive feud between him and Dani Pedrosa as they fought for the 250 cc title. Then when he joined the MotoGP elite and everything that goes with it. Lorenzo also had to deal with team-mate Valentino Rossi on and off the track.

I vaguely remember having to add the name of a teenager from Mallorca by the name of Jorge Lorenzo to the entry list on the Saturday of the 2002 125 cc race at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez. It was the day of his 15th birthday and he was too young to ride in the first two practice sessions on Friday. A year later he won his first grand prix in Rio but I’d already got to know Jorge. He was more nervous about having to speak English at press conferences than he was about riding grand prix motor cycles. We would meet up ten minutes before the conference and he would practice his answers in English to my questions. It was good training and soon no practice was required because he was such a frequent participant in the pole setters and race winner’s press conferences on route to those two 250 cc World titles.

He arrived in MotoGP with a bang. Pole positions, some mighty big crashes, especially that high side in China and that first win in Estoril were the stand out moments of that 2008 season. World titles on the Yamaha followed in 2010, 2012 and 2015 which was almost forgotten in the furore of the Marquez/Rossi war. Like Rossi he made the move to Ducati and struggled in the same way to adjust in that first year but then glimpses of that immaculate smooth style returned with three grand prix wins for the Italian factory.

In the end the pain of so many injuries finally took their toll this year. Lorenzo knew more than most that you paid a price for winning 68 grands prix and five World titles. Who would ever forget that weekend at the 2013 Dutch TT in Assen. Lorenzo crashed and broke his collarbone in the wet second practice session. He was flown to Barcelona to have a titanium plate fitted with ten screws to repair the broken bone. He returned two days later to ride the Yamaha into fifth place after 26 laps of excruciating pain. Winning World titles and grands prix was never easy.

To some people  Lorenzo played second fiddle to first Valentino Rossi and then Marc Marquez  but on his day and especially if he got away at the front, Jorge Lorenzo was quite simply unbeatable. Mike Hailwood would have approved.

By | November 22nd, 2019|Uncategorised|1 Comment

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|Comments Off on Valencia vibes

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

Keep dreaming

It could only happen to The Doctor. Minutes after a hug on the Phillip Island starting grid with former crew chief Jerry Burgess and watched by 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi led the opening laps of the Pramac Australian Grand Prix on his historic 400th Grand Prix appearance. The forty-year-old Italian heading the way over riders half his age round the legendary 4.448 kms cliff top circuit as he chased his 116th Grand Prix win and 235th podium finish. It was the world of dreams and throughout the globe, his legion of loyal fans held their breath, surely even their hero could not pull this one off.

In the end even the nine times World Champion finally had to succumb to the youthful pack headed by Marc Marquez round the magnificent circuit where Vale had produced some of his greatest performances. At the end of 27 frantic laps as the rain clouds gathered he finally finished in eighth place after a typical 120.096 kms battle with the youngsters that saw him just 1.3 seconds behind local hero Jack Miller in third place.

There were so many glimpses of The Doctor at his very best as he fought with the likes of Mir, Dovizioso, Bagnaia, Iannone and Aleix Espargaro. It brought back the memories of one of the greatest ever Grand Prix riders pitting his amazing talent with surely the very best motorcycle racing circuit in the World. Memories of that first 500cc win at Phillip Island in 2001 that brought him his first premier class title. The bright yellow number 46 Honda involved in the closest-ever 500cc Grand Prix finish with just three seconds separating the first eight riders across the line as Rossi became the youngest ever rider at the time to win World titles in three classes.

I will never forget his tribute to the late Barry Sheene, his father Graziano’s great friend after he won the Island race in 2003 despite starting with a ten second penalty after a yellow flag infringement. On his slow down lap he had a huge flag over his shoulder, made from the bed sheet of his hotel sporting the legendary Sheene number 7 motif.

Like it or not time is running out for The Doctor to win that 116th Grand Prix but as the MotoGP™ show moves onto the heat and humidity of Sepang in Malaysia for the penultimate round of the Championship on Sunday, just cast your minds back 12 months and the race last year. Rossi had already witnessed his step-brother Luca Marini win his first Moto2™ Grand Prix and his teammate Pecco Bagnaia riding for Rossi’s Sky Racing Team VR46 clinch the World title. With four laps remaining of the MotoGP™ race Rossi led Marc Marquez as they flashed across the line. At the first corner, Rossi went down in a shower of sparks in front of the jam-packed sea of yellow Rossi grandstand. His big chance had gone.

On Sunday it may be a different story – keep dreaming.

By | October 31st, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Keep dreaming

Take heart Fabio, at least it’s not another four years

It was a difficult Sunday for the French in Japan. While France was knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by Wales the mighty impressive Fabio Quartararo clinched the MotoGP™ Rookie of the Year title in Motegi but for the fourth Grand Prix in succession could not beat the rampant Marc Marquez to secure that first premier class victory. Surely that first win will come as rich reward for the 20-year-old during the final three races of the year. He should take heart that others have had to wait longer before the floodgates opened while some who started with a bang never went on the win the ultimate prize.

