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Acosta chases history on Sunday, but not on a Bantam

It may be a long time ago, but I remember I only had one thing on my mind on my sixteenth birthday – how can I raise the princely sum of £15 to buy my first motorbike. My friend’s Dad was selling his 125cc Bantam and with some help from my parents, I was on the road.

On Sunday at Portimao in Portugal, a 16-year-old Spaniard will not be worrying about a BSA Bantam but concentrating on re-writing the 73-year-old Grand Prix history books and joining a very exclusive club. Pedro Acosta’s sensational victory in the second round of the Moto3™ World Championship in Qatar opened the doors for some record-breaking at round three on Sunday. That staggering first Grand Prix win when he decimated the field after having to start from pit lane came just a week after his second-place podium finish in Qatar on his Grand Prix debut. A win or even podium finish on Sunday will place the former Red Bull Rookies Champion in a very special place

If Acosta finishes in the top three in Portugal, he will be the youngest rider to open his career with three successive podiums. If the KTM rider wins the race in Portugal he will be the second youngest rider ever to take back-to-back wins, after Maverick Vinales.

In the 73-year history of Grand Prix racing, only four riders have finished on the podium in their first three Grand Prix starts:

In 1949, the first year of Grand Prix racing, Italian Arciso Artesian secured three successive podiums on his debut. The Gilera rider missed the opening round at the TT races in the Isle of Man, but then finished on the podium at Switzerland, Dutch TT and Belgium.

A year later British Norton rider Geoff Duke finished second in the 350cc TT, won the 500cc TT and then was third in the 350cc race in Belgium at Spa Francorchamps. Duke was a sporting hero in post-war Britain winning six World titles for Norton and Gilera

In 1991 the bubbly bespectacled Noboru Ueda was on the podium at the opening three 125cc Grands Prix. In an explosive start to his World Championship career the Japanese Honda rider won the opening round at Suzuka, finished third behind Loris Capirossi and Fausto Gresini at the Eastern Creek in Australia and won again at the opening European round in Jerez. Nobby went on to win 11 more Grands Prix but never a World title. He was second in 1994 and in 1997. In true Acosta style, although not from pit lane, Ueda won a race starting from the back of the grid. At the 1997 Japanese Grand Prix he had qualified on pole, but on the sighting lap noticed the wind direction has changed so he called into the pits to change the gearing. This resulted in him starting from the back of the grid. He won the race which was the second round of the Championship. A young Valentino Rossi won the opening round in Malaysia and then the third and fourth rounds in Jerez and Mugello.

In 1996 the late great Daijiro Kato finished third as a wild card entry in the 250cc Grand Prix at Suzuka in the third round of the Championship. He returned as a wild card entry to win the race for Honda a year later and then in 1998. Despite the gaps, these were Kato’s first three Grand Prix appearances. He went on to win 15 more Grands Prix and the 250cc World title in 2001 before his tragic death in 2003.

So already Acosta had joined an elite band of Grand Prix legends. My beloved Bantam only once touched 55 mph racing down Cumnor Hill. I don’t think the Spanish teenager would have been that impressed.

By |2021-04-15T07:15:26+00:00April 15th, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|0 Comments

Murray Walker, Lennon and Jagger

My teenage mates in the sixties thought I was sad. We would cycle down to the Russell Acott record store on Oxford High Street. After a sly fag behind the Mitre hotel, they would be listening to new 33-inch vinal albums such as Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from the Beatles or Aftermath from the Rolling Stones. I would be at the other end of the shop seeking out the Stanley Schofield long-player recordings from the TT races in the Isle of Man.

They would enthuse over the voices of John Lennon and Mick Jagger while I would be just as excited listening to the voice of Murray Walker. While Lennon and Jagger would tell us about Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or Mothers Little Helper, I was equally spellbound listening to Murray’s dulcet tones. No drums or guitars in the background just the wail of Mike Hailwood’s Honda six as he raced between the walls and houses on Bray Hill at the start of the TT mountain circuit.

Murray’s voice was my link to a world I could only dream about. The World of Grand Prix motorcycle racing and the TT races. Whether it be from those iconic broadcasts on BBC radio’s Light Programme from the Isle of Man or those well-worn Stanley Scofield records. Murray was the joint commentator with his father Graham who was a TT and Ulster Grand Prix winner. The voice that became legendary throughout the world boomed out from our imposing radio in the dining room, filling the house with the exploits of Duke, Surtees and Hailwood.

