I really thought he was going to do it. Just a couple days after the Doctor announced he was keeping the surgery open for at least another year he appeared on course to celebrate in the only way he knows – a 116th Grand Prix victory and 200th premier class podium finish but it was not to be. When he went down at turn two chasing the leader and eventual race winner Fabio Quartararo the whole world groaned as the 41-year-old picked himself out of the Barcelona gravel but take heart, Valentino Rossi. You have another five years before you would become the oldest Grand Prix winner in the 71-year history of World Championship racing
Many years ago, and far more than I want to think about I met the oldest Grand Prix winner. On the way home from Brands Hatch I stopped at a local pub for a pint. While sitting outside in the sunshine watching the fans roar home down the A20 road I was introduced to a certain Arthur Wheeler. I was transfixed at the stories he told and especially about the 250cc 1962 Argentine Grand Prix in Buenos Aires.
A year earlier the Argentine Grand Prix was the first to be held outside Europe. It was the last race of the 1962 season and many of the stars, including World Champion Jim Redman, decided to give it a miss. Arthur who had raced in that very first World Championship event at the 1949 TT races in the Isle of Man and his Italian Moto-Guzzi team decided to go. It turned out to be a great decision.
He was a comfortable winner by over a lap in the 40 lap 125.600km race There were six finishers from the eight starters, but the record books do not lie. Arthur Wheeler became the oldest ever Grand Prix winner. He was 46 years and 70 days old when he secured just his second Grand Prix win giving Moto-Guzzi their last ever victory. It also secured him third place in the World Championship behind the Hondas of Redman and Scotsman Bob McIntyre.
Vale has also got plenty of time in the Premier class – Over three years to be exact. In 1953 Fergus Anderson won the 500cc Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuic Park. The Moto-Guzzi rider is the oldest winner in the premier class at the tender age of 44 years 237 days. The second oldest is the amiable Jack Findlay who was 42 years 85 days old when he brought Suzuki success in the 1977 Austrian Grand Prix
So, what about the opposite end of the age scale. Turkish rider Con Oncu was just 15 years 115 days old when we won the Moto3™ race in Valencia in 2018. At that age, I was still trying to understand girls while sneaking away for a sly cigarette and certainly not thinking about winning Grand Prix races. He is the youngest ever Grand Prix winner with 31 years separating him and the oldest Arthur Wheeler.
So, hang in there Vale you have got bags of time before you can buy me a pint on the A20 on the way home from Brands.