Nick Harris

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So far Nick Harris has created 67 blog entries.

Spencer, Gardner, Read convinced Vale can win again

I have this particular record I’d be delighted to lose in the remaining ten Grands Prix of the season. I have commentated on every one of Valentino Rossi’s 89 MotoGP™ wins. From Donington Park in 2000 to Assen in 2017 I was there and the question I get asked more than any other is can he do it again. Of course he can but I’m not the man to ask.

I was at Silverstone at the weekend at the World GP Bike Legends event at the circuit that stages the Go Pro British Grand Prix next month and asked three riders who between them have won 11 World titles and a total of 97 Grands Prix if Vale can stand on the top step of the podium once again. They all agreed that he could but warned don’t leave it too long. Freddie Spencer won three World titles, including the historic 250/500 cc double. Wayne Gardner was the first Australian rider to win the 500cc class and seven times World Champion Phil Read is surely the most underestimated rider in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing.

“I’m absolutely certain that Valentino can win another Grand Prix but both the conditions and the bike has to be right on the day,” explained Freddie, who incredibly never stood on a Grand Prix podium again after his 27th Grand Prix victory, a 1985 500cc win in Sweden that brought him the historic 250/500 cc World Championship double. “He showed in Malaysia last year when he came so close but the key is he has to be in that leading pack right from the start of the race. I’m sure he can do it.”

The 1987 500cc World Champion Wayne Gardner who won the last of his 18 Grands Prix just three races before he retired in 1992 is also convinced Rossi can win another Grand Prix but warns the Italian that time is running out. “Vale has every chance but as time goes on it gets more difficult. This year we have seen more and more young riders arrive in the MotoGP™ class like Fabio Quartararo and they are only going to get better and so he’s got to do it soon.”

Phil Read knew all about winning Grands Prix. His 52 wins in the 125, 250, 350 and 500cc classes brought him seven World titles. His last Grand Prix win came in the 500cc class when he brought MV Agusta victory in 1975 at Brno in Czechoslovakia and he took a couple of podiums a year later before retiring.

“I think it’s likely because he’s so important to Yamaha but it will not be easy for a 40-year-old, especially against the likes of Marc Marquez who seems to be capable of riding at ten tenths the whole time.”

PS, I’ll let you into a little secret. I actually did not commentate on what many people reckon was Rossi’s greatest ever MotoGP™ win but I was there. Laguna Seca in 2008 and that epic Rossi/Stoner confrontation decided at the Corkscrew and I had completely lost my voice. All I could do was sit in silence at the back of the commentary box and marvel at the battle that raged in the Californian sunshine which was brilliantly described by Gavin Emmett and John Hopkins in my enforced absence.

By | August 1st, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Spencer, Gardner, Read convinced Vale can win again

Northern soul

There has been plenty of midnight sun, ice racing, vodka sampling, saunas in the forests by the lake, smorgasbord, Mika Kallio and even the end of the Abba era but there has been no grand prix motorcycle racing for nearly three decades but this could change in the future.

The long awaited and much anticipated return of MotoGP to Scandinavia took a giant step forward with the first test at the brand new KymiRing circuit in Finland.

It’s 29 long years since the last Swedish Grand Prix was held at the Anderstorp circuit. You have to go back another eight years to the last grand prix to be staged in Finland in 1982 at the legendary Imatra circuit.

Two more contrasting circuits both on and off the track would be hard to imagine. Anderstorp the flat aerodrome track south of Gothenburg which you entered through an industrial estate. Imatra the road circuit snaking through the forest next to the lake and the outskirts of the town just a couple of kilometres from the Russian border.

Anderstorp where it was difficult to buy alcohol and where a gang of Hells Angels had set up camp in the nearby forest. Imatra where buying alcohol and especially vodka was never a problem and where the partying in the midnight sun was a legendary part of the weekend.

