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Brexit or no Brexit; we’re on our way to Europe

While the politicians continue to discuss, argue and make no decisions about Brexit, the MotoGP™ World Championship marches into Europe unabated at a legendary venue on Sunday that’s had its fair share of politics on and off the track over the last 32 years.

With spring slowly turning into summer, with longer days and warmer sunshine there is only one place to witness an international motorsport event at the beginning of May. For 32 years the pilgrimage to Southern Spain by hundreds of thousands of MotoGP™ fans has heralded the start of summer and the first round of the European season. The magnificent Jerez de la Frontera circuit has earned its place into the folklore of the sport and only the Cathedral in Assen of the current circuits has staged more Grands Prix in the 70-year history of the sport.

During those three decades, there have been some mighty battles and coming togethers around the 4.423km circuit. The infamous Turn 13 into the final straight almost on a yearly basis has provided us with pages of copy and air time. Doohan and Criville; Rossi and Gibernau; Marquez and Rossi and Lorenzo and Marquez to name but a few who have clashed, with the chequered flag in sight, round the corner now named after three times World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Five times World Champion Mick Doohan’s career came to a sad end in 1999 when he crashed between Turn 3 and 4 during practice. Who will forget Casey Stoner’s answer to Valentino Rossi when the nine times World Champion apologised after bringing the Australian down at Turn 1.

Jerez epitomises the very soul of MotoGP™ that no other international motorsport has a hope of matching. On-track action and controversy are a guaranteed part of the deal but it’s everything around it that makes it so special. The sunshine helps but I remember that first year in 1987, the party good time atmosphere that engulfed the whole area and especially El Puerto Sant Maria and the centre of Jerez. I was young enough to enjoy it back then and I’m reliably informed nothing much has changed, and I remember as we drove to the circuit on Sunday morning a couple of years ago hundreds of fans were still enjoying the party in the centre of Jerez.

I went to a couple of Formula One Grands Prix at Jerez and it was such a different place. Little atmosphere and a crowd quarter the size of its MotoGP™ equivalent. The major problem in those early days was the total traffic chaos. Once we had to abandon our car and walk the last mile into the circuit to make the Sunday morning warm-up. The story goes that Ron Dennis, the esteemed boss of the McLaren Formula One team, had a meeting organised with Honda at lunchtime on the MotoGP™ race day. He set off at 8.00 am and never actually made it to the circuit. Thankfully that chaos is very much a thing of the past although the crowds have no way diminished.

Alex Rins’ win at the previous round in Texas is just going to add to that atmosphere and noise plus increase the size of the crowd by as many as 20,000 patriotic fans. Thank goodness those traffic problems are a distant memory. We are on our way to Jerez – summer must have arrived.

By | May 3rd, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Brexit or no Brexit; we’re on our way to Europe

Be patient Vale, you will do a Tiger

America was so close to being the afternoon of all comebacks on Sunday. It started with golfer Tiger Woods winning the Masters in Augusta and ended with Valentino Rossi failing by under half a second to win the Red Bull Americas Grand Prix in Texas.

Taken heart Valentino, Woods had waited 11 painful and controversial years before getting back to winning ways on the fairways. The gap is nothing like as big for the 40-year-old Yamaha rider. His last Grand Prix win in America may have come 11 years ago at Indianapolis, before the hurricane and ‘white horse’ arrived, but it was less than two years ago he won for the last time at the Assen cathedral.

Those fighting second places at the last two Grands Prix surely have paved the way for some more Grands Prix victories for The Doctor. With three different race winners in the opening rounds before they arrive in Europe at Jerez and with nobody dominating the Championship surely his big chance will come sooner than later. Indeed, if the Championship continues in the same vein with the points being spread around every time we could be talking about the comeback of all comebacks for Rossi. He seriously could challenge for the title especially with a couple of Grands Prix wins to add to his incredible tally of 89 premier class victories. He is just three points behind Andrea Dovizioso in second place and that long-awaited race win at Jerez would put him top of the table.

While perhaps a little disappointed that Vale didn’t win on Sunday it was equally great to see Alex Rins win his first MotoGP™ race to give Suzuki that first win for almost three years when Maverick Viñales won at Silverstone. After such a tough injury-hit first year in MotoGP, ™ Rins has just got better and better in the Premier class and Suzuki has provided him with a race winning stead. It was also good to see Jack Miller back on the podium and performances of Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo show the changing of the guard at the front is being prepared.

I commentated on every one of Vale’s 89 Premier class wins, well not quite every one. I sat in the commentary box while he fought Casey Stoner in the battle of the Corkscrew in at Laguna Seca in 2008. I could only watch and not utter a single word because my voice had completely disappeared. Gavin Emmett and John Hopkins did a fantastic job describing one of Rossi’s greatest ever victories.

