News and Events

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

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

NEVER SAY NEVER IS PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY

Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Motorcycle World Championships, legendary commentator Nick Harris – ‘The Voice’ of MotoGP – chronicles seventy years of drama, adrenaline, tragedy and celebration in brand new book, Never Say Never – published by Virgin Books on this Thursday 23rd May 2019.

For 40 years Nick travelled the world reporting and commentating on MotoGP, and this rare privileged access has given him unparalleled insight into this incredible sport. From a motorcycle trip across Argentina the week before the Falklands war, to ignoring the apartheid travelling ban in South Africa, Nick has witnessed a changing world developing alongside the highs and lows of the greatest motorcycle races of all time.

In a white-knuckle ride through the twists and turns of Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, Nick Harris provides a new, mostly eye-witness account of the history of MotoGP, the battles and feuds both on and off the track, the remarkable personalities and the great tragedies of the sport from 1949 to present day.

As a trusted insider, Nick got to know Valentino Rossi, Barry Sheene, Giacomo Agostini and Mike Hailwood as individuals. He saw feuds unfold, champions made and careers ended, and in Never Say Never, he shares the real stories behind the greatest legends of the sport. This is the book the motorcycling world has been waiting for.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

  • Nick is best known as a legendary television and radio commentator and presenter, presenting and commentating on the MotoGP World Championship for much of his career, attracting over 20 million viewers worldwide to each grand prix.
  • When he announced his retirement in 2017, over 1.2 million fans tuned into his farewell video on Facebook, filmed with Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.
  • Harris has a dedicated following, with over 18k followers on Twitter @NickHarrisMedia.

Pre-order Never Say Never here

 

Advanced copies will be available. Nick Harris is available for interviews and features.

Never Say Never by Nick Harris is published in Hardback by Virgin Books on 23rd May 2019. RRP: £20.00.


MEET NICK HARRIS IN LONDON AND MILTON KEYNES

Nick Harris will be signing copies of Never Say Never in London on Thursday and will be interviewed and signing books a week later in Milton Keynes.

For the Waterstones events – the Leadenhall Market event in London on 23rd May is a lunchtime book signing at 12:30, which is non-ticketed. More information here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/never-say-never-meet-nick-harris-at-waterstones-leadenhall-market/london-leadenhall-market

The event in Milton Keynes on 30th May is a Q&A with their events organiser Nikki Bloomer, and this one is ticketed (£3 redeemable again the price of the book). Tickets are available here: https://www.waterstones.com/events/in-conversation-with-nick-harris/milton-keynes-midsummer-place

By | May 21st, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on NEVER SAY NEVER IS PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY

The changing of the guard

When I realised that Marc Marquez was the oldest rider on the front row of the grid for the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, and then the oldest rider on the podium after winning the race the next day, it was plain for all to see that we are witnessing the changing of the guard once again.

It only seemed like yesterday Marquez had exploded into the MotoGP™ class to blow the establishment apart. The youngest ever premier class winner, the youngest ever pole setter and the youngest ever World Champion. In fact, it was six years ago in 2013, and the milestones he laid down in that memorable season, that are being challenged and, in some cases, rewritten.

The youngest ever pole setter crown was the first to go when Frenchman Fabio Quartararo riding the Petronas SRT Yamaha pipped teammate Franco Morbidelli and Marquez for pole position in Jerez. I wanted to say teenager Quartararo, but he’d celebrated his 20th birthday just a couple of weeks earlier. It was still enough, however, to become the youngest ever MotoGP™ pole setter. Alongside him, teammate Morbidelli was a positively old 24-years-old while Marquez will soon be checking out his pension rights at 26-years-old.

The World Champion’s total domination of the race the next day put him at the top of the standings to put ‘the youngsters’ back in their place, but with Alex Rins second and Maverick Viñales third he was still the oldest rider on the podium.

Three weeks earlier, 23-year-old Rins won his first MotoGP™ race at Austin for Ecstar Suzuki with 24-year-old Jack Miller putting the Pramac Ducati on the podium. It was four years earlier Miller had jumped from the Moto3™ class, missing out Moto2™, to dive straight into the MotoGP™ melting pot.