Anderstorp where many a Championship was won and lost because the Swedish Grand Prix was always near the end of the season. Freddie Spencer and Kenny Roberts had a mighty coming together on the last lap in the penultimate round in 1983. Freddie surprised Kenny with his aggression to take a famous victory to set up his first World 500cc title. Two years later Freddie clinched the 500cc part of his historical double. I celebrated Barry Sheene’s last grand prix win with his great friend Marco Lucchinelli clinching the 1981 World title and Wayne Rainey blew away his Championship chances in 1989 when he crashed chasing Eddie Lawson’s Honda.

Imatra was so different and so dangerous. I will never forget my first visit in 1980 with the smell from the massive wood pulp factory a constant reminder of how close was the Russian border, the midnight sun, the long nights of partying and those white leathers of Dutchman Wil Hartog flashing between the trees at over 200 kph on route to his last grand prix win.  Barry Sheene took me down to the infamous corner where the riders raced over the railway lines. Barry, who a year earlier had burnt down the appalling paddock lavatories, told me the only surprise about the track was that they actually stopped the trains running on race day. The 500cc machines stopped a year later and in 1982 grand prix racing tragically came to an end following the fatal accident of my great friend World Sidecar Champion Jock Taylor.

The new era of grand prix racing starts in Scandinavia at the KymiRing next year. Welcome back but beware of that midnight sun and vodka.

By | July 25th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|1 Comment

Still ten to go

The summer break has arrived and while you soak up the sun on the beach or by the pool contemplate and even predict what is going to happen when the riders return to action in Brno for the final ten grands prix with the help of some vital clues courtesy of the good doctor – Dr Martin Raines.

The answers will be revealed on Sunday November 17th at 15.00.

 

  • Can Valentino Rossi become the fourth oldest rider in the 70 year history of World Championship racing to win a premier class grand prix?

In Argentina Rossi became the first rider to finish on a GP podium after turning 40 years old since Marcellino Lucchi in the 250cc class at Brno in 1998, and the first in the premier-class since Jack Findlay in Austria in 1977.

He was the 14th rider to finish on a GP podium in the premier-class after turning 40 years old.

 

  • Can Alex Rins become the first Suzuki rider in the MotoGP era to win two grands prix in one season?

Even though Rins has failed to score in the last two races, his score of 101 points is the highest points total by a Suzuki rider after nine races in the MotoGP era.

In Austin the age difference between Rins & Rossi was 16 years 295 days, the largest age difference between the top two finishers in a premier-class GP race since 26 year old Giacomo Agostini won the 1969 German 500cc GP at Hockenheim, from 46 year old German rider Karl Hoppe.

The win by Rins in Austin was the first ever premier-class GP win for Suzuki in the USA. The only other Suzuki GP wins in the US were when Daytona hosted the GP. Hugh Anderson won the 125 & 50cc race in 1964, and the 125cc race in 65. Ernst Degner won the 50cc race in 65.

 

  • Can 20 year old Frenchman Fabio Quartararo secure his first premier class win in his debut season?

At Jerez, at the age of 20 years 14 days Quartararo took the record for youngest premier-class pole setter from Marc Marquez who was 20 years 62 days when he qualified on pole at Austin in 2013.

At the Catalan GP Fabio Quartararo became the fifth youngest rider to finish on the podium in the premier-class, after: Randy Mamola, Eduardo Salatino, Norick Abe, and Marc Marquez. Quartararo was just eight days older than Marquez was when he took his first MotoGP podium.

At the Dutch GP the three riders on the front row: Quartararo, Vinales and Rins, made up the youngest top three on the grid in the MotoGP era. The youngest ever top three on the grid in a premier-class GP was at Le Mans at opening 500cc race 1976, with Barry Sheene at 25 years of age on pole from Marco Lucchinelli at 21 and Johnny Cecotto at 20.

 

  • Can anybody stop Marc Marquez winning his sixth MotoGP World title and his fourth in succession?

Marquez leads the MotoGP championship after nine races with 185 points, his highest score at this stage of the season since 2014 when he won all of the first nine races.

At Jerez for the first time since he moved up to the MotoGP class Marc Marquez was the oldest of the three riders on the front row of the grid.

