Monthly Archives: April 2023

Blood brothers – the feud continues

Was it really eight years ago? Just when we thought it was all over and forgotten, one of the fiercest ever MotoGP™ feuds has returned to the racetrack. Following in the footsteps of their illustrious older brothers Alex Marquez and Luca Marini are at it once again as they fight for family honour. Their immediate goal to become the first ever brothers to win a premier class Grand Prix and ultimately the highest accolade of them all, the MotoGP™ World Championship.

While brothers have shared the premier class podium, won World Championships and Grands Prix in separate classes, we still wait after 74 years but not for much longer. Already this season Alex, younger brother of eight times World Champion Marc Marquez, and Luca, half-brother to nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi, have sampled life on the MotoGP™ podium.

Alex, who grabbed two MotoGP™ podium finishes three years ago, fought through the Argentine rain to finish third on the Gresini Racing Ducati. Last week Luca grabbed his first MotoGP™ podium with a brilliant second place at COTA riding their Mooney VR46 Ducati. Both are Grands Prix winners in the smaller classes and Alex is a Moto3™ and Moto2™ World Champion.

Only on two occasions have brothers finished together on the same premier class podium. In 1962 Juan and Eduardo Salatino entered their home Grand Prix at Buenos Aires in Argentina on their Nortons. They finished second and third respectively behind another home rider Benedicto Caldarella riding a Matchless. Thirty-five years later at the City of Imola Grand Prix in Italy the Aoki family followed suite. Behind World Champion Mick Doohan, Nobuatsu was second and Takuma third. What a racing family with Haruchika finishing fifth in the 500cc race at Mugello in 2001 after winning two 125cc World titles.

Injuries permitting, two sets of brothers could easily return to the MotoGP™ podium together this season, Aleix and Pol Espargaro and Alex and Marc Marquez hopefully will get the chance soon. Last year South African brothers Brad and Darryn Binder who are both Grand Prix winners competed in the premier class.

There are plenty of brothers we remember competing in the premier class. Christian and Dominique Sarron, Nicky and Roger-Lee Hayden, Carlos and David Checa, Mick and Scott Doohan, Kenny and Kurtis Roberts, Bernard and Marc Garcia and Eugene and Michael Laverty, but some of the others in the smaller classes have long been forgotten.

Fifteen times World Champion Giacomo Agostini younger brother Felice competed in both 125 and 350cc Grands Prix. Felice finished fifth in the 1978 125cc Spanish Grand Prix. William De Angelis, brother of Alex, was 12th in the 1999 Imola 125cc Grand Prix race while Mika Kallio’s younger brother Vesa was 15th in the 125cc race at the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix. While we easily recall the exploits of the Aoyama, Salonen, Bolle, Nieto, Pons, Sayle, Oncu, Van de Goorbergh and Pesek brothers there are other who have been virtually anonymous. World Champion Walter Villa’s older brother Francesco took two third 125cc places in the fifties. Alex Barros’s brother Cesar competed in 125 and 250cc Grands Prix. Jose and 350cc World Champion Johnny Cecotto competed in Grands Prix and in more recent times Tarran and Taylor Mackenzie.

Yes, it really was eight years ago when Valentino and Marc fought for victory in Argentina and Malaysia, exchanging paintwork, words and plenty more on the way.

There is nothing like a good old family feud to get the blood flowing.

By |2023-04-27T08:26:05+00:00April 27th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Blood brothers – the feud continues

Rins and Cecchinello; a very special bond

Before the extraordinary events in the Texan sunshine on Sunday I remembered the careers of Alex Rins and Lucio Cecchinello in separate ways. It was only when they came together for that historic win in Austin I realised they had so much in common. The ability to fight against the odds and adversity to come out at the top

Without a doubt my number one memory of Lucio was when his LCR Honda team provided Cal Crutchlow with a MotoGP™ winning machine to become the first British rider to win a Premier class Grand Prix for 35 years. I was at Anderstorp in Sweden to witness Barry Sheene bring Yamaha victory in 1981. I waited and waited for a repeat but in the end gave up hope it would happen in my lifetime until Brno in the Czech Republic in 2016. Cal went on to win again at Phillip Island the same year and in Argentina two years.

