Monthly Archives: March 2024

The Special One

We all knew who ‘The Special One’ was waving the chequered flag at the finish of the MotoGP™ race in Portimao, but who was ‘The Special One’ on the track? Legendary football Manager, Jose Mourinho, enjoys the kudos of his title but take your pick after three days of grand prix racing on the Algarve.

Jorge Martin with a masterful victory in the Tissot Grand Prix, leads the MotoGP™ World Championship by 18 points after just two rounds. It was the perfect demonstration of just how to dominate a race from the front riding the Prima Pramac Ducati. The Spaniard could take some shifting from that top spot.

Second place Enea Bastianini has painful memories of Portimao. Last year the Italian broke his right shoulder blade when he crashed on his debut for the factory Ducati Lenovo team. It wrecked his debut season but Bastianini will be a major threat this year. Fastest in the first day of practice on Friday, followed by his first pole since 2022. It was only his second MotoGP™ pole. He messed up the start of the Sprint race but fought back to sixth before the podium on Sunday

Where do you start with 19-year-old Pedro Acosta? Third in just his second MotoGP™ race, after taking on the likes of legends Marc Marquez and Pecco Bagnaia and coming out on top. A fearless ride, not hampered by tyre degradation or worry, he was nothing short of sensational. Already a debut season matching that of Marquez who won his second MotoGP™ race at the Circuit of the Americas 11 years ago. It’s the third MotoGP™ race for Acosta in three weeks’ time at the very same circuit. Was it the frustration of being outfought by the teenager, that caused the collision between the two riders who have eight MotoGP™ titles between them? They have got to get used to it and meet the challenge head-on because it is not going away.

A clear favourite for the special title emerged after Saturday’s sprint race. Maverick Viñales had lost two and a half kilos of weight due to a stomach bug over the weekend. Perhaps the weight loss helped because he brought Aprilia victory in the Tissot Sprint race. It was the first non-Ducati Sprint or Grand Prix win for 19 races, but it was not quite enough for the Spaniard to join a very exclusive club.

Only four riders, Mike Hailwood, Eddie Lawson, Randy Mamola and Loris Capirossi have won a premier class race, on three different makes of machine in the 75-year history of Grand Prix racing. Correctly, the Sprint race cannot count but then on Sunday Viñales came so close to getting his membership card. The MotoGP™ winner on Yamaha and Suzuki machinery chased Martin so hard in the MotoGP™ race. He looked a certain second when a technical problem caused him to crash the Aprilia on the first bend of the last lap.

So they are the riders vying to take the Special One title from Mourinho in his home country, but perhaps the title should go to the Tissot Grand Prix of Portugal. A record weekend crowd for a Portuguese Grand Prix of 175,000 fans was a 41 per cent increase on last year. I think those without a vested interest breathed a silent sigh of relief. Jorge Martin, Pecco Bagnaia and Ducati dominated the proceedings at that opening round in Qatar without much overtaking, but this weekend was very different.

Do not worry Jose, nobody was trying to steal your Special One title, although there were plenty of contenders.


By |2024-03-27T19:55:07+00:00March 27th, 2024|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on The Special One

Without them, none of this would have happened

That in-built desire and hunger to win was the same but everything else was totally different. Just what would those riders dressed in two-piece black leathers, pudding basin helmets and goggles, made of the MotoGP™ grid that lined up under the Qatar floodlights last Sunday?

Seventy-five years earlier the World was a very different place. To launch a World Championship less than four years after the finish of the most devastating war the World had ever witnessed was brave, some would have thought impossible, but it happened. The first ever Motorsport World Championship and one of the first in any sport since the Second World War ended. The six-round Motorcycle World Championship was launched in June on the TT Mountain circuit in the Isle of Man.

