News and Events

Happy 100th anniversary Suzuki

It’s an amazing racing heritage that has played such vital part in that 100-year Suzuki success story. As the Japanese factory celebrated its one 100th anniversary last week just reflect what an impact and influence, they have had in their 60 years of Grand Prix racing. Like all the major Japanese factories their success on the racetrack has enabled them to lead the world in innovative motorcycle manufacturing.

Suzuki followed Honda by understanding that success in the ultimate challenge, Grand Prix racing. They travelled to the legendary TT races in the Isle of Man. Just one year after Honda they competed for the first time in the 1960 three lap 125cc race. Two years later they took their first ever Grand Prix victory when Ernst Degner won the 50cc TT race round the infamous 60.721 kms mountain circuit. Since that day on the Isle of Man Suzuki have won 157 more Grands Prix. Including that first victory, they have won 30 in the 50cc class, 35 in the 125 and 93 in the 500cc/MotoGP™ classes. Degner followed his 1962 TT win with further victories in Holland, Belgium and West Germany bringing Suzuki their first World title the same year.

Suzuki led the revolution in bringing their two-stroke expertise into the premier 500cc class that had been dominated by the British and Italian four-strokes. In 1971 New Zealander Jack Findley re-wrote the history books at the Ulster Grand Prix. Not only did he bring Suzuki success for the first time in the premier class but also the very first two-stroke victory against the all-conquering four-strokes. The floodgates opened with a long haired loud British legend Barry Sheene spearheading the Suzuki onslaught riding the magnificent RG 500 four-cylinder rocket ship. Sheene brought Suzuki the 500cc World titles in 1976 and 77. He was followed by Italian’s Marco Lucchinelli and Franco Uncini in the early eighties.

Then Honda and Yamaha dominated before a hard riding rear tyre smoking Texan won back the title in 1993. Nobody embodies the Suzuki spirit of racing these incredible frighteningly fast and unpredictable two-strokes than the 1993 World Champion Kevin Schwantz. Once again Honda fought back but as the two-stroke stroke era was coming to a close the son of a rider who’d so often been the thorn in the side of Suzuki brought them their last World title. Kenny Roberts Junior closed the chapter on the all-conquering RG 500 story with a successful conclusion. The American clinched 2000 World 500cc title before Valentino Rossi and then the four-strokes took over.

Australian Chris Vermeulen brought Suzuki their first four stroke win at Le Mans in 2007 but these were tough times. After a brief respite Suzuki returned to the fray and were rewarded four years ago when Maverick Vinales brought them their first win for nine years. Last year in Austin Alex Rins put Suzuki back on the top step of the podium fighting off nobody less than a certain Valentino Rossi. The Spanish rider repeated their success at Silverstone with a famous win over World Champion Marc Marquez to add to the list of Suzuki Grand Prix winners.

Heading the honours board are New Zealander Hugh Anderson and Schwantz with 25 wins apiece. Schwantz took all his wins in the 500cc class but Anderson, on route to two 50cc and 125 cc World titles, won eight 50cc and 17 125cc Grands Prix. Sheene won 21 Grands Prix for Suzuki. Three in the 125cc class and 18 and two World titles on the 500

Suzuki embark on their new decade in great shape on the racetrack that has played such a major part of their history. Rins and Joan Mir look certain to continue that winning tradition embodied by Anderson, Degner, Sheene and Schwantz over the last 60 glorious years.

By | April 2nd, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Happy 100th anniversary Suzuki

Top 10 motorcycling books

Here are a selection of the best motorcycling books that you can enjoy while we #StayAtHome. Which books would you have on your list?

Nick’s picks:

WAYNE RAINEY HIS OWN STORY – MIKE SCOTT
I will never forget that cloud of numbed silence that engulfed the Misano paddock on September 5, 1993. Nobody could or wanted to believe the news about Wayne. His life before the accident and even more after is vividly illustrated in a way that only Michael Scott can portray. A stunning read about darkness, courage and love.

THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES – CHE GUEVARA
It was only when I read the book that I realised I had ridden a large part this legend’s route through Argentina. In 1982 Peter Clifford and myself embarked on an incredible motorcycle journey from Buenos Aires to Chile before the Argentinian Grand Prix. Guevara’s steed was a 1939 500cc Norton nicknamed Poderosa 11. We rode a lot more modern Hondas. He went onto lead the revolution while our main worry was getting out of Argentina before the Falkland Islands War started.

THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE RACING – MIKE HAILWOOD AND MURRAY WALKER
This was my bible when I was growing up thinking that I was going to be a motorcycle racer. Those dreams ended in a muddy ditch beside Tumbledown Hill just outside my home village. I’d followed Hailwood’s advice about riding fast in the wet and discovered that I neither had the skill of courage to follow in his footsteps. Not many or if any others did.

STEALING SPEED – MAT OXLEY
This could have been a John L’Carre novel, but it was a true story brilliantly conveyed by my old friend Mat Oxley. In 1961 Ernst Degner defected to the West after the Swedish Grand Prix. Not only did the rider and his family defect but he brought with him all the two-stroke secrets from the East German MZ factory which he gave to Suzuki ultimately leading to World Championship success for both the rider and factory. Even John Le Carre would have struggled to make this story up.

THE WORLD’S FASTEST INDIAN – ROGER DONALDSON
What an inspiration this book about New Zealander Burt Munroe is to everybody and especially to people of my age. Burt Munroe followed his dream of setting a world speed record on his home built Indian Motorcycle. He defied all the odds to build the bike, travel to America and then ride to a new world record. Both the film starring Anthony Hopkins and the book graphically illustrate that you must never give up on your dream.

Martin’s picks:

STORY SO FAR – BARRY SHEENE
Like Valentino Rossi now, Barry Sheene was a rider whose fame went far beyond the world of motorcycling as well as a rider who came out on top of the 500cc world championship in both 1976 and 1977. This book was published after his World title win in 1976 and covers his rise to fame as well as his World Championship endeavours. The book is special to me as it covers the time when I first started to attend race events – the first of which was at Oulton Park in Easter 1972 when the young Sheene racing in white leathers stormed to victory in the 250cc and 500cc races. From that event onwards I was hooked!

TECHNIQUES OF MOTORCYCLE RACING – KENNY ROBERTS
This the modern version of the Murray Walker book that Nick has in his list. Written by Roberts in conjunction with Peter Clifford, who adds the engineering expertise, this book explains the physics of racing technique. When he arrived in Europe Roberts changed the approach to racing and this book explains how he did it, with a more analytical approach to understanding why and how a motorcycle responds as it does.

THE AGE OF SUPERHEROES – MAT OXLEY
If a photo can tell a thousand words then this is the book that confirms it – but in addition to those wonderful photos Mat, in his usual brilliant way, tells the story behind the photos. If you want to read about those heroes who rode the 500cc monsters without any electronic aids – then this is the book for you.

THE PRIVATEER – JON EKEROLD
In my 48 years of watching motorcycle racing, there may have been harder racers than Jon Ekerold – but I am not sure who they would be. In the 70s and 80s racing was very different from it is now: it was possible to go GP racing with a couple privately owned machines and a transit van. The existence was very much hand-to-mouth and the prize and start money from one race paid for the fuel to get to the next one. Jon Ekerold was one of many such racers, but one of the few to win a World title. This book tells the real story of Grand Prix racing in that era.

JARNO SAARINEN – KLAAS TJASSENS
For me the racing book that I wish had never been written. Jarno Saarinen is my all-time hero of racing. I cannot read this book without feeling great emotion these many years later: great sadness, along with anger that the riders of those days were treated so poorly with regard to safety. In the early 70s Saarinen was the man who was taking the Grand Prix scheme by storm, by challenging the dominance of the great Giacomo Agostini and his fabulous MV. Saarinen won the 250cc World title in 1972 and then was signed by Yamaha to lead their attack on the 500cc title in 1973. After dominating the early season events he arrived at Monza leading both the 250cc & 500cc championship standings, before events at Monza on the fateful day in May 1973 when he lost his life alongside Italian legend Renzo Pasolini.

By | March 26th, 2020|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Top 10 motorcycling books

Click your fingers and they would arrive

It seems only a few years ago that you could just click your fingers and they would arrive from across the Atlantic to win Grands Prix and in many cases, World Championships. It was like the Pilgrim Fathers in reverse as Kenny Roberts led the charge from America closely followed by Eddie Lawson, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey, John Kocinski and Kevin Schwantz. Even in the 21st century the likes of Kenny Roberts Junior and Nicky Hayden kept the Stars and Stripes flying high on foreign soil.

It was only when Joe Roberts took that magnificent Moto2™ pole in Qatar last week I realised just how the exploits of those American heroes were confined firmly to the history books. American success in the all three classes in the MotoGP™ World Championship was long overdue. Incredibly, a decade overdue.