My undying memory of Alex was in Valencia last year. The final race of the season and the final race for the Suzuki Grand Prix team and what a send-off he gave them to bow out with victory and honour. Three years earlier he had brought them wins at COTA and Silverstone and a year later in Aragon. Last year after Suzuki announced their withdrawal at the end of the season he won at Phillip Island before that Valencia finale.

Lucio was a top 125cc Grand Prix rider. Riding for his own team he won seven Grands Prix. He finished fourth in the World Championship on two occasions and his last grand prix win came in 2003 with a very special victory at Mugello. He was a massive cog in the Grand Prix career of double World Champion Casey Stoner, first in the 250cc class where they finished second in the World Championship after five Grand Prix wins. He then stepped up with Stoner into MotoGP™ before the Australian joined Ducati and the rest is history.

Alex also came up through the smaller classes. What a fight for the 2014 Moto3™ World title with Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP) and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and a year earlier with Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing) and Luis Salom. Eight Grand Prix wins brought second and third places in the Championship. It was the same story in Moto2™ where four wins gave him second and third places in the Championship before joining MotoGP™ with Suzuki in 2017.

Lucio’s LCR team celebrated the 100th podium in the Grand Prix paddock with MotoGP™ victory on Sunday. Alex had already become the first rider to win Moto3™. Moto2™ and MotoGP™ races at COTA.  He is also the first rider to win two MotoGP™ races at the Texan circuit. The other, a certain Marc Marquez, with those seven wins.  Alex also joins Valentino Rossi, Max Biaggi and Maverick Vinales as the only riders to win on two makes of Japanese machinery in the MotoGP™ era. Both are remarkable achievements for the Italian team owner and Spanish rider, and one manufacturer in particular should be so grateful.

It was Honda’s first MotoGP™ win since Marc Marquez brought them victory on the Repsol factory machine at that second Grand Prix at Misano back in October 2021. While bringing Honda some much needed success, Rins’s second MotoGP™ win at COTA was bad news for the Rossi family. In 2019 Alex pipped Valentino Rossi by less than half a second to claim victory. On Sunday he beat Valentino’s half-brother Luca Marini to the chequered flag. It was Marini’s first MotoGP™ podium finish.

That first Honda win for 593 days may have come from an unlikely source and Marini surely will win his first Grand Prix this season, but this was an afternoon to savour in Texas.


By |2023-04-23T08:58:27+00:00April 23rd, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Rins and Cecchinello; a very special bond

Two true World Champions who fought for the future

For the majority of us mere mortals, just winning a world title would be enough, but for two true World Champions from different decades, it was not. 12 world titles and 139 Grands Prix wins were not enough for legends Kenny Roberts and Valentino Rossi. Resting on their laurels was just not in their DNA. Kenny and Vale cared so much about a sport that had brought them fame and fortune, they fought to ensure future generations would benefit in the same way.

Vale brought such a brand-new audience to MotoGP™ with his riding, tricks and charm but even at the height of his fame, he was concerned about the future of his sport in Italy. The lack of Italian success and even riders in the smaller classes that had always been the breeding ground for future MotoGP™ stars was a worry. Instead of moaning, the nine-time World Champion did something about it. He formed the VR46 Academy, built the legendary training ranch at his Tavullia home, and fronted his own Grand Prix team. His support and belief in those young riders under his care has brought incredible results. When Marco Bezzecchi brought the Mooney VR46 Racing Team their first-ever MotoGP™ win in Argentina last week, it was the 17th time a rider from the VR46 Academy had won a Premier class Grand Prix.

Kenny revolutionized Grand Prix racing both on and off the track. He was never going to disappear forever onto the nearest golf course. The man who won three World 500cc titles and 24 Grands Prix. The Champion who smashed the European domination of Grand Prix racing with a sliding style never witnessed before, honed on the dirt tracks of America. A riders champion who took on the authorities in a battle for improved safety and prize money. He could have disappeared onto the first tee never to be seen again, but he didn’t

Instead, he led his own race team. First in the 250cc class with Wayne Rainey and Alan Carter and then into the 500cc premier class with the likes of Rainey, John Kocinski and Randy Mamola. Kenny built dirt track training circuits at his Ranch in his hometown of Salinas in California and at the new Grand Prix circuit in Barcelona.

Despite all the success at World Championship level for the likes of Kenny, Rainey, Spencer, and Lawson who were household names in Europe, they were virtually unknown back home across the Atlantic. I remember visiting Eddie Lawson back home in California when he switched from Yamaha to Honda. He was already a three-time 500cc World Champion, but his friends asked me over dinner one night what exactly Eddie did for a living. Kenny just could not understand why their World Championship achievements were not recognised by a patriotic nation. In 1993 he put in a massive effort to help organise the American Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, spearheaded by the three times Champion Rainey

Just one week before Laguna, Wayne was paralysed in that horrendous crash at Misano. Kenny was decimated but continued his crusade. Four years after the Rainey crash, he set up his own Grand Prix team based in England. It was tough, very tough, first in the two-stroke and then four-stroke eras. Pole position on the 500cc two-stroke ridden by Jeremy McWilliams was the highlight. In the end lack of sponsorship brought his dream to an end but he was rewarded in 2000 when his son Kenny won the 500cc title for Suzuki. The only premier class father and son duo to win world titles.

It’s a rare and encouraging story in the money-driven World of modern-day sport. Two true World Champions both on and off the track who cared about future.

By |2023-04-12T20:23:12+00:00April 12th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Two true World Champions who fought for the future

Sometimes it’s great to just be a MotoGP™ fan

Ok, I raise my hands and I admit I was wrong to have any doubts. Easy to be honest after the event but I was not totally convinced that the new Saturday Tissot Sprint race was a step in the right direction for the MotoGP™ World Championship. Those first two Sprints in Portugal and Argentina pushed those doubts into the clouds and way beyond because they were sensational.

When your hair goes from grey to white like mine you start questioning any major changes to a Championship that appears to be going on very comfortably. Why add something to such a successful and exciting format I remember thinking. None of us like change but instead of thinking like a grumpy old journalist who had been round the paddock for almost four decades I realised after watching Brad Binder’s victory that I was now starting to enjoy 12 laps of pure theatre through the eyes of a proper MotoGP™ fan. The South African’s ride on the Red Bull factory KTM from 15th on the grid to a race win was as good as it gets. Together with the battle in Portugal between Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin for the top step on the new podium I was totally hooked. Those 12 World Championship points awarded to the Sprint race winner every Saturday will be as hard earned as the 25 that go to the Grand Prix winner the next day

Those early Grands Prix could last over three hours compared to the just under 19 minutes it took World Champion Bagnaia to win in Portugal. Scotsman Bob McIntyre won the 1957 500cc TT race for Gilera in three hours 02.57s. 485.768 kms, eight laps of the Mountain circuit at an average speed of 159.312 km/h. That was a long time ago and the world and sport has changed so dramatically.

Other sports have changed their formats and lengths to meet the demands of the modern World. I remember once organising for Kenny Roberts to stop on the grid before stepping onto the podium after winning the Austrian Grand Prix at the Salzburging to speak live to the BBC back in London. Kenny duly won the race and stopped to speak into the microphone only to be asked by the producer through the headphone if he minded waiting a couple of minutes while they took reports from a couple of cricket grounds. Kenny certainly minded but waited and conducted the interview while the Star-Spangled Banner had to wait. Kenny pointed out to me afterwards, as only Kenny could, that cricket was a game that could last five whole days and not produce a result. Today no other sport has adjusted to the demands of the modern World and especially television coverage more than cricket. Half day and one day games have not replaced but run alongside the traditional five-day games. The interest and worldwide television audiences have exploded. Golf and tennis are always discussing making shorter games for modern audiences.

I realise that the new Sprint races can produce extra problems for the teams, riders and tyre manufacturers but for spectators and television it’s perfect. The traditional Grand Prix race on Sunday with that short sharp taster on Saturday. Nothing too complicated to cloud the mind but two straight battles for World Championship points.

I love it, it is great to be just a proper MotoGP™ fan.


By |2023-04-06T12:29:24+00:00April 6th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Sometimes it’s great to just be a MotoGP™ fan
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