Mick Doohan had to wait until the penultimate round of the 1990 Championship to secure that first win at the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest in his second season in the 500cc class. The Australian went on to win 53 more on route to five World titles. What a contrast to Max Biaggi who arrived in the 500cc class with a bang at Suzuka in 1998. The Italian had dominated the 250cc Championship for the previous four years and what a premier class debut he made at the opening round of the Championship. Max won comfortably on the Honda to send a shiver down the spine of his rivals to become the first rider in 25 years to win a premier class race on his debut. It was quite a day with Biaggi the first European winner of a Premier class race in Japan but he never went onto win the World title. He won 12 more Grands Prix but in the final reckoning always had to play second fiddle to his bitter rival Valentino Rossi.

Even The Doctor didn’t strike first time out and it after a trip to hospital in nearby Nottingham following a practice crash he won for the first time at the ninth round of the 2000 Championship at Donington Park. The rest is history with 88 victories to follow that brought the Italian seven World titles and a legendary status. I’m sure it’s no great surprise to learn that Marc Marquez won at Austin in 2013 in just his second premier class race and went on to win the title at the first attempt.

I remember two maiden premier class wins by two riders who went onto win the ultimate prize. Twenty five of us travelled to Assen in 1975 to support Barry Sheene just four months after his horrendous Daytona crash that made him more famous than any World titles back home in Britain. I’m still convinced our vocal beer-fuelled support for Barry as he crossed the line on equal time as legend Giacomo Agostini convinced the timekeepers to award the race to the British rider who went on to win 18 more and two World titles

Seven years later I ran down the track with notebook in hand towards the legendary Eau Rouge corner at Spa in Belgian determined to be the first journalist to speak to Freddie Spencer after his maiden Grand Prix win. As I breathlessly arrived Freddie was trying to turn the three-cylinder Honda with no steering lock round at the bottom of the hill to get back to pit lane and the celebrations. Unfortunately, after averaging 157.873 kph to win the 20 lap race an exhausted Freddie fell off at around 5 kph and the exclusive interview had to wait. Freddie went on to win 19 more premier class Grands Prix, two 500cc titles and is still the only rider to win 500 and 250cc titles in the same season just three years later.

So take heart Fabio, that first win will come. At least you get another chance at Phillip Island on Sunday while the French rugby team will have to wait four long years.

By | October 24th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Take heart Fabio, at least it’s not another four years

Tripping over, visa worries… and the wife’s birthday

When as always I tripped over the bulging massive MotoGP bag at the top of the stairs, woke up in the night worried once again I was travelling to Japan without a visa, could still smell the wood preservative on my hands and double checked with my next door neighbour he would deliver my wife’s birthday present I knew my favourite trip of the year was about to start.

Three grands prix in the space of two hectic weeks on the other side of the world in Japan, Australia and Malaysia embracing so very different cultures, contrasting weather and food. Three totally different race tracks in Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang which so often produced the new World Champion although not this time round.

Packing enough underpants and work shirts was always a problem to see you through the first two weeks before the welcome laundry service at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur.Hence the bulging MotoGP bag although the problem was if you flew in with all your colleagues picking out your bag on the carousel among 100 similar others was nightmare. In over 30 visits to Japan I never had a visa and every time I approached immigration I got that dreaded feeling that everybody was watching me and I would be refused entry and sent home but it never happened. When you are away from home for three weeks on the other side of the World important matters have to be attended to before you go and when you are away. I always had to spray the wooden garden furniture with preservative the week before I departed because I left in the autumn and returned at the start of winter with those horrible dark nights. My hands still smelt as I boarded that first flight to Tokyo. I was always away for my wife’s birthday at the end of October. Cards and presents had to be hidden and in one case a new bike delivered by my next door neighbour on the right day.

The unbelievable Motegi complex is in the middle of nowhere and until the last couple years we used to stay at one of the many golf courses in the area. At night we were the only people there in the middle of the pitch black Japanese countryside and it reminded so much of the film, The Shining .My so called ‘friends’ used to warn me as we went to bed that Jack Nicholson would be breaking down my bedroom door in the middle of the night to announce I’m home. That warning plus a couple earth tremors certainly didn’t help sleep despite the jet lag.

Straight onto Phillip Island which was such a contrast. We always stayed in the main town Cowes named after the town in the Isle of Wight where I spent many a childhood holiday. I loved the fish and chips and especially the local pub where we learnt so much about Australian beer, life on Phillip Island, cricket and a betting system called Pokies.

We would often fly out of Melbourne on the Sunday/early Monday morning to Kuala Lumpur after the race. After two weeks on the road that first swim at the hotel near the airport was pure heaven. It was a break of a couple of days to get the laundry done and sample the delights of the food and markets in sprawling KL while dodging those tropical storms. Negotiating over the price in the markets was a real art which I never quite mastered and so I took Casey Stoner along on one occasion to stand in for me. As expected he was brilliant.

I was ready to go home at the end of three incredible weeks that for me personally was the perfect illustration why I love MotoGP so much both on and off the track. Of course I’m envious of all those flying out this week but at least I’m home for my wife’s birthday and I will not be tripping over at the top of the stairs.

