Martin Raines Blog

THE GOLDEN ERA OF GRAND PRIX RACING

There is often debate on which is the “Golden Era” of motorcycle grand prix racing. Is it the early years of the world championship in the 1950’s, or perhaps the 1960’s when the Japanese manufacturers invested huge amounts to become successful. Or maybe the 1970’s which saw the start of what we now consider the “modern era” of grand prix racing when the original closed road circuits gave way to purpose built tracks. Or the great times of 1980s into the early 1990s when fierce rivalries between a handful of riders from USA and Australia tamed the fearsome 500cc 2-strokes. Then there is the emergence of the four-stroke MotoGP class in 2002 which also coincided with the career of one Valentino Rossi.

I have been following motorcycle grand prix racing for 50 years, covering most of the era’s mentioned about, but for me it is none of these. The Golden Era is now! When I ventured this opinion of Twitter recently, someone asked, why do I consider this the Golden Era. Well here are a few reasons:

  • Fantastic depth of talent: Of the 24 riders on the full-time MotoGP entry list for 2018, 12 are grand prix world champions and 21 of them have stood on the top step of a grand prix podium, with a total of 461 GP victories between them.
  • Competitive machinery: All 24 riders on the grid have bikes either supplied direct from the factory or indirectly as a “satellite” rider. Added to this the rule changes over recent years have resulted in bikes that are more closely matched than ever before.
  • Close racing: Due to the great depth of talent and competitive machinery, the racing last year was closer than ever with seven of the twelve closest premier-class grand prix races occurring in 2017 (more detail in my previous blog: www.nick-harris.co.uk/how-close-will-motogp-be-in-2018)
  • Unpredictable: Over the last 50 MotoGP races there have been nine different winners. Over this period no single rider has dominated in terms of race wins, Marquez with 15 victories is the rider who has stood on the top step of the podium most. The other wins are distributed as follows: Lorenzo – 10, Dovizioso – 7, Pedrosa – 5, Rossi – 5, Vinales – 4, Crutchlow – 2 and one each for Iannone and Miller.
  • Nineteen races: The 2018 race schedule has added another new circuit to the calendar to bring the number of races up to a record 19, across 15 different countries. Although the addition of an extra race is not universally popular with everyone working in the MotoGP paddock, it is great for the fans!
  • Great worldwide following: As Nick stated in an earlier blog (www.nick-harris.co.uk/over-two-and-a-half-millions-fans-cant-be-wrong/), the number of fans turning up at the race tracks to watch the races is at a record level and the TV audience continues to increase each year. Added to that is the enormous number of fans who follow the sport online and on Social Media.
  • Fierce rivalry: The rivalry between the current top riders means that on track no quarter is asked or given, providing incredible close racing.

So while it is always fun to look back nostalgically to past era’s and discuss the great races and riders (through rose tinted spectacles?), never forget that in 20 years’ time what is happening NOW will be remembered as THE “Golden Era”.

By | February 15th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|1 Comment

How close will MotoGP be in 2018?

All evidence from the first MotoGP test of the year in Sepang is that the racing in 2018 will be just as close and fierce as 2017 which was a record breaking season for close premier-class grand prix races.

Last year the record books were being re-written nearly every weekend, starting with the opening race of the year when the 15th place finisher Tito Rabat crossed the line just 29.47 seconds behind race winner Maverick Vinales. This was the second closest top 15 finish of all-time in the premier-class, after the 29.296 seconds covering the top 15 finishers at Brno in 2006. This was just a sign of things to come over the other 17 races of 2017.

There was another indication in Qatar that the depth of field in the MotoGP class, in terms of both riders and machinery, is greater than ever. Sam Lowes, who recorded the slowest “fastest lap” in the MotoGP race posted a lap just 1.891 seconds slower than the fastest lap of the race set by Johann Zarco. Never before in the MotoGP class have there been 23 riders that have posted a lap time within two seconds of the fastest lap set during a race.

At the second race of 2017 in Argentina, the fastest lap of the MotoGP was set by Maverick Viñales with a time of 1 minute 39.694 seconds. During the course of the race another sixteen riders set lap times within one second of this fastest lap time; the first time in a MotoGP race that seventeen riders have posted lap times within one second of the fastest lap of the race.