Once we managed to ‘borrow’ the speakers from my friend’s parents record player and hide them in the hedge next to the bus stop. People waiting to catch the number 67 to work in Oxford were confused. Murray in full cry and volume describing the start of a TT race on the Glencrutchery road was not what they were expecting at 8.30 in the morning.

My favourite record was that memorable 1967 TT battle between Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini. I can still close my eyes and hear Murray describing Hailwood racing into the pits on the 500 cc Honda four and screaming for a hammer to bash the loose throttle back on the handlebars. Hailwood re-joined the race and won.

When I crossed the road for six years to work in Formula One, Murray was a legend. He was the voice of Formula One known throughout the world. He helped me so much in my new adventure. There was nothing we enjoyed more over a coffee in the F1 paddock than discussing and reminiscing about Grand Prix motorcycle racing and his beloved TT.

His Formula One commentaries are stuff of legends. His sheer enthusiasm and passion for the sport he loved so much came in a loud cacophony of sound, joy and sometimes wonderful gaffs.

God bless you Murray – you were voice for all of us to try and follow. None of us have ever got close.

By |2021-03-21T16:37:34+00:00March 21st, 2021|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Murray Walker, Lennon and Jagger

Criville waited seven years to unlock the door

Just 168 hours in seven breathless days separated Joan Mir’s first MotoGP™ victory from that World Championship conquest on Sunday. The rider that produced the key to unlock the door to Spanish domination of the premier class had to wait so much longer. A gap of over seven long years separated Alex Criville’s first 500cc Grand Prix win to the title.

I am sure it will not surprise you that I had problems pronouncing Alex Criville’s surname when he brought Spain their first-ever Grand Prix victory in the premier class. I had just about got it right 21 years ago when the very same Criville produced the key to unlock the door to Spanish MotoGP™ World Champions with their first-ever premier class title in 1999

A certain Valentino Rossi stood in their way for the following decade but then the floodgates opened for the likes of Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and, on Sunday, the mighty impressive Joan Mir.

We always admired the brilliance of Spanish riders in the smaller classes but even multiple World Champions Angel Nieto and Sito Pons struggled in the premier class and did not stay around for long. Then came the 1992 Dutch TT in Assen. Crashes had ruled out the likes of Rainey, Doohan, Schwantz and Lawson. Alex Criville was on hand to win a fantastic three-way battle over John Kocinski and Alex Barros.

Mick Doohan then took over with five straight 500cc World Championships and Alex had to wait another three years just for his next victory. Six more followed over the next three years but the first European Grand Prix of the season in 1999 had a familiar sense of déjà vu to this year. Five-time World Champion and Criville’s teammate Doohan crashed at turn four at Jerez and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. It was the end of Mick’s amazing career, although we did not know at the time. Mick’s crash came on the exit to the very same bend that brought Marc Marquez’s short season to a premature halt this year. Alex went onto win six Grands Prix that year including that Jerez race

Like Mir, he clinched the title at the penultimate round at Rio in Brazil. Both races caused television producers a real headache. The race in Rio turned into a breathtaking last lap battle between Norick Abe, Max Biaggi and Kenny Roberts. Criville’s sixth place would be enough to bring Spain that first title. What pictures do you show? They faced the same problem on Sunday as Franco Morbidelli and Jack Miller fought a ferocious last lap duel to the chequered flag. Mir’s seventh place going into the last lap at Valencia was enough to bring him the title. The television producers were spot on and we got a great view of both Morbidelli’s third win of the season and Mir’s World Championship victory.

Both Criville and Mir had won World titles before arriving in the premier class. Alex was the 1989 125cc World Champion but had to wait ten years before that 500cc crown. Joan only had to wait three years between his Moto3™ World title and being crowned MotoGP™ King.

So happy 21st birthday Spanish motorcycle racing and just one more similarity. I had as many problems pronouncing Joan Mir’s first name when he won that Moto3™ World title as I did Criville’s surname in Assen 28 years ago.

 

By |2020-11-18T20:14:43+00:00November 18th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Criville waited seven years to unlock the door

Keep an eye on those T-Shirts

The Suzuki Ecstar team will leave no stone unturned in the next seven days. In the garage they will lovingly be preparing the GSX – RR Suzuki that could bring them their first premier class world title for two decades. Behind the scenes, World Championship winning press conferences and television interviews have to be planned. Videos, photographs and written copy written for immediate release on Sunday afternoon will be prepared and checked while the obligatory World Champion T-Shirts have been designed, printed and dispatched.