 

  • Can Danilo Petrucci finish in front of his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso in the final points scoring and win his second grand prix?

At Mugello Danilo Petrucci became just the seventh rider to win a MotoGP race having never competed full-time in either of the smaller GP classes, joining: Crutchlow, Hayden, Tamada, Bayliss, and Vermeulen & Spies.

Only two riders have scored points in all nine MotoGP races of 2019: Petrucci and Pol Espargaro.

 

  • When will Pol Espargaro bring KTM their first premier class podium of the season?

 Espargaro has scored 56 points from the first nine races, which is already five points more that he scored in the whole of 2018.

 

  • What new records are going to be established during the next ten races?

At Mugello Jack Miller set the fastest lap of the race. All 21 other riders who completed at least one lap set a lap time within one second of Miller’s fastest lap.

At the Barcelona GP there were 10 MotoGP race winners lining up on the grid. The previous occasion that 10 premier-class race winners lined up on the grid was Valencia 2009: Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo, Hayden, Elias, Dovizioso, Capirossi, Vermeulen, Melandri and Stoner who didn’t start after crashing on the warm-up lap. All 10 riders started previous race at Sepang.

By | July 18th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Still ten to go

Racers with the precise touch of a surgeon

Two names struck a chord with me last week reminding me of the most difficult to ride Grand Prix racing motorcycles ever built. Stefan Dorflinger was rightly inducted as a MotoGP™ Legend at the Sachsenring while ‘Mr Suzuki’ Mitsuo Ito passed away in Japan.

Dorflinger won eighteen 50 and 80cc Grands Prix en route to two 50cc and two 80cc World titles in the eighties. Ito is the only Japanese rider to have won a TT race on the Isle of Man legendary mountain circuit when he brought Suzuki success in 1963 50cc race before playing a massive part in Suzuki Grand Prix participation and especially Kevin Schwantz’s 1993 500cc World title.

Two heroes in a class of racing that produced truly remarkable tiny racing motorcycles that needed the delicate touch of a surgeon to ride to the limit. The 50cc ‘tiddler’ class started in 1962 and switched to 80cc 22 years later before leaving the Grand Prix scene in 1989. Don’t be fooled by their size, these machines were mechanical masterpieces ridden by a unique breed of riders.

This was not just a case of wind open the throttle to obtain maximum revs through a six-speed gearbox helped by traction control, rev limiters and other electrical aids but a balancing act of precision while keeping the tiny engine buzzing at well over 20,000 revs per minute through a gearbox that often had 12 selections. Keeping those revs within a 500 rpm band was the touch of the master. Let it drop below that vital red line on the rev counter and the power would drop away like an electric plug had been pulled out of its socket. Going above that red line and it likely the overworked motor would cry enough and seize. While completing this delicate balance of throttle control with eyes glued to that red line rev the riders also had to race at top speeds over 100mph on skinny tyres and tiny drum brakes.

No wonder it produced legendary World Champions such as Angel Nieto, Jorge Martinez, Heinz George Anscheidt and of course Dorflinger. In Great Britain, it also provided the racing starting point for many a champion in the making including the likes of Mike Hailwood and Bill Ivy cutting their racing teeth on 50cc single cylinder Italian Items. Barry Sheene is the only rider to have won a 50cc and premier class (500cc) Grand Prix. Short of money to fund his 125cc title bid in 1971 he rode the Kreidler to 50cc victory round the old Brno road circuit in Czechoslovakia.

Two–strokes dominated apart from one year when Honda build an amazing twin-cylinder four-stroke 50cc machine. They were rewarded with the 1965 World title on a machine that was reported to have a 22,500 rev limit. The year Ralph Bryans won the title I went to the Isle of Man to watch my first ever World Championship race. It was day trip to the Island and the highlight was the first 500cc clash between Hailwood and Agostini riding the MV Agustas on the mountain circuit. Before the main event was the three lap 50cc race and it was a sight and sound I will never forget. I lost count but I reckoned the riders changed down eight times racing down the mountain to Creg Ny Baa before disappearing towards Brandish changing up eight times to reach maximum speed – riders with the precise touch of a surgeon.