At the third race of 2017 in Austin, 11th place finisher in Austin, Jonas Folger, crossed the line just 18.903 seconds behind race winner Marc Marquez – the closest top eleven of the MotoGP era.

At Mugello, tenth place finisher Andrea Iannone, crossed the line just 15.502 seconds after race winner Andrea Dovizioso, which was the closest ever top ten finish in the MotoGP class in a race that has run for full distance. This record was re-written again during 2017 when 14.075 seconds covered the top ten finishers in Aragon.

It is worth noting that it was not only in the MotoGP class that records for close racing were being set; at Mugello the 15th place finisher in the Moto3 race, Jorge Martin, crossed the line just 1.553 seconds behind race winner Andrea Migno; the closest top 15 in any class in the 69 year history of motorcycle grand prix racing.

By the end of the season the list for closest top 15 finishes of all-time in the premier-class looked like this:

Year Circuit Race winner Time covering first 15 riders across the line (sec)
1 2017 ARAGON Marc Marquez 26.082
2 2017 AUSTRALIA Marc Marquez 26.168
3 2017 RED BULL RING Andrea Dovizioso 28.096
4 2006 BRNO Loris Capirossi 29.296
5 2017 QATAR Maverick Vinales 29.47
6 2001 PHILLIP ISLAND Valentino Rossi 29.738
7 2005 BRNO Valentino Rossi 29.768
8 2017 MUGELLO Andrea Dovizioso 30.779
9 2015 LOSAIL Valentino Rossi 33.625
10 2017 SILVERSTONE Andrea Dovizioso 33.901
11 2007 JEREZ Valentino Rossi 36.744
12 2017 SACHSENRING Marc Marquez 37.771

 

This shows that seven of the closest twelve races of all-time occurred in 2017! And it was not only down to 15th place that racing was close in 2017, on eight occasions the winning margin was less than one second.

The 2018 season will be the 70th season of motorcycle grand prix racing, and on an historical note, in 1949 only the first five riders across the line scored world championship points. The average time covering these top five riders in 1949 was 3 minutes 20 seconds (although it must be said that the races were rather longer back in 1949, taking anything from 1 hour 16 minutes, up to 3 hours!)

The opening test of 2018 is an indication that this close racing could continue in this season. How many days is it to the opening race if the year in Qatar?

By | February 1st, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on How close will MotoGP be in 2018?

Christmas MotoGP Trivia Quiz – Answers

There are sixteen sets of initials that are shared by two or more world champions. (As an example, “J.M.” for Jorge Martinez and Joan Mir) How many of the other fifteen sets of initials can you come up with?

Here is the full list:

HA – Haruchika Aoki/Hiroshi Aoyama/Hugh Anderson/Hans-Georg Anscheint

KC – Kel Carruthers/Keith Campbell

LC – Loris Capirossi/Luca Cadalora

MD – Mick Doohan/Mike Di Meglio

DK – Danny Kent/Daijiro Kato

MH – Mike Hailwood/Manuel Herreros

ML – Marco Lucchinelli/Mario Lega

EL – Eddie Lawson/Eugenio Lazzarini/Enrico Lorenzetti

AM – Anton Mang/Alex Marquez

JM – Joan Mir/Jorge Martinez

MM -Marc Marquez/Marco Melandri

TP – Tom Phillis/Tarquinio Provini

KR – Kenny Roberts/Kenny Roberts Jr

CS – Casey Stoner/ChristianSarron/Cecil Sandford

JS – Jarno Saarinen/John Surtees/Julian Simon

KS – Kevin Schwantz/Kazuto Sakata

By | January 2nd, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events, Uncategorised|1 Comment

Christmas MotoGP Trivia Quiz

Something to think about when you have had your fill of Christmas pudding! No prizes, just a bit of MotoGP fun.

The following trivia question relates to all grand prix classes over all years that the world championship series has taken place, starting in 1949.

There are sixteen sets of initials that are shared by two or more world champions.   (As an example, “J.M.” for Jorge Martinez and Joan Mir) How many of the other fifteen sets of initials can you come up with?

A full list will be given in the New Year. Good luck!