For the first time in this incredible season, Joan Mir could and has a real chance of clinching the ultimate prize at the penultimate round in Valencia. Following that maiden premier class win in Valencia, he holds a precious 37-point lead in the Championship. The 23-year-old Spaniard does not need reminding of what he needs to do on the tarmac of the Ricardo Tormo circuit, but he will not need or want to know what happens if he wins the ultimate prize. He can worry about all that afterwards

The only problem for the team, and let us be honest it is a decent one, is that Mir’s team-mate Alex Rins could still win the title, although not on Sunday. Together with Fabio Quartararo, he is 37 points behind. With 50 points up for grabs in the final two races it could still be decided at the final round in Portugal. At least it gives the team time to prepare for both eventualities which was not the case for the Monster Yamaha team in that controversial finale at Valencia five years ago. Valentino Rossi arrived in the caldron of frenzied excitement and toxicity with a seven-point lead but having to start from the back of the grid after the shenanigans in Malaysia. The team, which was divided, had to prepare for both eventualities. Lorenzo won the title and wore the T-Shirt.

I was involved in two very different World Championship winning, planning and celebrations. In 1987 the BBC sent me to Goiania in Brazil for the penultimate round of the 500cc World Championship.  Wayne Gardner had built up a special rapport with their listeners and had a great chance of clinching the title. Part of the deal for my expenses paid trip was that they would get the first live interview with the new World Champion. On arrival at the circuit, I discovered the commentary position was opposite the podium and pit lane in the very public grandstand. There was only one man to help me and he did not let me down. The Chief of Police in Goiania assured me that all would be OK. When race winner and new World Champion Wayne Gardner wearing the World Champion T-Shirt over his leathers soaked in champagne arrived at my commentary position surrounded by six fully armed policemen in full uniform I believed him

It was a very different story five years later at Kyalami in South Africa. A truly battered Mick Doohan arrived hanging onto a precious two-point lead over Wayne Rainey at the final round of the 1992 500cc World title. Never have I witnessed somebody so determined to overcome pain and physical weakness to win his first World title and we owed it to Mick to be prepared. Rothmans Honda Press folders and photographs were prepared for the media at the circuit and thousands back in England to be dispatched throughout the world as soon as the race ended – hardly any social media in those days. The 1992 World Champion T-Shirts were prepared, and worldwide interviews planned.  It was a sad sight after the race watching the folders being burnt and the T-Shirts cut up when Mick failed by four points to clinch the title, he went onto win five times. Years after, a Greek journalist was spotted wearing a 1992 Mick Doohan World Champion T-Shirt. How that happened I have no idea.

I am sure Suzuki are prepared for every eventuality. It is a fantastic situation to be in but keep an eye on those T-Shirts.

By |2020-11-12T09:01:16+00:00November 12th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Keep an eye on those T-Shirts

We can only dream – Marquez Vs Rea

It was the day that two great World Champions performed on the same stage but unfortunately not in the same race.

Watching Alex Marquez’s superb performance on Sunday riding that that so distinctively branded Repsol Honda brought back memories of MotorLand Aragon eight years ago

Honestly, little did I prophesise that those two riders would go on to totally dominate their respective chosen paths after seeing them compete on that September afternoon in the Spanish sunshine.  It was the closest that MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez and World Superbike Champion Jonathan Rea came to the head to the head of all confrontations in a World Championship showdown.

On Saturday Rea secured that record-breaking sixth successive World Superbike title at the final round in Estoril. The Northern Ireland Kawasaki rider is just one short of 100 victories in the Championship. Eight years ago, Jonathan was drafted into the Repsol Honda team to replace the injured World Champion Casey Stoner and partner Dani Pedrosa. It was a big ask but in just two MotoGP appearances he displayed so much ability to make his record-breaking World Superbike career perhaps not such a great surprise.