Rossi arrives in Jerez in a couple of weeks’ time in the form of his forties. Be patient Vale because I’m sure you will not have to wait as long as Tiger to stand back on the top step again.

By | April 18th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Be patient Vale, you will do a Tiger

In Conversation with Nick Harris

Thursday 30th May 18:00 – 20:00 at Milton Keynes – Midsummer Place

Meet Nick Harris here in Milton Keynes (at the larger of the two Waterstones stores) at 6 pm as we spend the evening in conversation discussing the book that the Motorcycling world has been waiting for, “Never Say Never’

As ‘The Voice’ of motorcycle racing for forty years, commentator Nick Harris became the biggest star NOT on two wheels in the paddock, and his book ‘Never Say Never’ is his mostly eye-witness, white-knuckle account of MotoGP’s scorching seventy-year history….
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Tickets are available online and in store, only £3 (and give you £3 off the cost of the book!)

Further details: 01908 395384

By | April 15th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on In Conversation with Nick Harris

Family values

Legendary journalist and television commentator Dennis Noyes told me to expect something different when Nicky Hayden and his dad Earl arrived from Owensboro, Kentucky into MotoGP™ in 2003   – Dennis is rarely wrong. The very nature of the sport makes the MotoGP™ paddock a tough uncompromising work place. Lives, reputations and careers are at stake in a frenzied atmosphere of competition and egos. It’s not a place you would associate with family values and manners but, in addition to that 2006 World Championship, that’s exactly what Nicky brought to our world.

Nicky embarked on the worldwide adventure with his Dad that led to that ultimate MotoGP™ world title with enormous talent that had already brought him so much success at home. They arrived on new continents and in new countries to compete against the very best, battle-hardened campaigners and came out on top. Wherever they went they made friends with their humour and humility in their totally new surroundings.

Who will ever forget that first Grand Prix win fittingly at home in Laguna Seca in 2005 when Nicky picked up Earl for that pillion ride on the celebration lap? Who will ever forget that sunny afternoon on the Mediterranean coast of Spain when Nicky clinched the 2006 world title fighting off the challenge of Valentino Rossi in Valencia? It was one of those I was there afternoons and rarely in the 70-year history has there been a more popular win among the occupants of the paddock.

I only saw Nicky lose his temper on two occasions. The much filmed and discussed collision with his team-mate Dani Pedrosa in Estoril that so nearly cost him that 2006 World title brought a rare burst of emotion and expletives. The second occasion was more frustration than temper. Valentino Rossi had a habit of talking to the person sat next to him in the press conferences while another rider was answering questions from the audience. Nicky stopped his answers on one occasion to tick off Valentino that it was bad manners and the nine times World Champion took notice.

There have been so many great World Champions who have made that trip across the Atlantic to upset the European domination on two wheels. The likes of Roberts, Spencer, Lawson and Rainey may have won more titles but few have left such a lasting impression as Nicky Hayden.

In Austin on Thursday, Nicky’s number will be retired from MotoGP. I’m sure I speak for many when I say it may have gone but we will never forget number 69 represented that humility and honesty still had a place in this crazy world.

By | April 12th, 2019|Uncategorised|1 Comment

Where did that come from?

I think it caught us all by surprise. While theories that the closest ever top 15 finish at the previous round in Qatar was a bit of a con because riders where protecting their tyres have been expounded in certain sections of the media, Marc Marquez simply blew away the opposition in Argentina on Sunday.

It was one of his biggest ever dry weather victories and the 9.8s gap between him and the fight for second did not even show just what a difference there was between the World Champion and the rest. Sure he took the gamble on the soft rear tyre on the Repsol Honda but his domination over the 25 laps meant he was quite simply in a class of his own.

Winning at the highest level is an art and skill that only a few are lucky to possess. Racing at any level is all about winning. That is the aim of every rider competing from the humble beginnings of club racing to MotoGP™ and World Champions have the ability to do it whatever the circumstances.

A World Champion and multiple Grand Prix winner once told me that winning races at the slowest possible speed was always his aim. Protect the tyres, protect the engine and protect yourself was always part of his winning strategy. Today more and more protection of the tyres has to be a vital part of race winning strategy. The fact that it can produce record breaking close finishes like Qatar and controversy that boiled over between Rossi and Marquez in Australia four years ago is surely a bonus for the fans. For the riders and the teams, it’s just about understanding and then implementing the conditions and the circumstances to their advantage. For both the media and the fans it just adds to the drama.

When I first got the Grand Prix bug a long time ago a certain Giacomo Agostini was winning races on the MV Agusta by vast distances that were often calculated in laps rather than minutes and certainly not seconds. Ago was the true master and took full advantage of the circumstances but being brutally honest after admiring his brilliance and the glorious sound of the MV Agusta, it did not make compelling viewing.