Six European countries had been involved in a bitter bloody conflict that cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Countries that had been occupied by the enemy and countries that had fought each other just four years earlier, came together to produce the birth of a dream. Great Britain, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Ireland, and Italy hosted the new Championship that incorporated five separate classes. The 500, 250, 350 and 125cc solos and sidecars lit up the darkness that clouded a recovering Europe. The quality and intensity of the racing between riders and manufacturers set the benchmark for the next 75 years

It was a long and painful ten years for riders and manufacturers since the last international races. Star riders from the thirties had to wait a decade before returning to the saddle on the international stage. Many had represented their countries in a very different way. Some paid the ultimate price never to return home. Others fought and then returned home to continue their racing careers with great success. Les Graham the first 500cc World Champion was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery, flying a Lancaster bomber in 1944. Bespectacled Harold Daniell won that first round of the 500cc World Championship on the Norton. He had been refused entry to the armed forces to fight in the war because of poor eyesight.

It was tough for the Italian riders, especially at the opening round on the Isle of Man which had been the site for an Italian Prisoner of War camp, but they did so much to restore national pride and respect. Bruno Ruffo won the 250cc world title riding the Italian Moto Guzzi. In the 125cc class, Nello Pagani clinched the world title for Mondial in the final round at Monza. Freddie Frith brought the British Velocette factory victory in the 350cc class after winning that very first Grand Prix on the Isle of Man. The ever-popular sidecar Championship went to the British pair of Eric Oliver and Denis Jenkinson.

It was equally tough for the manufacturers ravaged by the effects of war. Many of the Midland-based British factories had been damaged by German bombs. They realised their resurgence was based on the publicity gained from international success. The lack of development in the war meant that changes in design and engines were just beginning. The biggest change was that supercharged engines were banned. Otherwise, the World Championship grid looked very similar both in personnel and machinery to the late thirties. However, missing were the German manufacturers like BMW. They had dominated the 1939 TT race with their Boxer Supercharged 500, but were banned from competing in that first World Championship. The only challenge to the British domination in the 500cc class came from Italy and the Ancore-based Gilera factory. They only had to wait one more year for success.

It’s a truly amazing story. When the grid lines up at Portimao on Sunday, close your eyes, remember and salute those pioneers. Without them, none of this would have ever happened.


By |2024-03-20T20:31:20+00:00March 20th, 2024|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Without them, none of this would have happened

Only one winner in the desert showdown

Of course, I am biased, but there was only one winner in the desert showdown over the weekend. Three world sporting events in the sand and heat of the Middle East. The opening round of the MotoGP™ World Championship in Qatar. Across the desert the second round of the Formula One World Championship at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Saturday. A heavyweight boxing fight between Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou again in Saudi Arabia on Friday night. Three massive sporting confrontations 1500 kms apart on the same weekend.

For the second weekend in succession World Champion Max Verstappen totally dominated the Formula One race from the start, finishing with a 13.6 second advantage over his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez. The long-awaited clash of the heavyweight giants Joshua and Ngannou lasted just two rounds when the Englishman knocked out his opponent. The opening round of the MotoGP™ World Championship just crackled with drama, excitement, and breathtaking racing over three proper days of track action. Where do you start

On Friday the Marc Marquez style save with elbow, shoulder, and any other part of his body by Spanish teenager Pedro Acosta on his MotoGP™ debut. On Saturday morning just nine-hundredths of one second separated Jorge Martin, Aleix Espargaro and Enea Bastianini in qualifying. In the afternoon the brilliant Jorge Martin won the Sprint to lay his cards on the table in the first points-scoring encounter of the season. Sunday was even better!

An immaculate display by Pecco Bagnaia chasing his third successive MotoGP™ World title on the Lenovo Ducati, while the sparks flew between his pursuers. Binder claimed second on the Red Bull Factory KTM ahead of Sprint winner Martin and an impressive Marc Marquez. Acosta learnt so much on route to ninth place on his MotoGP™ debut. Earlier, just 0.041 seconds separated David Alonso and Daniel Holgado in a Moto3™ battle, which was decided on the final bend. It was nearly as close in Moto2™ with Alonso Lopez and Barry Baltus separated by 0.055 seconds at the chequered flag

The only saving grace on the track for Formula One was the performance of 18-year-old British driver, Oliver Bearman, who finished seventh on his Grand Prix debut driving for Ferrari. Formula One needed a ray of light to penetrate the non-racing dramas clouding their paddock. Thank goodness MotoGP™ is in no such need, but if it was, Pedro Acosta like Bearman would be the savour. What a debut by the 19-year-old Moto2™ and Moto3™ World Champion. That save at turn one on Friday and then finishing third after the opening two practice sessions. Qualifying eighth and finishing eighth in the Tissot Sprint race on Saturday. An audacious overtake on Marc Marquez during his ride to ninth place on Sunday. We are going to hear a great deal more about Acosta and Bearman in the coming weeks. They are the future on two and four wheels.