After finishing eighth in his first race on the Repsol Honda at Misano won by Jorge Lorenzo he came to Aragon. In the 23-lap race in his second, and as it turned out final MotoGP™ ride, Rea finished seventh one place in front of Valentino Rossi in the race won by his team-mate, Pedrosa. That was that. Casey returned to finish the season and then retire. A certain Marc Marquez replaced him, and the rest is history for both riders

Marquez sat at home on Sunday cheering on his younger brother to second place in Aragon, his second successive podium finish. Marc still recovering from those injuries sustained in the opening round in Jerez, competed in a crucial Moto2™ race at Aragon on the same afternoon before Rea made that final MotoGP™ appearance

It was a crucial 21 lap race as he closed in on the Moto2™ World Championship before replacing Stoner in MotoGP™ the next year. Marquez picked up 20 vital points after finishing second behind his great rival Pol Espargaro. Third place in the race went to Scott Redding who ironically finished second to Rea in this year’s World Superbike contest. Marquez clinched the title to add to his 125cc crown and moved on smash all the records that MotoGP™ could throw at him. Six World titles and 56 Grand Prix wins in a style we have never witnessed before.

I am sure there is still more to come from both Champions but sadly not in conflict with each other. How would it have turned out? Marquez with eight World titles and 82 Grand Prix wins versus Rea with six World titles and 99 race victories.

 Unfortunately, we will never find out who would have won the battle of the ‘sixers’ but we can always dream.

By |2020-10-21T20:01:48+00:00October 21st, 2020|Uncategorised|Comments Off on We can only dream – Marquez Vs Rea

Hopefully the rain will have stopped in 2021

Monsoon like rain totally obliterated the signs to the Silverstone circuit as we drove along the A43 last Thursday afternoon. It would have been a washed-out day before the start of the British Grand Prix in normal circumstances. Silverstone looked desolate, empty and very wet. For the first time since the World Championship started in 1949 there was no British round of the World Championship. Similar monsoon conditions two years ago caused the cancellation of race day, but the British Grand Prix was on that original schedule and practice and qualifying went ahead. Only Britain and Holland had staged a World Championship event every year since 1949 and both had to be cancelled this year in the current pandemic crisis.

In many ways Silverstone, which hosted the first ever Formula One World Championship race in 1949, spearheaded the two wheels safety revolution in the seventies. The road-based circuits that had been the very foundation of those early World Championship pioneering days were just too dangerous for motorcycles that were getting so much faster and more sophisticated. The most famous circuit of them all the 60.721 kms TT mountain circuit on the Isle of Man had staged that first World Championship race in 1949 but in 1976 it ended an era and hosted its last World Championship event. Top riders including multi TT winner and World Champion Giacomo Agostini boycotted the Isle of Man because they thought it was just too dangerous while National Federations like Spain banned their riders from competing.

On August 14th, 1977 Silverstone took over the World Championship status and hosted the British Grand Prix for the first time. It was a major chapter in the history of the sport which just had to happen. A purpose-built safer circuit replacing the legendary road circuit. Others were soon to follow suite. Rijeka in Yugoslavia, Brno in Czechoslovakia, the Nürburgring and the Sachsenring in Germany realised were the future lay. They built new circuits to ensure their futures as World Championship venues while never forgetting the exploits of the riders and teams that had established the very foundations of modern day MotoGP racing with their skill, bravery and in some cases their lives.

It was so close to being the prefect start for Silverstone with a British winner in the 500-cc race. Steve Parrish led the way with a handful of laps remaining urged on by the pit board ‘Gas it Wanker’ held out by his great friend and World Champion Barry Sheene but then a few spots of that dreaded Silverstone rain arrived. Parrish lost the front end of his Suzuki and crashed at Copse corner. Another British Suzuki rider John Williams took the lead then crashed and American Pat Hennen deservedly won the historic race. It was Hennen’s second grand prix win but ironically his career came to an end when injuries forced him to retire after crashing at the now non-Championship TT in the Isle of Man a year later.

Two years later Silverstone staged a 500-cc race that is still talked about today. The BBC televised the race live with the legendary Murray Walker on the microphone and Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene produced a battle that had the whole country mesmerised. Twenty-eight laps of pure undiluted magic. Constant overtaking, two fingered salutes and a Roberts victory by 0.03 s as Sheene tried to ride round the outside of him on the grass at the 200 kph Woodcote corner at the chequered flag.

That was that as far as a British rider winning the premier class race at his home grand prix. There have been some brave attempts by the likes of Ron Haslam and more recently Cal Crutchlow at Silverstone and Niall Mackenzie and Carl Fogarty when the British Grand Prix switched to Donington Park between 1987 and 2009 but no winners for the patriotic British crowd to celebrate.

We cannot wait for Silverstone, along with Assen, to return next year and hopefully it will have stopped raining by then.

