Portuguese GP: The Rollercoaster Awaits

Image: WorldSBK.com

The 2021 MotoGP world championship arrives in Europe this weekend, at the stunning Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, on the southern coast of Portugal.

If ever there was a circuit specifically designed to put grand prix motorcycles through the ultimate test, this is undoubtedly it. With its 15 corners (9 right, 6 left), and constant changes of elevation, the circuit is affectionately known by the locals as “A montanha roussa” – The Rollercoaster.

World Superbikes were the first to arrive at the venue back in 2008. Amazingly, it took until the Covid-affected 2020 season before the grand prix paddock arrived – but boy was it worth it, with local hero Miguel Oliveira taking a thrilling victory aboard the Tech3 KTM. Now with the factory Red Bull KTM team for 2021, there is not just hope but expectation to deliver, from the home fans.   

Speaking of expectation, the unknown quantity for this weekend is undoubtedly the returning Marc Marquez. Having been given the green light by his doctor, the eight-time world champion will return to the premier class. The news would have been a morale boost for the Repsol Honda team, as new rider Pol Espargaro and HRC test rider Stefan Bradl endured torrid back-to-back weekends. 

Of course, we do not know what version of Marquez we will have back. Will it be the all conquering, all dominating rider who held an exclusive stranglehold on the championship from 2016-19? Only three riders: Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have won more successive premier class titles. Or will we see an initially more reserved Marquez, allowing his body time to adjust back to the extreme rigors of racing at the highest level? Or will injuries have taken a terminal toll to any aspirations of equaling and surpassing Rossi’s haul of 9 world titles? Certainly all and sundry of the MotoGP fan base have been very vocal in their opinions. 

One thing though is certain – Marquez backs himself to the hilt. He has returned because he feels ready to fight for wins – not merely to make up the numbers on the grid. Love him or loathe him, we all await with bated breath for Sunday’s race. Only then will we truly know which Marquez has returned.   

Marc Marquez pole sitter in the 2019 , Aragón,MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

With the emphasis of this circuit very much on cornering stability and speed, the likes of Monster Yamaha and Team Ecstar Suzuki will be licking their lips in anticipation. For Suzuki, they will be eager to put a difficult opening two rounds behind them and send a statement to the field that 2020 was no flash in the pan. Whilst the factory Yamaha outfit will be hoping to continue their stellar early season form, having taken the spoils in both Qatar outings with Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo.

The general consensus this week is that Ducati may well find the going tough here. Whilst the main straight does play to the strength of the V4 engine, and the bike has improved again on corner turn-in – the alarming rate (and indeed suddenness) with which their tyres wore out will be cause for serious concern. Jack Miller at least will now have full use of both his arms for this weekend. The Australian had been struggling with the dreaded ‘arm pump’ in Qatar, which prompted corrective surgery immediately afterwards.

Ducati’s main hope for success may well lie this week with Johann Zarco on the satellite Pramac Racing Ducati. The Frenchman found success in Qatar due to his very smooth riding style, eking out as much life from the Michelin tyres as possible. With tyre wear levels again expected to be high this weekend, Zarco’s ability to nurse the rubber home may yet ensure that Ducati Corse add another rostrum trophy to their collection. 

The team to watch out for this weekend is Aprilia. The Noale-based outfit have made serious improvements since last season. The new ‘slimmed-down’ V4 engine has brought a vast increase in torque for the lower gears, which has seriously improved cornering speed and stability. The trade off has been a loss of power top end. Aleix Espargaro claimed that he was losing as much as 20kph (12.5mph) down the main straight at Losail. Nevertheless, the team managed to finish round two in P10, but only 5.38 seconds behind race winner Quartararo. Both team and rider will be quietly confident that a maiden podium finish is not far away. 

Aprilia have wasted no time to ensure they keep up in the development race. 3-time premier class runner-up Andrea Dovizioso made his much anticipated debut for the team earlier this week, testing at the Jerez circuit. Whilst the team were understandably tight lipped regarding any data, the strongest rumour doing the rounds suggests that the Italian is closing in on a permanent race deal with the team. 

Credit: Suzuki MotoGP

So the King has returned, but the young pretenders are hungry. In his absence Joan Mir (Team Ecstar Suzuki) has shown he is one who can wear the crown. There are no slow riders in MotoGP, and nobody is given quarter on track for past reputation. Come 1 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, all eyes will be fixed on the 22 gladiators as the next chapter in the 2021 championship is written.

As the great Nick Harris used to say: “Let battle commence!”

Miller v Mir: The Right Call

Credit: Suzuki MotoGP

The 2021 MotoGP season has got off to a flyer, after two pulsating rounds of action in the Qatari desert. Lap records have been smashed and the rookies have shown already that their time is now! What we’ve also now got is a dose of controversy.

The decision by the race stewards to not penalise either Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo) for their coming together during the latter stages of the Doha grand prix was divisive amongst fans, to say the least. Depending on which rider is preferred, comments have varied from mild annoyance at supposed ‘inconsistent stewards’ to calling for riders’ heads to roll. Impressive really, when you consider that both riders involved finished the race.

