It was only when the most famous national newspaper in the world started printing pictures of A-lister celebrities on the grid, instead of race action on the track, that I realised just how lucky we are. Pictures of the stars on the grid and in the hospitality suites, replacing race action from the Grand Prix at the four-wheeled equivalent of MotoGP™. All sports need the publicity and charisma gained from the big names grinning on the starting grid, but the A-listers in MotoGP™ are the riders and not the people who have come to watch.
It’s crucial not to let all the hype and glitter submerge why we are at 20 venues throughout the world. We are there to race. The best riders/drivers in the world competing on space-age technology-driven motorcycles and cars to discover who is the very best. From that very first World Championship race in the Isle of Man nearly 75 years ago the battle between man and machines has always been the priority. We are so lucky that the principle was fully endorsed after a season of racing that was right up there as one of the very best in the last three quarters of a century
I think that the final round in Valencia was the perfect example of why all that hype and glitz in the world is no match for the action when it’s as good as it was. It had everything to keep the massive boisterous fans and tens of millions of television viewers more than happy. Two riders after 20 Grands Prix, Tissot Sprints included, in nine months were separated by just 21 points going into those final two races. We were not let down. Fantastic racing, mind games, controversy, and crashes but when the dust settled, Pecco Bagnaia, the only Ducati rider in the history of the sport to retain the premier class title. It was everything that final rounds in other motorsport World Championships just could not match.
There was certainly no time to reflect, celebrate or rest even for the fans. The Valencia Test just two days later gave us a delicious aperitive to next season’s main menu. Of course, Marc Marquez’s Ducati debut made the headlines. The smile when he removed his helmet said it all. Throw in the Honda debut for Luca Marini, with Fabio Di Giannantonio replacing him at Mooney VR46 Racing, and a MotoGP™ debut for Moto2™ World Champion Pedro Acosta. I think you had enough to keep you going over Christmas and the new year.
Of course, there have been bumps in the road in such a long tiring journey. I think the Tissot Sprints were a great success and certainly made the weekend more interesting. I will not pretend to exactly understand the new tyre pressure rule. Some controversial decisions by the Stewards brought the same reaction to VAR in football. Ten Grands Prix in the last 13 weeks of the season put a strain on everybody. An understanding family is crucial to anybody embarking on the great adventure. Next year there are 22 Grands Prix scheduled. I think that is enough to maintain the welfare of everybody in the MotoGP™ family.
Never has a winter break been more richly deserved for everybody involved after such a pulsating season in all three classes. It was a year that totally summed up what the sport we love is all about. Stick to those racing principles and do not make it too complicated. A sport where the riders are still the A-listers.