Fittingly it was at an iconic legendary American venue that Ben Spies grabbed the very last American pole position. It was in the 2010 MotoGP™ race at the Indianapolis Speedway that the Yamaha rider started the 28-lap race from pole position after leading qualifying. Spies finished second in the race behind the Honda of Dani Pedrosa. I’m sure there would have been many more poles and race wins for Spies if his career had not been cruelly cut short by injury.

That same year an American rider grabbed his country’s only ever pole position in the Moto2™ class. Never has the media centre celebrated a pole position with such noise when Kenny Noyes crossed the line at Le Mans. His father Dennis was a doyen of the Grand Prix press core for many a decade and I think we all felt part of his pride.

That was that. Ten barren years and to be honest not much sign that times were about to change until that memorable Saturday night in Qatar.

It was back in 1978 a dirt tracker who was never afraid to express his opinions arrived in Europe to compete in the 500cc World Championship. Kenny Roberts is the biggest single influence in the 71-year history of the sport. The Californian simply turned the Grand Prix racing on its head both on and off the track. He dominated the 500cc World Championship for the next three years with a sliding style that had been honed on the mile-long dirt tracks under the floodlights back home. The European riders led by double World Champion Barry Sheene had never seen anything like it and had no answer. Off the track Kenny led the riders in their fight to improve appalling lack of safety and financial rewards. He was successful on both counts.

If that was not enough, he then brought the likes of Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson from the States to join the likes of Spencer and Schwantz to carry on the American domination of the 500cc World Championship. He set up his own British-based Grand Prix team and produced a son who carried on the family and American tradition by winning the 2000 500cc World title. The only father and son to win a World title.

Pat Hennen was the first American Grand Prix winner when he won the 1976 Finnish Grand Prix at Imatra. Two years earlier Kenny Roberts had popped over the Atlantic to test the water with a 250cc ride in Assen. He started his Grand Prix debut on pole. We should have realised then just what an impact he was going to make.

When you have the same surname as a true legend you have so much lot to live up to. Joe made a start in Qatar.

By | March 18th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Click your fingers and they would arrive

A smile never to forget

That smile perhaps even cheeky grin was all I could think about as the chequered flag dropped at the end of the Moto2™ race on Sunday.

It was very much a case of mixed emotions as Moto2™ celebrated its tenth birthday under the Qatar floodlights. I wanted to celebrate the ten years that has produced some amazing racing and a World Champion that has gone on to become one of the greatest premier class World Champions in the 70-year history of the sport. I wanted to celebrate the maiden Grand Prix victory for Japanese rider Tetsuta Nagashima on his 70th Grand Prix appearance after another typical fiery Moto2™ encounter.

My mind went back ten long years and that very first Moto2™ race won by another Japanese rider Shoya Tomizawa. We honestly did not know what to expect and it really was a shot in the dark, if you will excuse the pun. Could these Honda powered 600 cc four-strokes really replace the two-stroke 250’s that had reigned supreme for 50 years. We didn’t have to wait long to find out. Tomizawa eventually got away at the front on the Suter from a frantic battle between Alex Debon, Jules Cluzel and World Champion elect Tony Elias. The smile and celebrations on the podium by the young Japanese rider made me realise that he was something so special both on and off the track.

The second round in Jerez confirmed his ability on the bike as he fought a titanic battle round the legendary venue to finish second behind Elias by one tenth of a second. Just half a second separated the first four – Moto2™ had arrived. Off the track Tomizawa was a delight. Somehow, he managed to combine that natural Japanese trait of courtesy and good manners with a friendly cheeky smile and always a word with everybody. How many riders would stop in the middle of a busy paddock to joke with a 60-year-old television commentator, everybody was treated with the same respect but with such a sense of good fun.

I have rarely witnessed such raw distress in a Grand Prix paddock when Shoya lost his life in that tragic accident at Misano in September of that first year. Not only had the sport lost a great rider but a true person who embodied what the sport was all about. He just loved racing motorcycles and enjoying life with everybody. I’m sure he would have gone on to win a Moto2™ title and move on to MotoGP™, but it was not to be.

Tetsuta Nagashima celebrated that tenth Moto2™ birthday in true style but even more important he dedicated his first Grand Prix win to his old friend. He is the first Japanese rider to lead the Moto2™ World Championship since Shoya. I know he would have approved with that smile.