It’s such a healthy situation and really does illustrate the strength of the whole MotoGP™ structure with a real path to the ultimate MotoGP™ test through Moto3™ and Moto2™. In addition to Quartararo, both former Moto3™ World Champion Joan Mir and current Moto2™ World Champion Pecco Bagnaia arrived in the MotoGP™ class. There are plenty more chomping at the bit to be given the chance.

Records are there to be broken and statistics rewritten, especially in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Over the years we have marvelled at youngsters such as Mike Hailwood, Freddie Spencer and then Valentino Rossi and Marquez rewriting the history books. The next generation is on its way, but they still have a long way to go. The ‘older generation’ are not going to just lie down and let them take over – they never did.

The changing of the guard may have started but those youngsters will have to add patience to their considerable repertoire. The likes of Rossi, double the age of Quartararo, Andrea Dovizioso and Marquez are not going to welcome them and let them waltz into their kingdom and steal all the jewels without one hell of a fight.

By | May 16th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on The changing of the guard

Dani Pedrosa – a MotoGP legend?

Dani Pedrosa draws his career to a close this weekend in Valencia after a long and successful career, prompting discussion about what does a rider need to achieve to be given the designation of a legend. Well let’s look at what he has achieved:

  • This weekend he will be making his 295thGP starts. Only Valentino Rossi and Loris Capirossi has made more GP starts.
  • 54 grand prix wins – making him 7thin the all-time GP winners list.
  • 31 wins in the premier-class – 8thin the all-time list
  • 153 grand prix podium finishes – third on the all-time list after Rossi and Giacomo Agostini (Lorenzo is currently on 152 podium finishes, so could equal Pedrosa’s total this weekend)
  • 112 premier-class podium finishes – third on the all-time list after Rossi and Lorenzo.
  • He has won at least one grand prix every year for 16 successive years from 2002 to 2017. This is the record as the longest sequence of successive years that a rider has achieved at least one grand prix victory.
  • He won at least one race in the MotoGP class every year for twelve successive seasons. The only other rider to have achieved this in the premier-class is Giacomo Agostini.
  • He has had the fourth longest winning career in grand prix racing after Rossi, Capirossi and Angel Nieto.
  • He has the third longest winning career in the premier-class after Rossi and Alex Barros.
  • In 2003 he became the second youngest ever 125cc world champion after Loris Capirossi.
  • In his debut race in the 250cc class in South Africa in 2004 he became the youngest ever 250cc grand prix race winner.
  • Also in 2004 he became the youngest ever 250cc world champion and the youngest rider to win a title in two different classes.
  • In 2005 he retained the 250cc world title making him the youngest rider to be three times a world champion.
  • He has been runner-up in the MotoGP world championship on three occasions; in 2007 behind Casey Stoner, in 2010 & 2012 to Jorge Lorenzo.
  • Comparing to the rider some think of as the greatest of all-time: in his thirteen years in the MotoGP class he has finished ahead on Valentino Rossi in the world championship on six occasions.

Although Pedrosa never achieved that dream MotoGP title, that is perhaps due to circumstances outside his control: his small physical stature, a fragile body and being around at a time when the premier-class is more competitive than ever with such other great riders as Rossi, Stoner, Lorenzo and Marquez.

Stand up and take a bow Dani – a true motorcycle grand prix racing legend!

 

By | November 17th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|Comments Off on Dani Pedrosa – a MotoGP legend?

Party time in Valencia

No World Championships to be decided this time round and so it’s party time in Valencia before the 2019 season gets underway on Tuesday. Enjoy Sunday night because by Tuesday morning those 19 Grands Prix this year are a thing of the past as the first test of the new season get underway. MotoGP™ can certainly never be accused of standing still but thank goodness the test does not start on the Monday as it used to. Plenty of sore heads out on the track, in pit lane and in the media centre on those best to be forgotten Monday mornings which would also include test rides on the MotoGP™ machines for selected members of the media causing more headaches for the teams and not caused by the night before.

