Monthly Archives: September 2023

Dani brings back memories of Japanese wildcards!

I blame the incredible performance of Dani Pedrosa in Misano and Jerez for bringing back memories of Japanese wildcards. I loved going to Japan but often dreaded commentating. Pronunciation of names was one aspect of the job I never found easy and that is putting it mildly! Going into that crucial Grand Prix at Motegi on Sunday Cal Crutchlow as the wildcard for Yamaha would not have caused a problem but it was not always the case. Not only were their Japanese wildcards to get my head round but they often won the races. Some of these riders went on to become World Champions and Championship contenders. Others just disappeared, while one career ended in tragedy.

On my very first visit to Japan in 1987 at Suzuka I got a clear indication of what lay ahead. Masaru Kobayashi won the 250cc race at the Japanese Grand Prix for Honda and then almost disappeared from sight. He finished third at Suzuka a year later. They were the only World Championship points he ever scored. Fifteen years later Osamu Miyazaki won the 250cc race at Suzuka as a wildcard entry riding a Yamaha. Second place went to the Honda of Daisaku Sakai scoring his only ever World Championship points

Other Japanese wildcard entries went onto greater things. Daijiro Kato won the 250cc race at Suzuka in 1997 and 1998 before embarking on a Championship winning career. He won the 2001 250cc World Championship for the Gresini Honda team before tragically losing his life when he crashed in the 2003 MotoGP™ race at Suzuka. The lovable Nobby Ueda won the 1991 125cc race at Suzuka on his Grand Prix debut. He raced for the next 11 years and finished second in the 125cc World Championship on two occasions.

Takumi Ito finished third in the first ever Premier class Japanese Grand Prix riding the V4 Suzuki in 1987. Eight years later Takumi Aoki was third on his Premier class debut. In 2002, the first-ever, history-making four-stroke MotoGP™ race was won by Valentino Rossi, Akira Ryo brought Suzuki second place on a historic afternoon.

The only wildcard or rider replacement winner in the modern MotoGP™ era came in 2006, but it almost went unnoticed. While the world focused on the Nicky Hayden/Valentino Rossi fight for the Championship at a dramatic final round in Valencia, history was made. The World Superbike Champion Australian Troy Bayliss returned to MotoGP™ replacing the injured Sete Gibernau at Ducati. He won the race from Loris Capirossi giving Ducati their first Grand Prix one two. Can history be repeated in Malaysia next month?

World Superbike Champion Alvaro Bautista returns to MotoGP™ to ride for the Ducati Lenovo team as a wildcard. Bautista has won both 125 and 250cc Grands Prix at the Sepang circuit and will be up for the fight.

Great to see Cal Crutchlow and a British rider back in Grand Prix action at Motegi on Sunday. He finished second there in 2018 riding the LCR Honda. It’s been a tough year for Yamaha, but a little bit of rain could make a big difference – ask Olivier Jacque. In 2005, a year before Bayliss’s historic win, out of the blue he came close to beating Valentino Rossi in China. Replacing the injured Alex Hoffman in the Kawasaki team, the former 250cc World Champion eventually finished second 1.7 s behind World Champion Rossi in the rain.

It can rain at Motegi and I would have no problem pronouncing the winner’s name.


By |2023-09-27T21:37:38+00:00September 27th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Dani brings back memories of Japanese wildcards!

A giant step for MotoGP™ into a new world!

This weekend is so much more than racing at a new venue. MotoGP™ takes a giant step forward when it travels to India for the very first time. A journey into an explosive new world and culture, to a country with the fastest-growing major economy. A journey to a country with the largest population of any other in the world. A population of almost one and a half billion people which is one-sixth of the population of the whole world. It’s hardly surprising that Indian riders buy more motorcycles than any other country in the world. The Indian public are sports mad. Cricket is their great love, and it was estimated a television audience of nearly one billion viewers worldwide watched a World Cup encounter with rivals Pakistan

International Motorsport is popular from a distance. The Indian Formula One Grand Prix was staged at the same Buddh International Circuit, which hosts MotoGP™, between 2011 – 2013. The legendary F1 designer Hermann Tilke designed the circuit. There were Indian drivers in the World Championship plus a Silverstone-based Indian team. International motorcycle racing makes its debut over the weekend. The World Superbike Championship was scheduled to hold Indian rounds in 2012 and 2013 but logistical problems caused their cancellation. There has always been a hard core of national races and championships at circuits such as Sholavaram from the mid-1960s and the Sriperumbudur race circuit which was built in the early 1990s.

However, it was the Mahindra Engineering Company that brought MotoGP™ to the Indian public for the first time. They raced in the 125cc and Moto3™ classes between 2011 and 2017 with plenty of success. MotoGP™ World Champion and Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) won two races in 2016 for the Mahindra Moto3™ team. In addition to his wins at Assen and Sepang, he also started the British Grand Prix from pole position the same year. Danny Webb started the last ever 125cc Grand Prix from pole in Valencia in 2011. Miguel Oliveira (CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP™ Team) started from pole on the Mahindra at Assen in 2013. Others who rode for the Mahindra factory included 2021 Moto2™ World Champion Remy Gardner and 2016 Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Mahindra have continued racing internationally on four wheels competing in the FIA Formula E World Championship.

It was never going to be easy for Indian riders to take the massive step up into international racing. The only Indian rider to compete in the modern Grand Prix era was Sarath Kumar. He finished twenty-fourth in the 125cc race at the 2011 Portuguese Grand Prix but failed to qualify in Qatar and Spain. This weekend is sure to whet the appetite for more to make the journey with the support of the Indian public.

Of course, there will be logistical problems at a new venue over the weekend, especially with the next Grand Prix in Japan so close, but this is an opportunity that MotoGP™ simply must not miss. The chance to showcase and expand the sport into one of the biggest economic markets in the world.  It promises to be one of the most important weekends in the 74-year history of Grand Prix racing both on and off the track.


By |2023-09-20T20:39:48+00:00September 20th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on A giant step for MotoGP™ into a new world!

The Godfather of MotoGP™

Mike would have hated all the fuss. The true Godfather of the MotoGP™ family who shied away from any personal praise or acknowledgement. The former racer who changed the very future of Grand Prix motorcycle racing because he cared so much. Mike and his wife Irene adopted the MotoGP™ family to save lives and provide riders and teams with well-being and respect from Circuits, Promotors, and those in authority. I hope Mike looked down on the amazing show at Misano over the weekend with a smile on his face. All those principles he set out to achieve when he first stepped foot into the Grand Prix paddock 41 years ago had been achieved.

When Mike arrived in 1982 Grand Prix racing was in a mess. The racing was fantastic and the riders brilliant, but the remainder was in chaos. Some people peering through rose-tinted spectacles will tell you different but just wipe the surface to clear those lenses. The riders asked Mike to represent them in their fight for safety, proper and liveable facilities, deserved prize and travel money and perhaps most important at the time, respect which was blatantly lacking in so many areas

In 1986 he founded the International Road Racing Teams Association. With Mike at the helm, they fought tooth and nail for the rider’s welfare and rights. The tide started to turn. Teams and riders had a voice at the table and in 1992 the foundations fought for, and achieved by Mike, played such a massive part in the transformation of the sport. Mike and IRTA were the cement that bound together the FIM, MSMA and Dorna Sports to form the alliance that changed the face of Grand Prix racing, to where it is today. Mike was a man of passion, principles, and belief. Once his mind was made up you needed one hell of an argument to change it. Of course, not everybody agreed to the changes, but he always had the rider’s and teams’ well-being at heart. He never let them down.

It’s difficult to imagine a MotoGP™ paddock without Mike. Up those metal steps to the IRTA office. Turn left and there was Irene and the likes of Tony and Rick from his loyal staff. Cup of tea if you want one but you must make it yourself because we are so busy, the usual greeting from the boys. Irene would always find you a couple of passes if you were desperate. Turn right into Mike’s office. English news and sports always on the screen behind his desk. There was always plenty to discuss and recollect before MotoGP™ ever got mentioned. Mike loved The Who, the great sixties rock band, and so concert venues were checked. The exploits of his football team Bristol City were mulled over. So many times, in the boardroom next door, we’d sat amidst the debris of empty pizza boxes and beer bottles after watching another England football defeat in World Cup and European Championship games.

We would laugh remembering the exploits of Steve Parrish and others in those unforgettable trips to the Macau Grand Prix, which Mike organised followed by a week in Thailand with Mike and Irene. We first met at Daytona Beach in Florida in the seventies. Mike organised the trips for the 200 miler for hundreds of British fans. It was a fabulous week of fun, sun, and plenty more plus, of course, motorcycle racing. Later, Mike was a journalist’s dream. He never gave away a secret, but he would give just that hint you may be on the right track when encouragement was needed.

When Mike passed away on Friday, we all lost a true friend. For me, and I think many others, the MotoGP™ paddock without him will be a very sad place.


By |2023-09-13T17:56:02+00:00September 13th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|1 Comment

MotoGP™ magic carpet ride to Misano

The drive from Bologna airport to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, is a magic carpet ride through the very heartland of MotoGP™. Every road sign and every town and village on the 120kms frantic drive down the E45 autostrada has a tale to tell. The history of grand prix racing on two and even four wheels just flashes in front of you like a giant cinema screen. Riders’ birthplaces, circuits and team headquarters appear at almost every junction, turning a page of the history book.

Starting in Bologna the home of the all-conquering iconic Ducati factory that is dominating the proceedings this year. Immediately you see signs for Modena. Perhaps best known as the home of Opera singer Luciano Pavarotti but also the home of 125 and 250cc World Champion Luca Cadalora. The World Champion received a congratulatory telegram from Formula One legend Enzo Ferrari after every one of his 34 Grand Prix wins. They also raced on the old Modena aerodrome and I remember watching those bitter rivals Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read battling it out there on a pair of Suzukis in 1976.

Keep driving south and you pick up the signs for the small town of Castel San Pietro the birthplace of Loris Capirossi. The three times World Champion with 29 grand prix wins in all three classes including the first ever MotoGP™ win for Ducati at Barcelona 2003. Just over the hill from his homeland is the legendary Autodromo Imola circuit that was a regular Grand Prix venue and still stages World Superbike Championship and Formula One car Grand Prix.

Next on the historic route is the town of Forli, the home of Andrea Dovizioso. Three times runner up in the Marc Marquez dominated MotoGP™ years riding for Ducati and 125cc World Champion. From Forli you can drive high into hills on the scenic but scary back roads inland to the Mugello circuit. Carry on down the E45 past the towering hills of San Marino. Sixteen times we witnessed the Principality’s flag being raised and the national anthem played following World Champion Manuel Poggiali and Alex de Angelis’s Grand Prix wins.

Then it gets serious as you reach the coast at Rimini, Riccione and Misano. It appears nearly everybody you meet on the beach or promenade have raced motorcycle or have a connection with racing. This is Valentino Rossi country where he grew up with the likes of Marco Simoncelli, Pier Francesco Chili, Loris Reggiani and so many others. His Tavullia ranch now producing the new breed from the Adriatic coast including World Champion Pecco Bagnaia, Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini

Long before Vale brought them nine World titles this Adriatic holiday coast has been steeped in motorcycle racing tradition. Before the Misano circuit was built in 1972 they closed the seafront at Rimini and Riccione and raced motorcycles. In 1971 rising Italian star Angelo Bergamonti had already won the 350 and 500cc Spanish Grands Prix for MV Agusta. He was killed at Riccione when he crashed in the rain at a roundabout on the seafront chasing team-mate Agostini. Like so many others the Misano permanent track was built to replace an old road circuit. It staged its first Grand Prix in 1980 but in 1993 tragedy struck again. World Champion Wayne Rainey was paralysed in a crash while leading the 500cc race. Grand Prix racing only returned 14 years later with the track running the opposite way and it has been there ever since.

The circuit was renamed in honour of World Champion Marco Simoncelli who lost his life in Malaysia 12 years ago. His Gresini team headquarters is just down the road from the track. There is so much to remember at Misano. Aprilia, who celebrated their MotoGP™ double in Barcelona this week won their first Grand Prix there in 1987 with Loris Reggiani victorious in the 250-cc race.

Who needs a history book. Just get on the E45 and drive but be warned it’s busy.

By |2023-09-06T18:36:58+00:00September 6th, 2023|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on MotoGP™ magic carpet ride to Misano
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