By | October 17th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

Nick Harris: after the Lord Mayor’s show

Barry Sheene would have not ridden in another Grand Prix this season. Giacomo Agostini would have picked his races. Freddie Spencer never graced another Grand Prix podium while Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi just carried on winning. I don’t think it takes much of an expert to work out which route Marc Marquez will follow after his eighth world title win following that breathtaking victory in Thailand on Sunday.

Sheene realised after winning his two 500cc titles in the seventies he could make more money by actually not competing in many of the last few Grands Prix with some very lucrative appearance deals at home. Ago would miss out riding at some of the dangerous road circuits on the all-conquering 350 and 500cc MV Agustas and who could blame him.  After Spencer clinched that historic 1985 250/500cc double by winning the penultimate round of the 500cc Championship at Anderstorp incredibly he never again stood on a Grand Prix podium. Doohan and Rossi just ploughed on and won more and more races after title victories.

The ride I will never forget came from Kenny Roberts Jr in 2000 at Motegi in Japan. Just eight days earlier Kenny had clinched the 500cc world title for Suzuki with a calculated sixth place in the race won by Rossi at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to become the first son to win the same premier class title as his father. It was my first visit to Motegi and Roberts showed us all just why he was the World Champion. Both Roberts and Suzuki knew they had to win the title that year with the young cavalry led by Rossi and Biaggi funded by Honda and Yamaha on the charge. Rossi had won his first 500cc Grand Prix at Donington followed by the Rio win while Biaggi was victorious in Brno. Throw in the likes of sliding Australian Garry McCoy who’d already won three Grands Prix that season on the Yamaha and there were plenty of pretenders to Roberts’s crown wanting to put the World Champion in his place but it never happened. Roberts simply blew them all away round the 4.801 kms circuit to beat Rossi and Biaggi by over six seconds, just to let them know who was the Champion of the world. It turned out to be the last of Kenny’s eight 500cc wins and Rossi took over his mantle. The rest is history but the American had made his point in such a masterful way.

There are still four Grands Prix to go this year and Marquez’ next appearance at the home of Honda in Motegi does not exactly spell out good news for his rivals. Perhaps a certain 20-year-old Frenchman may have something to say about that in the next six weeks.

By | October 10th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

All prepared and you won’t need the scissors

Repsol Honda will be prepared to celebrate the distinct possibility that Marc Marquez will clinch the MotoGP™ world title on Sunday in Thailand, but I bet they have not mentioned their plans to their rider. It might seem like a miracle when a rider wins a World Championship that he magically appears on the podium proudly wearing a t-shirt proclaiming his amazing achievement.

Often a new helmet miraculously appears on his lap of honour, while, in more recent years, a little pantomime is often played out trackside to make a poignant point or celebrate the exact number of World titles achieved. While all the celebrations are going on at the circuit, the World Champion’s biography with pictures has already been beamed around the world to millions of media outlets.

If Marquez does not clinch his eighth world title at the Buriram circuit, Repsol Honda will have four more opportunities to press the button on their celebration plans but that has not always been the case. In 1992, I was media manager for the Rothmans Honda team and we were prepared for Mick Doohan to clinch the 500cc world title at the final round of an extraordinary Championship at Kyalami in South Africa.

Two hundred and fifty t-shirts were hidden away proclaiming Mick as the new Champion, while a similar number of press kits with his biography and photographs were ready to be distributed in the media centre at the chequered flag. Back home in England, around one thousand similar kits were poised to be posted first class throughout the world – no internet in those days, of course.

Mick arrived in South Africa with a precious two-point lead over current Champion Wayne Rainey after a truly remarkable comeback that had pushed even the Australian’s bravery and determination to a new level after fighting pain and injury. He’d been running away with the title until breaking his leg in a qualifying crash in Assen. An appalling, pain-filled three months followed when he even endured having his two legs sewn together to prevent the unthinkable prospect of having his right leg amputated. He returned to race at the penultimate round, after missing four Grands Prix, still holding a 22-point advantage over Rainey as a shadow of the rider who’d been dominating the Championship until Assen.

The 70-year history of Grand Prix racing has produced some extraordinary rides of pure courage and Mick’s 12th place around the dangerous and slippery Interlagos circuit, on the outskirts of San Paolo in Brazil, was certainly the bravest I’ve ever witnessed. Especially as it produced no World Championship points and Rainey won – only the top ten finishers scored points in those days.

Two weeks later and, so typically, Mick had worked day and night to improve his fitness and build his strength for the near 120-kilometre battle that would decide the outcome of the Championship. He fought like a tiger to finish in sixth place but Rainey did enough. The Yamaha rider rode the perfect race behind John Kocinski and Wayne Gardner to finish third and retain his title by four points.

Cutting up the t-shirts and press kits was an upsetting task after witnessing first hand just how much a rider was prepared to put his body through to win the title. A fitter and stronger Mick returned a year later and, in 1994, at last won his first world title. For five consecutive seasons, he sported that World Championship winning t-shirt that his sheer bravery and ability more than deserved.

However, I don’t think the Repsol Honda Team will be getting out those same cutting up scissors after the next five Grands Prix.

By | October 3rd, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on All prepared and you won’t need the scissors