Monthly Archives: November 2022

Rather a good way to earn a living

I am sure those exhausted global MotoGP™ travellers spending their first proper weekend at home for many a month would not agree now, but it will not be long before they start getting itchy feet. Enjoy and overindulge over Christmas and the New Year with family and friends but then your mind wanders. Whether you are a gladiator, team manager, mechanic, journalist, commentator, circuit builder, cook or doctor you will be thinking, and then planning, 2023.

You see whatever your role, circumnavigating the globe supporting such a fantastic World Championship is a rather good way to earn a living. Of course, there is the racing, after all, that is why you are there but there is so much more. Discovering new countries and cultures in places and areas you would never dream of going to. Next season is a prime example with two new countries staging MotoGP™ races for the very first time. Kazakhstan and India are included in the 21 Grands Prix schedule that visits 18 countries in a frantic eight months. In July the central Asian Sokol International circuit in Kazakhstan stages its first Grand Prix. Over two months later the Buddh circuit becomes the 75th circuit to stage a Grand Prix when India becomes the 31st country to stage a World Championship race

My first Grand Prix outside Europe was in Argentina in 1982. The record books will illustrate a fantastic 500cc race between two great World Champions Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene with a young Freddie Spencer spearheading the return of Honda in third place. Equally, I remember so much more. Our 1500km Che Guevara style motorcycle trip across the Pampas to the border of Chile high in the Andes. Stumbling across thousands of mothers in a Buenos Aires square protesting about the disappearance of their sons, – Los Desaparecidos. Two days after we flew back to London war was declared between Britain and Argentina.

Five years later the first Brazilian Grand Prix was held at Goiania. I was dispatched by the BBC to the City, where just two weeks before, the Grand Prix had made world headlines because of a radiation leak. What a trip. Wayne Gardner became the first Australian to win the 500cc World Championship. I persuaded the Chief of Police to provide Wayne with an armed escort to my commentary position for the first interview. The Zoom Zoom club, where the owner fired a gun into the ceiling to open the proceedings proved the perfect place to celebrate.

Early in 1987, I travelled to Japan for the first time for the opening round of the World Championship at Suzuka. It was the first ever 500cc Grand Prix in Japan and how I loved reporting on Niall Mackenzie’s pole position, but it was the meeting of Mr Fax in the media centre that proved the highlight. For years we had spent so many late Sunday nights and early Monday mornings typing out reports and results often from six World Championship races and then telexing and phoning them back to London. We just would not believe Mr Fax when he put the results and reports into his machine and magically, they arrived in London. Life in the media centre was revolutionized with the press of a button.

Those first Grands Prix visits to America were fantastic. Admitting that Kenny Roberts had been right, not something you ever wanted to do, about the fearsome Corkscrew bend at Laguna Seca. Stunned by the sheer size and history when driving through the tunnel into the towering Indianapolis Speedway. Smiling when the circuit dog escaped and delayed practice at the Circuit of the Americas.

So, what a way to earn a living. I promise you it can and often did take over your complete life and that is where the most important part of the whole equation comes in. While you are circumnavigating the globe doing something you love so much spare a thought for those left a home. No meals out every night. No great rushes of adrenaline, no such fulfilment and enjoyment at what you are doing. Instead, taking the kids to school, checking all the bills are paid and constantly apologising for your absence at so many weddings, funerals, and birthday parties. Preparing the washing machine for a bumper load of dirty clothes on your return to name but a few of the ‘highlights’ in your absence.

We are the lucky ones. Those back at home are the real heroes. They have probably already bought their loved ones the Lonely Planet Guides for Kazakhstan and India to fill their Christmas stockings.


By |2022-11-17T13:51:12+00:00November 17th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Rather a good way to earn a living

Pecco’s half century record that evaded Vale

World Champion Pecco Bagnaia and Ducati joined a very exclusive club on Sunday. A club that even Valentino Rossi is not a member of. A club that boasts members from just two countries since it was founded 74 years ago. A club that boasted just five riders until Valencia on Sunday.

