Nick Harris

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So far Nick Harris has created 35 blog entries.

A forty one year wait still on hold

As Bradley Smith and Scott Redding manfully fought without success for some precious World Championship points on Sunday I could not help thinking back three years at the MotoGP race in Misano. A race in tricky conditions on the Adriatic coast in which the two British riders finished on the podium behind Marc Marquez. They gambled in the changing track conditions with Smith, riding the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha second and Redding third on the Marc VDS Honda. Roll on those three years and it looks certain we are going to lose both Smith and Redding as full time MotoGP™ riders. All the excitement and optimism generated by those 28 laps at Misano seems a long time ago.

Both riders were products of the Dorna Academy and both came so close to bringing World Championship success to Britain in the smaller classes before joining MotoGP. Smith was runner-up to team-mate Julian Simon in the 2009 125 cc World Championship and won three grands prix in the class. Redding is still the youngest ever Grand Prix winner when he won the 125 cc British Grand Prix in 2008 and went onto finish second in the 2013 Moto2™ World Championship winning three Grands Prix in the class, including his home race at Silverstone.

In that same year of his second place in Misano Smith finished sixth in the MotoGP™ Championship and looked to have such a bright future in the premier class. Injuries and the switch to Michelin tyres slowed his progress and after two years at KTM he is moving on but still in the class as the test rider for Aprilia, which will include some Grand Prix wild card entries. Redding, who finished third at Assen in the rain a year after his Misano podium, could be lost to the class forever after 11 years in Grand Prix racing.

Incidentally I bumped into the other British star from that Dorna Academy a couple of weeks ago on the start line of the TT Classic races in the Isle of Man. As bubbly as ever Danny Webb, a 125 cc pole setter for Mahindra, was about to do battle on a glorious sounding Manx Norton with the 60.271 kms infamous TT Mountain circuit. His grand prix career and the Academy seemed a long way away.

It appears that the so capable Cal Crutchlow will take on the sole responsibility for the success–starved British fans. Those broad shoulders have already ended a 35 year nightmare when he brought the LCR Honda victory in the 2016 MotoGP™ race in the Czech Republic, which he followed up a couple of months later with a superb win at Phillip Island in Australia. The last British winner in the premier class had been Barry Sheene in 1981.

Good luck Bradley and Scott in the future. Cal’s third place at Misano on Sunday shows he still has a good few Grands Prix wins and podiums in him and we hope the new British Talent Cup will unearth somebody, but that will not happen overnight. Barry Sheene was the last British rider to win the premier class in Grand Prix racing 41 long painful years ago and that long wait for the new Sheene to emerge after four decades of disappointment still seems to have no end.

By | September 14th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on A forty one year wait still on hold

Moment of Truth

My moment of truth came in March 1976. After the first four months at Motor Cycle News reporting on the British Sidecar Trials Championship the News Editor told me that ‘the boy’ – his words not mine – was being dispatched to Misano to report on the 1976 pre-season international. When he added “bring back plenty of quotes back from Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read”, I was on the road dressed in my new blue and white Motor Cycle anorak with my signature proudly emblazoned on the breast pocket.

The pre-season international races had been held on the legendary streets and seafronts of the Adriatic towns for many years and the Reception at the Abners Hotel was adorned with photographs of Italian legends; Agostini, Bergamonti and Pagani to name but a few. Like so many of the road circuits they were a dangerous place to race and in 1971 a tragic accident involving Angelo Bergamonti ultimately led to the contruction of the Misano permanent circuit. The MV Agusta factory rider had won the last round of the 1970 Championship at Monjuich Park in Spain. His preparation for the new season included the international races on the Riccione seafront. The original meeting was called off because of heavy rain but a week later in early April the races went ahead despite the threat of more rain. It started to fall in the 350cc race while Bergamonti was chasing MV team-mate Agostini into a roundabout leading onto the sea front, and tragically the Italian crashed and was killed.

I was lucky to meet the legendary mechanic and later Honda media manager Iain Mackay in the Abners reception, who promptly invited me to dinner with his team on my first night. Sitting at the head of the table as I entered the restaurant was the leader of his team, a certain Giacomo Agostini – yes, Agostini the 15 times World Champion and all the rest of it. The Italian, who was then and still is now the most successful motorcycle racer in the 70-year history of the World Championship, standing up to shake hands with MCN’s latest raw recruit. I said little but nodded when spoken to and just ate what was put in front of me.