Whilst fans of rival riders will always be tribal in these instances (and it’s partly what makes the sport so loved), the accusations that the race stewards are inconsistent could not be further misguided. The referees of the motor racing world have the unenviable job of trying to keep order of 22 adrenaline-fueled racers going at it on track hammer-and-tongs treading an incredibly thin line between heroics and disaster. I say unenviable, but having done some officiating in sport events myself I can confirm it is also a very enjoyable (if often thankless) thing to do.     

To gain an understanding as to how the stewards came to their decision, one must accept that there are a series of protocols that must be followed – protocols ultimately governed by the rules/laws of that particular sport. First and foremost is reviewing the evidence in chronological order, to determine what happened. 

Now knowing that, below is what objectionably happened with the two incidents:

Mir outbreaks himself into turn 6, resulting in his bike overshooting the apex. Mir corrects this by sitting the bike up, however he makes contact with Miller, and the two are forced out wide. However, Miller is not forced to take evasive action, neither are he and his bike sent tumbling into the gravel. Mir – as mentioned – is deemed to be making corrective action. Lastly, Miller is not forced beyond the track limits, so Mir’s overtake is allowed to stand. As such, no ill-intent can be proven, so it is simply classed as a ‘racing incident’. 

So far, so good. Now we move on to the second incidents where the roles are reversed.

Miller outbreaks himself into the final corner, and he overshoots the apex. Miller then ‘squares off’ the corner and begins to sit the bike up. As he does so, he makes contact with Mir. However, as with the first incident, Mir is not forced beyond the track limits, and he is not forced off the bike. If this was a stand alone incident it would be waived straight through as a legitimate overtake maneuver (albeit a very ugly one). 

However, because this incident has occurred almost immediately after the previous, the stewards are obliged to ensure there was no clear or blatant notion of the rider (Miller in this case) actively seeking revenge on another. This process has been thoroughly enforced following the controversial incidents between Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi at Sepang in 2015, and Roman Fenati grabbing a rival’s brake lever at Misano in 2016. 

To aid with this process, the stewards have access to every camera angle possible – TV and closed-circuit cameras. As such, when reviewing the incident they can not just track the incident, but the moments leading up to it. It is the only way to ascertain whether an incident was premeditated or not. With that, it also enables the stewards to determine external events which may have contributed to the incident in question. In this case, both Mir and Miller are clearly under pressure from riders behind them as they make their attempted overtakes. As such there is a need and urgency from the rider to brake as late as possible to ensure not only their overtake sticks, but also keeps the chasers behind. 

Finally, track conditions are also accounted for – around the Losail circuit, when the wind picks up anywhere off the racing line becomes littered with sand and grip levels drop off the proverbial cliff. With this in mind you are left with two options: 1) Ban overtaking if clean passes can’t be guaranteed. 2) Accept that some overtakes will result in contact as riders struggle for grip off the ideal racing line. 

When all is said and done it is therefore impossible to conclude that Miller intentionally set up an avoidable collision with Mir, nevermind any notion of actively seeking revenge – that one shall reside in a box labelled ‘conspiracy theories’. As such, the only decision the stewards can come to is to not penalise either rider. There is no doubt though that race organisers will have had words with both parties following the race that overtakes like that on a regular basis are not encouraged. 

No penalties this time and it was the correct call – but you can be sure the stewards will be keeping an eye on both riders next time out in Portimao just in case…

Un et Deux – the French reign at Doha

Round two under the Qatar lights found some riders floundering and some soaring. If it was thought to be a repeat of last weekend then audiences were in for a shock.

The qualifying had the biggest surprise which came from the rookie, Jorge Martin who took pole! With a 1.53.106 second lap, snatching it from Vinales, who was confident he had done enough at the flag. Next position went to Martin’s team-mate and Vinales ended up 3rd to round off the front row. The Suzuki’s still seemed to have issues with qualifying and ended up in 8th and 9th. Rossi made changes to his bike which turned out to hinder his chances at getting another 4th in qualifying this time and ended up 21st on the grid.

Martin takes pole on Saturday. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All riders started Sunday on both rear and front soft tyres again, with the exception of Oliveira, Binder, Lecuona and Petrucci. Perhaps they had thought a different strategy may help them in the closing section of the race. Once again, the wind was blowing and causing sand to go across the track, meaning the tyres would degrade quicker.

The two front Ducati’s got a flying start, with Martin leading Zarco but it was Vinales that went backwards as Aleix Espargaro came through and took 3rd place from the Spaniard, a very surprising Oliveira, who was 12th on the grid, shot into 4th . The next 22 laps were sure to be exciting!

By lap three, Rins had already made the fastest lap, eager to make it to the front early on, now in 3rd place, he started putting pressure on Zarco.

Lap four was Bagnaia’s turn to take fastest lap. But it was the Suzuki’s that were looking menacing as Mir came through to 5th place and Rins took 2nd from Zarco. However, the Ducati took back the position on the straight.

Meanwhile the factory Yamahas were sticking to their plan, which was to conserve tyres and were in 9th and 10th place.

With 17 laps to go Martin was still leading, in only his second Moto GP race, from Rins and Zarco.

