Ok, I raise my hands and I admit I was wrong to have any doubts. Easy to be honest after the event but I was not totally convinced that the new Saturday Tissot Sprint race was a step in the right direction for the MotoGP™ World Championship. Those first two Sprints in Portugal and Argentina pushed those doubts into the clouds and way beyond because they were sensational.
When your hair goes from grey to white like mine you start questioning any major changes to a Championship that appears to be going on very comfortably. Why add something to such a successful and exciting format I remember thinking. None of us like change but instead of thinking like a grumpy old journalist who had been round the paddock for almost four decades I realised after watching Brad Binder’s victory that I was now starting to enjoy 12 laps of pure theatre through the eyes of a proper MotoGP™ fan. The South African’s ride on the Red Bull factory KTM from 15th on the grid to a race win was as good as it gets. Together with the battle in Portugal between Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin for the top step on the new podium I was totally hooked. Those 12 World Championship points awarded to the Sprint race winner every Saturday will be as hard earned as the 25 that go to the Grand Prix winner the next day
Those early Grands Prix could last over three hours compared to the just under 19 minutes it took World Champion Bagnaia to win in Portugal. Scotsman Bob McIntyre won the 1957 500cc TT race for Gilera in three hours 02.57s. 485.768 kms, eight laps of the Mountain circuit at an average speed of 159.312 km/h. That was a long time ago and the world and sport has changed so dramatically.
Other sports have changed their formats and lengths to meet the demands of the modern World. I remember once organising for Kenny Roberts to stop on the grid before stepping onto the podium after winning the Austrian Grand Prix at the Salzburging to speak live to the BBC back in London. Kenny duly won the race and stopped to speak into the microphone only to be asked by the producer through the headphone if he minded waiting a couple of minutes while they took reports from a couple of cricket grounds. Kenny certainly minded but waited and conducted the interview while the Star-Spangled Banner had to wait. Kenny pointed out to me afterwards, as only Kenny could, that cricket was a game that could last five whole days and not produce a result. Today no other sport has adjusted to the demands of the modern World and especially television coverage more than cricket. Half day and one day games have not replaced but run alongside the traditional five-day games. The interest and worldwide television audiences have exploded. Golf and tennis are always discussing making shorter games for modern audiences.
I realise that the new Sprint races can produce extra problems for the teams, riders and tyre manufacturers but for spectators and television it’s perfect. The traditional Grand Prix race on Sunday with that short sharp taster on Saturday. Nothing too complicated to cloud the mind but two straight battles for World Championship points.
I love it, it is great to be just a proper MotoGP™ fan.