By | July 11th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Racers with the precise touch of a surgeon

Chips with mayonnaise on a Saturday

No wonder Assen is the only venue left from that original 1949 World Championship schedule. After all, any circuit that serves chips with mayonnaise and beer at seven in the morning deserves to still be leading the way. Throw in a Saturday race, until a few years ago, and a lively night life in Groningen, plus the chance to go in your own car overnight on the ferry, you understand why no other venue stood a chance.

For me, at first as a fan, it was those chips and beer that were such a crucially important part of the Dutch TT weekend. As a journalist and commentator, I loved those Saturday race days because for the only time in a long season I could get home for a roast Sunday lunch. Travelling down to Schiphol airport, staying overnight and then flying home early on Sunday morning when, because of the time difference, you would arrive in London earlier or at the same time you left, already smelling the beef and roast potatoes cooking, the Yorkshire pudding rising and the horse radish sauce bottle already open ready to be poured over it all – heaven!

The ferry trips were fantastic. No sleep but plenty of beer overnight on Wednesday and then the race up to Assen. The race back on Saturday after leaving the circuit before the end of the sidecar race to try and escape the traffic was an adventure in itself to catch the night ferry back. You could then drive to the office, deliver your copy and films from the photographer and still be home for lunch.

I love the Dutch because we are on the same wavelength. They love MotoGP™, football and beer, which is a pretty good combination. The first race I covered as a journalist in Assen was in 1980 and won by Jack Middelburg and the place went totally crazy. He was the last Dutchman to win a premier class race at home and those scenes of celebration were only matched eight years later. I remember one of those early Sunday morning flights out of Schiphol the day after the Dutch football team had won the 1988 European Championship. They flew in with the trophy as we flew out and the sea of orange and the welcome for the team made me realise what we in England had missed since that incredible afternoon in 1966. Qualifying session times were altered one year because Holland were playing Germany and the organisers realised that everybody from both countries would be watching the game on television either at the circuit or at home.

The weather can be a problem but there are not many places they would close certain parts of the motorway in order to park thousands of cars that usually parked on the grass which by this time was flooded.

When I first went to Assen as a journalist the accreditation centre was in the stadium up the road from the circuit. It was the same stadium where they held a round of the World Ice Racing Championship while we stayed in a small village, where our landlady regaled us with stories over breakfast of how she had hidden allied airmen in the Second World War after they had crashed nearby.

Unfortunately, for commercial reasons, they changed race day to Sunday and I was not so keen on the raw herring that my Dutch friends so enjoyed. Apart from that, Assen is so very special.

And the racing itself has been pretty decent over those 70 years but could you please pass the mayonnaise.

By | June 27th, 2019|Martin Raines Blog, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Chips with mayonnaise on a Saturday

So near and not so far away

He was so close to becoming the youngest ever premier class winner in the 70-year history of the sport. It was Fabio Quartararo’s last chance to eclipse Marc Marquez’s record in Barcelona and although second place was not quite enough, there appears plenty of records within the grasp of the 20-year-old Frenchman who has been mighty impressive in his MotoGP™ debut season.

Two pole positions including Barcelona. That first pole in Jerez making him the youngest ever pole setter in the premier class and then on Sunday his first MotoGP™ podium when he finished second to Marquez pushing Mugello winner Danilo Petrucci back to third. Riding the Petronas Yamaha SRT, it was just his seventh MotoGP™ race as he strived to become the first French premier class winner since Regis Laconi way back 20-years-ago in Valencia riding the 500cc Red Bull Yamaha. Olivier Jacque came close in 2005 when he finished second in China riding the Kawasaki and Randy De Puniet two years later on similar machinery finishing second in Japan. Johann Zarco had an equally impressive debut season as Quartararo a couple of years back. The double Moto2™ World Champion finished second in his native France and finished the season with a repeat in Valencia which brought him an impressive sixth place and the Rookie of the Year title.

