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Valencia vibes

Twenty years pass in a blink. Was it really two decades ago that Regis Laconi became the last Frenchman to win a premier class race at that very first Grand Prix at the circuit on the outskirts of Valencia? So much has happened to MotoGP™ since that September afternoon. The circuit, named after local hero and World Champion Ricardo Tormo who died of leukaemia, has staged some memorable races in the last 20 years. Since 2002 the track has been the venue for final Grand Prix of the season. Many a World Championship in all three classes has been decided on the tight twisty 4-kilometre circuit, and all witnessed by vast, noisy and patriotic crowds. The track is surrounded by packed grandstands and produces an atmosphere more akin to a big football stadium. Then, there are the fireworks!

Where do you start? Valentino Rossi signing off his Honda career with victory in 2003 on the machine sporting an Austin Powers paint theme. Three years later the late Nicky Hayden winning the MotoGP™ World title in the race in which Rossi crashed and World Superbike supremo Troy Bayliss secured his one and only Grand Prix win. Certainly in the paddock, and especially the media centre, Hayden’s third place and subsequent World title was the most popular of the past two decades.

In 2011 we arrived in Valencia grieving the death of Marco Simoncelli at the previous round in Malaysia. The weekend was a poignant reminder to us all just how dangerous the sport we love can be. Michele Pirro celebrated and honoured the life of his team-mate Marco with victory in the Moto2™ race for the devastated Gresini team. Casey Stoner then rode the finest ever final bend of the season to prevent Ben Spies winning his second Grand Prix in an amazing finish – Marco would have approved.

Nobody was prepared for 2015. The atmosphere coming into that final round of the season may have been toxic, but it was both exhilarating and so exciting to be involved. War had been declared at the previous round in Malaysia between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. It started with words, continued on the track and then in the Stewards Office. There were no grey areas for the millions of fans worldwide. Social media exploded in support of the two protagonists. Tickets for the final showdown were sold out within minutes, riot police were on standby but never required, media accreditation applications poured in from all over the World and Formula One drivers hired private jets to ensure they were there. Global interest and media coverage surrounding Grand Prix motorcycle racing had never experienced or felt anything like this before or since. By the time the 30-lap race finally got underway at 14:00 on an October afternoon, the circuit was at boiling point and ready to explode. Despite the considerable efforts of the aggrieved Rossi, it was Jorge Lorenzo who won the race from Marquez and Pedrosa to clinch the World title to conclude a couple of weeks the sport will never forget.

For me, that day in Valencia was so special and it had nothing to do with Rossi or Marquez. I’d been reporting on Grand Prix racing for 37 years and it was such a barren time for British riders. The likes of Jeremy McWilliams, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding had brightened the gloom with Grands Prix wins but never had I witnessed a British World title since Barry Sheene way, way back in 1977. A lad from the West Country changed all that in Valencia. Danny Kent’s ninth place in the Moto3™ race, at last, brought Great Britain a World title after such a long wait.

No World titles to be settled on Sunday as the curtain drops on the season but Valencia never fails to come up with the goods. Hopefully, we’ll be treated to some late autumn sunshine, the fireworks and, of course, the end of season party.

By | November 14th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|0 Comments

Blood brothers

The Marquez family can never do things by half. Brothers winning Grands Prix is not enough for them. For the second time in five years older brother Marc and his younger sibling Alex have grabbed the ultimate accolade and won world titles. In 2014 it was Moto3™ and MotoGP™. On Sunday in the searing heat of Sepang, it was MotoGP™ World Champion Marc who led the wild celebrations when Alex clinched the Moto2™ title.

They are the only brothers in the 70-year history of the sport to win titles in the MotoGP™ World Championships. Others have tried and both won Grands Prix but never World titles. There are brothers of World Champions you probably have never heard off who were tempted to follow their sibling onto the race track.

Felice Agostini, younger brother of 15 times World Champion Giacomo, finished eighth in the 250cc race at the 1975 Nations Grand Prix at Imola. Scott Doohan finished 12th riding the 500cc Harris Yamaha at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix at Eastern Creek. Brother Mick finished third at this opening round of the year in which he went on to win the first of his five 500cc World titles. The legendary Roberts family are best known for father and son World titles but Kenny Junior’s younger brother Kurtis also competed for their father’s team. His best result was a 12th place in the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring riding the KR212V MotoGP™ machine.