By | March 12th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on A smile never to forget

Not for the first time

This year the circumstances are unique, but this is not the first time that the opening round of the World Championship has had problems

Probably the most famous cancellation of the first round came in 1980 when heavy snow not only covered the Salzburgring circuit in Austria but even blocked the paddock entrance. A year later snow also caused the postponement of the first day of practice although it thawed and the Grand Prix finally went ahead. Already the proposed opening round in 1980 in Venezuela had been cancelled because of financial problems.

It will also not be the first time the smaller classes have taken the limelight with no premier class race at a Grand Prix. In 1982 the old Brno road circuit in Czechoslovakia was deemed too dangerous for 500cc machine and the smaller classes – the 350cc, 250cc, 125cc, 80cc and, of course, the sidecars, entertained the vast crowds.

It has also worked the other way. In 2008 the rapidly arriving hurricane meant the 250cc riders at Indianapolis made the long trip across the Atlantic but never actually raced at the legendary venue. The opening round under the Qatar floodlights a year later had to be split into two days with the MotoGP™ race on a Monday after rain brought proceedings to a halt on Sunday night.

There are a number of occasions when the leading 500cc riders refused to race on safety grounds. The worried organisers usually managed to pull together a grid of privateers who just had to race and ignore the danger to enable them to fill their van with diesel and buy a new set of tyres for the next Grand Prix. The result was some unlikely 500cc Grand Prix winners.
In 1974 unknown German rider Edmund Czihak won the 500cc German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring when the leading riders, led by Phil Read and Giacomo Agostini, refused to ride on safety grounds highlighted by the amount of Armco barriers surrounding the circuit. Five years later, Dennis Ireland won his only 500cc Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps when the top riders refused to race on the slippery surface. Swiss rider Michel Frutschi won in 1982 at Nogaro in France when the top riders, led by Barry Sheene and Kenny Roberts, asked me to draft their letter to the organisers stating the circuit was too dangerous for 500cc bikes.

In 1989, I can still see Eddie Lawson sitting on the pit lane wall at Misano signalling to 500cc Grand Prix winner, and local rider, Pier Francesco Chili with a single finger every lap of the race. I don’t think it was to celebrate the fact Frankie was leading after the top riders refused to compete in the re-run race after the first one was stopped on safety grounds.

The 2020 season has hit very different problems that have never been encountered before. It’s new territory for everybody but one thing is for certain: those Moto2™ and Moto3™ riders will put on a great show under the floodlights on Sunday to start the new season in style.

By | March 5th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

Changing of the Guard

With the retirement at the end of 2018 of Dani Pedrosa, and Jorge Lorenzo recently calling an end to his MotoGP career, the makeup of the MotoGP podium is undergoing a serious change. Dani Pedrosa made his MotoGP at the opening race of 2006 at Jerez and immediately made an impact with a second place finish behind Loris Capirossi and in front of his more experienced Honda team mate Nicky Hayden. In the subsequent years, up to his final podium appearance at Valencia in 2017, he made a total of 112 podium appearances; averaging more than 9 top three finishes per year. 

Jorge Lorenzo also made an immediate impact with his move to MotoGP, finishing second in his debut race at Qatar in 2008, behind Casey Stoner. His final podium count was 114 over 11 years, averaging more than ten podium appearances per year. With Pedrosa gone, and Lorenzo not making the top three in the 2019 season wrecked by injury, there has been opportunity for new faces to appear more regularly on the podium, in particular Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins, Fabio Quartararo and Jack Miller. 

The table below illustrates how the average age of the riders finishing on the MotoGP podium in 2019 was at the lowest level since 2014. Also shown in the table are the number of podium appearances each year of the MotoGP series by riders aged 30 or over. In 2003, 2004 & 2005 the podiums were dominated by riders aged 30 and over, with as many as eight riders of this age finishing on the podium during the season. In 2019 only three riders 30 or over managed to finish on the podium: Rossi, Dovizioso and Crutchlow. Also worth noting is that the last time that Marc Marquez was the youngest rider on the podium was back in Mugello.

Although the current “changing of the guard” is not as dramatic as the one that took place over the years 2006 to 2008, when Pedrosa, Stoner and Lorenzo took over from the likes of Barros, Biaggi, Gibernau and Checa, perhaps the full transition will be complete at the end of 2020 with the futures of Rossi, Dovizioso and Crutchlow yet to be decided.

As always in Grand Prix motorcycle racing the arrival of new faces keeps it healthy and exciting. There are always great riders of seasons past, great riders of the present, and great riders of seasons yet to come.