Practice day dawned with a rather weak and watery sun rising above a grey and uninviting Adriatic ocean. The Misano circuit is situated a couple of miles inland and the closed up camp sites, ice cream parlours and the rare sight of an Italian beach devoid of sun loungers, with only a few hardy dog walkers to be spotted, made the prospect of an international motorcycle race all rather surreal. It was a lot livelier and certainly noisier, with the scream and smoke from highly tuned two-stroke engines endorsing the fact that something was actually to happen on this March weekend.

The good old MCN jacket once again came into its own when Phil Read spotted me in the paddock. “You must be the new man from Motor Cycle News,” he enquired, and promptly invited me to dinner that night. “I’m staying at the Abners if you know it,” he told me, “and the restaurant is on the first floor.” Know it? Oh my god, I’m a regular and was there with your great mate Mr Agostini just last night! At least I knew where to go and after the meal I lay on the bed in my room wanting to phone my mates back home and tell them this was a doddle. I’d had dinner with Ago and Phil, met Walter Villa and really didn’t understand what all the fuss was about this job.

A few flurries of sleet falling into the uninviting sea greeted the breakfast guests at the start of my big day. On arrival groups of officials, Carabinieri, riders, mechanics and journalists stood around – something was wrong. Ago, upon looking out of his Abners bedroom window, had decided the sleet was actually snow and told the Misano organisers he would not race. They made a quick calculation and decided no Ago, no meeting, and called it off.

That was that and not a doddle after all. It was back to the British Sidecar Trials Championship.

By | September 6th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

Boot on the other foot

I’ve been there so many times before. Stuck in the commentary box with nothing to talk about but having to talk about something to keep the producer and more important the dwindling numbers of the viewers happy. I’ve never been on the other side until this Sunday. Sitting in front of the television screen waiting for something to happen with my former colleagues doing an unbelievable job to keep the show on the road as the rain continued to pour down.

The boot was really on the other foot and how ironic was it that I was on the Isle of Man on Sunday morning. The same famous mountain course that staged that very first World Championship race on June 13th 1949. The very same mountain course that hosted the British round of the World Championship until Silverstone took over in 1977.

Jak’s Sports Bar on the very wet and windy Douglas Promenade as the Irish Sea pounded in up the beach was our venue. The savvy manager opened up early at 11.00 am with the MotoGP™ race at Silverstone due to start in 11.30. The place was jammed packed with race fans from all over the world on the Island to watch the TT Classic races. Some started with coffee while others were straight onto the ale – after all they were on holiday. Like everybody we sat, drank, waited and drank, waiting for something to happen. More and more people arrived but despite the disappointment at each announcement of more delays, nobody moaned about riders not risking their lives to go out there, it was those sodden spectators that everybody raised a glass to, toasting their dedication.

Around 2.30 pm the rain had stopped outside and we decided – myself and three ex TT riders – to relieve the boredom and it was time to make our own lap of the 37 miles TT circuit. They wanted to relive their memories which they did with some scary old stories. We stopped at a pub in Ramsey and to the annoyance of the customers, asked the landlord to switch over from Premier League football coverage to MotoGP™. The pictures from the studio with the rain pouring outside told their own story and the customers cheered as they switched back to the football.

Back at Jaks, plenty of alcohol was still being consumed because everybody knew what the news from Silverstone was going to be. The announcement came as no great surprise. We were the lucky ones in the warm and dry, and all the sympathy was for those spectators who’d braved it out.

My thoughts turned to the television presenters and commentators. An unnamed pit lane reporter would say they knew things were desperate when Nick Harris reached the Milk Cup Final moment. When I had really run out of things to say I would recount the 1986 Milk Cup Final success of my beloved Oxford United. It was time to switch off, not that there many viewers still switched on.

As I was about to leave Jak’s, I raised my glass to those spectators at Silverstone and everybody at BT Sport who did such an amazing job. PS, it’s Monday morning on the Isle of Man and the start of racing has been delayed because of the weather. Nothing changes.

By | August 30th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Boot on the other foot

GAS IT W…..

A certain Barry Sheene hung over pit wall holding the signal board that was going to herald a new chapter in the history of British Motorcycle racing. The GAS IT W….. message brought a smile to the face of his great mate Steve Parrish as he raced towards Copse corner on the last lap leading the very first British Grand Prix.