At the third round of this year’s Championship at Austin in a couple of weeks’ time Marquez arrives with an unbeaten record in Texas. He will take full advantage of the conditions and circumstances to ensure that record continues to enable him to arrive in Europe with an increased advantage at the top of the Championship. If it has to be an Agostini style victory or a fight to the line after a tactical battle grabbing 25 precious points will be his only aim. Selfishly I know which race I would prefer to watch but I’ll never be chasing a world title.

By | April 4th, 2019|Uncategorised|1 Comment

Tango back in time

You could be forgiven for assuming the first Grand Prix ever to be held outside Europe must have been staged in Japan or perhaps even America. Argentina would have been a fair way down your list but on October 15th 1961 the first world championship race to be staged outside Europe was held in Buenos Aires. The fledgling World Championship was only in its 13th year of existence but already starting to spread its wings far and wide.

Wind the clock on 58 years and the modern-day gladiators arrive at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit this weekend after a record-breaking opening round under the floodlights in Qatar. Just 15.093s separated the first 15 riders crossing the line, the closest ever in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing. Things have changed since that first race in Buenos Aries.

The first big difference was that opening race, which was the final round of the 1961 Championship, was 52 laps long just a mere distance of 203 kilometres. Setting the precedent, it was pretty close at the front with Argentinian Jorge Kissling winning by just 2.8 seconds from countryman Juan Carlos Salatino. Not perhaps the 0.023s that separated Dovizioso and Marquez in Qatar but never the less pretty close after over 200 kilometres of racing. After those leading two riders it was a very different story with Frank Perris on the Norton ten laps down.

The Argentine Grand Prix ran for a couple more years with Mike Hailwood the first non-home winner in 1963 but after those three initial Grands Prix it did not return until 1982. With the Falklands Island war between Argentina and Great Britain less than a week away I was lucky to witness a fantastic race before rushing home on the Sunday night just before war was declared. It was the opening round of the World Championship and Honda returned to the fray with their three cylinder two-stroke. Leading their return was a young American by the name of Freddie Spencer.

It was still a long race of 32 laps and at the finish just 0.67 seconds separated the Yamaha’s of former World Champions Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene. Spencer put Honda right back in the fray with a third place with just 1.37 seconds covering the three podium finishes. It was then a frantic rush to the airport. Three days later all flights between Britain and Argentina came to an abrupt end.

I loved the new venue Termas de Rio Hondo. Of course, it was an absolute pain to get to, the steps to the media centre were pretty rickety and the mosquitoes did bite but the sheer passion for MotoGP made up for all this.

Fans from all over South America arrived in the town square at night. A motorcycle with three of four occupants was not unusual, pick-up trucks from all over the vast continent arrived with far more passengers, donkey carts proved more sedate transport and the music was loud and lasted till dawn. Then en masse the party would reallocate to the circuit as the sun came up over the lake.

Grand Prix racing had returned to where the worldwide adventure had started all those years ago.

By | March 28th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Tango back in time

RIGHT FROM THE START – TRIUMPH FOR TRIUMPH

Of course it could not have been anything but a Triumph victory in the Qatar Moto2™ race but it was still such a special day for the iconic British factory. Their first ever grand prix victory in a sport in which they were pioneers right from the very start.

Many people feel that this magnificent sport actually started at 10am on the cold cloudy morning of 28 May 1907. At that moment Frank Hulbert and Jack Marshall fired up and pointed their single cylinder Triumph motorcycles up a dusty track towards Ballacraine to start the very first TT race on the Isle of Man.The two Triumphs spluttered into life to begin a 158 mile journey around the St Johns course and motor cycle racing was born. Twenty three other riders joined the pioneers and just 12 returned to the finish. The two Triumphs finished second and third respectively behind the Matchless of Charlie Collier who took four hours 8m8.02 s to complete the race at an average speed 61.47 kms. A year later Marshall reversed the result over Collier to bring Triumph their first TT win.

When the World Championship staged its first ever premier class 500 cc race in 1949 at the TT races in the Isle of Man Triumph were there once again. New Zealander Syd Jensen brought the Triumph home in fifth place in the seven lap race won by Harold Daniell riding the Norton. Triumph had to wait 20 years before their one and only grand prix podium finish which finally came at the fastest circuit of them all. The versatile Test rider and racer Percy Tait finished second on the 500 cc Triumph behind Giacomo Agostini in the 13 lap 1969 Belgium Grand Prix at the magnificent Spa Francorchamps circuit.