Both Jacque and Zarco arrived in the Premier class as 250 and Moto2™ World Champions respectively but it’s been a very different route for Quartararo with a more than a few big bumps in the road on the way. I remember meeting and interviewing him for the first time at Le Mans in 2014. The French media and commentators, which included 250cc World Champion and 500cc Grand Prix winner Christian Sarron, were raving about a young Frenchman who’d just turned 15-years-old and the record books agreed with their patriotic excitement. He was well on course for his second FIM Junior Championship and a place was already being prepared for the teenager from Nice in the Moto3™ World Championship. Quartararo made a much-heralded debut in Qatar less than a year later while still 15-years-old. Despite a couple of second places in Austin and Assen he eventually finished tenth in his debut season, but injuries and machine problems pushed him down to 13th the year after.

He was growing fast and joined Sito Pons in the Moto2™ class in 2017. Pons told me despite the Moto3™ problems he thought the young Frenchman was a potential World Champion. It didn’t work out with Sito but last season when he joined the Speed Up Moto2™ team, at last, all that potential and ability gelled into his first Grand Prix win in Barcelona, followed by a second place in Assen.

Despite those results, he was a surprise selection for the new Petronas Yamaha SRT team but his brilliant ride in the 24 lap race on Sunday showed just what a brave brilliant decision it had been. Following his first crash of the season in practice and an arm pump operation after Mugello, the 20-year-old Frenchman displayed maturity and skill well beyond a seven-race MotoGP™ career. While far more experienced others, who really should have known better, fell foul of the slippery condition Quartararo protected his rear tyre and took his chances when they came along.

He may not become the youngest ever premier class winner on Sunday but that first MotoGP™ win is not far away – how about Assen in a couple of weeks’ time?

By | June 21st, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

MotoGP70: Birth of a dream

A 425.047km race around the most demanding circuit in the world was how it all began. Seventy long years ago on the morning of June 13th 1949 Grand Prix motorcycle racing began its incredible journey on an island in the middle of the choppy Irish Sea situated between the rugged coastlines of Ireland and England. One year earlier than its four-wheel counterparts, the first ever World Championship race was staged on the legendary mountain circuit in the Isle of Man. This was no 45-minute fight for every corner and inch of tarmac that is the blueprint for modern day MotoGP™ racing but a seven-lap marathon round the 60.721km TT Mountain circuit for 350cc machines.

Freddie Frith became the first ever Grand Prix winner riding the British built Velocette, with a lap record on his last lap of 135.50kph. All 75 finishers in the race were riding British built machinery but there was also a poignant reminder that riders chasing their dream could pay the ultimate price when Ben Drinkwater was killed when he crashed on the fourth lap.

Four days later bespectacled Harold Daniell won the first ever premier class 500cc race riding the Norton to success in another seven laps of the Mountain circuit. He averaged an incredible 139.887kph for the race, which took him over three hours to complete. A few years earlier Daniell was refused entry into the armed forces because of poor eye sight. Irishman Manliff Barrington won the first 250cc Grand Prix riding the Italian Moto Guzzi after another seven-lap marathon encounter. Three weeks later the 125cc class made its debut round the 7.280km circuit at Berne in Switzerland where Italian Nello Pagani brought Mondial an historic victory.

Seventy years on there are 19 Grands Prix visiting 15 countries in five continents with riders from 19 countries competing for the ultimate prize in the three classes Moto3™, Moto2™ and MotoGP™. In 1949 there were six Grands Prix all in Europe and, apart from Monza in Italy, all on circuits that were public roads for the rest of the year. The six circuits picked to stage these pioneering races were the Isle of Man, Berne in Switzerland, Assen in Holland, Spa -Francorchamps in Belgium, Clady in Northern Ireland and Monza in Italy. There were four solo classes 125, 250, 350 and 500cc and of course the magnificent sidecars. The 500cc class was staged at every round, but the 350cc at five, the 250cc at four and the 125s at just three.

