Monthly Archives: October 2022

The waiting game

They shook hands on the slowing down lap like true warriors. Respectful and appreciative of their rival’s outstanding performances at Sepang. Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo now face the waiting game. Fourteen long days until the outcome is finally decided in Valencia. Fly home from Malaysia and prepare for the final showdown to decide who will be crowned the 2022 MotoGP™ World Champion

Over the last 74 years many riders have faced that dreaded wait. In all, 18 premier class world titles have been decided at the final race. Only three times has the rider not leading on points going into the final round did not win the title. The biggest turnaround was in 2006 when Nicky Hayden turned over Valentino Rossi’s eight-point advantage to take the title. The first last race decider came in 1950 with Umberto Masetti’s second place at Monza bringing him the title by a single point from Geoff Duke who won the race. The last was in 2017 when Marc Marquez arrived at Valencia with a 21-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso.

So what do riders do while waiting for that final showdown. How long have some had to wait and a couple of true champions prepared for that final round even before it came along. In 1983 Freddie Spencer and Kenny Roberts had to wait a whole month after a fractious last lap encounter in the penultimate round at Anderstorp in Sweden. Freddie left the circuit, that doubled up as the local aerodrome with a five-point advantage after an overtaking manoeuvre, a couple of bends from the finish, that did not impress the three times World Champion. They both flew home to the States for the long wait before the final round in Imola. Freddie spent time with his family in Shreveport and Kenny at his Californian ranch playing golf. They returned to Italy and Freddie clinched his first 500 cc title after a canny ride to second place behind Kenny who tried every trick in the book to unsettle him.

Nine years later Mick Doohan could have done with those four weeks. Instead, the Australian had just two to try and find some extra strength and flexibility to his battered body. He had returned to the action in 1992 at the Interlagos circuit in Brazil for the penultimate round after missing four Grands Prix after severe complications to the leg he broke in an Assen crash. The Honda rider still held a 22-point lead in the Championship over Wayne Rainey. He could hardly walk yet alone ride a 500cc motorcycle. Somehow Mick finished 12th after 121 km of pure agony but scored no World Championship points. Rainey’s win and 20 World Championship points placed him just two points adrift going into the final round at Kyalami in South Africa. That 14 days gave Mick’s body hours of medical treatment, but his sixth place was not enough. Rainey grabbed the title by two points after finishing third.

Great World Champions look ahead and plan. You will not be surprised Roberts and Barry Sheene realised before the final showdown that the 1978 World 500cc Championship would be decided at the aging 22.835 kms Nürburgring road circuit. Kenny rode a Yamaha Road bike round the ‘Ring’ on public track days. Barry of course had to be different. Between the Dutch and Belgian Grands Prix somehow the double World Champion persuaded Rolls Royce to loan him one of their top of the range luxurious saloon cars for what Barry had described as a holiday trip to Europe. Instead with his great mate Steve Parrish in the passenger’s seat they blasted the Rolls to a standstill round the Nürburgring for two days to the amazement of the other sports car drivers. I do not think even Barry persuaded Rolls Royce to loan him a car again. Despite the two days of ‘practice’ Barry lost his World title to Kenny after finishing fourth two seconds behind the first American World Champion in third place.

I cannot imagine Pecco or Fabio persuading Rolls Royce for a test drive or playing golf before the final show down in Valencia. Those 14 days may help the Frenchman work on a broken finger. I’m sure both will just be relieved when the waiting game is finally over.


By |2022-10-26T21:04:16+00:00October 26th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on The waiting game

Island of dreams the Glastonbury of MotoGP™

It is only when you return you realise just how much you have missed somewhere special so much. The global spread of the Covid pandemic wrecked our enjoyment, excitement and in many cases absolute amazement of witnessing world class performers at legendary venues. The music at Glastonbury, tennis at Wimbledon, football at the Nou Camp, Wembley or the San Siro, Formula One at Monaco, Indy Cars at Indianapolis and road racing on the Isle of Man disappeared overnight. Their return has done so much to lift everybody’s spirits and make us all realise just how much we have missed them. Phillip Island is right up there with them all. On Sunday the Australian circuit perched high above that crashing surf put on a show that we had waited three long painful years to explode before our eyes. We knew the Island would not let us down and it did not

Just where do you start. The highlight for me is the MotoGP™ win by Alex Rins for the Ecstar Suzuki team. We have all been there. Working through the last few months of a job. The nightmare of knowing you will not return the next year. Nobody would blame the Suzuki team, worried about their futures, their families and finances, if they lost both concentration and heart. Instead pride and dignity shone through that dark cloud of uncertainty to produce a Grand Prix winning machine superbly ridden by Alex Rins, who has also had such a tough year. Surely a company with such principles will return to the fray one day. They have done it before.