The most successful brothers, apart of course from the Marquez boys, are the French Sarron brothers. Older sibling Christian won six 250cc Grands Prix and the 1984 World title. He switched to the 500cc class and won the 1985 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. Younger brother Dominique won four 250cc Grands Prix and finished third in the 1988 World Championship. The three Japanese Aoki brothers came so close to re-writing the family tree. Younger sibling Haruchika won nine 125cc Grands Prix on route to the 1995/96 World titles. Older brother Nobuatsu’s only Grand Prix win came in the 1993 250cc Malaysia Grand Prix at Shah Alam while the middle sibling Takuma failed by just two seconds to beat Alex Criville to victory in the 500cc race at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.

Onto this season and Valentino Rossi’s stepbrother Luca Marini has found success in the Moto2™ World Championship. Pol and Aleix Espargaro fight it out in the premier class. Younger brother Pol is a 15-times winner in the 125 and Moto2™ classes and won the 2013 Moto2™ World Championship. Aleix still waits for that first Grand Prix win but has a couple of poles and a podium finish in the MotoGP™ class. The 2016 Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder has tasted Moto2™ success this year before moving up to MotoGP™ next year while younger brother Darryn plies his trade in Moto3™.

There have been plenty of other brothers facing the ultimate test on two wheels including the Kallio’s, Sayle’s, Hayden’s, Barros’, Van Den Goorberg’s and Bolle’s. One thing for sure there is certain to be many more while Marc and Alex Marquez concentrate their sights on both winning MotoGP™ World titles – that should be interesting and test that brotherly love to the very limit.

By | November 7th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Blood brothers

Keep dreaming

It could only happen to The Doctor. Minutes after a hug on the Phillip Island starting grid with former crew chief Jerry Burgess and watched by 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini, Valentino Rossi led the opening laps of the Pramac Australian Grand Prix on his historic 400th Grand Prix appearance. The forty-year-old Italian heading the way over riders half his age round the legendary 4.448 kms cliff top circuit as he chased his 116th Grand Prix win and 235th podium finish. It was the world of dreams and throughout the globe, his legion of loyal fans held their breath, surely even their hero could not pull this one off.

In the end even the nine times World Champion finally had to succumb to the youthful pack headed by Marc Marquez round the magnificent circuit where Vale had produced some of his greatest performances. At the end of 27 frantic laps as the rain clouds gathered he finally finished in eighth place after a typical 120.096 kms battle with the youngsters that saw him just 1.3 seconds behind local hero Jack Miller in third place.

There were so many glimpses of The Doctor at his very best as he fought with the likes of Mir, Dovizioso, Bagnaia, Iannone and Aleix Espargaro. It brought back the memories of one of the greatest ever Grand Prix riders pitting his amazing talent with surely the very best motorcycle racing circuit in the World. Memories of that first 500cc win at Phillip Island in 2001 that brought him his first premier class title. The bright yellow number 46 Honda involved in the closest-ever 500cc Grand Prix finish with just three seconds separating the first eight riders across the line as Rossi became the youngest ever rider at the time to win World titles in three classes.

I will never forget his tribute to the late Barry Sheene, his father Graziano’s great friend after he won the Island race in 2003 despite starting with a ten second penalty after a yellow flag infringement. On his slow down lap he had a huge flag over his shoulder, made from the bed sheet of his hotel sporting the legendary Sheene number 7 motif.

Like it or not time is running out for The Doctor to win that 116th Grand Prix but as the MotoGP™ show moves onto the heat and humidity of Sepang in Malaysia for the penultimate round of the Championship on Sunday, just cast your minds back 12 months and the race last year. Rossi had already witnessed his step-brother Luca Marini win his first Moto2™ Grand Prix and his teammate Pecco Bagnaia riding for Rossi’s Sky Racing Team VR46 clinch the World title. With four laps remaining of the MotoGP™ race Rossi led Marc Marquez as they flashed across the line. At the first corner, Rossi went down in a shower of sparks in front of the jam-packed sea of yellow Rossi grandstand. His big chance had gone.

On Sunday it may be a different story – keep dreaming.

By | October 31st, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Keep dreaming

Take heart Fabio, at least it’s not another four years

It was a difficult Sunday for the French in Japan. While France was knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by Wales the mighty impressive Fabio Quartararo clinched the MotoGP™ Rookie of the Year title in Motegi but for the fourth Grand Prix in succession could not beat the rampant Marc Marquez to secure that first premier class victory. Surely that first win will come as rich reward for the 20-year-old during the final three races of the year. He should take heart that others have had to wait longer before the floodgates opened while some who started with a bang never went on the win the ultimate prize.