It was an August afternoon in 1977 in these were incredible times and now the prospect of a British winner – it did not get any better than this, although perhaps a Sheene victory would have been the ultimate ending to the most perfect day. Since 1949 the British round of the World Championship had traditionally been held over the mountain circuit at the TT in the Isle of Man. The majority of the leading riders had stopped riding at the most famous motorcycle race in the world while even some of the National Federations had banned their riders from competing because they felt the 60.721 kms circuit was just too dangerous. We’d had our appetites whetted with many of the Grand Prix stars competing in lucrative international meetings at Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park and even Cadwell Park but this was the real thing. At last after 28 years, the British round of the World Championship was on the mainland and the timing was perfect.

Barry Sheene had already retained the 500cc World Championship, Barry and girlfriend Stephanie were the Beckhams of the seventies and featured on front pages and in magazines that would never have dreamt of even mentioning motor cycle racing and to make it the perfect day, Sheene was starting the race in pole position. To say Silverstone was buzzing would be a vast understatement.

The so wanted Sheene victory did not materialise when the World Champion was forced to retire with mechanical problems but led by Sheene, the massive crowd switched their allegiance to his partner in crime Steve Parrish. Even after that there was a backup with John Williams, riding another RG 500 Suzuki in second place in front of Sheene’s team-mate and not great friend American Pat Hennen.

Everybody was on their feet as Parrish raced between those towering grandstands at Woodcote to start the last of the 28 laps to re-write the history books both for himself and British Motorcycle racing, but don’t forget this was England in August. A few spots of rain spattered on Parrish’s visor as he turned his head to read Sheene’s typical message. Just 4.711 kms of the flat Northamptonshire countryside to negotiate and Parrish would win his first Grand Prix and would be crowned the very first winner of the British Grand Prix.

The National Anthem and the Union Jack were being prepared at the podium, but it was the Stars and Stripes that would be required. Going into the first corner at Copse to commence the most important lap of his life, Parrish lost the front end of his Suzuki and went down. Before the crowd could hardly utter a moan, Williams crashed three bends later leaving the way clear for Hennen to win his second 500cc Grand Prix, little did we realise that Kenny Roberts was going to open the flood gates a year later.

That was that. No British rider has won the premier class race at the British Grand in the next 41 years, the unfortunate Steve Parrish never won a Grand Prix and American riders dominated the Championship for the next ten years.

It could have been all so different.

By | August 23rd, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on GAS IT W…..

At the crunch, it’s the actual racing that counts

I wondered just what Ross Brawn thought at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday as he watched the epic duel between Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez exchanging paint schemes in their fight for victory. The very accomplished and highly experienced Brawn is widely acclaimed as the man to bring the fizz and excitement back to four wheels and Formula One.

Hopefully he enjoyed the racing and I’m sure did not need reminding that when it comes to the real crunch, it’s the actual racing out on the track that is the key to success. You can introduce brilliant technical innovations, clever rule changes to try and ensure closer racing and have every well-known celebrity in the world filmed on the starting grid but it’s the action on the tarmac that gets the adrenalin flowing through the veins of both the crowds and commercially probably more important, the television audiences.

Ninety-two thousand fans in the Austrian sunshine embraced just what MotoGP™ is all about. Flag waving, flare burning and vocal, they just loved everything that MotoGP™ had to offer in a day of noise, excitement with rivers of adrenalin flowing while the riders played their part as always. Superb Moto3™ and Moto2™ contests were the ideal dessert for the MotoGP™ race and Lorenzo and Marquez did not let us down with a head to head confrontation. You could not write the script with the two Spanish World Champion team-mates at Repsol Honda next year.

This season, or the last few seasons I have been lucky to witness, have made me a little bit selfish because I was disappointed there were no records broken in the MotoGP™ race on Sunday. The closest ever top ten premier class finish in the 70-year history of the sport at the previous round in Brno. Just 8.3 seconds separated that top ten while just a couple of rounds earlier the closest ever top 15 finish. In Assen it was 16.04s that elapsed between the winner Marc Marquez and 15th placed Dani Pedrosa, crossing the line after a breathless 25 laps of the Cathedral.

Of course, I was not disappointed on Sunday because you need not look further than those two at the front fighting for the lead to provide enough excitement and anticipation to keep you going until they reach Silverstone in two weeks’ time.

When Formula One visited the Red Bull Ring earlier in the season just the three leading cars finished on the same lap of the 71-lap race, but one thing they produced that MotoGP™ has not done for 28 barren years was a Dutch winner. Instead of the Rossi or KTM flags filling the hillsides it was Dutch orange of Max Verstappen. I waited 35 years for a British Premier class winner and hopefully those loyal Dutch fans will remain that patient.