By | December 24th, 2017|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Christmas MotoGP Trivia Quiz

Fortunes of Moto2 and Moto3 race winners in MotoGP

Following on from the blog last week where I presented an analysis of the fortunes of WSBK Championship winners after switching to MotoGP, this week I will look at how Moto2/3 riders have done in MotoGP. The analysis will consider any rider who has won either a Moto2 or Moto3 race before competing full-time in the MotoGP class. The riders who have done this are: Karel Abraham, Stefan Bradl, Alex de Angelis, Toni Elias, Pol Espargaro, Jonas Folger, Andrea Iannone, Sam Lowes, Marc Marquez, Jack Miller, Michele Pirro, Tito Rabat, Scott Redding, Alex Rins, Maverick Viñales and Johann Zarco.

 

Rider MotoGP Starts Wins Podiums Best championship posn.
Abraham 85 0 0 14th
Bradl 86 0 1 7th
De Angelis 23 0 0 21st
Elias 26 0 0 15th
Pol Espargaro 71 0 0 6th
Folger 13 0 1 10th
Iannone 83 1 7 5th
Lowes 18 0 0 25th
Marquez 90 35 63 1st
Miller 48 1 1 11th
Pirro 49 0 0 13th
Rabat 35 0 0 19th
Redding 72 0 2 12th
Rins 13 0 0 16th
Viñales 54 4 11 3rd
Zarco 18 0 3 6th

 

Summary for all riders combined:

Starts Wins Podiums Best championship posn.
784 41 (Win rate – 5.2%) 89 (Podium rate – 11.3%) 1st

 

Comparing this with the equivalent summary for the WSBK champions who have switched to MotoGP:

Starts Wins Podiums Best championship posn.
346 2 (Win rate – 0.6%) 23 (Podium rate – 6.6%) 4th

 

Clearly from the above stats the performance of the Moto2/3 race winners are superior overall than the WSBK champions who have made the switch to MotoGP. However, most of the wins/podiums are down to one rider – Marc Marquez. It is interesting to compare how the summary would look if Marc Marquez was excluded (although cannot think of a logical reason why he should be excluded!).

Starts Wins Podiums Best championship posn.
694 6 (Win rate – 0.9%) 26 (Podium rate – 3.7%) 3rd

 

The performance of the two groups of riders are now very much closer, with the Moto2/3 riders having a better win rate, while the WSBK riders have a superior podium rate.

It could be argued that if we are going to exclude Marc Marquez from the above table, then he also needs to be excluded from the results. So for instance, Stefan Bradl who finished 2nd to Marquez at Laguna Seca in 2013 would be credited with a win. By doing this the revised Summary table for wins and podiums would look like this:

Starts Wins Podiums
694 8 (Win rate – 1.2%) 44 (Podium rate – 6.3%)

 

So what can be concluded from the above analysis? Well it is clear that historically the WSBK champions that have switched to MotoGP have not performed significantly better than the riders who have moved up to MotoGP after winning races in the smaller GP classes. So perhaps this makes it understandable why MotoGP team bosses are not necessarily looking to WSBK to recruit riders. The other factor may also be that the Moto2/3 riders moving up to MotoGP will be more willing to accept a ride with a satellite team, and on lower wages, than a rider who has proved his worth winning the WSBK championship and already earning a high salary.

 

So what about Jonathan Rea? Well as I said in the last blog, what has happened in the past is not necessarily a good indication of what would happen in the future. My belief is that Rea is perhaps the exception and could move across to MotoGP and win races. I can understand that he may be reluctant to make the move unless he is on proven race winning machinery. But most of the factory contracts are up for renewal at the end of 2018 and who knows what may become available? Will Valentino Rossi call it a day?  Will the KTM prove itself to be a bike that can challenge for podiums and wins? Will Dani Pedrosa keep his place in the factory Honda team? Now that is a combination I would like to see – Jonathan Rea alongside Marc Marquez in the Repsol Honda Team.

 

Maybe one of the MotoGP team bosses will take a chance and makes Rea an offer he cannot refuse. And my hope is that Jonathan Rea will take up the challenge: clearly he has nothing to prove after winning multiple WSBK championships, but wouldn’t it round-off a great career if he could add a handful of MotoGP wins?