Motorcycle racing pioneered the World Championships in 1949 and continues to lead the way 70 years later. Never afraid to incorporate changes and welcome new countries, it’s still way ahead of the others.

Happy Birthday Grand Prix motorcycle racing – long may it continue!

By | June 12th, 2019|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on MotoGP70: Birth of a dream

Sheer speed fires the soul

It may not guarantee Grand Prix wins but sheer speed still fires the soul. When I heard that Andrea Dovizioso had disappeared in a snarling red flash racing over the rise before using every part of his body to brake for the dreaded Mugello San Donato right-hander at a record-breaking 356.7 kph (221.6 mph) on Saturday morning I was fired up. I’m sure I was not alone. We are fascinated by top speed in all sport.

How fast was Mo Salah’s penalty travelling when it hit the net in the second minute of the Champions League final on Saturday night? What speed was Rafa Nadal’s serve at Roland Garros over the weekend? All the talk and media hype surrounding the Cricket World Cup that started in England and Wales last week has been about the speed of the fast bowlers who have already inflicted plenty of damage on batsman.

MotoGP™ and all motorsport at any level are no different. Lap times, race strategy and tyre choice win races and World Championships but the most asked question by the public is just how fast do these bikes go?

Just how does it feel to be in charge (hopefully) of a motorcycle at that speed. It’s a sensation that the majority of us will never have the privilege of experiencing. The riders will tell you anything over 300 kph does not feel different although at Mugello, in particular, I don’t totally believe them. Having witnessed through the fingers covering my eyes Shinya Nakano and Marc Marquez walk away from separate frightening crashes coming over the Mugello rise between the safety walls you need no reminding just how fast they were travelling.

It’s always been the same in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing. I remember the excitement when Shinchi Itoh was reported to have raced past the speed trap in practice for the 1993 German Grand Prix through the Hockenheim forests at over 200 mph (321.8 kph). Riding the fuel injected NSR 500cc Honda two-stroke it was the first time a speed of over 200 mph had been recorded. I had to check that it was his team-mate Daryl Beattie that won the race but I remembered Itoh because of that new record top speed.

Danilo Petrucci showed with that magnificent first Grand Prix win in front of his home crowd at Mugello on Sunday that the top speed of the Mission Winnow Ducati played its part in the triumph that proved a couple of other things. Never give up chasing your dream. It was Petrucci’s 124th Grand Prix race and nice guys can win the top prize. We always said that Danilo used to be a policeman but honestly, I can’t imagine him ever arresting anybody. Perhaps they put him in charge of the radar gun to check the top speed of the motorists, not that it would have registered team-mate Dovizioso’s 356.7 kph on Saturday morning. Even Danilo would have to have arrested him after that.

By | June 7th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Sheer speed fires the soul

Football woes in the MotoGP™ paddock

Football and MotoGP™ just don’t mix if you are English. At least this weekend while the paddock in Mugello settles down to watch the Champions League final on Saturday night there will be an English winner but may I assure you that’s a pretty rare occurrence while I was on the road.

The meeting room in the IRTA truck or the Alpine Stars Hospitality unit have been the venue for many an English football fans misery over the last two decades. Empty pizza boxes and cans of beer scattered on the IRTA meeting room table interspersed with language I’m certainly not proud of as England crashed to another defeat in a major tournament once again. Jeremy Appleton at Alpine Stars inviting us to dinner after yet another bitter exit from a tournament although hopefully the language was a little more measured this time round.

Having somebody whisper in my ear during the Saturday afternoon qualifying press conference at Donington Park that Wayne Rooney had been sent off against Portugal in the quarter-final of the 2006 World Cup. Setting my alarm to go off at 2am on the morning of the MotoGP™ race in Barcelona five years ago to watch the end of England’s World Cup clash with Italy in Brazil. Turning on the television to see a dejected England goalkeeper Joe Hart walking off the pitch was enough to realise the score. At least I got some more sleep on race day. It was the Italians celebrating the next day led by Valentino Rossi who then finished second in the 25 lap race after a fantastic battle with Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

Driving up and down the Barcelona paddock on a Sunday evening in Matt Roberts’ car with large Union Jack fluttering out of the window before an England France European Championship game in 2004. The Union Jack was nowhere in sight when we drove out two hours later after France scored two goals in injury time to win by two goals to one.