That Italian passion and pride just flows like a gushing overflowing river when it comes to sport. Anybody in that sell-out crowd at Valencia on Sunday would endorse just what Bagnaia’s world title meant to a nation. A country starved of a MotoGP™ title for 13 long dark years. A country still reeling from Rossi’s retirement. A country that has not celebrated a World Champion riding an Italian motorcycle for 15 years and the longest wait of them all, an Italian rider riding an Italian motorcycle to a premier class title

How appropriate it was to see both Italian legends Giacomo Agostini and Rossi in the Ducati garage at the Ricardo Tormo circuit. Vale, the last Italian MotoGP™ World Champion back in 2009. Ago, the last Italian rider to win the premier class on an Italian machine 50 years ago. Yes, half a century ago way back in 1972. Vale tried but failed in his two seasons with Ducati. Stoner won Ducati’s only other MotoGP™ Championship riding the 800cc machine but of course, he is Australian. It is an amazing fact that just two countries have produced premier class World Champions riding machinery built in their country. Since Grand Prix racing began in 1949 only Italy and Great Britain have achieved such a feat. Others and especially Japan have tried but still wait to join the exclusive double club.

It will be no great surprise that Italy leads the way. The combination of superb innovative engineering and brilliant riders had brought them that unique double ten times before Sunday. The Italian membership of the club opened in 1950, just the second year of the World Championship, when Umberto Masetti brought Gilera the 500cc title. He was crowned Champion again two years later riding the magnificent four-cylinder 500cc Gilera. It was Gilera in 1957 with Libero Liberati taking the title.

Nine years later Ago and MV Agusta simply took over. For seven years between 1966 -1972, they dominated the 500cc Championship. His former team-mate Mike Hailwood and Honda tried to knock them off their perch but failed. MV continued to win but with Phil Read in the saddle. Ago went to Yamaha and brought them the first two-stroke 500cc title. The only rider to come close to the double during those 50 years before Sunday was Loris Capirossi. In 2006 the 125 and 250cc World Champion led the Championship going into the seventh round riding the Ducati in Barcelona. His Championship lead disappeared in a multi-bike first-bend crash and Loris eventually finished third in the title race behind Nicky Hayden and Rossi.

British success came a long time ago. The very first 500cc World Champion Les Graham won the 1949 title riding a British-built single cylinder AJS. Two years later Geoff Duke won on Norton before switching to Gilera and that was that.

When the two-strokes arrived and when the Championship returned to the four-strokes two decades ago it is Japanese machinery that have ruled the roost. Only Ducati broke the sequence in 2007 until Valencia on Sunday. The Japanese manufacturers have been desperate to find the Japanese rider who could match their engineers’ brilliance but they are still waiting. Tadayuki Okada came the closest in 1997 when he finished second behind Honda team-mate Mick Doohan. He was third two years later behind Alex Criville and Kenny Roberts. Hideo Kanaya was the first Japanese 500cc Grand Prix winner when he won the 1975 Austrian Grand Prix for Yamaha. Norick Abe, Makoto Tamada and Tohru Ukawa won 500cc Grands Prix but never really challenged for the title. Tragically Honda’s title challenger 250cc World Champion Daijiro Kato lost his life at the opening 2003 round at Suzuka.

So, can anybody join Italy and Great Britain next season? Looking at the 2023 entry list that was revealed last week the answer is no. As I said at the start Pecco Bagnaia and Ducati joined a very exclusive club on Sunday. Membership is extremely limited.


By |2022-11-10T09:22:35+00:00November 10th, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Pecco’s half century record that evaded Vale

Final Race Showdown

Since the motorcycle Grand Prix world championship series was introduced in 1949 there have been eighteen occasions previously that the premier-class title has been decided at the final race of the year. A few details of these final race showdowns are given here:

1950 – Going to the final race of the year at his home race at Monza, Umberto Masetti riding a four-cylinder Gilera had a marginal lead in the championship over Geoff Duke riding a single-cylinder Norton. Geoff Duke won the race, but Masetti did just enough by finishing second to clinch the title by a single point.

1952 – Again Umberto Masetti arrived at the final race of the year with a narrow lead in the title chase, over the 1949 champion Les Graham (MV Agusta) and Irishman Reg Armstrong (Norton). Les Graham won the race which took place over 48 laps of the Montjuich circuit in Barcelona, but once again Masetti did enough to clinch the title by finishing second.