Martin leads Rins. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Performing well in the flowing corners, the Suzuki was putting pressure on the rookie, but the straight, once again was the time for Zarco to pounce, re-gaining 2nd.

Trying to hunt down Martin, Rins took back 2nd place from the Frenchman on turn 10 – lap 8. He knew he had to breakaway from Zarco before the straight. With 13 laps to go Oliveira started to go backwards, unfortunately, the tyre choice didn’t seem to be any better.

The two Petronas riders were struggling as well – not even in the top ten.

The top nine riders however, were starting to breakaway from the rest of the pack and were creating their own race. Martin still lead, now half-way through the 22 laps, whilst Vinales was bringing up the rear. The first six bikes were all four Ducati’s and the two Suzuki’s. Espargaro on the Aprilia, was the only bike not with it’s teammate, out in front of the two factory Yamaha’s.

Mir and Miller were battling for 5th place on lap 13, Mir touched Miller going underneath him to take the position. But, coming onto the straight Miller (43) went wide and and seemed to go straight into Mir, forcing him to go all the way back to 9th. There was an investigation from the stewards but both times were seen as racing incidents.

Things went from bad to worse for Alex Marquez who had a second DNF in a row as he crashed on lap 14.

However, things were looking good for Quartararo (20), who was moving through the front pack and was now 4th, behind the Ducati’s, with 8 laps till the end. Battling for the position alongside Rins, he knew he had to create a chance in order to get on the podium. His teammate was now in 7th with Mir still in 9th place. It seemed the Yamaha’s tactic was paying off.

With six laps till the end, 20 took 3rd place from 43, it was taken straight back on the start-finish line but a mistake going into the first corner from Miller meant Quartararo re-took 3rd once more. The battle for the podium was heating up.

The two Frenchmen then fought for 2nd on lap 18. Zarco tried to defend but Quartararo’s Yamaha had conserved tyres better and was stronger on the corners, meaning he was able to take 1st place as well on turn 14, leading into turn 15, from Martin. The rookie had shocked everyone by leading for most of the race. Martin wasn’t going to give his position away easily and on the straight the Ducati roared past the Yamaha. But, Quartararo re-gained first place soon after.

With four laps to go it was anyone’s call who would win. Quartararo now lead Martin, Zarco and Vinales.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Top Gun’ briefly took 3rd place from Zarco, which took Zarco out of the top three for the first time the whole race.

‘El Diablo’ started to pull away from the two satellite Ducati’s and with Vinales putting pressure on Zarco, Zarco decided he needed to try and make a pass on his teammate. Martin went defensive with two laps to go, not wanting to give away his position. Vinales couldn’t keep up with number 5 and Rins took 4th place from him into turn one on the last lap. The penultimate corner of the last lap was Zarco’s last shot at 2nd, after admitting in the post-race interview he was acting as a “… bodyguard for Martin…” he decided to over-take his team-mate to finish 2nd.

It was Quartararo that took the chequered flag, taking his fourth Moto GP victory alongside fellow Frenchman Zarco. The first time in 67 years that two Frenchmen have stood first and second on the podium in the premier class. Martin finished an impressive third to round off the podium. Fourth was Rins, fifth Vinales, sixth and seventh place were the factory Dukes and Mir managed to make up two places since the collision with Miller to finish seventh.

Zarco stood on the podium for the 50th time and now leads the championship with 40 points. Proving to be consistent with two second places in a row.

This thrilling battle was the closest Moto GP race in 73 years. Teams learnt from last weekend and everyone seemed far stronger.

There is now a two week gap until the next event, but the big news is Marc Marquez is said to be making a return in Portugal, which leads into the many European races. Will we see a fit, strong and hungry Marquez? Will the other riders be too far ahead of him? Or will we witness a masterclass performance?

Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be a thrilling ride.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It’s a first for Top Gun

After not being able to race at Qatar in 2020, audiences were eagerly awaiting the first Moto GP race of 2021.

But, did it live up to everyone’s expectations? Under those amazing bright lights, we got to see the new glistening colours of the teams, the glittering helmets of the riders and one intriguing race.

All teams chose to start with both front and rear soft tyres, which would always be an interesting factor as the laps progressed.

The Ducati’s, who had dominated Qatar in 2019 and 2018, got an amazing start with four of their bikes leading the pack from the beginning. Bagnaia was out in front from Miller, who was participating in his 100th Moto GP start, following him were Zarco and Martin. Martin managed to make up an impressive 10 places from the grid and Zarco made up four. The Ducati power was definitely something to witness, three Yamahas then followed suit.

Sand being blown over the track due to the high winds caused Petrucci to be the first to fall on lap one.

By lap two Zarco had passed Miller to take second place. However it was Bagnaia that managed to clinch fastest lap by lap 3. Quartararo was also pushing hard and managed to get fourth place in the same lap. Last year’s champion Mir, was now pushing through the pack and was behind Rossi in ninth.

Fastest lap went to Quartararo on lap 4, who was behind his teammate at the time.

Martin in his first race in Moto GP, battled hard to keep his position but the Yamahas proved to much for him and he went to sixth place on lap 5. Vinales then took fastest lap from his teammate, whilst taking his new position past Martin.