I have had a few rare moments of relief with my local team Oxford United although it’s often been the same bumpy ride as England. Three years ago I had a text message telling me the ‘yellows’ had been promoted after beating local rivals Wycombe Wanderers. The trouble was it was in the middle of the Qualifying press conference and I was just of asking Jorge Lorenzo about his pole position in Le Mans and so it was celebrations all round.

Who will ever forget that incredible pre-event football match six years ago when the combined Moto2™ and 3 teams took on the mighty MotoGP™ team. Nothing that out of the ordinary apart from the venue – the home of Barcelona FC the Nou Camp. The riders plying their skills on one of the most hallowed pieces of turf on the planet. They even played the Barcelona anthem when the teams came up those famous steps onto the pitch although I did get told off by the groundsman for stepping onto the grass.

MotoGP™ and football are alike in so many ways and at least this weekend half the English fans in the Mugello paddock will be happy on Saturday night. That’s half more than usual but don’t mention that to any Liverpool or Spurs supporters.

By | May 30th, 2019|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Football woes in the MotoGP™ paddock

60 years and 300 Grands Prix wins later

Sixty long years ago Soichiro Honda arrived on the Isle of Man with his team to compete in the 125cc race at the TT races. Although they returned home with the Team Prize little did anybody who witnessed their World Championship debut around the Clypse course envisages the scenes in the Le Mans pit lane on Sunday.

As Marc Marquez celebrated his 47th premier class win with typical exuberance and Team Manager Alberto Puig equally typically calmly checked the state of tyres on the race-winning RC213V, Honda celebrated another giant milestone in their racing history – their 300th premier class victory.

Two–stroke 500’s, 800 and 990cc four-strokes have brought the Japanese factory unrivalled success again, the very best in the World although it has not always been easy. After so much success in the smaller classes, they entered the 500cc class in 1966 to take on the might of MV Agusta and a certain Giacomo Agostini with the weighty combination of World Champions Jim Redman and Mike Hailwood. Redman won the opening two rounds at Hockenheim and Assen but his challenge that had started so brightly ended when he was injured. The following year Hailwood and Agostini ended on equal points but the title went to the Italian

Honda then withdrew from Grand Prix motor cycle racing to concentrate their considerable technical innovation and finances into Formula One car racing. They returned briefly to challenge the two–strokes with the amazing but uncompetitive NR500 four-stroke with those oval pistons. They realised they had to build a competitive two-stroke 500 to challenge the might of Suzuki and Yamaha and their return to the fray in 1982 was spearheaded by a young American Freddie Spencer on the three-cylinder 500. What a choice it turned out to be with Spencer bringing Honda their first premier class title in 1983 and then re-writing the history books two years later with a 250/500cc double Championship – a feat that has never been repeated. Mick Doohan brought them five successive titles in the nineties and Valentino Rossi took over his mantle winning the last two-stroke 500cc Championships and then heralded the return of the four-stroke era in 2002 and 2003 with a Championship win before defecting to Yamaha. Casey Stoner and Rossi were the thorns in Honda’s side in the new 800 cc class but Stoner signed from Ducati to bring Honda their first 800 cc title in 2011. Then Marquez arrived and the rest is history with the Spaniard capturing five World titles and 47 Grands Prix wins. There are still more titles and Grands Prix victories to come.

Sixty years ago Soichiro Honda arrived in the Isle of Man with a four-rider team to compete in the 176 km 125cc race to fulfil a dream. Three of the Japanese riders had never competed in a race only on tarmac but they returned home with the Team Prize. Little did anybody in the Isle of Man on that June day realise this was just the start.

By | May 24th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on 60 years and 300 Grands Prix wins later