1957 – Libero Liberati (Gilera) won the final race of the year at Monza to take the title from Bob McIntyre (Gilera). Liberati had crossed the line first at the Belgium GP earlier in the year, but had been disqualified for changing his machine without notifying the officials. After the end of the season Liberati was re-instated as winner of the Belgium GP, meaning he had in retrospect won the world title before arriving in Italy for the final race.

1966 – Two of the greatest rivals of all time Mike Hailwood (Honda) and Giacomo Agostini (MV Agusta) were neck and neck arriving at the final race of the year at Monza. The two rivals battled for the lead early in the race until Hailwood’s Honda failed, allowing Agostini to cruise home to take the first of his eight 500cc world titles.

1967 – In a repeat of the previous year, Hailwood and Agostini went into the final race still battling for the championship as the grand prix competitors visited Canada for the one and only time. Hailwood won the race to give him the same points total as Agostini, each having won five races. Agostini took the title due to his three second place finishes to Hailwood’s two.

1975 – Giacomo Agostini was once again involved in a final race shoot-out with a British rider, this time it was Phil Read, who had taken over as the number one rider at MV-Agusta and won the title for the previous two years. Read won the final race of the year at Brno but Agostini  riding a Yamaha cruised home in second place, to clinch the title and become the first rider ever to win the premier-class crown on both two-stroke and four-stroke bikes.

1978 – Kenny Roberts (Yamaha) had just an eight point lead over Barry Sheene (Suzuki) going into the final race of the year at the old 22 km Nurburgring circuit. Roberts finished in third place, just ahead of Sheene, to become the first American rider ever to win the premier-class title.

1979 – Kenny Roberts once again arrived for the final race of the year battling with a Suzuki rider for the world title, this time young Italian Virginio Ferrari, at the Le Mans circuit. After leading in the early stages of the race Ferrari crashed out, which gifted the title to Roberts for the second year running.

1980 – For the third successive year a Suzuki rider was challenging Kenny Roberts for the world title, this time it was fellow American Randy Mamola and the circuit was once again the old Nurburgring circuit, the final time that this famous track was used for Grand Prix racing. Even though Mamola led the race in the early stages, Roberts always looked the favourite to take the title having only to finish in eighth place or higher. Mamola’s challenge evaporated mid-way through the race when he was slowed with mechanical problems.

1981 – For the second successive year Randy Mamola arrived at the final race of the year, this time held at the Swedish Anderstorp circuit, with a chance of the title. Marco Lucchinelli was the rider leading the classification and he needed to finish fifth or higher to take the championship if Mamola won the race. The race was held in mixed conditions with light rain falling and after leading early in the race Mamola fell steadily back through the pack and out of the points while Lucchinelli cruised home to a safe ninth to take the title.

1983 – Freddie Spencer (Honda) had a five point advantage on Kenny Roberts (Yamaha) when they arrived at the final race of 1983. Throughout the race, held at the Imola circuit, Roberts attempted to slow Spencer down to allow his team-mate Lawson to catch up and possibly finish ahead of Spencer. At the final flag Spencer managed to take the second place needed to clinch the title and become the first Honda rider to win the 500cc crown.

1989 – Once again two American riders arrived at the final race of the year with a chance of the title, this time it was Eddie Lawson (Honda) and Wayne Rainey (Yamaha). Lawson finished second in the race to clinch the title after a tremendous battle with Rainey and fellow American Kevin Schwantz who won the race.

1992 – Mick Doohan (Honda) suffered severe injuries in a crash during practice at round eight at Assen by which time he had a 65 point lead over Wayne Rainey (Yamaha). When Doohan returned to compete at the final two races of the year, still far from fully fit, Rainey had reduced the lead considerably so that when they arrived at Kyalami in South Africa for the final race of the year Doohan had just a two point advantage. In spite of Doohan’s heroic efforts to finish in sixth, Rainey took a safe third place to win the title by four points.

1993 – Strictly speaking this was the last time that the 500cc title went to the last race of the year with Kevin Schwantz (Suzuki) leading Wayne Rainey by 18 points. However in reality Schwantz had won the title two races previously at the Italian GP when Wayne Rainey suffered a crashed that ended his racing career.

2006 – Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) arrived at the final race of the year with an eight point advantage of closest rival Nicky Hayden (Honda). Troy Bayliss, standing in for injured Sete Gibernau, won the MotoGP race in front of Ducati team-mate Loris Capirossi in a first ever one-two for the Ducati factory. Nicky Hayden filled the final podium place to become the last world champion of the 990cc era, after Valentino Rossi had crashed on lap five and re-started to finish 13th.

2013 – Marc Marquez had a thirteen point lead over Jorge Lorenzo arriving in Valencia for the final race of the year. Lorenzo won the race, but Marquez finished third to clinch the title in his Rookie season in the MotoGP class.

2015 – Valentino Rossi led team-mate Jorge Lorenzo by seven points arriving in Valencia. Lorenzo won the race with Rossi 4th after starting from the back of the grid for accumulating four penalty points, giving the title to Lorenzo by 5 points.

2017 – Marc Marquez had a 21 point advantage over Andrea Dovizioso arriving in Valencia. After a scare when he ran off the circuit, Marquez finished 3rd and won the title, with Dovizioso crashing out in the late stages of the race.


By |2022-11-03T16:54:27+00:00November 3rd, 2022|Martin Raines Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Final Race Showdown

Swinging sixties – not always that simple

I would never pretend to be a mathematician, but it does not take a rocket scientist to work out how the MotoGP™ World Championship will be decided on Sunday. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) must score at least two points to be crowned World Champion. Even if Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) wins the 27-lap race at Valencia, a 14th place finish for Pecco will be enough because, if they tied on points, the Italian has won more Grands Prix this year.  If Pecco does not finish the race, Fabio must win to retain his title. It has not always been that easy to work out.

The swinging sixties may have been an exciting time for music lovers and English football fans, but it could be more than a little complicated if you were involved in Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Actually, working out who was the World Champion at the end of the season could test those mathematical skills. The problem was not all Grands Prix results counted towards the final Championship tally. Two world title deciders at the final round were perfect examples of just how complicated it could be for everybody involved.

In 1967 the only Grand Prix staged in Canada was held at the 3.956 km Mosport circuit. The 40-lap 158.240 km 500cc race was the final round of the Championship. In those days, only the riders’ best six results in the ten-round Championship counted towards their final total. Mike Hailwood was desperate to give Honda their first 500cc world title before they withdrew from the Championship. He won the race from World Champion Giacomo Agostini riding the MV Agusta. Adding up their best six results gave them both 46 points. Then the fun and games started. The Championship would be awarded to the rider who had won the most Grands Prix in the season. The problem was that Agostini and Hailwood had won five apiece. The title finally went to current Champion Agostini because he’d finished second on three occasions, one better than Hailwood. Honda had to wait 16 years for a certain Freddie Spencer, and a two-stroke before that 500cc title came their way

A year later the 250cc World Championship faced a similar conundrum. After the final round at Monza Yamaha team-mates, in name only, Phil Read and Bill Ivy ended up with 46 points apiece. Only their best six results in the ten-round Championship counted toward their final tally. Like Agostini and Hailwood the previous year both had won five Grands Prix apiece but then it became more complicated. Both had finished second on two occasions but never third. The title was finally awarded to Read after adding up their respective race times in Grands Prix they had completed.

On Sunday it will only be the 19th time the Premier class at the World Championship has been decided at the final round in 74 years. In hindsight, a couple of those races could come off the list. In 1957 Libero Liberati riding the Gilera won the final race at Monza to take the title from team-mate Bob McIntyre. Earlier in the year Liberati had crossed the line in first place at the Belgium Grand Prix but was disqualified for changing his machine without notifying the officials. After the end of the season, Liberati was re-instated as the winner in Belgium, meaning he had in retrospect won the title before that nerve-wracking final round

Strictly speaking, the last time the 500cc World Championship was decided at the final round was in 1993. Kevin Schwantz led Wayne Rainey by 18 points going into the final round at Jarama. However, Kevin had won the title two Grands Prix earlier when Wayne was seriously injured after crashing during the Italian GP at Misano.

It’s a massive ask for Fabio to retain his title on Sunday. Only on three occasions in those 18 final race deciders has the rider on the start line with less points taken the title. The Frenchman would join Rainey, Nicky Hayden and Jorge Lorenzo if he pulled it off at Valencia. A trio of iconic World Champions who never gave up the fight.


By |2022-11-02T20:01:52+00:00November 2nd, 2022|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Swinging sixties – not always that simple
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