Mick Doohan had to wait until the penultimate round of the 1990 Championship to secure that first win at the Hungaroring on the outskirts of Budapest in his second season in the 500cc class. The Australian went on to win 53 more on route to five World titles. What a contrast to Max Biaggi who arrived in the 500cc class with a bang at Suzuka in 1998. The Italian had dominated the 250cc Championship for the previous four years and what a premier class debut he made at the opening round of the Championship. Max won comfortably on the Honda to send a shiver down the spine of his rivals to become the first rider in 25 years to win a premier class race on his debut. It was quite a day with Biaggi the first European winner of a Premier class race in Japan but he never went onto win the World title. He won 12 more Grands Prix but in the final reckoning always had to play second fiddle to his bitter rival Valentino Rossi.

Even The Doctor didn’t strike first time out and it after a trip to hospital in nearby Nottingham following a practice crash he won for the first time at the ninth round of the 2000 Championship at Donington Park. The rest is history with 88 victories to follow that brought the Italian seven World titles and a legendary status. I’m sure it’s no great surprise to learn that Marc Marquez won at Austin in 2013 in just his second premier class race and went on to win the title at the first attempt.

I remember two maiden premier class wins by two riders who went onto win the ultimate prize. Twenty five of us travelled to Assen in 1975 to support Barry Sheene just four months after his horrendous Daytona crash that made him more famous than any World titles back home in Britain. I’m still convinced our vocal beer-fuelled support for Barry as he crossed the line on equal time as legend Giacomo Agostini convinced the timekeepers to award the race to the British rider who went on to win 18 more and two World titles

Seven years later I ran down the track with notebook in hand towards the legendary Eau Rouge corner at Spa in Belgian determined to be the first journalist to speak to Freddie Spencer after his maiden Grand Prix win. As I breathlessly arrived Freddie was trying to turn the three-cylinder Honda with no steering lock round at the bottom of the hill to get back to pit lane and the celebrations. Unfortunately, after averaging 157.873 kph to win the 20 lap race an exhausted Freddie fell off at around 5 kph and the exclusive interview had to wait. Freddie went on to win 19 more premier class Grands Prix, two 500cc titles and is still the only rider to win 500 and 250cc titles in the same season just three years later.

So take heart Fabio, that first win will come. At least you get another chance at Phillip Island on Sunday while the French rugby team will have to wait four long years.

By | October 24th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Take heart Fabio, at least it’s not another four years

Tripping over, visa worries… and the wife’s birthday

When as always I tripped over the bulging massive MotoGP bag at the top of the stairs, woke up in the night worried once again I was travelling to Japan without a visa, could still smell the wood preservative on my hands and double checked with my next door neighbour he would deliver my wife’s birthday present I knew my favourite trip of the year was about to start.

Three grands prix in the space of two hectic weeks on the other side of the world in Japan, Australia and Malaysia embracing so very different cultures, contrasting weather and food. Three totally different race tracks in Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang which so often produced the new World Champion although not this time round.

Packing enough underpants and work shirts was always a problem to see you through the first two weeks before the welcome laundry service at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur.Hence the bulging MotoGP bag although the problem was if you flew in with all your colleagues picking out your bag on the carousel among 100 similar others was nightmare. In over 30 visits to Japan I never had a visa and every time I approached immigration I got that dreaded feeling that everybody was watching me and I would be refused entry and sent home but it never happened. When you are away from home for three weeks on the other side of the World important matters have to be attended to before you go and when you are away. I always had to spray the wooden garden furniture with preservative the week before I departed because I left in the autumn and returned at the start of winter with those horrible dark nights. My hands still smelt as I boarded that first flight to Tokyo. I was always away for my wife’s birthday at the end of October. Cards and presents had to be hidden and in one case a new bike delivered by my next door neighbour on the right day.

The unbelievable Motegi complex is in the middle of nowhere and until the last couple years we used to stay at one of the many golf courses in the area. At night we were the only people there in the middle of the pitch black Japanese countryside and it reminded so much of the film, The Shining .My so called ‘friends’ used to warn me as we went to bed that Jack Nicholson would be breaking down my bedroom door in the middle of the night to announce I’m home. That warning plus a couple earth tremors certainly didn’t help sleep despite the jet lag.