This is the 20th Grand Prix to be staged at Valencia with that first race at the Ricardo Tormo circuit in 1999. The circuit has staged the final Grand Prix for the last 17 years making it the venue that has staged the final event on most occasions. The MotoGP™ title has been decided on four occasions in Valencia. Who will forget 2006 when Nicky Hayden clinched the title finishing third after Valentino Rossi had crashed out. The decency and sportsmanship of Nicky’s Dad Earl knocking on the door of Rossi’s motorhome to offer his condolences before returning to celebrate his son’s title. It was a total contrast in 2015. Never in the 69-year history of the sport has there been such a poisonous acrimonious build up to a race, let alone before one that would decide the title. Never has a race sparked so much global interest in the Marquez/Rossi war that resulted in the title going to Jorge Lorenzo. There was certainly no knocking on motorhome doors that time round. Marquez clinched his first MotoGP™ title at Valencia in 2013 and his fourth last year.

Beware this year’s World Champions Marc Marquez, Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin. There has never been a year when the three Championship winners have all won their respective races since the final round has been staged in Valencia.

Dani Pedrosa bows out of Grand Prix racing on Sunday at a circuit he has won more races than any other rider. Four MotoGP™ wins are joined by two 250s and one in the 125cc class. A final goodbye from Dani with a victory would certainly spark a big party. Not perhaps everybody in the fountain, hotel furniture in the swimming pool, Brazilian police being called with the hotel waterfall being diverted into the lobby and guns being fired into the ceiling of the Zoom Zoom club in Goiania in the hellraising non-social media days of the eighties and nineties but never the less one hell of a party to rightly celebrate a fantastic career.

By | November 16th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Party time in Valencia

Valencia Grand Prix facts and statistics

  • This year will be the 20thGrand Prix of Valencia, which has been held every year at the Ricardo Tormo circuit since the first visit in 1999.
  • This will be the 17thsuccessive year that Valencia has hosted the final race of the season, making it the circuit that has been the venue for the final event of the year on most occasions. It has been the final event of the year throughout the MotoGP era.
  • The Valencia circuit is named after Spanish racer Ricardo Tormo, who won the 50cc world title riding for Bultaco in 1978 and 1981. In addition to his 15 Grand Prix victories in the 50cc class he also had 4 wins in the 125cc class.  His career ended in 1984 due to leg injuries suffered in a crash whilst test riding. Tormo sadly died from leukaemia in 1998.
  • Dani Pedrosa is the most successful rider at the Valencia circuit with seven wins; four in MotoGP, two in 250cc, and one in the 125cc class. The next most successful rider is Jorge Lorenzo with four wins in Valencia, all in the MotoGP class.
  • The premier-class race at Valencia has been won ten times by Spanish riders; Sete Gibernau won the 500cc race on a Suzuki in 2001; Dani Pedrosa won the MotoGP race in 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2017; Jorge Lorenzo won in 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016; Marc Marquez won four years ago.
  • The last non-Spanish rider to win the MotoGP race in Valencia was Casey Stoner in 2011.
  • Since the introduction of the four-stroke MotoGP formula in 2002, Honda has been the most successful manufacturer with nine victories at the Valencia circuit, including last year with Dani Pedrosa.
  • Yamaha has had five MotoGP wins at the Valencia circuit, the last of which was with Jorge Lorenzo in 2016.
  • Ducati have had two MotoGP wins in Valencia: with Troy Bayliss in 2006 and Casey Stoner in 2008.
  • Andrea Iannone’s third place finish in 2016 is the only podium at Valencia by a Ducati rider since Stoner finished second in 2010.
  • Suzuki’s only podium at Valencia in the MotoGP era is a third place finish with John Hopkins in 2007.
  • The MotoGP race at Valencia has only twice been won by a rider who has not qualified on the front row –  Marc Marquez in 2014 and Dani Pedrosa last year, on both occasions from fifth place on the grid.
  • At least one of the three classes at the Valencia Grand Prix has been won by a Spanish rider for the last nine years.
  • Valentino Rossi is the only rider to have competed at all nineteen previous grand prix events that have taken place at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
  • There has never been a year when the three world championship winners have all won their respective races at the final event of the season since it has been held in Valencia.
  • The MotoGP title has been decided on four occasions in Valencia: in 2006 in favour of Nicky Hayden, 2013 – Marc Marquez, 2015 – Jorge Lorenzo and 2017 – Marc Marquez.
  • The eight Moto2 races that have taken place in Valencia have been won by eight different riders: 2010 – Karel Abraham, 2011 – Michele Pirro, 2012 – Marc Marquez, 2013 – Nico Terol, 2014 – Tom Luthi, 2015 – Tito Rabat, 2016 – Johann Zarco and 2017 – Miguel Oliveira.
  • The Intermediate-class world championship has been decided on four occasions in Valencia: in 2003 the 250cc title in favour of Manuel Poggiali, 2006 – Jorge Lorenzo (250cc), 2009 – Hiroshi Aoyama (250cc) and 2011 – Stefan Bradl (Moto2)
  • The six Moto3 races that have taken place in Valencia have been won by six different riders: 2012 – Danny Kent, 2013 – Maverick Viñales, 2014 – Jack Miller 2015 – Miguel Oliveira, 2016 – Brad Binder and 2017 – Jorge Martin. Prior to Martin’s win last year on a Honda, all of the Moto3 races at Valencia had been won by KTM.
  • The Lightweight-class world championship has been decided on eight occasions in Valencia: in 2002 the 125 cc title in favour of Arnaud Vincent, 2005 – Tom Luthi (125cc), 2007 – Gabor Talmacsi (125cc), 2010 – Marc Marquez (125cc), 2011 – Nico Terol (125cc), 2013 – Maverick Viñales (Moto3), 2014 – Alex Marquez (Moto3) and 2015 – Danny Kent (Moto3).
By | November 14th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|Comments Off on Valencia Grand Prix facts and statistics