On Sunday the revitalised Triumph factory made a welcome return to grand prix racing with their magnificent 765 cc triples screaming below the Losail International floodlights in a superb Moto2 race. At the finish just 0.026 s separated Lorenzo Baldassari and Tom Luthi at the finish. Triumph has replaced Honda as the engine suppliers in the Moto 2 class and there will be plenty more Qatar type races in the next 18 grands prix. Sunday was just a foretaste of the battles they lay ahead.

Welcome back to the big time Triumph. All we need now to complete the picture is a British rider winning on a British Motorcycle – Sam Lowes please take note.

By | March 14th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on RIGHT FROM THE START – TRIUMPH FOR TRIUMPH

Record there to be beaten?

It was the performances of Pecco Bagnaia in the first Sepang test and then Fabio Quartararo in Qatar that got me thinking; have any riders making their debuts in the MotoGP four-stroke era won first time out or even qualified on the front row?

The simple answer is no to the first question but yes to the second. One hundred and six riders have made their debuts in the premier class during this era, yet nobody has won first time out. Two, however, have qualified on the front row and one in pole.

Three Spanish riders have come closest first time out and finished on the podium. The first was Dani Pedrosa at his home grand prix at Jerez in 2006. Dani, racing the Repsol Honda for the first time after winning the 125cc and two 250cc world titles, finished second four seconds behind Loris Capirossi on the factory Ducati.

Two years later, another double 250cc World Champion Jorge Lorenzo made his MotoGP debut in Qatar. It was Ducati once again that won the race with Casey Stoner in the saddle. Lorenzo, on the factory Yamaha, was second five seconds down with Pedrosa third. Marc Marquez made his much-heralded debut in the premier class in 2013 with those 125cc and Moto2 world titles under his belt. Under the Losail International floodlights, he eventually finished third behind the Yamaha´s of Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Marquez did go one better than his countrymen Pedrosa and Lorenzo by winning the world title first time out, however.

I would have thought more debutants would have qualified on the front row. Perhaps taking a big risk on that one important qualifying lap but it’s not the case. Those two riders who have qualified on the front row have suffered very different fortunes since those impressive performances. Lorenzo followed up a pole position at that opening round in 2008 with a brilliant second place. He went onto to win three MotoGP world titles and fancies his chances to make it four this season riding the factory Honda.

Alongside Lorenzo on the front row at Qatar in 2008 was British rider James Toseland. The World Superbike Champion, riding the Tech 3 Yamaha, made a sensational start to his MotoGP career. He qualified in second place and finished sixth in the race and looked set to make a big impact in the premier class, but it didn’t happen. Injuries forced him to retire to pursue a new career in the music industry and as a television pundit.

Bagnaia and Quartararo step onto the big stage for the first time under the spotlights this weekend after impressing in pre-season testing. Can they re-write the history books by winning first time out? It’s a very big ask and just check out the previous 106 riders who have tried. The last rider to win on his premier class debut was Max Biaggi with victory at Suzuka in 1998 on the two-stroke Honda but records are there for the beating.

By | March 7th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on Record there to be beaten?

NEVER SAY NEVER

THE INSIDE STORY OF THE MOTORCYCLE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

BY NICK HARRIS 

PUBLISHED IN HARDBACK BY VIRGIN BOOKS | 23rd MAY 2019 | £20.00 | ISBN 9780753553855 

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Motorcycle World Championships, the most dangerous and exciting sport in the world, legendary commentator Nick Harris, ‘The Voice’ of MotoGP, chronicles seventy years of drama, adrenaline, tragedy and celebration in a brand new book, Never Say Never. 

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

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

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

ABOUT NICK: 

Nick Harris has been a respected journalist, broadcaster and author for over 40 years. He is best known as a legendary television and radio commentator and presenter, presenting and commentating on the MotoGP World Championship for much of his career, attracting over 20 million viewers worldwide to each grand prix. When he announced his retirement in 2017, over 1.2 million fans tuned into his farewell video on Facebook, filmed with Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. Nick is the author of several books, including the bestselling biography of Barry Sheene. His great passion is Oxford United Football Club, having previously served on the board of Directors. 

Twitter: @NickHarrisMedia | Website: www.nick-harris.co.uk 

Pre-order Never Say Never here

FOR ALL MEDIA ENQUIRIES CONTACT PATSY O’NEILL AT EBURY PUBLISHING poneill@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk T: 020 8293 8783

 

By | March 7th, 2019|Uncategorised|Comments Off on NEVER SAY NEVER

HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A SAFE SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL

Best Wishes,

Nick and Martin
Nick Harris Media Communications

We are not sending out Christmas cards this year and instead are donating to the Oxfordshire Charity for the Homeless

By | December 18th, 2018|Uncategorised|Comments Off on HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A SAFE SUCCESSFUL NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL