There is often debate on which is the “Golden Era” of motorcycle grand prix racing. Is it the early years of the world championship in the 1950’s, or perhaps the 1960’s when the Japanese manufacturers invested huge amounts to become successful. Or maybe the 1970’s which saw the start of what we now consider the “modern era” of grand prix racing when the original closed road circuits gave way to purpose built tracks. Or the great times of 1980s into the early 1990s when fierce rivalries between a handful of riders from USA and Australia tamed the fearsome 500cc 2-strokes. Then there is the emergence of the four-stroke MotoGP class in 2002 which also coincided with the career of one Valentino Rossi.
I have been following motorcycle grand prix racing for 50 years, covering most of the era’s mentioned about, but for me it is none of these. The Golden Era is now! When I ventured this opinion of Twitter recently, someone asked, why do I consider this the Golden Era. Well here are a few reasons:
- Fantastic depth of talent: Of the 24 riders on the full-time MotoGP entry list for 2018, 12 are grand prix world champions and 21 of them have stood on the top step of a grand prix podium, with a total of 461 GP victories between them.
- Competitive machinery: All 24 riders on the grid have bikes either supplied direct from the factory or indirectly as a “satellite” rider. Added to this the rule changes over recent years have resulted in bikes that are more closely matched than ever before.
- Close racing: Due to the great depth of talent and competitive machinery, the racing last year was closer than ever with seven of the twelve closest premier-class grand prix races occurring in 2017 (more detail in my previous blog: www.nick-harris.co.uk/how-close-will-motogp-be-in-2018)
- Unpredictable: Over the last 50 MotoGP races there have been nine different winners. Over this period no single rider has dominated in terms of race wins, Marquez with 15 victories is the rider who has stood on the top step of the podium most. The other wins are distributed as follows: Lorenzo – 10, Dovizioso – 7, Pedrosa – 5, Rossi – 5, Vinales – 4, Crutchlow – 2 and one each for Iannone and Miller.
- Nineteen races: The 2018 race schedule has added another new circuit to the calendar to bring the number of races up to a record 19, across 15 different countries. Although the addition of an extra race is not universally popular with everyone working in the MotoGP paddock, it is great for the fans!
- Great worldwide following: As Nick stated in an earlier blog (www.nick-harris.co.uk/over-two-and-a-half-millions-fans-cant-be-wrong/), the number of fans turning up at the race tracks to watch the races is at a record level and the TV audience continues to increase each year. Added to that is the enormous number of fans who follow the sport online and on Social Media.
- Fierce rivalry: The rivalry between the current top riders means that on track no quarter is asked or given, providing incredible close racing.
So while it is always fun to look back nostalgically to past era’s and discuss the great races and riders (through rose tinted spectacles?), never forget that in 20 years’ time what is happening NOW will be remembered as THE “Golden Era”.