Year

Average age of podium finishers

Number of podiums by riders aged 30 or over

Rider aged 30 or over finishing on the podium

2002

28 years 22 days

15

Ryo, Biaggi, Barros

2003

28 years 228 days

29

Biaggi, Capirossi, Gibernau, Bayliss, Barros

2004

29 years 173 days

28

Biaggi, Capirossi, Gibernau, Bayliss, Barros, Checa, Edwards

2005

28 years 133 days

21

Gibernau, Barros, Biaggi, Jacque, Edwards, Capirossi, Checa, Roberts

2006

26 years 212 days

12

Capirossi, Edwards, Roberts, Bayliss

2007

25 years 141 days

7

Edwards, Capirossi, Barros

2008

25 years 210 days

3

Edwards, Capirossi

2009

25 years 238 days

14

Edwards, Rossi

2010

25 years 239 days

10

Rossi

2011

25 years 322 days

2

Edwards, Rossi

2012

26 years 216 days

2

Rossi

2013

25 years 322 days

6

Rossi

2014

26 years 312 days

13

Rossi

2015

29 years 175 days

19

Rossi, Pedrosa

2016

28 years 286 days

22

Rossi, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, Crutchlow

2017

28 years 281 days

27

Rossi, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, Crutchlow, Lorenzo

2018

28 years 285 days

21

Rossi, Dovizioso, Crutchlow, Lorenzo

2019

27 years 142 days

14

Rossi, Dovizioso, Crutchlow
By | December 18th, 2019|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|1 Comment

The MotoGP SENIOR School 2019 end of term report

Andrea Dovizioso – After such a brilliant last couple of terms this current term was a slight disappointment despite some highlights. Needs some new motivation to keep near the top of the class next year.

Johann Zarco – A very disappointing term for Johann who seemed to lose confidence after such a bright couple of terms in the top class. Hopefully next  term confidence and motivation will return.

Danilo Petrucci – Danilo promised so much after some brilliant early term exam results but faded after that. He needs to study hard and get back to leading the way in the exams next term.

Maverick Vinales – Maverick is a real conundrum. Top of the class some days but nowhere in sight on others. He has the ability to become head boy and I hope he does not waste it.

Karel Abraham – A model pupil who never gives up trying and learning against more gifted pupils.

Fabio Quartararo – A fantastic term for the newcomer to the top class. Fabio never really shone in primary school but has stepped up brilliantly and will be seeking some top exam results next term.

Franco Morbidelli – While being slightly overshadowed by his classmate Quartararo, Franco has got on with working hard and studying. Expect a great new term.

Andrea Iannone – Shifting subjects so often in the last few terms has never found Andrea settle. We know what he can achieve but time is running out to achieve it.

Takaaki Nakagami – Some impressive exam results but unfortunatily was forced to miss end of term exams. Hopefully when he returns to classes he can continue progress.

Cal Crutchlow – As always maximum effort throughout the term from Cal. Some good exam results especially after such a tough end of term last year.

Joan Mir – Very impressive first term in Senior class. Unfortunately forced to miss three exams but must face next term with great confidence.

Aleix Espargaro – Maximum effort throughout term that sometimes can spill over to some disciplinary problems for Aleix. Great member of the class.

Alex Rins – Breakthrough term for Alex with some great exam results. His big test will come next term when he needs to push on towards the top of the class.

Jack Miller – An impressive term by Jack. After a few disciplinary problems over the last few terms he’s developed into top class pupil who is very capable of going even higher.

Pol Espargaro – Like his older brother Aleix, Pol worked so hard throughout the term and was rewarded with some promising exam results. I hope his considerable efforts will be rewarded next term.

Miguel Oliveira – Very steady first term in Senior School. The experience gained this term will stand him in good stead when he returns to the classroom.

Valentino Rossi – This former Head Boy is an example to the rest of the school for effort and preparation. Next term could be his last at the school and Valentino will be greatly missed if he decides to leave.

Tito Rabat – One of the most popular pupils at the school. He had to miss some exams but never lost his determination and humour.

Hafizh Syahrin – He never shirked exams despite a very tough term where he learnt so much.

Francesco Bagnaia – After so much success at primary school he probably tried a little too hard when he joined the Seniors. A couple of impressive exam results that will give him confidence for the future.

Marc Marquez – Star pupil and Head boy once again after brilliant term. Just needs to keep a check on that natural exuberance to continue at the top of the class.

Jorge Lorenzo – We will very much miss Jorge who left at the end of term. He is one of the finest scholars this school has ever had and we thank him and wish him well in the future.

By | December 12th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on The MotoGP SENIOR School 2019 end of term report

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

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