So close

It was so so close to the absolute perfect day in Malaysia for a rider who has experienced so many in that amazing career. Four laps from the finish of the MotoGP™ race at the Shell Malaysia Grand Prix on Sunday Valentino Rossi was on course to experience a day that most sportsman at any level can only dream about.

His step brother Luca Marini had just won his first Grand Prix after victory in the Moto2™ race. Marini’s team-mate Francesco (Pecco) Bagnaia clinched the Moto2™ World title after finishing third in the same race and both riding for Rossi’s Sky Racing Team VR46 team. Could it get any better – yes was the answer because Vale himself was leading the MotoGP™ race as they flashed across the line at Sepang with four laps remaining. Just over 22km remaining on the red-hot tarmac before the 39 year old Italian would be celebrating his first win of the season to end a perfect day even by his incredible standards.

Nine World titles and 115 Grands Prix wins in 22 years of Grand Prix racing have taught Vale never to count his chickens, never presume in any circumstances in a sport that has a habit of wrecking the party just as you are putting up the decorations and the guests are about to arrive. Less than ten seconds after racing past his pit board telling him Marc Marquez was closing he went down at turn one in front of a sea of yellow flags in the Rossi grandstand.

The perfect day may have been ruined but this should take nothing away from the Sepang experience that is the perfect illustration on why the man from Tavulla has had a bigger impact and influence both on and off the track than any other rider in the 69-year history of the sport. Who else at 39 years old could lead a MotoGP™ race for so long in such sweltering conditions around one of the most demanding race tracks in the 19 race calendar? Who else would form his own team after being dismayed at the lack of young Italian talent on the world scene and then build a dirt track and ranch to train with the youngsters who have gone on to become World Champions? Who else could protect and deal with the publicity the arrival of his step brother in the World Championship generated and then help him become a Grand Prix winner.

Who else would have already announced his plans to carry on racing for at least two more years as he approaches that dreaded 40th birthday? Who else would just relish the fact that his protégés are now lining up to take him on in the ultimate MotoGP™ test with the latest World Champion Bagnaia joining Jack Miller next season in the Alma Pramac Ducati team?

There is nobody else because there is only one person and his name is Valentino Rossi.

By | November 9th, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on So close

The Times They Are A-Changin’…..

These words from the Bob Dylan song came to mind as I watched the MotoGP podium presentation in Malaysia, with all three riders having graduated from the Moto2 class; the fourth time in 2018 that this had occurred (having only once happened prior to this year, at Misano in 2015). Is the balance of power finally changing in MotoGP from the dominance of the ex-250cc riders to riders coming through from Moto2? 