Bagnaia, Miller, Quartararo and Vinales managed to break- away from the pack and create their own race. With Aleix Espargaro slowly hunting Valentino down, who was on the next Yamaha along, in his new team Petronas. Espargaro managed to pass him on lap 7. In the meantime Rossi’s new team mate, Morbidelli had fell to position twentieth.

Unfortunately for last year’s pole man and Honda’s top qualifier this year – Nakagami crashed out on the same lap. Meanwhile, Rins and Mir, on the two Suzuki’s, carried on tracking down the front five.

By lap 12, Vinales had made it to second place and was showing Bagnaia that he meant business. His teammate (20) went backwards to sixth place.

Martin had gone backwards as well to thirteenth place on lap 13. Zarco was remaining steady in third.

By lap 14, Vinales was pushing Bagnaia, but neither one was willing to give in. Alex Marquez then finished LCR’s hope to get any points during the race by also crashing out. Both riders were un-hurt.

A new contender for the front was appearing, Rins seemed to be the one to watch. With 8 laps until the end he and Miller were battling on the track.

Lap 15, Vinales took the opportunity and passed Bagnaia for prime position. He pushed straight away and managed to make a gap from the super-quick Ducati’s.

Reigning champion Mir, was still slowly progressing and took fifth place from Miller on lap 16.

On the first corner of lap 17, Zarco on the satellite Ducati passed the full factory Ducati rider Bagnaia, whose tyres may have been degrading faster then others by this point, having lead for most of the race.

Vinales now lead Zarco, Bagnaia and the two Suzuki’s. Had the Suzuki’s qualified better, they may have been further up the pack quicker and would have been fighting for the all important podium positions.

With five laps to go Rins looked menacing behind his teammate Mir. But it was Mir that lined up to pass Bagnaia and finally took third place on lap 20. But Bagnaia didn’t want to give up the place easily. Mir who had been steadily chipping away, coming from 10th on the grid was now in third place, with Zarco still in second and Vinales leading.

Into the final lap, Mir passed Zarco on turn 15, for second place. Fighting constantly against the raging winds, the two Ducati’s were now following as he tried to get away, but he missed the apex into turn 16 and went slightly wide. Mir held firm but as the Dukes shifted into third gear, the speed proved to be too much again for the Suzuki and they passed the number 36 on the final straight. A crest-fallen Suzuki team and many fans had their hearts in their mouths while witnessing yet again the might of the Red Devils.

Top Gun, who proved to be super smooth, won the opening race with Zarco (who had not left the top three from lap one – remaining constant throughout) and Bagnaia taking third on the podium.

Last points scorer went to Martin.

Bagnaia commented at the end of the race “…my bike saved my podium…” with Vinales saying that the “…Ducati’s are unbelievable…”. Is this the first glimpse of Ducati’s come-back?

Qatar will once again host the Moto GP race next weekend at the same time. Will we see the same people battling it out at the front? Or have people shown their hands? And how will others respond?

 

Courtesy of: GresiniRacing.com

Lastly, it was with great sadness to hear that recently Moto GP lost someone very special – Fausto Gresini. He will be greatly missed within Moto GP, Moto 2 and 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Qatar MotoGP Grand Prix Qualifying

Qualifying for the Qatar MotoGP Grand Prix was dominated by Ducati and Yamaha, who between them occupied the first seven places on the grid.

Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Picture courtesy of YamahaRacing.com

Francesco Bagnaia was the star of the day as he beat both factory Yamaha riders, the satellite Yamaha of Valentino Rossi and his own Ducati teammate Jack Miller to pole position with a fantastic late lap. It is the first pole in the 24-year-old’s MotoGP career but on this performance, it won’t be his last.

Factory Yamaha riders Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales had a great battle for the front row and will hope their race pace is just as good tomorrow. Rossi will start his first race for a non-factory team in twenty years from fourth place which is probably better than he would have expected after free practice. He is joined on the second row by the Ducatis of Jack Miller and Johann Zarco.

Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Picture courtesy of YamahaRacing.com
Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Picture courtesy of YamahaRacing.com

Franco Morbidelli heads row three with Aleix Espargaro impressing for Aprilia in eighth place and apparently having good race pace for tomorrow. Alex Rins completes the third row after a rather average qualifying overall.

Reigning champion Joan Mir fared even worse than his teammate and had to come through Q1 to get to his place on row four.

Taka Nakagami also came through Q1 and finished as top Honda rider in 11th place, just ahead of factory rider Pol Espargaro.

 

1 – Francesco Bagnaia – ITA – Ducati

2 – Fabio Quartararo – FRA – Yamaha

3 – Maverick Vinales – SPA – Yamaha

4 – Valentino Rossi – ITA – Yamaha

5 – Jack Miller – AUS – Ducati

6 – Johann Zarco – FRA – Ducati

7 – Franco Morbidelli – ITA – Yamaha

8 – Aleix Espargaro – SPA – Aprilia

9 – Alex Rins – SPA – Suzuki

10 – Joan Mir – SPA – Suzuki

11 – Taka Nakagami – JAP – Honda

12 – Pol Espargaro – SPA – Honda

Racing Legends: Marc Marquez

There are talented racers in Moto GP and then there are those who seem to be born to race. Ones that stand out from the crowd. Marc Marquez is one of those riders. With his natural ability, his intelligence, understanding of racing and his wonderful family support behind him, culminate to an unstoppable force.