Straight onto Phillip Island which was such a contrast. We always stayed in the main town Cowes named after the town in the Isle of Wight where I spent many a childhood holiday. I loved the fish and chips and especially the local pub where we learnt so much about Australian beer, life on Phillip Island, cricket and a betting system called Pokies.

We would often fly out of Melbourne on the Sunday/early Monday morning to Kuala Lumpur after the race. After two weeks on the road that first swim at the hotel near the airport was pure heaven. It was a break of a couple of days to get the laundry done and sample the delights of the food and markets in sprawling KL while dodging those tropical storms. Negotiating over the price in the markets was a real art which I never quite mastered and so I took Casey Stoner along on one occasion to stand in for me. As expected he was brilliant.

I was ready to go home at the end of three incredible weeks that for me personally was the perfect illustration why I love MotoGP so much both on and off the track. Of course I’m envious of all those flying out this week but at least I’m home for my wife’s birthday and I will not be tripping over at the top of the stairs.

By | October 17th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

Nick Harris: after the Lord Mayor’s show

Barry Sheene would have not ridden in another Grand Prix this season. Giacomo Agostini would have picked his races. Freddie Spencer never graced another Grand Prix podium while Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi just carried on winning. I don’t think it takes much of an expert to work out which route Marc Marquez will follow after his eighth world title win following that breathtaking victory in Thailand on Sunday.

Sheene realised after winning his two 500cc titles in the seventies he could make more money by actually not competing in many of the last few Grands Prix with some very lucrative appearance deals at home. Ago would miss out riding at some of the dangerous road circuits on the all-conquering 350 and 500cc MV Agustas and who could blame him.  After Spencer clinched that historic 1985 250/500cc double by winning the penultimate round of the 500cc Championship at Anderstorp incredibly he never again stood on a Grand Prix podium. Doohan and Rossi just ploughed on and won more and more races after title victories.

The ride I will never forget came from Kenny Roberts Jr in 2000 at Motegi in Japan. Just eight days earlier Kenny had clinched the 500cc world title for Suzuki with a calculated sixth place in the race won by Rossi at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to become the first son to win the same premier class title as his father. It was my first visit to Motegi and Roberts showed us all just why he was the World Champion. Both Roberts and Suzuki knew they had to win the title that year with the young cavalry led by Rossi and Biaggi funded by Honda and Yamaha on the charge. Rossi had won his first 500cc Grand Prix at Donington followed by the Rio win while Biaggi was victorious in Brno. Throw in the likes of sliding Australian Garry McCoy who’d already won three Grands Prix that season on the Yamaha and there were plenty of pretenders to Roberts’s crown wanting to put the World Champion in his place but it never happened. Roberts simply blew them all away round the 4.801 kms circuit to beat Rossi and Biaggi by over six seconds, just to let them know who was the Champion of the world. It turned out to be the last of Kenny’s eight 500cc wins and Rossi took over his mantle. The rest is history but the American had made his point in such a masterful way.

There are still four Grands Prix to go this year and Marquez’ next appearance at the home of Honda in Motegi does not exactly spell out good news for his rivals. Perhaps a certain 20-year-old Frenchman may have something to say about that in the next six weeks.

By | October 10th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|1 Comment

All prepared and you won’t need the scissors

Repsol Honda will be prepared to celebrate the distinct possibility that Marc Marquez will clinch the MotoGP™ world title on Sunday in Thailand, but I bet they have not mentioned their plans to their rider. It might seem like a miracle when a rider wins a World Championship that he magically appears on the podium proudly wearing a t-shirt proclaiming his amazing achievement.

Often a new helmet miraculously appears on his lap of honour, while, in more recent years, a little pantomime is often played out trackside to make a poignant point or celebrate the exact number of World titles achieved. While all the celebrations are going on at the circuit, the World Champion’s biography with pictures has already been beamed around the world to millions of media outlets.

If Marquez does not clinch his eighth world title at the Buriram circuit, Repsol Honda will have four more opportunities to press the button on their celebration plans but that has not always been the case. In 1992, I was media manager for the Rothmans Honda team and we were prepared for Mick Doohan to clinch the 500cc world title at the final round of an extraordinary Championship at Kyalami in South Africa.

Two hundred and fifty t-shirts were hidden away proclaiming Mick as the new Champion, while a similar number of press kits with his biography and photographs were ready to be distributed in the media centre at the chequered flag. Back home in England, around one thousand similar kits were poised to be posted first class throughout the world – no internet in those days, of course.