In the meantime, enjoy that racing because when it comes to the crunch, that’s what really counts.

By | August 16th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on At the crunch, it’s the actual racing that counts

Snow, snow, quick, quick snow

Of course, riders worry about the weather before they go into battle but at the Austrian Grand Prix in the eighties, it was not rain or high winds that caused furrowed brows before the visors dropped. Snow and really thick snow was the problem.

The MotoGP™ riders looked up at the darkening sky as clouds amassed over the grid on Sunday – would the weather play yet another vital part on the 21-lap proceedings round the 5.403 km circuit that snaked its way through forests on its undulating journey up and down the hillside overlooking the city of Brno. This time those black clouds did not drop their contents and the asphalt remained dry throughout.

Next Sunday the riders will once again cast a wary eye over those magnificent mountains that surround the Red Bull Ring as they line up for the Austrian Grand Prix. Just ask anybody who was there in the nineties if it can rain, I promise you it can and very hard but snow in August, surely not a chance.

The Salzburgring was a magnificent venue but I didn’t have to race a fearsome 500cc two-stroke round the 4.240 km frighteningly fast undulating track that staged the Austrian Grand Prix 22 times. Magnificent scenery in the foothills above the city of Salzburg. A mountain stream ran through the tunnel that led you into the paddock and you’d walk alongside another stream that followed the wooded path to the start and finish line and the communications hut that was staffed with an iron fist by the apply named Fax Family who were very easy to upset, which we often did. We stayed in a great hotel in the lakeside village of Fuschl Am See, which is now the home of Red Bull. They not only understood why you needed to be on the phone at reception for a couple of hours to relay the race story back to England but would keep a supply of apple strudel and beer to keep you going on a yet another long Sunday night. Marlboro would stage a magnificent dinner usually hosted by Giacomo Agostini at the superb hotel half way up the mountain overlooking Salzburg before practice got underway on Thursday night.

So, a great place to work and spectate but it was the timing of the race which often was the first Grand Prix of the season that spoilt our fun. The Venezuelan Grand Prix had already been cancelled in 1980 because of financial problems and so Austria was due to start the new season on April 27th. Spring it may have been but some unseasonable thick snow – even for this part of the world – not only prevented riders actually tracing the outline of the circuit in the blizzards but blocked any chance of the trucks and motorhomes getting into the paddock. The first race of the season moved onto Misano in Italy two weeks later where Kenny Roberts was a comfortable winner. You would have thought they had learned their lesson but a year later on the same weekend practice had to be delayed for the opening Grand Prix of the season. You guessed it, because of the snow. Although the race won by Randy Mamola did take place.

Never say never but with Europe frying in the summer sunshine, the last thing on the riders mind lining up for the Austrian Grand Prix as Ducati chase a hatrick of victories will be snow.

By | August 9th, 2018|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Snow, snow, quick, quick snow

PICKING THE RIGHT MOMENT

Yes, my very first visit to Brno did teach me about life behind the Iron Curtain, just how dangerous the old road circuit was, keeping your thoughts to yourself when queuing for hours between the machine gun posts to cross the border from Austria, that sidecar driver George O’Dell was the contact for the cheapest crystal glasses, Russian champagne tasted ok and how to drink tea without milk. Far more important than any of these great experiences though, it taught me you must pick the right moment to ask a difficult question.

South African Jon Ekerold was quite simply the hardest motorcycle racer I’ve ever met. He’d arrived at Brno with a massive chance of clinching the 1980 350 cc World Championship he so richly deserved after a season long battle with Toni Mang. It was the penultimate round and he led Mang by 14 points as they lined up for the 13-lap race round the 10.920 km road circuit. Typically, Jon had taken everything fate could throw at him. His two mechanics Gregg Irvine and Keith Petersen had been barred entry to the communist country because of their South African passports and Jon had only obtained the necessary visa using the Norwegian passport he’d inherited from his father.

He was the privateer of all privateers riding the Yamaha based Bimota twin and started on the front row as they prepared to race between the houses and through the cornfields. I was already planning the words of my World Championship winning story as Jon was happy to sit behind leader Mang with just a few forays to the front to keep the chasing pack at a safe distance. Six laps to go and I’d already written the headline ‘The Privateer of all Privateers’ when it started to go horribly wrong. Jon started to slow with a broken piston ring as Mang piled on the pace at the front. With a lap to go he was still the 1980 350 cc World Champion in third place but his pace was that of a Tour de France cyclist not of a Grand Prix motorcycle racer. The snarling pack picked him off one by one and he limped across the line in tenth place with a single World Championship point. Eckerold and Mang would arrive at the Nurburgring seven short days later equal on points.