Looking at the numbers of podium finishers in MotoGP by Moto2 riders for each year since 2011:

2011 – 0

2012 – 0

2013 – 17 (Marquez – 16, Bradl – 1)

2014 – 15 (Marquez – 14, Smith – 1)

2015 –  14 (Marquez – 9, Iannone – 3, Redding – 1, Smith – 1)

2016 –  21 (Marquez – 12, Iannone – 4, Vinales – 4, Redding – 1)

2017 –  23 (Marquez – 12, Vinales – 7, Zarco – 3, Folger – 1)

2018 (with one race remaining)    30 (Marquez – 14, Vinales – 5, Iannone – 4, Rins – 4, Zarco – 3)

These number show that since 2015 there has been a steady increase in both the number of MotoGP podium finishes by Moto2 graduates and the number of riders achieving these. Irrespective of what happens in Valencia, the number of podiums by ex-Moto2 riders will be more than 50% of those available in 2018 and five of the ten riders who have finished on the podium this year also come from this group.

So does this confirm that “The Times Are A-Changin”? Well with the retirement of Dani Pedrosa, and Alvaro Bautista going to WSBK, the honour of the 250cc GP graduates now depend on just five riders next year in MotoGP: Andrea Dovizioso, Karel Abraham, Aleix Espargaro, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Predicting what will happen next year in MotoGP is not something I will try, I would rather taking something from these  word of wisdom from the Bob Dylan song:

“Come writers and critics, Who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide, The chance won’t come again

And don’t speak too soon, For the wheel’s still in spin

And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’.

For the loser now will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin’.”

By | November 6th, 2018|Martin Raines Blog, News and Events|Comments Off on The Times They Are A-Changin’…..

Early start

The sold-out signs are being printed for Sepang this Sunday as MotoGP™ mad Malaysia prepares for the penultimate round of the Championship. What a turn around. Remember those early days at Sepang. You could count the number of spectators in some of those vast grandstands with the amazing roofs. We would sit in the stand that towered above the back straight eating our hamburgers purchased from a deserted stall in the mall watching a practice session and we would be the only people there.

I first went to Sepang which is situated close to Kuala Lumpur International airport in 1999 to work at the Formula Car race and returned a year later for MotoGP™. The contrast was enormous with Kuala Lumpur buzzing about the arrival of Formula One at this state of the art glitzy shiny circuit and paying little interest in the bikes; so what happened to produce such a total transformation in two decades. Formula One has gone through dwindling crowds and interest and MotoGP™ has exploded.

The very nature of the two sports has helped with the pure excitement of close racing and overtaking on two wheels bringing the crowds flocking. You only have to stop at any set of traffic lights in Kuala Lumpur to realise just what a vast market Malaysia and the rest of the Far East is to the major motorcycle manufacturers. Ticket prices and facilities to suit the customers by the forward-thinking SIC Ceo Dato Razlan Razali has embraced all these facts while four times Sepang has witnessed the crowning of a new MotoGP™ World Champion, being the penultimate round definitely has its advantages. Finally, the adulation of Valentino Rossi that has lifted many a circuit into the black and a decent bank balance has never been more obvious.

The Doctor has won six times in Sepang on both Honda and Yamaha machinery and in the 500cc and MotoGP™ classes. Three times he’s clinched the MotoGP™ World Championship in 2003, 2005 and 2009 with his then team-mate Jorge Lorenzo winning the title at Sepang a year later although typically Rossi won the race and stole the limelight.

You could not imagine the total contrast in the facilities between Sepang and when we arrived for that very first Malaysian Grand Prix 27 years ago at Shah Alam. Full marks to the old circuit which ironically was situated near the old International airport before they both switched to pastures new but just as close. Shah Alam laid the very foundations for today’s success story staging seven Malaysian Grands Prix before Johor took over for a single year. Sepang hosted its first motorcycle Grand Prix in 1999 with Kenny Roberts victorious on the 500cc Suzuki.

The Sepang circuit will be jammed to the very rafters of those amazing grandstands on Sunday. It’s more like being at a massive football match with adrenalin fuelled noise, excitement and colour; that’s before the racing even gets underway. The only problem is that you have to leave the hotel an awful lot earlier than you ever did all those years ago.

A very small price to pay to enjoy a Grand Prix that is the perfect illustration of the MotoGP™ revolution that has transformed the sport over the last two decades.

By | November 2nd, 2018|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Early start