Mick arrived in South Africa with a precious two-point lead over current Champion Wayne Rainey after a truly remarkable comeback that had pushed even the Australian’s bravery and determination to a new level after fighting pain and injury. He’d been running away with the title until breaking his leg in a qualifying crash in Assen. An appalling, pain-filled three months followed when he even endured having his two legs sewn together to prevent the unthinkable prospect of having his right leg amputated. He returned to race at the penultimate round, after missing four Grands Prix, still holding a 22-point advantage over Rainey as a shadow of the rider who’d been dominating the Championship until Assen.

The 70-year history of Grand Prix racing has produced some extraordinary rides of pure courage and Mick’s 12th place around the dangerous and slippery Interlagos circuit, on the outskirts of San Paolo in Brazil, was certainly the bravest I’ve ever witnessed. Especially as it produced no World Championship points and Rainey won – only the top ten finishers scored points in those days.

Two weeks later and, so typically, Mick had worked day and night to improve his fitness and build his strength for the near 120-kilometre battle that would decide the outcome of the Championship. He fought like a tiger to finish in sixth place but Rainey did enough. The Yamaha rider rode the perfect race behind John Kocinski and Wayne Gardner to finish third and retain his title by four points.

Cutting up the t-shirts and press kits was an upsetting task after witnessing first hand just how much a rider was prepared to put his body through to win the title. A fitter and stronger Mick returned a year later and, in 1994, at last won his first world title. For five consecutive seasons, he sported that World Championship winning t-shirt that his sheer bravery and ability more than deserved.

However, I don’t think the Repsol Honda Team will be getting out those same cutting up scissors after the next five Grands Prix.

By | October 3rd, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on All prepared and you won’t need the scissors

Nick Harris blog: car keys and what’s for dinner?

It all looks so easy but it’s not. Take the lead from the very start, pull away from the pursuing pack in the early stages or as Marc Marquez did on Sunday on the first lap and then cruise to victory without a care in the world. Ask any rider who has the talent to be able to perform such an act and they will all tell you it can be one of the toughest methods of securing 25 World Championship points.

Double 500cc World Champion Barry Sheene told me it needed more concentration and resolve to prevent the mind wandering as lap after lap all that was in front of you was empty tarmac with your pity board the only reality check to the real world. It was important to keep up your lap times at a constant fast pace, not only to prevent your pursuers to get a sniff of catching you but also to keep your mind focused. He told me it was so easy to let those lap times drop and his mind would start to wander towards the most bizarre thoughts that had absolutely nothing to do with Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Where have I left my car keys, what times the flight home tonight and what have we got for dinner were the most common. In those days such was the diversity of the field and the machinery they were riding, lapping backmarkers was a welcome exercise to sharpen the mind and bring you back to reality.

I’m sure it was vital for 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini to have a few riders to lap to keep fully focused as he dominated those 350 and 500cc Grands Prix in the late sixties and early seventies. In 1969 Ago, riding the MV Agusta, won the 183.300 kms 500cc race at the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps by four minutes 19s from the Triumph of Percy Tait lapping everybody but the British rider who brought the current day Moto2™ engine supplier their one and only premier class podium. Just a week later he lapped the entire field in the East German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Ago did what he had to do but I’m sure those epic battle with the Honda of Mike Hailwood and then bringing Yamaha that first premier class two-stroke 500cc World Championship brought him more satisfaction on route to those record-breaking 122 Grands Prix wins.

We have been so spoilt in the last couple of decades watching such close racing at the very front. Fifty two overtaking manoeuvres in that epic Phillip Island battle four years ago. The three Grands Prix before Aragon this week produced last bend showdowns that have all involved Marquez. The Repsol Honda displayed with his masterful ride on Sunday that sometimes you just have to get out in front from the start and concentrate to the very end. World Champions can win in any circumstances and his last two wins have shown why he could clinch his eighth World title in Thailand in a couple of weeks’ time.

By | September 26th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Nick Harris blog: car keys and what’s for dinner?

Marc and Mike

I should be upset with Marc Marquez but how could I be after that fantastic race with Fabio Quartararo on Sunday. This time he came out on top in a last-lap head-to-head confrontation to win his 77th Grand Prix and that’s one more than my boyhood hero Mike Hailwood.