Up stepped the new reporter in his first Grand Prix season. As a shattered Ekerold coasted to a halt in the paddock, there was an ominous silence as he took off his helmet. Everybody realised this was not the exact moment to speak and certainly ask questions, apart from a person proudly wearing his Motor Cycle Weekly t-shirt. To say he was not happy with my enquiry about what had gone wrong would be a vast understatement. I rightly got the works from a man that had dedicated his life to winning the World Championship. On a scorching hot afternoon in Czechoslovakia, that dream had disappeared in the heat haze.

Fast forward five days and as I walked into the Nurburgring paddock for the final showdown, Jon Ekerold was waiting for me at the gate. Nervously I walked up to him expecting another deserved outburst but before I could speak he put out his hand and apologised for his anger, which he told me was unjustified and unfair to somebody who was only trying to do his job.

What a man and I was able to write the Privateer of all Privateers story on Sunday afternoon when he beat Toni Mang in an epic encounter round the old road circuit to bring that 350 cc World title to South Africa.

Thanks Jon, it’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

By | August 3rd, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on PICKING THE RIGHT MOMENT

Pedrosa’s pure bad luck

Is there such a thing as pure bad luck? In Dani Pedrosa’s case I think there is. Surely the biggest question mark surrounding last week’s retirement announcement by Dani must be how a rider with such an amazing record never won the MotoGP™ World title that he so richly deserved.

Only 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini has matched Dani by winning a premier class race for 12 successive seasons and the Spanish Honda rider is the only rider in the 70 year history of the sport to have won a Grand Prix for 16 successive seasons. The records continue to tumble.

Only Agostini and Valentino Rossi have secured more Grand Prix podiums while only nine times World Champion Rossi has secured more premier class podiums. He is the fourth youngest premier class race winner behind Marc Marquez, Freddie Spencer and Norick Abe and won the same number of Grands Prix as five times World Champion Mick Doohan and premier class Grands Prix as four times World Champion Eddie Lawson. His 54 Grands Prix wins equal Doohan while he equals the Australian as the most successful Honda Grand Prix rider of all time.

Following his 125cc and two 250cc World titles we just waited for the MotoGP™ crown to follow, especially after that first win at the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix – it never came, but why? Two never forgotten images sum up the career to me of surely one of the most underestimated and unlucky riders in the 70 year history of Grand Prix racing.

His smile as he entered the press conference at Misano two years ago after he’d left the greats including Lorenzo, Rossi and Marquez trailing in his wake by nearly three seconds on the Adriatic coast. His separate overtaking manoeuvres on the three World Champions came right out of the Marquez and Rossi textbook and merited his smile. Once again Dani had shown the world and his critics he could on his day match and beat the very best in the world.

Roll back the clock almost 13 years as the helicopter took off from Phillip Island bound for the hospital in Melbourne. Five days earlier the fresh faced teenager had clinched the first of three world titles with a 125cc victory at Sepang in Malaysia. In the first practice session for the Australian Grand Prix from the commentary box it looked a pretty standard crash as he slid off at the bottom of Lukey Heights in the cool conditions but as we learned so many times there is hardly ever a standard crash for Dani. He broke both his ankles as he slid into the barrier and his season and World Championship celebrations came to a premature end. When he crashed he hurt himself and throughout that 12 year MotoGP™ career it was so often not his fault. When it was where other walked away to fight another day Dani was on the plane back to Barcelona to mend broken bones.

His brilliant teammate Marquez was not giving anybody else a chance but I so wanted Dani to win at the Sachsenring on Sunday. He still has time in the remaining four months of an amazing career before giving that much repaired body the rest it deserves.

By | July 19th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

THE COURSE OF HISTORY

As World Championship motorcycle racing prepares to bake the cake to celebrate its 70th birthday next year nowhere reflects the history of Europe more than the Sachsenring circuit. Seven decades of conflict, divide and ultimately unification played out on and around the tarmac snaking through the forest above the town of Hohenstein – Ernsttal.

 The East German Grand that ran from behind the Iron Curtain between 1961 until 1972.The nearby MZ factory who took on the world from their humble premises to pioneer the two-stroke racing engine. The defection of their talisman Ernst Degner with the MZ secrets to Suzuki, the playing of the West German National anthem after the 1971 250 cc victory of Dieter Braun and finally the return as the German Grand Prix in 1998 tells so much. Throughout it was Motorcycle racing that provided a ray of light and hope for the millions of people caught in the web of post war conflict and divide. They have never forgotten.     

