Monthly Archives: August 2022

The gentleman’s stare

Private, polite, friendly and rarely outspoken but I will never forget the look Andrea Dovizioso gave Marc Marquez after they had crossed the finishing line at Austria in 2017. The winner of an epic battle round the Red Bull Ring had just let World Champion Marc Marquez know in no uncertain fashion the fight for the MotoGP™ World Championship was on. The previous year in Austria it had come down to another last bend decider, that right hander at the bottom of the hill, and Dovi lost out to teammate Andrea Iannone. The gentleman off the track was not going to let it happen again. You do not win 24 Grands Prix and a World title without that inner aggression and confidence when the lights change. That stare said it all

Dovi went on to win three more Grands Prix that season including another dramatic last bend Marquez confrontation in the Motegi rain but just failed to prevent the Spanish rider and Honda from retaining the title. It was similar outcome the next season despite four more wins for Dovi and Ducati but he had paved the way for the Italian factory to take on the Japanese giants.

Thank goodness Dovi won that 125cc World title in 2004 fighting off the likes of Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner. He really would not deserve to be called the nearly man after twice finishing runner-up in the 250cc and three times in the MotoGP™ World Championships. I honestly think Dovi deserved to win at least a couple of those and especially a MotoGP title for Ducati but a certain fit Marc Marquez was around at the time.

So just one World title for Dovi but the facts speak for themselves. This has been a truly incredible record-breaking career when the final curtain drops for Dovi at Misano on Sunday.

The rider from Forli, just up the MotoGP™ mad Adriatic coast from Misano, made a record-breaking 229 consecutive MotoGP™ starts for Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. He made his premier class debut at Qatar in 2008 and never missed a race until the start of the 2021 season. Only his great nemesis Valentino Rossi has made more Grands Prix starts in all classes. Dovi starts his 346th Grand Prix at Misano on Sunday. It was 16 years and 120 days before his first Grand Prix win and his last. That first came in 2004 in South Africa in the 125cc race at Welkom in South Africa. The last in 2020 in the MotoGP™ race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Only fellow Italians Rossi and Loris Capirossi have longer Grands Prix-winning careers.

No rider in the 74 histories of the sport had to wait so long, 130 races to be precise, between that first MotoGP™ win at Donington in 2009 and his second in 2016 at Sepang. Dovi made his Grand Prix debut as a 125cc wild card in the 2001 Italian Grand Prix at Mugello Grand Prix which was won by the wonderful Nobby Ueda.

What a legacy Dovi will leave especially for Ducati. Watching the Italian factory dominate so many of the races this year despite the herculean efforts of Fabio Quartararo on the Yamaha, makes you realise just what a talisman he had been for Gigi Dall’lgna’s team. It was Dovi that led them back to the top step of the podium. It was Dovi who brought back memories of the Stoner days to the passionate Italy factory.

Dovi certainly has earned his retirement from a sport he has graced for over two decades. Of course, we will never forget the wins. I will always remember that stare but even more, I will remember a really nice guy.

The MotoGP™ paddock will miss him very much.


By |2022-08-31T21:00:45+00:00August 31st, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on The gentleman’s stare

Sprint races – Rossi in the Mugello rain

So, Sprint races next year – but not for the first time in the 74-year history of Grand Prix racing. Perhaps they were unplanned but Sprint races in various forms are not new. One thing mankind through the centuries has never conquered is how to control the weather and particularly the rain. When those spots of the wet stuff fell on dry tarmac the fun and games started. This could cause chaos in the commentary box and media centres, but they also provide some memorable Sprint races and great talking points.

The Sprint race I will never forget was at Mugello in 2004. It was the shortest ever race in the Premier class, six laps of the magnificent Italian circuit just 31.470 kms. It was all going so well in the tiny glass house type commentary box on top of the main grandstand. Then the dreaded word was mentioned – rain!

The commentary boxes were so small you had to sit sideways at right angles to the track watching the action on the television monitor. You could see into all the other commentary boxes and there were some furrowed brows and counting on fingers going on. It had been a fantastic race to commentate on that summed up the quality and excitement of the 2004 season. Valentino Rossi, Makoto Tamada, Max Biaggi, Loris Capirossi, Sete Gibernau, Marco Melandri and Nicky Hayden swapping podium positions and the leads, when the clouds started to role in over those Tuscan Hills. Then I started to worry. How many laps would the riders have to complete of the scheduled 23 before the race could be stopped with maximum points being awarded. If they stopped before the cut off how many laps would the new race be and would the times from both races be added together. I was lucky because my fellow commentators Gavin Emmett and Matt Roberts were on the ball. As always, they had done their homework and checked the rules, but others were not so lucky.

On the 17th lap the heavens finally opened. Rossi put up his hand to halt the proceedings. When the Doctor put up his hand at Mugello nobody dared to argue, and Race Direction called for the red flag. The race was stopped. It is rumoured and never proved that one television station thought that was that and Rossi was declared the winner and they went off air. It was a shame because the real fun and games were about to start.

A six lap Sprint race was scheduled with maximum World Championship points being awarded. No race times being added together, just six laps of pure mayhem. Once again the weather stepped to make it even more complicated. When the grid reformed the majority of riders remained on slicks because the rain had stopped and the sun came out. Then it started to drizzle just to add to the fun. Norick Abe, Troy Bayliss and Ruben Xaus all took turns at the front but at the Chequered flag Rossi led the way for the second time that afternoon. Gibernau and Biaggi were second and third respectively which was their positions when the first race was stopped.

he Flag-to-flag format was introduced in the Premier class the next season in 2005 but not in the 125 and 250cc classes. Three years later in 2008 the shortest ever Sprint and grand prix race took place at Le Mans. The original 24 lap 125cc race was stopped because of rain and the re-run was just five laps of the Bugatti circuit. To the delight of the home crowd Frenchman Mike Di Meglio won the 20.925 kms encounter fighting off the challenge of Bradley Smith. Di Meglio went on to win the World Championship.

Finally, spare a thought for the 500 cc riders in the 1954 Ulster Grand Prix at Dundrod. They had already completed a gruelling 179 kms when some treacherous Irish rain brought the race to a premature finish. They were awarded no World Championship points for their considerable efforts because the rules stated a 500-cc race must be a minimum distance of 200 kms. No Flag to Flag or Sprint race to help them out in those days.


By |2022-08-24T08:42:00+00:00August 24th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Sprint races – Rossi in the Mugello rain

Maverick holds keys to very exclusive club

Third in Assen, second at Silverstone – there is only one place to go for Maverick Viñales on Sunday in Austria. If the Spanish rider can grab his first win for Aprilia and just the second premier class victory for the impressive Italian factory, he will join one of the most exclusive clubs in the history of Grand Prix racing. Viñales has already achieved premier class wins for Suzuki and Yamaha. A win on Sunday would be so very special.

Since the birth of the World Championship in 1949 only four riders have won premier class Grand Prix on three separate makes of machine. Plenty have won Grands Prix or even World titles on two but three is a very exclusive club.

The first two names I thought of were not such a great problem for the old grey matter. Not only did they achieve three wins on different bikes, but one of them also took World titles on two of them. I did work out the next two although the final rider’s name came to me when I woke up in the middle of the night. Neither of them captured the ultimate prize, the 500cc/MotoGP™ World title.

So, let’s start with the obvious two. Not Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, or Geoff Duke who all won premier class Grands Prix on two different machines. It was World Champions Mike Hailwood and Eddie Lawson who went one better.

As he did so often it was Hailwood who led the way. In 1961 he won the 500cc Senior TT in the Isle of Man riding the British Norton. Before the end of the season, he had been snatched up by Count Agusta for his MV team and Hailwood rewarded his faith with victory at Monza. Four 500cc World titles and 28 Grands Prix wins followed before Honda signed him to spearhead their 500cc challenge after dominating the smaller classes. Despite winning eight Grands Prix for the Japanese factory Hailwood finished runner-up to former teammate Agostini in 1966/67

Since his arrival into the World Championship in 1983 Lawson was always regarded as a Yamaha rider for life. The Californian won three 500cc World titles and 26 Grands Prix for Yamaha before a sensational switch to Honda for a single season in 1989. Not only did Lawson win four Grands Prix but the World title and returned to Yamaha the next year. Before retiring in 1992 Lawson added another chapter to the history books. In difficult conditions he brought the beautifully graceful Italian Cagiva machine its first ever Grand Prix win in Hungary to sign off an incredible career.