By |2020-09-03T08:25:30+00:00September 3rd, 2020|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Hopefully the rain will have stopped in 2021

JUST LIKE WAITING FOR A BUS

Sound familiar – You know that feeling waiting for a bus to arrive. Nothing for hours and suddenly they all come along at once which just about sums up the new MotoGP schedule. Nothing for months and then 13 races, all three classes in the space of 18 hectic weeks. Of course, there is no other solution in these extraordinary times and just having MotoGP back is such a boost although it may produce a very different Championship.

I have nothing but praise on how a championship in any shape or form has been organised and just cannot believe how the protocol announced is going to be instigated. I am just going to sit safely back at home and enjoy the sight and sound once again.

There is no doubt the riders will be prepared and raring to go but will such a tight schedule affect their desire to push to the very limit and beyond. Not only are there 13 races in 18 weeks but on three occasions there are three races in succession and two in succession in the other two. Recovery from an injury even for a couple of weeks could easily wreck any chances of championship success. You just cannot afford to be injured.

Thoughts turn to the Dutch TT next week. Where else would you think of being in the last week of June. Two contrasting episodes of riders crashing and just how their injuries in a normal schedule for the season affected their Championship chances. In 1992 Mick Doohan arrived in North Holland with a massive 53-point lead in the Championship after winning the opening four races. In the final qualifying session of pure carnage, the Australian Honda rider was one of the many top riders to crash, breaking his right leg in two places. A botched operation in the local hospital not only cost Mick the Championship but nearly his leg. He was only able to return for the final two races of the season with his precious lead slashed to 22 points. Brave was not a strong enough description as he fought through the pain barrier to protect the prospect of his first World title. He failed by just four points but happily for him his day, five days, was still to come.

Twenty-one years later Jorge Lorenzo crashed in the second wet practice session at Assen. It was obvious to us in the commentary box he had broken his collarbone as his left shoulder dropped while he limped through the gravel trap. We surmised when he would return and suggested perhaps in a couple of weeks’ time at the next round at the Sachsenring in Germany. One day later the World Champion flew back into Assen from a Barcelona hospital  with ten screws holding a titanium plate binding the snapped bones together. A day later Lorenzo finished fifth after 26 laps of the legendary venue, but the story has a precautionary ending to all riders competing in those 13 grands prix coming up. Obviously, he made it to the Sachsenring but crashed while looking so comfortable and re-broke the collarbone and missed the race.

Will those Championship contenders take note when they start the action on July 19? Will they be thinking about the packed schedule and staying clear of injury Probably not!

By |2020-06-18T09:19:58+00:00June 18th, 2020|Uncategorised|1 Comment

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITHOUT THE CAKE

It is somewhat ironic that just a week after the British Grand Prix cancellation announcement that 71 years ago tomorrow (Saturday)World Championship racing celebrates its 71st birthday on these very shores. On June 13th 1949 the 350 cc TT race in the Isle of Man heralded the start of grand prix racing on two wheels not only in this country but also across the globe. 

There has been a British round of the World Championship ever since until last week’s news. Torrential rain may have caused cancellation of the actual races at Silverstone two years ago, but they had been scheduled to run until the storm arrived on the Sunday morning.

It was a clear dry morning in the Isle of Man which has not always been the case before or since, as the riders lined up to start the seven lap 350 cc race round the infamous mountain circuit. This was no modern day 20 lap dash round a purpose-built circuit but a 264.11-mile (425.047 kms) battle with the 37.73-mile (60.721 kms) mountain roads. After over three hours in the saddle Freddie Frith riding the Velocette crossed the finishing line to become the first ever winner of a World Championship Motorcycle race. Later in the week the bespectacled Harold Daniell won the premier class 500cc race riding the Norton while Irishman Manliff Barrington brought Moto Guzzi success in the 250cc race which was also held over the obligatory seven laps. Former Lancaster bomber pilot Les Graham won the very first six round 1949 500 cc World Championship, but tragically lost his life in the Isle of Man 67 years ago today (Friday). He was 37 years old when he won the title making him the oldest ever winner of the premier class World Championship. TT winner Frith was crowned 350 cc Champion, Italian Bruno Ruffo claimed the 250cc title and another Italian Nello Pagani, who was runner up in the 500cc Championship, was crowned the very first 125 cc Champion.