Folklore tells us every week for the last 69 years a fresh bunch of flowers is carefully laid on the simple stone memorial in the woods on the twisty undulating road near the entrance to the Sachsenring. Certainly there was a fresh bunch of locally picked flowers there last year as we drove through the forest on the old road circuit on route to the first day of practice for the German Grand Prix at the new Sachsenring.

Fifteen hundred kilometres away, across Europe and across both the North and Irish seas another memorial to the same person glints in some rare Isle of Man sunshine. On the famous mountain climb out of Ramsey looking back towards the Point of Ayre a kiln of stones is lovingly preserved to commemorate the life of a great motor cycle racer and six times TT winner.

On the eighth of August 1937 40 year old Scotsman Jimmy Guthrie was leading the German Grand Prix on the Sachsenring road circuit. Riding the Norton he was chasing his third successive victory in Germany where the rumble of war was looming fast. He’d already taken 19 grand prix victories and going into the last lap was leading comfortably. The 300,000 crowd packed around the 8.73 kms long road circuit that cut through the woods and around the hills surrounding the city of Hohenstein – Ernsttal, situated between Dresden and Leipzig prepared to celebrate.  He never arrived at the finish. Guthrie died in hospital after crashing into the woods on that fateful last lap.

 A year later World War two was declared and the Hohenstein-Ernstthal area around the Sachsenring was never going to be the same. When World War two ended they found themselves part of East Germany, a very different place to where they lived before war started. However, the people had never forgotten a Scottish gentleman who won two grands prix at their circuit before the hostilities split the world wide apart. In 1949 a memorial at the location he crashed was their own special tribute to him.

Colour, creed or nationality made no difference. He was their motorcycle racing hero.

By | July 12th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

F1 AT ASSEN – SO MUCH TO LIVE UP TO

I don’t know if Assen will ever stage a Formula One car Grand Prix but if four wheels do ever grace the hallowed tarmac they will have one hell of a legacy to live up to. Never was that fact better illustrated than the classic Assen 26 lap encounter on Sunday – just ask the 100,00 fans who packed the Cathedral for a typical Sunday service.

While F1 struggled to keep the three leading cars on the same lap at the Austrian A1 ring just 16.4 seconds separated the first 16 riders in the 118.92 kms MotoGP Assen showdown. The closest ever first 15 finish in the 70 year history of the Premier class (more detail here :http://www.nick-harris.co.uk/closest-top-15-of-all-time/  )It was what Assen is all about. Constant overtaking, more than a few contacts at the front as eight riders fought for the lead. Four different Manufacturers filling the first four places. It was breath taking stuff around a track that still retains those corners that make it so special. No wonder it’s the only circuit remaining from that original 1949 World Championship calendar.

So a perfect day for the massive Dutch crowd in the glorious sunshine – well not quite. While the talented Max Verstappen brought out the orange flags at the A1 ring with his first Formula One win of the season there was no such celebrating at Assen. To be honest while Assen retains the rightful position as the biggest sporting event of the year in Holland it’s despite the total lack of success of Dutch riders on the World stage. The bare facts make it even more amazing how the Dutch fans have stuck with MotoGP because their last grand prix win came 28 barren years ago.

Hans Spaan won the 125 cc race at the 1990 Czech Republic Grand Prix in Brno and that was that. He almost became the first Dutch World Champion since Henk van Kessel took the 50cc World for Kreidler 16 years earlier. It was close and went all the way to the wire and the final round at Phillip Island in Australia where Loris Capirossi, who clinched the title and his Italian mates, ganged up on the lone Dutchman. Nine years later Jürgen van der Goobergh at the same Brno circuit was the last Dutchman to start from pole position when he put that super quick MUZ – Weber on top in the 500 cc class. We have to look back almost two years for the last Dutch rider to finish on the podium when Bo Bendsneyder riding the KTM finished third in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. 

Lewis Hamilton racing through Veenslang just sounds wrong, Max Verstappen through Stekkenwal perhaps has a better ring about it but Marquez, Rins, Vinales, Dovizioso, Rossi, Crutchlow, Lorenzo and Zarco though Ramshoek an absolute dead cert even for those success starved Dutch fans.

 

By | July 6th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on F1 AT ASSEN – SO MUCH TO LIVE UP TO