Just over eight tenths of one second separating the first seven finishers. Marc Marquez’s 100th podium finish. Pecco Bagnaia grabbing the lead in the World Championship. Jack Miller being brought down at the corner that had just been named after him. The crowning of Izan Guevara as the new Moto3™ World Champion in the earlier race. The 40,000 patriotic crowd giving six times Island winner Casey Stoner such a rousing reception. It was a typical day at the office for Phillip Island.

I was actually in Australia filming a documentary about World Champion Wayne Gardner when it was announced that a certain Island off the coast in Victoria was going to stage the very first Australian Grand Prix. I do not think many people had the faintest idea where it was and further investigation revealed it was famous for its penguins, big sharks and surfing. That all changed dramatically a year later with the 1989 Australian Grand Prix. Gardner’s win at that first Grand Prix brought Australia to a halt. We realised that weekend this was somewhere so special. Designed for motorcycle racing by Bob Barnard, a ribbon of tarmac that had no equal.

It was just the start of an incredible journey for the iconic venue. The Mick Doohan Gardner duel in 1990. Loris Capirossi becoming the youngest ever World Champion the same year. Doohan clinching the 1998 world title. The last lap decider for the 2000 250cc World title between Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano. Valentino Rossi winning his first premier class world title in 2001. The MotoGP™ battle in 2015 that led to the Marquez/Rossi war and Cal Crutchlow’s 2016 victory. Throw in Stoner’s six successive MotoGP™ wins and Rossi’s victory celebrations with the number 7 emblazoned on a special flag following the death of the double World Champion Barry Sheene.

Phillip Island is a little more Glastonbury than any of those other legendary venues. Worries about the weather, traffic and camping totally obliterated when the action begins. Welcome back, we have missed you so much and the penguins, big sharks and surf are all still thriving.

So many memories, hopefully many more to come.


By |2022-10-19T17:28:14+00:00October 19th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Island of dreams the Glastonbury of MotoGP™

Such a long way from home

How ironic that the Kiwi emblazoned on Hugh Anderson’s iconic pudding basin helmet represented a flightless bird from his native New Zealand. Flightless is the very last word to describe Anderson and his fellow countryman’s globe spanning journeys in search of World Championship glory in Europe.

Of course, Anderson is the best known and his induction into the MotoGP™ Hall Of Fame was not only to celebrate his considerable achievements but to all of those New Zealand riders who sacrificed so much to make such a long journey.

Anderson was not the first or the last but his impact was enormous. He was the true talisman who brought success to a proud country a long way from Europe. He is the only New Zealand rider to win a World title with those two 125 a two 50cc Championships for Suzuki. Anderson scored 25 of the 31 Grands Prix wins by New Zealand riders and no other rider has achieved more Grands Prix wins for Suzuki. Those 25 wins for the Japanese factory have only been equalled by 500cc World Champion Kevin Schwantz.

A decade earlier those pioneering globe trotters arrived from the other side of the World and won Grands Prix. The first New Zealand winner was Ken Mudford who gave Norton success in the 350cc 1953 Ulster Grand Prix. A year later Rod Coleman brought AJS their last Grand Prix with victory in the 350cc race at the TT on route to third place in the World Championship. Ginger Molloy was rewarded for his tireless pursuit of the multi-cylinder Japanese machine with a win at the 1966 Ulster Grand Prix on the 250cc Bultaco. Thirteen years later Dennis Ireland took advantage of the top riders’ boycott of the re-surfaced Spa Francorchamps circuit to win the 500cc Belgium Grand Prix. Current Dorna pit lane reporter Simon Crafer dominated the 500cc race at the 1998 British Grand Prix to bring Yamaha their only win of the season and the last premier class victory on Dunlop tyres.

Some who made the journey paid the ultimate price and none more so than Kim Newcombe. A brilliant rider and engineer Newcombe produced a two-stroke 500cc engine from a West German flat-four König outboard boat engine. He lay second in the 1973 World Championship after winning in Yugoslavia on the Opatija road circuit. To fund his considerable Grand Prix efforts, he raced at a non-championship international event at Silverstone. In the race Newcombe hit an unprotected post at Stowe corner and died in hospital three days later.

