Of course, Marc Marquez is Captain America after yet another stunning ride at Austin on Sunday to secure his 84th Grand Prix victory, but a trip to Texas always reminds me of one person who never won one. Passionate, patriotic, funny, fast and friendly earned Colin Edwards the title of the Texas Tornado. Colin was such a giant character in the MotoGP™ paddock even though he never won Grand Prix. He will rather be remembered as the double World Superbike Champion than the rider who competed in most premier class races without a win but take heart, he’s in good company.
One hundred and ninety-six MotoGP™ appearances which included five second places and seven thirds, but then there was Assen in 2006. Never has the crowd and the MotoGP™ community, with a few obvious exceptions, willed a rider to his first Grand Prix win with such passion. It was an all-American affair between Colin, riding the Camel YZR-M1 Yamaha and World Champion elect Nicky Hayden aboard the Repsol Honda. It all came down to the final famous Gert Timmer Chicane on the very last of the breath-taking 26 lap battle.
Edwards could see and smell the chequered flag as he led into the right-hander first part of the chicane. Hayden attempted to pass him, and Edwards lost control, ran onto the astroturf, crashed and was remounting as Hayden took the chequered flag that looked so likely to be his. It was just Hayden’s second Grand Prix win and those five extra points for the victory was the difference between him and Valentino Rossi at the top of the Championship standings at the end of the season. Second place in Assen would have put Hayden on equal points with Rossi who would have been crowned World Champion thanks to more Grands Prix wins. Colin Edwards knew his big chance had gone but had no idea at the time that his demise would bring the World title back to the States.
Looking back, I often can’t believe that there were certain other riders who never won Grand Prix. New Zealander Graeme Crosby won the Daytona 200 and TT in the Isle of Man but never a 500cc Grand Prix. In his 29 Grands Prix, a paltry number compared to Edwards he was second four times and third six times. Croz was on the podium at over a third of his Grands Prix riding both Suzuki and Yamaha machinery in the early eighties.
I know the old memory can play tricks but surely Ron Haslam won a Grand Prix in those 108 appearances, but once again the answer is no. ‘Rocket Ron’ finished third eight times and second once in the mid-eighties. The same for Niall Mackenzie with those seven third places.
One name that often goes unnoticed but not in the record books is Frenchman Raymond Roche. He went on to find success in the World Superbike Championship but before finished second five times and third four times. Roche finished third in the 1984 500cc World Championship behind Americans Eddie Lawson and Randy Mamola.
All these riders have had that Edwards Assen moment that they will never forget. One of today’s MotoGP gladiators Aleix Espargaro competed in his 263rd Grand Prix on Sunday in Austin. One hundred and ninety-three of those have come in the MotoGP™ class. This season at Silverstone he secured the Aprilia team their first-ever four-stroke MotoGP™ podium finish. He had finished on the podium twice before. He was second in the 2014 MotoGP™ race in Aragon riding the Forward Yamaha. Three years earlier Aleix finished third in the Barcelona Moto2™ race on the Pons Kalex.
Often after that initial Grand Prix win, they come along with much more regularity which has been proved by Pecco Bagnaia this year. There is absolutely no doubt the likes of Edwards, Crosby, Haslam, Mackenzie and Roche deserved at least one Grand Prix win to show for their considerable efforts. I don’t think anybody in the paddock would have begrudged them a place on the top step of the podium at least once. I think that goes for the modern-day MotoGP™ community as Aleix Espargaro strives for that first elusive victory.