How could Hailwood not be my boyhood hero? He lived just a couple of miles over the hill from my Village just outside Oxford. His father Stan was the boss of one the biggest motorcycle dealers in the country with Kings of Oxford’s headquarters filling most of Park End Street with British built motorcycles. My Sister even danced with him once at the Oxford Jazz club but, to my disappointment, it turned out to be just that one dance. One morning on the way to school I was transfixed to see the pride of place in the showroom window was Hailwood’s 250cc four-cylinder Honda on which he just won the 1961 TT in the Isle of Man en route to the World title. Any thought of school lessons went out of the window for the remainder of the day.

I just dreamed of getting to the TT to watch my hero in action.  Four years later I made it and travelled to the Isle of Man on the overnight ferry across the choppy Irish sea to watch my first World Championship race. After the 50cc race in the morning, the moment finally arrived: Hailwood versus Giacomo Agostini in the six-lap 364.326km 500cc race and they did not let me down. Ago the new pin-up boy in the MV Agusta team taking on team-mate and World Champion Hailwood around the most famous and demanding race track in the World, the TT Mountain circuit.

Incredibly both crashed on different laps at Sarah’s Cottage. Ago was sidelined but Hailwood’s hero status reached new levels as he remounted the MV, restarted the engine by pushing down the wrong direction of the circuit, not surprisingly nobody dared complain, and continued on his way to win the race on a very second-hand motorcycle and sporting a bloody nose. Hailwood went on to win nine World titles before retiring and racing on four wheels. He won the European Formula Two Championship but is best remembered for pulling Clay Regazzoni out of a burning Formula One car at the 1973 South African Grand Prix. Two wheels were always in his blood and at 38-years-old he returned in 1978 to the Isle of Man to win on the Ducati and a year later I travelled to the Island to witness his last win at the TT, 14 years after that first trip tragically both Mike and his nine-year-old daughter Michelle were killed in a road accident in 1981.

Ago was at Misano keeping a watchful eye on the proceedings. I don’t think the Italian legend should start worrying just yet. His 122 Grand Prix victories are still 45 in front of Marc although if those first 11 years of his amazing career is an indication it could get very close. I forgive you Marc but you never forget your boyhood hero.
By | September 19th, 2019|News and Events, Nick's Blog|Comments Off on Marc and Mike

A very long last lap

I always thought by the time we arrived at Misano we were on the last lap of the season, but beware – many a race, or in most cases the World Championship, has been decided on that last lap. Sure, the Marquez brothers seem well on their way to an incredible MotoGP™/Moto2™ double but despite the nights drawing in and autumn approaching fast, there is still an awful long way to go before that prize-giving in Valencia on November 17.

To be precise there are still seven Grands Prix left starting on the Adriatic coast of Italy on Sunday. That’s well over one-third of the season remaining. Seven races in just nine weeks of frantic action and frenzied travel. One hundred and seventy-five points up for grabs in that period of time when MotoGP seems to fill every inch of your brain and every hour of your day. It’s tough; it’s tiring but so incredibly exciting and rewarding. Travelling with a group of like-minded souls across the globe and by the time you reach Valencia one part of you is glad the travelling is over while the other part just craves for one more adrenalin rush before Christmas arrives. Then the process starts all over again.

The real crunch period for the riders and the teams are those three races in two weeks starting at Motegi in Japan, then just popping down to Phillip Island in Australia before starting back home via Sepang in Malaysia. Seventy-five points that have so often decided the outcome of the Championship even before that final round in Valencia. Three races staged on three so different race tracks. Three races held in often totally contrasting weather conditions. There can be fog in Motegi, rain and wind at Phillip Island and then searing heat and torrential rain in Sepang while adjusting to just travelling to and then around three such contrasting countries and lifestyles.

My other memory of Misano is after weeks of speculation at last finding out the provisional calendar for the next season and then working out the best time to tell your loved ones back home especially with the massive end of season trip about to start. When I started covering Grand Prix racing in 1980 there were ten races on the calendar although it dropped to eight with Venezuela cancelled because of financial problems and Austria snowbound. Next year there is double that number scheduled in an amazing calendar that crisscrosses the globe in almost nine months of racing and travel.

As round 13 approaches this weekend I’m sure Marc and Alex Marquez and Lorenzo Dalla Porta know that so much can change so quickly in the next nine weeks. I hope that everybody planning to embark on next year’s adventure have already shown the 2020 calendar or perhaps at least given a hint to their loved ones about their plans for next year. Don’t leave it until Valencia.

By | September 13th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on A very long last lap