So of course, I’m biased but I am sure the neutrals would agree there was only one sporting event to be at in the Middle East over the weekend. Under the floodlights at the Lusail International circuit in Qatar was the only place to be. Quite honestly it was no contest!


By |2024-03-14T19:03:19+00:00March 14th, 2024|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Only one winner in the desert showdown

The wait has always been worth it

You have waited four months for this moment. All your fears and expectations may not be fully answered but there will be a real indication of what lies ahead in the next 20 races. Have riders, teams and organisers made the correct decisions? The Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar under the Lusail floodlights this weekend may be just the start, but many questions will be answered.

The biggest of them all. Can Marc Marquez become the oldest premier class World Champion in the MotoGP™ era? Six premier titles in 10 seasons and now the switch from Honda to Ducati. Even Valentino Rossi’s defection to Yamaha from Honda in 2004 didn’t create the same headlines, although Marquez will enjoy reading them as he embarks on his voyage of discovery. Rossi won that opening Grand Prix in South Africa and went on to retain the World title. It can be done Marc.

Spanish Moto2™ World Champion Pedro Acosta lines up for his premier class debut. Pressure is already mounting after some impressive testing performances on the Red Bull GASGAS Tech3. Can the Spanish teenager emulate Marquez by adding the MotoGP™ crown to his Moto3™ and Moto2™ titles in his first season? Could he match Jarno Saarinen and Max Biaggi by winning on his premier class debut? Neither of them went on to win the World title for very different reasons but Marquez won on his second premier class appearance en route to the World title

Can double World Champion Pecco Bagnaia join a very exclusive club only nine riders have won three successive premier class titles. His Ducati Lenovo teammate Enea Bastanini faces the season with real hope after an injury-hit debut season with the team, crashing in the opening round last year. I remember Barry Sheene returning to race at the opening round in the 1983 South African Grand Prix. Six months after he had 28 screws and two plates fitted to his shattered legs, following his Silverstone practice crash. The double 500cc World Champion finished tenth on his return in South Africa.

It’s not only riders and teams who have watched that opening round with trepidation after making some big decisions. The opening round at Suzuka in Japan 2002 represented the biggest change before and since. The switch to the four-stroke era arrived. Could the 500cc two-strokes remain competitive against the 990 cc four-strokes? I thought they could at certain circuits, but my theory disappeared in a flurry of sound and speed. Valentino Rossi led the revolution with victory on the RCV 211V Honda. The only two-stroke threat came at the Sachsenring, but Olivier Jacque and Alex Barros crashed out while leading.

In 1987 the riders faced a very new challenge again in the opening round at Suzuka. Clutch starts at last replaced the old push starts in all classes. For 38 years riders had to push start their machines to fire up their engines to begin a Grand Prix. Some sat side saddle, cocking their leg onto the footrest once the engine fired into life. Others just pushed and pushed, jumping into the saddle when they had enough speed to interest the engine. As you can imagine it was a change well received by everybody.

It all began on a dry bright morning on June 13, 1949, when the 350cc riders lined up on the Glencrutchery Road on the Isle of Man. A world ravished by the horrendous effects of a World War that had ended four years earlier was ready to celebrate, embrace and enjoy bringing some much-needed light to a dark place. The very first race of a World Championship that celebrates its 75th birthday this season.

Nothing has changed in three-quarters of a century. The wait is still worth it.


By |2024-03-07T11:04:05+00:00March 7th, 2024|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on The wait has always been worth it
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