So, what about the other two. Despite finishing runner-up four times in the 500cc World Championship Randy Mamola won his 13 Grands Prix on three separate bikes. The first at Zolder in Belgium in 1980 followed by four more for Suzuki. The Californian switched to Honda in 1984 and won four Grands Prix before he joined Yamaha in 1986. He won four Grands Prix for them, and those four runner-up positions came on all three of those machines. Two on Suzuki and one apiece on Honda and Yamaha.

The middle of the night moment for me was Loris Capirossi. The Italian 125 and 250cc World Champion may have only won nine premier class Grands Prix, but he is in the club. That first win in Australia was on the 500cc Yamaha in 1996. He returned to the 250cc class to win the World title before re-joining the 500s in 2000. He won the Italian Grand Prix for Sito Pons’s Honda team. Capirossi joined Ducati in 2003 and brought the Italian factory seven wins including three successive victories in Japan.

So over to you Maverick to add to those Suzuki and Yamaha victories. The keys are in your hand to unlock the door into one of the most exclusive clubs in the 74-year history of Grand Prix racing.

By |2022-08-18T08:01:17+00:00August 18th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Maverick holds keys to very exclusive club

Roberts reveals revolution and then wins Grand Prix

The rumours had been rife, but it was 43 years ago to this very day in the Silverstone paddock the revolution became a reality. A revolution that never actually happened but whose very threat brought Grand Prix motorcycle racing out of the dark ages and moulded its very future. A revolution headed by a World Champion and national newspaper journalist that brought the riders just reward for their efforts and saved lives.

World 500cc Champion Kenny Roberts and his great friend journalist Barry Coleman wanted to wait another year before the announcement in the Silverstone paddock two days before the 1979 British Grand Prix. The riders were not prepared to wait and the plans to run a new World Series in direct competition to the Grand Prix World Championship were unveiled. It was an incredible concept to break away from the established World Championship that had been in existence since 1949. A brand-new separate Championship for just 250 and 500cc machines. With all the top riders including World Champions Barry Sheene, Kork Ballington and of course Roberts signed up and ready to go it was a significant threat to the very future of the existing World Championship.

Roberts arrived from America in 1978 to totally change Grand Prix racing as the Europeans knew it. His sliding style, homed on the mile long ovals back home, ripped the established 500cc stars apart on Grand Prix circuits throughout Europe but away from the track Kenny was appalled. Never someone scared to express his feelings he just could not believe how the riders were treated by organisers and promotors. Safety, prize money and simple respect just did not exist in Kenny’s eyes, and he was as determined as he was on the track to do something about it.

Who could blame the riders for being so impatient? They were fed up and totally disillusioned with banging their heads against a brick wall, or in most cases, Armco barriers, about safety, prize money and just respect from the Promoters and Organisers. With Roberts and Coleman at the head, all the top Grand Prix riders agreed to compete in a rival series.

The history books show the World Series never got off the ground but read between the lines to discover just what an enormous influence it had on the very future of the sport. The FIM’s reaction immediately condemned the new Championship either to run alongside the existing World Championship or as an alternative. Still, they realised the status quo had to change and quickly to save their World Championship. Immediately they increased the Grand Prix prize money by a staggering 500% and scrapped the controversial start money fiasco. Previously organisers would agree to a start money fee for the riders to compete and paid paltry prize money. At the end of a Grand Prix, there would be a queue of riders, including World Champions, outside the organisers’ office in the paddock waiting to be paid. Imagine such a scene in the Silverstone paddock this weekend.

In the end, the new World Series probably failed because of the lack of circuits that were brave enough to stage their events. The FIM made it very clear they would not issue permits for any of their races at circuits that hosted a World Series event. In the end, the riders returned to their familiar haunts in 1980 but attitudes to safety, respect and liveable prize money had changed for good. The revolution had begun thanks to Coleman and Roberts, but there was still a long way to go, especially on safety.