I think being so far from home encouraged riders from Australia and even more so New Zealand to enjoy and make the most of paddock life. Two of them Stu Avant and Graeme Crosby were so typical to make the most of their adventure and I was happy to join in with them. I arrived to report on my first ever race at Misano in 1976. I was wandering round the paddock a lost, nervous soul when Stu Avant stopped me to tell his story. He’d arrived for his first race outside New Zealand with his friend Mike Sinclair. At last I was up and running with the story. I became great friends with Stu especially when he was based in England, although as an Oxford boy I could never agree of his support of our great football rivals from Reading.

Finally, while we celebrated with Hugh Anderson last week we also mourned the loss of another true great World Champion. Phil Read is surely the most underrated rider in the 74-year history of our sport. Seven World titles, 52 Grands Prix wins and the first rider to win 125, 250 and 500cc World titles.

 A true Prince of Speed.

By |2022-10-13T08:35:34+00:00October 13th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Such a long way from home

All in the same boat

Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) summed up the situation perfectly before the start of the Grand Prix in Thailand. The good thing is we are all in the same boat the Australian told the cameras as the rain hammered down on the empty grid and the thunder rolled ominously around the Buriram circuit.

You may all be in the same boat Jack, but some including yourself and, in particular, winner Miguel Olivera (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) were pulling the oars a lot harder than others. It is so easy sitting at home watching events unfold on the television early on a Sunday morning.

When the Moto2™ race was stopped after just eight laps as the riders aquaplaned down the main straight, there was a real danger that the MotoGP™ race may not even start as the monsoon-like rain hammered down. While my only worry was, to enjoy one or two boiled eggs for breakfast, the decision if the race should go ahead, how many laps or awarding half World Championship points, like in Moto2™, had to be made.

It was only the fourth time in the 74-year history of Grand Prix racing that half points had been awarded. When the rain abated it was obviously safe to race and only reduced by one lap. It was tricky, to say the least, but rideable.

It was ironic that the monsoon-like rain had been forecast for most of the weekend but hardly touched the MotoGP™ riders in practice and qualifying. So, no real wet time until those warm-up laps before the start of the race. It’s not that the teams and riders are not prepared for these types of conditions when they travel to Asia. There have been plenty of monsoon-like rain falling causing delays and cancellation of practice and qualifying sessions in Sepang, Motegi and what about the race at Mandalika this year? What catches everybody out is when it rains in a country where we are told there will never be a wet track

I remember thinking that somebody must be cleaning the windows of our commentary box at the Lusail International Circuit in Qatar. It just did not cross my mind that it could be rain because I had never seen or heard of rain in Qatar. It was 2009, the second year of the amazing floodlights at the circuit. As the 125cc race started to get underway spots of water appeared on the commentary box window. You could see first the drizzle and then heavier rain falling on the unwetted tarmac through the glare of the floodlights.

The race was stopped after just four laps. Surely this was just a rogue shower but it was like being back home as the rain continued. Andrea Iannone was declared the winner of the 125cc race with half World Championship points being awarded. The rain stopped and the 250cc race, reduced to 13 laps, was won by Hector Barbera who just scrambled through before the drizzle in the glare returned to the middle of the desert. The MotoGP™ race was postponed for a day causing a long night of flight changes and travel plans. Of course, it was dry the next day and Casey Stoner brought Ducati victory in the 22 lap race watched only by marshals and probably a few camels from a safe distance.

It rains in Italy and England but not in the same epic quantity as those Asian venues apart from when MotoGP™ arrives. The long-awaited return to the World Championship for the Misano circuit on the Italian Adriatic coast in 2007 after a 14 year absence hit problems. The first day of practice for the San Marino Grand Prix was scrapped when the circuit, running the opposite direction from its last Grand Prix in 1993, was flooded. We have witnessed plenty of wet races at Silverstone, but it rained so hard four years ago that race day had to be completely cancelled.

Of course, Jack Miller wanted to race in the rain on Sunday especially after his Motegi victory seven days earlier, but he also had an equally important or in some people’s mind even more important reason. Jack admitted he would be in for some real strife if he could not stick to his original travel plans because he was getting married next weekend before Phillip Island in two weeks’ time. Sounds like the Australian just about got it right on both counts. Hopefully, the sun will shine on his wedding day but on Phillip Island, no promises.


By |2022-10-05T16:19:22+00:00October 5th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on All in the same boat
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