Courtesy of: MichelinMotorsport.com

Born February 1993, in Cerevera, Spain. Marquez has always gravitated towards a career in Motorcycle racing. Thriving from his family’s love and encouragement, Marc has gone on to be a phenomenon in his own right. He has shown audiences worldwide that he has the passion, courage and correct character that all great champions need.

Starting off racing competitively in the Catalan and Spanish National Championships Marquez went on to race in the 125’s. Only six races into his first season he scored his first podium. Learning how to use the bike to his full advantage, he carried on this momentum into his second season in 2009. Finishing in the top 10.

2010 became the first actual taste of Marquez’s true talent. Winning the 125 championship, just 17 years and 263 days old. The second youngest 125 champion after Loris Capirossi, who was just 17 years and 165 days old.

Progressing into the Moto 2 class in 2011, Marquez only took one season to learn, conquering in 2012, becoming the new world champion.

Not wishing to carry on in Moto 2, Marquez then progressed again, this time to the Premier Class. Showing his determination to be a Moto GP champion, he won his first race on the Honda, in only the second race of the season in Texas, a new track for Moto GP. It was here that he also became the youngest ever pole setter, the youngest ever race winner of the top class at just 20 years and 62 days and he completed the full set with the fastest lap, a superb achievement.

He was soon breaking all the youngest ever records and setting new ones. In only his first year he managed the impossible – winning the entire championship, by only 4 points, over Jorge Lorenzo. The first time a rookie had won since 1978 (Kenny Roberts Snr). Becoming the youngest ever World Champion at 20 years and 266 days and the youngest rider to win back-to-back Grand Prix races in the Premier Class at Laguna Seca and Sachsenring.

Putting any doubters to rest, saying that he would only be a one-time champion, he won back-to-back seasons in 2014, securing victory with three races to spare. Setting new records for the most wins in a season as well as most pole positions in a year and beating Mick Doohan’s record of twelve race wins in one season. The same year saw his younger brother Alex also win a title, in Moto 3.

Winning five races and retiring in six, Marquez found himself finishing third overall in 2015, having not been able to match the consistency of Yamaha team-mates Rossi and Lorenzo. Having three collisions on-track with Rossi, controversy about his “aggressive riding style” drew criticism, yet again, from his fellow riders, namely Rossi with whom he had battled numerous times for the championship. Some racing fans turned against Marquez, even booing him on the podium, but things soon settled down again when Rossi and Marquez embraced in parc ferme after the race which followed the tragic death of Moto 2 rider Luis Salom.

Despite not winning the 2015 title, Marquez was still putting himself firmly in the history books. Becoming the first rider to win six consecutive races at one track – Sachsenring – his most successful track.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. A seemingly impossible save

However, having this set back in 2015 spurred him on to win in 2016 and once again be crowned Moto GP World Champion, in Japan. The culmination of new Michelin tyres and new bike restriction rules saw audiences witness nine race winners during this season.

Struggling at the start of the 2017 championship, Honda decided they needed to find a suitable set-up for Marc’s personal riding style. They soon found it and he went on to win the races at Germany, Czech Republic, Misano and Australia. Dovizioso, who was his closest rival that year, kept the championship alive up to the final round, but ultimately Marquez held onto his title.

Courtesy of: Asphalt & rubber.com. Soaking up the championship win.

With history repeating itself the following year, Dovizioso seemed to be Marquez’s main on-track rival in 2018, but several crashes ruled out his contention to be Moto GP Champion and Marquez once again won the title. This same year Dani Pedrosa, Marc’s team mate decided to retire, he was replaced by fellow countryman Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez won eleven races in 2019, sealing victory with an impressive four rounds left until the end of the season. This was now his sixth Premier Class Championship title, having only been in the top-class for the past seven years. He has become the youngest rider in the history of Moto GP to win seven World Championships and the youngest rider to have won five premier-class titles. At the end of 2019 Lorenzo also retired, leading the way for Marquez’s younger brother Alex to partner up with him at Honda.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. Celebrating the 2019 win with brother Alex.

This team looked to be the perfect match, with the brothers being so close, they would share everything and hopefully bring both sides of the Honda garage together.

However, this was not to be. Having done so many impossible saves, Marc was unable to save his bike and had a very heavy crash in just the first race of the new season, in Qatar on lap 20 and broke a bone in his arm. This resulted in him having to miss the entire year. Having gone under numerous surgeries since the accident, he is determined to come back strong and fighting again in 2021.

Hopefully we will witness the same Marc Marquez we have grown to admire. With his unique racing style and positive attitude, there surely will be more records set and broken.

Moto3 – the Season Preview so far …… by Si Boyle

With Sky Racing Team VR46 and Estrella Galicia leaving Moto3 to focus their resources on MotoGP and Moto2 projects, the lightweight class grid will look a little different in 2021. The top five riders in last season’s standings have all moved up to Moto2 also. So with a full breakdown of the teams and riders at the bottom of this page, I’m going to first give you my six to watch in 2021.