Riders leaving Silverstone on route to Austria should raise a glass of whatever they drink between Grands Prix to Roberts and Coleman. The pair of them were not prepared to stand and watch the riders being treated in such an appalling way. They started a revolution that riders today should never forget. Without them who knows what would have happened? So typically after the announcement, Kenny went on to win a classic 500cc race with Sheene. I bet the pair of them didn’t queue for their start money.

By |2022-08-10T16:02:59+00:00August 10th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Roberts reveals revolution and then wins Grand Prix

The temperature is rising – bring a brolly

Silverstone and the British Grand Prix approaches fast and, be honest, you are already checking the weather forecast and the thermometer. We have all been battered by torrential rain, gale force winds and winter temperatures since the Grand Prix arrived at the often-bleak former wartime airfield in 1977, but this year could be very different. Great Britain is in the middle of a drought. Just two days after the World Superbike boys put on that superhuman effort at Donington Park a couple of weeks ago, the highest ever British temperature of over 41 degrees Celcius was recorded near Silverstone.

When we think of the weather and Grand Prix motorcycle racing, it is usually the rain, even snow and hurricanes, that come to mind. The 1980 Austrian Grand Prix at the Salzburgring was cancelled when heavy snow prevented riders from getting into the paddock, let alone racing. Who will forget the approaching hurricane on our first visit to Indianapolis in 2008? And infamously, four years ago, the British Grand Prix never even got started when the track at Silverstone was flooded with torrential rain

It is easier to forget the heat than those cold, windy soakings but weather at the end of the scale has proved just as tough for riders and spectators. In 1976 the winner of the sidecar race at the Dutch TT was declared ‘dead’ at the end of the race. Race winner Hermann Schmid collapsed 250 metres after crossing the finishing line in the 14-lap 107.846km race. When the race started at 16:00, the air temperature was 41.5C. Schmid fell from his 500cc Yamaha sidecar outfit and his heart had stopped beating. Prompt medical intervention and massage restarted his heart and he survived and made a complete recovery. British driver George O’Dell was also hospitalised after the race. His hands were severely blistered with his gloves giving little protection to the skin when he touched the red-hot brake and clutch levers.

Barry Sheene won the 500cc race earlier in the afternoon. After pouring a bucket of water over his head, the World Champion elect declared it was the hottest race he had ever ridden in, although he may have changed his mind three years later in Venezuela. I remember pictures of the local fire brigade spraying the sizzling crowd with water to help keep them cool in the 40C plus temperatures. Sheene won in Venezuela for the third year in succession. Heat exhaustion prevented his Suzuki teammate Tom Herron from making the victory podium to celebrate third place, his first 500cc podium apart from the TT in the Isle of Man

More recently, I suffered in those early sweltering days at circuits such as Sepang and Doha. The race in the Qatar desert switched to the cooler evenings under the floodlights in 2008. Two years earlier at Laguna Seca, Nicky Hayden fought off the heat and teammate Dani Pedrosa to win his home Grand Prix for the second year in succession. Melting tarmac and track temperatures of over 60C caused the cancellation of all other races that day including the AMA American Superbike clashes. Riders had to face the heat head-on, while us mere mortals had the air conditioning in Sepang and Doha, while a dip in the Pacific Ocean in Monterey Bay was the perfect way to start or finish the day at Laguna Seca.

We do remember Silverstone for the opposite reasons. Freddie Spencer clinched the 250cc World Championship in freezing horizontal rain and then won the 500cc race in 1985. Casey Stoner’s absolute masterclass in the spray of 2011 and, of course, four years ago when proceedings never got underway on the flooded track.

So be warned, do not forget to bring that umbrella. For once it may be essential to protect yourself from the sun and not the rain. You will note earlier I said the weather could be and not would be different this year. No promises, it is Silverstone.


By |2022-08-04T07:51:16+00:00August 4th, 2022|Uncategorised|Comments Off on The temperature is rising – bring a brolly
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