So which World Champion is Fabio Quartararo going to emulate in the final two races of the season with that world crown firmly planted on his head? In decades past once they had won the ultimate prize the likes of Giacomo Agostini and Barry Sheene turned their back on the Championship. Others such as Kenny Roberts Junior set out to show the world just why they were a worthy Champion.
Competing in the World Championship in the sixties and seventies could prove an expensive business even if you were World Champion. Ago’s decision not to race at certain circuits once he’d won the 500cc World title was both down to safety and finance. Why risk your life at a dangerous road circuit, especially if you could ride at a non-championship race in another country on the same afternoon and earn more cash. Ago’s absence at those races produced some record-breaking results.
In 1969 he missed the penultimate round at Imola and the race was won by Alberto Pagani, the first time the son of a Grand Prix winner repeated the victory. A week later, at the Opatija road circuit in Yugoslavia with Ago again absent, Godfrey Nash brought Norton their last Grand Prix win. It was also the last single cylinder victory in the premier class.
Ago’s MV Agusta team-mate Angelo Bergamonti scored his one and only 500cc victory at the final round at Montjuic Park in the 1970 Spanish Grand Prix while his teammate rode in a non-Championship race in England. A year late at Jarama in Spain, Dave Simmons brought Kawasaki the first of their two premier class victories with Ago absent. In 1972, Ago again missed the final round at Montjuic Park and Chas Mortimer gave Yamaha their very first premier class win riding the 352cc two-stroke machine.
Barry Sheene missed the final three rounds at the Imatra, Brno and Nürburgring road circuits in 1976. Pat Hennen became the first American Grand Prix winner in Finland. John Newbold grabbed his one and only 500cc victory at Brno while Ago won for the last time on the four-stroke MV Agusta in Germany. It was the last of his 68 500cc victories.
Move the clock forward to 2000 and Motegi in Japan. Kenny Roberts junior brought the title to Suzuki with a sixth place at Rio in Brazil in a race won by Valentino Rossi, after a fantastic fight with local hero Alex Barros. It was the perfect ride by Kenny but was overshadowed by the Rossi/Barros scrap. Eight days later the new World Champion destroyed the opposition led by Rossi at Motegi to show the world just why he had followed in the footsteps of his illustrious father.
I had to smile last Sunday imagining the disbelief and then panic in press rooms, studios, and commentary boxes throughout the world when the unfortunate Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) crashed so close to the finish of the race in Misano leaving Quartararo as World Champion. We have all been there, script or copy written and ready to go at the final whistle or in this case, the chequered flag. Many times it has happened to me with a last-minute goal at a football match completely changing the whole story. On two wheels or three, I will never forget Brno in 1988. I sat with my feet on a spartan desk in the commentary box dreaming of a bottle of that pink Russian champagne you could buy at Brno for under five euros.
I was full of self-praise for what I thought had been a good afternoon work for the BBC. I had just interviewed new World 500cc Champion Eddie Lawson live on the radio and commentated on the race. I told the producer back in London best to wait for the final voice piece so I could add ten seconds on the sidecar race even though British World Champion Steve Webster was eighteen points behind Rolf Biland at this final round. Steve had little chance of the title that meant so much to British fans with no success in the solo classes.
Webster, with stand-in passenger Gavin Simmons, led the way with potential Champion Biland comfortable in fourth. Suddenly out of the blue Biland started to slow and then coasted over the start to a halt four laps from the end. Total pandemonium in the commentary box but I managed to commentate on the last two laps live and interview Webster. It had been close and certainly took longer than ten seconds, but it was well worth it when the National Anthem boomed out over the Brno countryside.
So, to all the media before the Algarve on Sunday, be patient. Do not start writing until those Moto3™ and Moto2™ races have finished. Fabio, I am certain will follow the example of Kenny Roberts to celebrate that MotoGP™ world title.