Monthly Archives: July 2024

Keep that phone switched on

The summer break has arrived. If the first half of the season is any indication, do not switch that phone off while lying on the beach. Never in the 75-year history of the sport has so much happened in the opening four months. Then check out what actually occurred on the racetrack, to realise just what an extraordinary first half we have witnessed.

We take for granted the on-track action and we have not been let down. The Sachsenring on Sunday summed it up perfectly. Jorge Martin joining that not-so-exclusive Turn 1 crashing club to hand Pecco Bagnaia the ideal wedding present – the World Championship lead. The battle of the Marquez brothers for second place, the fight for podium finishes behind Moto2™ winner Fermin Aldeguer and the battle for Moto3™ honours between David Alonso and Taiyo Furusato. It is what we have come to expect.

I suppose when Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo signed their allegiance to their respective teams, almost before a wheel had been turned in anger, we realised this was going to be so very different

With so many riders’ contracts coming to a finish at the end of the season, it was inevitable. The media were revelling in the drama of where Marc Marquez and Jorge Martin were going next year, as much as they were reporting the races. I love announcements that arrive out of the blue and they came in great bundles.

Marquez to factory Ducati and Martin to Aprilia were a journalist’s dream but there was so much more to come. Out of the blue, Bastanini and Vinales to Tech3 KTM. Catch a breath because there was more to follow. Bezzecchi to Aprilia, Pramac switching to Yamaha and Aleix Espargaro joining HRC as a test rider all before the summer break.

Sometimes the switch to a rival team is the worst-kept secret. It wasn’t exactly an explosive press conference at Valencia in 2003, when Valentino Rossi announced he was joining Yamaha the next season. I remember Casey Stoner in deep conversation with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto in the Dresden airport hotel bar before the 2010 summer break. The following season he’d left Ducati to bring Honda the World title.

The switch that completely caught me cold and I think most others, came in 1988. My Phone rang very early on a December morning. A furious Wayne Gardner was on the line from Australia. Did I know that Eddie Lawson was leaving Yamaha and joining him at Honda the next season? As Media Manager for the Honda team, he presumed I knew, but I did not. It remained a secret until after I’d returned from California with videos, photographs and quotes from Eddie. He won the world title the next season and then returned to Yamaha, job done.

Sometimes a journalist can be caught in the crossfire. Barry Sheene rang me in January 1982 to say he’d turned down an offer to ride for Giacomo Agostini’s Yamaha team that season, but not to tell anybody else. Later that morning Graeme Crosby rang from New Zealand. He’d been controversially dropped by Suzuki and had no ride for the season. I told him to ring Ago. By the end of the week, he’d signed for the team and made his debut in Argentina two months later. He finished runner-up in the 500cc World Championship, but I never told Barry.

The first beer in the paddock after the summer break was always good fun. Sunburnt noses, stories from beaches and nightclubs flowed, but at Brno in 2002 it was far more sombre than usual. A message from Barry Sheene revealing he had cancer brought the holiday recollections to a temporary halt. Kenny Roberts rang him immediately and later in the evening we raised a glass of the glorious Brno beer. The stories flowed late into the night about this amazing person and great World Champion.

Enjoy your summer break because the tough part of the season is still to come. Eleven races in just over three months covering three separate continents. Remember, keep that phone switched on!

By |2024-07-10T20:49:59+00:00July 10th, 2024|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|0 Comments

Over to you Pecco

It may surprise you, but I really enjoy planning and researching my blog even before race day. Assen was no exception, but then it all went terribly wrong until along came Pecco Bagnaia to save the day. A masterclass of total MotoGP™ supremacy at the Cathedral. World Champion by name and action. No wonder the Italian has the outline of Assen tattooed on his right arm. For the last seventy-three laps of Grand Prix racing, he has not been headed. His sixth Dutch TT win and his third successive MotoGP™ win at the legendary venue. The last rider to win three in a row was there to applaud. Mick Doohan won five in a row between 1994 -1998.

It had all looked so simple. Fifty years ago, the Che-Guevara of Grand Prix racing had made his debut at Assen. In 1974 Kenny Roberts arrived in Europe and life was never quite the same. With fellow American Joe Roberts winning the Moto2™ race in Mugello last month, and lying second in the World Championship, this was the perfect time to remember the past and predict the future. The time is ripe for the revival of American riders in the World Championship and ultimately to return to the pinnacle, which they dominated for so long. With the surname of Roberts, how could you fail

Kenny took pole position for that first 250cc Grand Prix, crashed in the race but remounted to finish third. The rest is history. He was so passionate about Grand Prix racing. He led a revolution from the front both on and off the track. A sliding style, honed on the dirt tracks back home, had never been witnessed on European racetracks. Much to the chagrin of the Grand Prix regulars and World Champion Barry Sheene in particular, Kenny won three successive 500cc world titles for Yamaha. That was just the start. He took on the organisers and promotors who had shown so little respect for fellow riders’ safety and welfare. Together with journalist Barry Coleman they threatened, with the support of all the top riders, to form a rival World Series in 1980. It never happened, but the very threat brought a 500% prize fund rise and a massive increase in all aspects of safety.

Kenny had built the bridge across the Atlantic for the American riders to compete. So much talent arrived in the opposite direction to the Pilgrim Fathers. They loved those fearsome 500cc two-stroke rocket ships. World titles flowed for Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz and his own son Kenny Junior. It was the golden age for America but slowly the source of talent started to dry up.  Nicky Hayden was the last American World Champion in 2006. Ben Spies was the last Grand Prix winner in 2011. For a while unbelievably there were no American riders in any of the Grand Prix classes, but then along came Joe Roberts. That second Moto2™ win gave him a competitive chance of winning the World title and a real opportunity to move up to the MotoGP™ class.

All my ideas were blown apart on Friday afternoon. The unfortunate Roberts crashed and broke his collarbone in Moto2™ practice. The OnlyFans American Racing Team rider was declared unfit, but hopefully will be back for the Sachsenring.

While walking my dog Candy, after watching the demolition of the Tissot Sprint race by Bagnaia, I had another inspiration. Later that afternoon Italy were playing Switzerland in the knock-out stages of the European football Championship. Compare the European Champions defence of their title to that of the defence of their World title by Bagnaia and his Lenovo Ducati team. At Mugello they switched from the traditional Ducati red to Azzurri blue to show their support to the national team.

Two hours later it was back to square one. Switzerland comfortably beat the Champions who were on their way home after a two-nil defeat. Pecco, your brilliance saved the day. I have got some ideas for the Sachsenring, but I think it is best I keep them to myself as I can’t keep relying on the World Champion.

 

By |2024-07-03T19:57:03+00:00July 3rd, 2024|Nick's Blog, Uncategorised|Comments Off on Over to you Pecco
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