At least they had three days before the new season got underway although they had to travel to Jerez. How the riders, teams and let us be honest many of the media, hated it when the next year’s testing started the day after on the Monday morning following that final round in Valencia. No time to party, celebrate or commiserate just turn up the next morning at the same circuit and start the new season. Some teams softened the blow for the riders by letting many an ill-prepared journalist ride a MotoGP™ bike for the first and only time before serious testing got underway.
This year the testing started at Jerez on Thursday although the provisional 2022 entry lists appeared on my computer on Tuesday morning. Of course, for the first time in 22 years, there was no number 46 on the MotoGP™ list. There were other absentees that did not attract the same attention but will leave enormous gaps when the new season gets underway beneath those Qatar floodlights next year.
No Danilo Petrucci in the MotoGP™ class and no Tom Luthi in Moto2™ meant that two such special riders had called it a day after distinguished but very different careers. The ever-cheerful larger than life Danilo and the former World Champion Tom who competed in a record-breaking 233 intermediate Grands Prix will be sorely missed.
After the tears in the Valencia paddock on Sunday evening, the two times MotoGP™ winner Petrucci said goodbye and prepared for the next challenge. The Italian will place everything on the very limit when he competes for KTM in the toughest test for man and machine in the World, the Dakar rally. It will be a unique experience, if that is the correct word, for a MotoGP™ winner but there has been a rider who made the reverse journey.
In 1992 Frenchman Jean Michel Bayle shocked the Motocross world when he announced he was switching to the tarmac. The rider regarded as one of the all-time greats, if not the greatest, decided not just any strip of tarmac for his road racing debut. The former 125 and 250cc World Champion and who had won the AMA Supercross, 250 and 500cc titles in America the previous year chose to make his debut in the 250cc French Grand Prix at Magny Cours in the same Rothmans Honda team of World Champion Luca Cadalora.
Bayle finished 24th in his debut race but returned the next season on Aprilia machinery. His best result was a fifth-place with one pole position at Argentina in 1995. He switched to the 500cc class with Yamaha in 1996 and then Modenas a year later. His best result was fourth at Imola in 1996 and he took two pole positions at Brno in 1996 and Imola two years later.
Tom Luthi seems to have been around forever and it was sixteen long years ago he brought Switzerland the 2005 125cc World Championship three years after his Grand Prix debut. He is fourth in the all-time list of Grands Prix starts. The race in Valencia was his 318th Grand Prix, a number only bettered by Rossi, Capirossi and Dovizioso. He won five 125cc Grands Prix and twelve intermediate class races resulting in two runner-up Moto2™ Championship positions in 2016/17. Only Rossi, Nieto, Capirossi and Dovizioso have a longer period between his first and last podium finish which was an extraordinary 16 years 155 days.
I hope everybody including Danilo and Tom found time to celebrate and party at Valencia on Sunday evening with no next day test to worry about. May I assure you that you all fully deserve a bit of a party after producing yet another amazing season despite everything the modern-day world could throw at you?