Monthly Archives: March 2023

Rip up those record books Pecco

What an explosive start to the season by the World Champion. The most points ever scored in a Grand Prix weekend and the chance to rip up the record books for Pecco Bagnaia.

Not for the last nine years has the winner of the opening Grand Prix of the season gone on to win the MotoGP™ World Championship. It was back in 2014 that reigning World Champion Marc Marquez riding the Repsol Honda won the opening race of the 18 round World Championship in Qatar. Since then that opening Grand Prix winner has not gone on to grab the ultimate prize. In 74 years of Grand Prix racing the opening race Premier class winner has only gone on to win the World title on 35 separate occasions. Twelve of those belong to just two riders

For the last three years the rider commencing his World MotoGP Championship campaign has not even finished on the podium at the opening round. Both Joan Mir in 2020 and Bagnaia last year did not finish their first races while Fabio Quartararo was fifth in 2021.

It surely comes as no great surprise that two Italian legends who dominated their respective decades of Grand Prix racing lead the charts. Both of them also started successful World Championship campaigns by winning the opening race on different makes of machines. Giacomo Agostini did it six times on the MV Agusta and then brought Yamaha their first ever Premier class title in 1975. His modern day counterpart Valentino Rossi split his five opening day Championship campaigns between Honda and Yamaha.

Harold Daniell won that first ever Premier class Grand Prix at the 1949 TT races on the Isle of Man, but it was Les Graham who became the first ever World Champion. It was another seven years before the winner of the opening race became World Champion. John Surtees brought MV Agusta success at the TT and then the World title in 1956. The only man to win World titles on two and four wheels went on to do it three more times.

Mike Hailwood did it three times for the all-conquering MV team, not surprisingly at the TT but also twice at Daytona in America in 1964/65. Barry Sheene won the opening round twice to kick-start successful 500cc campaigns at his beloved San Carlos in Venezuela and Le Mans. Surprisingly multi–World Champions Kenny Roberts, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Rainey and Eddie Lawson only did it once while five times World Champion Mick Doohan only twice at home in Eastern Creek and Shah Alam in Malaysia. Fellow Australian Casey Stoner won the opening round in Qatar twice and then brought World titles to both Ducati and Honda in 2007/11. Jorge Lorenzo brought Yamaha success in Qatar in 2012 leading on to his second MotoGP™ title. Two years later the reigning World Champion Marquez won the opening round under Losail floodlights and went on to retain his title

Also, what a ride by Maverick Vinales on the factory  Aprilia at Portimao. At one point I thought he was going join a very exclusive club. A rider who has won a premier class Grand Prix on three different makes of machines. Four times World Champion Eddie Lawson won Grands Prix for Yamaha, Honda and Cagiva. Mike Hailwood brought Grand Prix victories to Norton, MV Augusta and Honda but the other two in the club never won a premier class title. Randy Mamola brought Grands Prix success to Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda while Loris Capirossi’s nine 500cc/MotoGP™ wins came on Yamaha, Honda and Ducati machinery.

Records are up there to be matched or beaten. Both Pecco and Maverick have every chance and intention of doing just that after a breathtaking start to their campaigns. It would take a brave person to bet against them.


By |2023-03-31T07:45:20+00:00March 31st, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Rip up those record books Pecco

No snow forecast for Portugal

After the opening round in Jerez Loris Capirossi led the MotoGP™ World Championship for the first time. Ducati, who led the Constructors Championship for the first time, together with Bridgestone won their first race at the Spanish circuit. Capirossi for only the second time in his MotoGP™ career grabbed pole and won the race. Dani Pedrosa made his MotoGP™ debut and finished second. The late great Nicky Hayden was crowned World Champion at the end of the season and Italy won the World Cup.

The year was 2006. The last time the opening round of the MotoGP™ World Championship officially started in Europe. 17 long and eventful years later the curtain raises on the MotoGP™ stage back in Europe at Portimao in Portugal

That opening round is always long awaited and so special. For those 17 years it was the Losail International Circuit in Qatar that had the privilege to raise the curtain and switch on the lights although in 2020 the MotoGP™ class had to start in Jerez because of Covid restrictions. The season officially started in Qatar with just Moto3™ and Moto2™.

The 2020 season with those Covid restrictions was a nightmare and brought back memories of my first year as a Grand Prix reporter in 1980. Both opening rounds were cancelled for very different reasons. Lack of money brought the demise of the Venezuelan Grand Prix as I was about to book my tickets to San Carlos. I had booked my flights for the new opening round at the Salzburgring in Austria. Only a phone call from Barry Sheene telling me you could not even get into the snowbound paddock let alone race 500cc Grand Prix motorcycles kept me at home. We did get to Austria a year later for the opening round although the first day of practice was cancelled because of snow.

Then MotoGP™ spread its wings and took on the world with some incredible opening round venues. In 1982 Kenny Roberts won a classic battle with Barry Sheene and a young Freddie Spencer at Buenos Aires in Argentina just three days before the start of the Falkland’s war. A year later we pricked our conscience by going to Apartheid-ridden South Africa. We returned to Kyalami for the next two years happy that we had continually broken the Apartheid laws and restrictions. In 1986 Jarama was the last European circuit to host the opening round for 19 years as the spotlight settled on Suzuka in Japan. For many of us the 1987 Grand Prix was our first ever trip to Japan. We soon got used to it with the Suzuka circuit staging the opening round for the next six years. I think with Japanese bikes dominating, it was the perfect venue to start the proceedings.

The globetrotting continued at now-forgotten venues such as Eastern Creek in Australia and Shah Alam in Malaysia, plus brand new Sepang and Welkom in South Africa. Who will ever forget that opening round at Welkom in 2004 when Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi locked horns in such a personal Yamaha/Honda confrontation that set the tone for the season and beyond?

Qatar took over the mantle in 2007 and a year later produced the first ever Grand Prix to be staged under floodlights. It was a truly amazing spectacle that was a pioneer in World Championship motorsport racing under floodlights. I remember flying into Doha over the dark desert that was suddenly a blaze of light with 3600 bulbs illuminating an area the size of 70 football pitches below. What an introduction to the new season when the big red sun dropped beneath the desert skyline and the lights slowly came to life to illuminate  the sky accompanied by the symphony of sound from a booming four-stroke engines orchestra

So, surely no snow in Portugal this weekend and no Covid restrictions or financial problems, as MotoGP starts its latest chapter in Europe where it all started on the Isle of Man 74 years ago.


By |2023-03-24T10:03:07+00:00March 24th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on No snow forecast for Portugal
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