By | December 15th, 2017|Martin Raines Blog, Uncategorised|2 Comments

The fortunes of WSBK Champions in MotoGP

It was difficult not to be impressed by the great lap time set by Jonathan Rea at the recent Jerez test, following which there has been lots of discussion on the reasons why he is not on a factory bike in MotoGP. Of interest to the discussion is the performance of previous WSBK Champions who have moved across to compete in MotoGP. In total there have been five riders compete full-time in MotoGP after winning the WSBK title: Troy Bayliss, Colin Edwards, Neil Hodgson, James Toseland and Ben Spies.

The following table is a summary of the MotoGP results achieved by each of these five riders:

Rider Starts Wins Podiums Best championship posn.
Bayliss 44 1 5 6th
Edwards 196 0 12 4th
Hodgson 16 0 0 17th
Toseland 35 0 0 11th
Spies 52 1 6 5th

 

Summary for all riders combined:

Starts Wins Podiums Best championship posn.
343 2 23 4th

 

The summary here is critical, showing that from a combined 343 starts in the MotoGP class by WSBK title winners they have accumulated a total of just two wins (representing a win rate of 0.6%) and 23 podium finishes (a rate of 6.7%). Also, no rider who has won the WSBK title has managed to finish higher than 4th in the MotoGP World Championship.

Of course, what has happened in the past is not necessarily a great guide to what may happen in the future, but the fact that no winner of the WSBK title has transferred across to MotoGP and made a massive impact by scoring multiple race victories or challenging for the world title must influence the thinking of MotoGP team managers.

But then again what are the alternatives? Well it seems that the more traditional route of graduating from the smaller Grand Prix classes seems to the one favoured by the MotoGP team bosses. But how do the statistics of these riders stack-up? Tune in next week to find the answer to that one!

By | December 8th, 2017|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events, Uncategorised|Comments Off on The fortunes of WSBK Champions in MotoGP

“Lies, damned lies and statistics”

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase made popular by Mark Twain as a comment on the power of numbers when used in supporting an argument.

Well, as someone who has a lifelong fascination with numbers both in my ‘day job’ as an engineer and in my passion of motorcycle racing I am afraid that is what you are going to get lots of if you read this blog! I will be looking at some of the records and milestones achieved in the grand prix season and will examine the stories behind the numbers.

Of course it is a great pleasure to write this first blog after having witnessed such a tremendous season of grand prix racing, with many records set. To start off with the most impressive of those records:

– There were nine different winners in the MotoGP class in 2016 (Lorenzo, Marquez, Rossi, Miller, Iannone, Crutchlow, Viñales, Pedrosa, Dovizioso) a new record for most different winners in a single season in the premier-class of grand prix racing. The previous record was eight different winners in a season in 2000: Kenny Roberts Jnr, Garry McCoy, Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi, Alex Barros, Alex Criville, Loris Capirossi and Norick Abe.

For me this unpredictability greatly increases the drama and excitement of a grand prix weekend. The anticipation of each grand prix is tremendous when at the start of the weekend there are maybe four or five riders with a strong chance of taking the race win and a handful of others who can be a threat if the circumstances fall their way. Much better than when racing is dominated by a single rider who can put on a show of close racing before clearing off on the final five laps.

Many reasons have been given as to why there have been so many different winners this year, one of the most popular being that it was due to the inclement weather suffered at a number of the races. However, it must be stressed that seven of the riders who won this year did so in dry weather conditions (the only riders who won wet races only were Miller and Dovizioso).

There is little doubt that the change to the new electronic regulations has had an equalizing effect and the change to Michelin tyres has introduced an additional variable. The overall result of these changes to the technical regulations has been that there have been more bikes on the grid capable of winning races than ever before in the MotoGP era, and for the first time since 1994 four different manufacturers won dry weather premier-class races (in 1994 it was Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Cagiva). Also the level of riders on the grid is at an all-time high, with eighteen of the full-time riders lining up on the grid for MotoGP this year having won World Championship motorcycle races.

The big question now is – can this trend of multiple winners continue in 2017? Well, I don’t see why not. All six full-factory riders in the Yamaha, Honda and Ducati teams are certainly capable of winning in 2017, along with Andrea Iannone on the improving Suzuki. And I do not expect Cal Crutchlow to be happy with podium positions now that he has been on the top step. I for one will be hoping the unpredictability continues and we have more drama-filled weekends to look forward to next year.

By | November 24th, 2016|Martin Raines Blog|2 Comments