John McPhee

Now the elder

Tony Arbolino, Romano Fenati and John McPhee. Moto3 2019: Round Eleven – Red Bull Ring, Austria. Image courtesy of Hondanews.eu

statesman of Moto3, it had looked likely that the Brit would move to Moto2 with MV Augusta in 2021 but he has re-signed for a third season with Petronas Sprinta to race the Honda for another shot at the title. John has three wins under his belt, including Misano last year but to date has lacked the consistency and luck for a sustained challenge for the crown with his best overall being fifth in 2019. Can this be his year at last?

Darryn Binder

McPhee’s new teammate could be another title challenger in South African Brad Binder’s younger brother, Darryn. The 22-year-old has been in Moto3 since 2015 and took his maiden win in Catalunya last year. The first race of the 2021 will be his 100th in the class but also his first on a Honda after previously riding Mahindra and KTM machinery. So far in his career, Darryn has certainly been a Sunday rider, often coming through the pack in exciting fashion after qualifying poorly the day before. If he can start higher up the grid in 2021 it could make a huge difference to his season.

Into the first corner, of the 2020 Jerez Moto3 GP. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

Jaume Masia

The young Spaniard is surely one of the favourites for the 2021 title. Of the riders staying in Moto3 from last season he finished the highest in sixth place, taking two wins in the double-header at Aragon. This is his fourth full season in the class and a move to one of the best teams on the grid, Red Bull KTM Ajo is his best shot at the title yet. The challenge for Masia may come from one rider I haven’t included in this sextet, his own teammate Pedro Acosta who won the Red Bull Rookies Cup last season.

Tatsuki Suzuki

The relationship between the likeable Japanese rider and the popular SIC58 Squadra Corse team continues for a fifth season in 2021. After seven races of 2020, the 23-year-old was a title contender with victory at Jerez in round three and a podium at Misano. Tatsuki appears to have formed a strong bond with Paolo Simoncelli over the years and it would be great to see the pair back on the podium in 2021.

Dennis Foggia

The former VR46 Academy rider starts his fourth season in Moto3 with perhaps more expectation than any previous year. H

Dennis Foggia, Moto3 race,,Aragon MotoGP 2019. Image courtesy of Gold and Goose/KTM

e remains with the competitive Leopard team and has a rookie for a teammate in Spaniard Xavier Artegas which should help the team focus on his title bid. The 20-year-old Italian also took his maiden win last season at Brno and was second at the final race of the year in Portugal.

Jeremy Alcoba

The rookie of the year in 2020 took his first podium at the final round in Portugal. The 19-year-old also finished in the top ten in eight of the fifteen races and showed great consistency across the season (only one finish outside the points and two retirements). Of the riders yet to win a race in Moto3, Jeremy is my tip for one in 2021.

 

FULL LIST OF TEAMS AND RIDERS

Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda

17 – John McPhee (GBR) – 26yo – 151 races, 3 wins – 7th overall in 2020

40 – Darryn Binder (RSA) – 22yo – 99 races, 1 win – 8th overall in 2020

Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM

5 – Jaume Masia (SPA) – 20yo – 53 races, 3 wins – 6th overall in 2020

37 – Pedro Acosta (SPA) – 16yo – Rookie – 2020 Red Bull Rookies Cup Champion, 3rd in FIM CEV Moto3 in 2020

Red Bull KTM Tech3 – KTM

53 – Deniz Oncu (TUR) – 17yo – 15 races, 0 wins – 17th overall in 2020

71 – Ayumu Sasaki (JAP) – 20yo – 70 races, 0 wins – 16th overall in 2020

Aspar Team Moto3 – GasGas

11 – Sergio Garcia (SPA) – 17yo – 32 races, 1 win – 9th overall in 2020

28 – Izan Guevara (SPA) – 16yo – Rookie – 2020 FIM CEV Moto3 Champion, 9th in Red Bull Rookies Cup in 2020

Leopard Racing – Honda

7 – Dennis Foggia (ITA) – 20yo – 54 races, 1 win – 10th overall in 2020

43 – Xavier Artigas (SPA) – 17yo – Rookie – Runner-up in FIM CEV Moto3 in 2020

Team Gresini Moto3 – Honda

52 – Jeremy Alcoba (SPA) – 19yo – 20 races, 0 wins – 11th overall in 2020

2 – Gabriel Rodrigo (ARG) – 24yo – 103 races, 0 wins – 13th overall in 2020

SIC58 Squadra Corse – Honda

24 – Tatsuki Suzuki (JAP) – 23yo – 103 races, 2 wins – 12th overall in 2020

20 – Lorenzo Fellon (FRA) – 16yo – Rookie – 11th in FIM CEV Moto3 in 2020

Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna

55 – Romano Fenati (ITA) – 24yo – 128 races, 12 wins – 14th overall in 2020

31 – Adrian Fernandez (SPA) – 16yo – 1 races, 0 wins – 7th in FIM CEV Moto3 in 2020

