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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

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 |2020-04-29T09:39:45+00:00March 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 |2020-04-29T09:39:45+00:00March 18th, 2020|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Click your fingers and they would arrive