The British round of the World Championship remained at the TT until 1977. When many of the top riders including 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini refused to race in the Isle of Man because they thought it was too dangerous the Silverstone purpose built circuit, that 27 years earlier hosted the first ever Formula One car World Championship race, took over. Bad weather and crowd problems at Silverstone resulted in the British Grand Prix switching to Donington Park where it remained until 2010 when it returned to Silverstone.

It had to be a strange new MotoGP calendar that was revealed this week but at least there will be some racing this year. Two thoughts came to mind scanning the new schedule. We may be disappointed in Britain, but what about those passionate fans in Holland where the legendary Assen circuit does not host a World Championship race for the very first time in 71 years. For British fans, the chance for a British rider to win the Premier Class race (MotoGP) for the first time since it came to mainland from the Isle of Man back in 1977 will have to wait for yet another year.

I am sure that wait will be worth it and then we can bake that birthday cake and blow out those candles.

By |2020-06-11T16:13:55+00:00June 11th, 2020|Uncategorised|Comments Off on HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITHOUT THE CAKE

Not only the greatest, but a true legend

My local radio station rang me last Thursday asking me to talk about my sporting legend who would have been celebrating his 80th birthday on that very same day. Oxford boy Stanley Michael Bailey Hailwood (Mike) – I could have talked about him all day long.

Nine times World Champion, 76 Grand Prix wins and 112 podium finishes in just 197 Grand Prix appearances, 14 TT wins on the Isle of Man and two podium finishes in the Formula One car World Championship speak for themselves. But there is so much more to Mike Hailwood who lived just over the hill from where I grew up just outside Oxford.

In 1961 he was the youngest ever winner of a premier-class World Championship race with victory at the TT on the Norton. That same year he became the youngster ever World Champion bringing Honda the 250cc title, the first ever for a Japanese factory. Six years later he won three Grand Prix races in one day at Assen. His wins in the 250, 350 and 500cc races came after 436 kms of racing flat out round the legendary venue. When he switched to four wheels, he won the European Formula Two Championship. In 1973 he was awarded the George Medal, Britain’s second highest bravery award, when he pulled Clay Regazzoni out of a burning Formula One Car with his own overalls on fire during the 1973 South African Grand Prix at Kyalami. In 1978 eleven years after his last motorcycle Grand Prix appearance he returned to two wheels to race at the most demanding and dangerous motorsport venue in the World and won. Hailwood was 38 years old when he returned to the 60.721 kms mountain circuit to send the Isle of Man crazy with the most highly acclaimed victory ever in the illustrious history of the TT races.

Tragically three years later Hailwood and his nine-year-old daughter Michelle lost their lives in a road traffic accident. Hailwood had set up a motorcycle retail business with former 250cc World Champion Rodney Gould and was driving to pick up fish and chips for supper with his daughter Michelle and son David. An articulated lorry illegally drove through a gap separating the duel carriageways and collided with Hailwood’s car.

I remember slouching to school one morning down Park End Street making up the usual excuses why I’d not done any homework when my future miraculously appeared right in front of my very eyes. In the window of Kings of Oxford motorcycle shop Mike Hailwood’s TT winning 250cc four-cylinder Honda reached out to me gleaming in the morning sunlight. Forget Maths, Physics and French homework, I knew where were my future lay.

In 1965 I travelled to the magical Isle of Man to watch my first ever World Championship race. Hailwood versus new boy Giacomo Agostini – surely it could not get any better, but it did. Both crashed at the same place but in separate incidents. Hailwood remounted the MV Agusta to win. I was totally hooked.

Fourteen long years later I was back in the Island working for Motor Cycle News. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I witnessed Hailwood’s last TT win on the 500cc two-stroke RG500 Suzuki in the 1979 Senior race.

Meeting your sporting hero is never easy and often unadvisable. You can end up so disappointed, but I was not. In 1968 I was working as a clerk in a Solicitors office. I was hopeless and very bored. The amiable boss of the firm rang me one afternoon asking me to come to his office. I thought it would be the usual please get your hair cut and trim your beard before meeting clients. He came to the door of his office and told me there was somebody I should meet. It was Mike Hailwood and for once in my life I was totally speechless as he shook my hand.

Mike Hailwood: my sporting hero and a total legend.

By |2020-04-29T09:39:45+00:00April 9th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Not only the greatest, but a true legend

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 |2020-04-29T09:39:45+00:00April 2nd, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Happy 100th anniversary Suzuki