Rivacold Snipers Team – Honda

16 – Andrea Migno (ITA) – 24yo – 115 races, 1 win – 15th overall in 2020

12 – Filip Salac (CZE) – 19yo – 33 races, 0 wins – 21st overall in 2020

CIP Green Power – KTM

27 – Kaito Toba (JAP) – 20yo – 69 races, 1 win – 18th overall in 2020

73 – Maximilian Kofler (AUT) – 20you – 19 races, 0 wins – No points in 2020

Reale Avintia Moto3 – KTM

23 – Niccolo Antonelli (ITA) – 24yo – 147 races, 4 wins – 19th overall in 2020

99 – Carlos Tatay (SPA) – 17yo – 17 races, 0 wins – 22nd overall in 2020

BOE Skull Rider Facile.energy – KTM

82 – Stefano Nepa (ITA) – 19yo – 40 races, 0 wins – 20th overall in 2020

54 – Riccardo Rossi (ITA) – 18yo – 33 races, 0 wins – No points in 2020

CarXpert Prustel GP – KTM

6 – Ryusei Yamanaka (JAP) – 19yo – 19 races, 0 races – 24th overall in 2020

50 – Jason Dupasquier (SUI) – 19yo – 15 races, 0 wins – No points in 2020

Honda Team Asia – Honda

92 – Yuki Kunii (JAP) – 16yo – 15 races, 0 wins – No points in 2020

19 – Andi Farid Izdihar (INA) – 23yo – Rookie in Moto3 – 16 Moto2 races in 2020 with no points

Nicky “The Kentucky Kid” Hayden – the Legend

Nicky Hayden “The Kentucky Kid” was known for his natural ability to ride motorbikes, his respectful polite attitude and for his abundance of charisma.

Nicky Hayden is all smiles (Image: Circuitricardotormo.com)

Born July 30th 1981 Nicky Hayden sadly passed away May 22nd 2017, from injuries sustained from riding a bicycle in Italy, aged just 36 years old. During these years he led an incredible life and a career many would be jealous of. His brother Tommy said “He dreamed as a kid of being a pro-rider and he not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport.”*

So how did Nicky Hayden manage to achieve all this?

At age 3 Nicky started to ride dirt bikes with his family and by age 5 was racing them. Aged just 16 he had turned professional and followed his brother (Tommy) into AMA Superbike racing. Aged 21 he won the Daytona 200 and became the youngest AMA Superbike champion, which propelled him into his Moto GP career.

Racing with the number 69 he carried on where he left off in AMA and rode for (Repsol) Honda in 2003 and became Valentino Rossi’s team-mate. An interesting choice as Hayden hadn’t come through the normal rankings to participate in Moto GP. He finished a respectful 5th place in the season. The same time he won Rookie of the year. He was definitely showing that he was one to watch.

2004 saw Nicky Hayden with a new team-mate – Alex Barros (the year that Rossi left Honda to move to Yamaha). Hayden sustained injuries from a broken collarbone which hampered his championship hopes and ended the season in 8th place, alongside Carlos Checca and Loris Capirossi.

Having his best season so far in 2005, Nicky Hayden secured his first win on home soil at Laguna Seca (America), making it an ever sweeter victory as Moto GP hadn’t returned here since 1994 (11 years). He also finished 3rd overall in the championship with 206 points, his best result yet. Honda also paired him up with yet another new team-mate – Max Biaggi.

Emotional Nicky Hayden winning 2006 championship (Image: Motorsport.com)

Now with 3 year’s of experience, The Kentucky Kid was definitely making a name for himself. Through constant strong performances and sheer determination Hayden became the 2006 Moto GP World Champion. He had now “managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport”. This season Nicky was riding the prototype Honda, that no-one else had used and was helping to develop it all the while with his eyes on the prize. Honda also decided that he would have another new team-mate to get used to, this time saw Dani Pedrosa who progressed from 250’s, from this point on Pedrosa remained his team mate at Honda.

Hayden won the 2006 championship only 5 points above Rossi (252 points). Finishing 3rd in the final round at Valencia. He also finished 3rd at Istanbul Park celebrating his 50th Moto GP race and at Assen he gave Honda their 200th race win in the top-class. He also became the only other champion in the 990cc class, other than Rossi. Showing that consistency really does pay off.

The new engine format ruling brought into Moto GP for 2007, saw 990cc engines go to 800cc, this seemed a challenge for Nicky’s riding style which culminated in him finishing 8th overall in the championship.

Continuing with Honda, Hayden sustained injuries again, this time to his foot which hampered his championship throughout 2008 and he finished 6th for the season.

2009 was the year for a switch-up. Hayden left Honda for the first time in his professional career and teamed up with Casey Stoner at Marlboro Ducati. Adjustments were needed for the new change, Nicky tried his best but finished outside the top ten for the first time in a season, finishing 13th.

Riding for Ducati (Image: Motorcycle News)

Sticking with Ducati for 2010, he ended the year in 7th, a large improvement following on from the previous year.

Valentino then joined Ducati in 2011. Pairing up with his old team-mate and friend, Hayden and Rossi should have been the perfect team to lead Ducati to the championship. But, things were not perfect, even after all effort was made to make the bikes more competitive they just never amounted to much and Hayden finished 8th in the championship.

Nicky Hayden continued to ride for Ducati in 2012 and 2013. Finishing in 9th place, both seasons.

Hoping to find some new form and possibly another championship win, Hayden returned to Honda (2014) where he stayed for the next two years. Finishing 16th and 20th. The worst results in his career. Nicky decided enough was enough and left Moto GP for a new challenge in World Superbikes.

Before his last race at Valencia in 2015 however, the FIM recognised Nicky’s achievements and named him Moto GP’s 22nd Legend. He was now alongside such names as Agostini, Simoncelli, Rainey and Sheene – to name a few. Normally this status is awarded posthumously, but in his case, an exception was made.

Nicky Hayden leading the pack in WSB (Image: Motorsport.com)

2016 was definitely the injection Hayden needed. New challenges, new bike (still with Honda), new team, new tracks, new experiences saw Hayden finish 5th in the championship, mirroring his first year in Moto GP and not only that but winning at Malaysia and finishing on the podium a further three times.

If his first season in WSB was anything to go by, he was on his way to becoming champion there too. Tragedy struck though in 2017 and saw a shining star taken suddenly from us all.

Ride on Kentucky Kid – always remembered.

*(https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/motorsport/39972058)

2021 Moto GP season preview

Photo credit: Moto GP website

2020 was the year to shake up all years, who could have predicted what happened?

Starting with Marc Marquez missing the whole season due to an injury sustained in Jerez, the possibility of no races even happening due to the pandemic, then the races going ahead but much later in the year to an unpredictable world champion and new tracks!

Marc Marquez at Jerez 2020. Image courtesy of Box Repsol/Honda Racing

However, with the new 2021 season fast approaching, there is more to discuss: will Marquez be at full fitness? Will Joan Mir be able to defend his title? Will Yamaha’s engine be problematic again and who have people got their eye on?

After Mir won his first Moto GP race and his first Moto GP championship in 2020 with Suzuki – a feat that hasn’t been accomplished for 20 years – Davide Brivio (Suzuki’s team Manager) announced that he was leaving and starting a new adventure outside of Moto GP. Suzuki have said that they are not currently looking for a replacement and are happy with the teams work-ethic. They may promote someone within the team, but nothing has been officially said. Let’s hope that they will keep the same momentum going through to 2021, with Mir being defending champion. Will he be able to handle the pressure? Will he be as hungry for the win now he has won one title? Will he be able to bring the fight to Marc Marquez, if he returns fully fit? Only time will tell.

Marquez has had to have numerous operations on his arm since the beginning of the 2020 season, which saw him unable to compete for the rest of the year. It has been announced that he will not be back for the start of 2021 in Qatar either, due to the healing process of the most recent operation. This paves the way potentially for Andrea Dovisioso to return to Moto GP, in place of Marc.

Andrea Dovizioso at the 2019 Misano Test. Image courtesy of Ducati

Dovisioso decided to leave Ducati last year, due to some differences, which left the “Undaunted” rider with no ride for the 2021. However, as he now has no ties or affiliation with any team, Honda are able to ask him to step in for Marc. Having ridden for Honda previously in Moto GP, starting in 2009, it wouldn’t be their worst decision.

When Marquez does return to racing, the questions are: will he be fully able to compete as he once did? Will he be physically and mentally prepared for the close contact, action packed races? And after having a year off, will the others riders be more focused and the teams more prepared than him and Honda?

Of course Alex Marquez is now going to be racing for LCR Honda, instead of being with his brother on the Repsol. So, Marc will also have to get used to his new team-mate Pol Espargaro and vice versa.

The teams are as follows:

Team

Racers

Repsol Honda

Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro

Ducati

Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia

Monster Energy Yamaha

Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quatararo

Suzuki Estar

Joan Mir and Alex Rins

Red Bull KTM

Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira

Aprila Racing

Aleix Espargaro and Lorenzo Salvadori (or Bradley Smith)

Petronas Yamaha

Valentino Rossi and Franco Morbidelli

LCR Honda

Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami

Pramac Racing

Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin

Red Bull KTM Tech 3

Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona

Esponsorama Racing VR46 Team

Luca Marini and Enea Bastinini

Jorge Martin and Luca Marini are the rookies for this season and would be good to keep an eye on as they have shown great potential in previous Moto 2 and Moto 3 championships.

Pol Espargaro and Franco Morbidelli at Jerez 2019. Image courtesy of Philip Platzer/KTM

2021 also sees three different sets of brothers competing against each other: Marc and Alex Marquez, Pol and Aleix Espargaro and Valentino Rossi and Luca Marini.

As for the tracks they will be competing on, the line-up is looking good. However, there are some reserve tracks should the Coronovirus impede on the championship again, namely: Portugal, Indonesia and Russia.

The calendar for the year is as follows:

Date

Location

Track

28th March

Qatar

Losail International Circuit

11th April

Argentina

Termas di Rio Hondo

18th April

America (Austin, Texas)

Grand Prix of the Americas

2nd May

Spain (Jerez)

Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto

16th May

France

Le Mans

30th May

Italy (Tuscany)

Autodromo Internaziole del Mugello

6th June

Spain (Catalunya)

Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya

20th June

Germany

Sachsenring

27th June

Netherlands

TT Circuit Assen

11th July

Finland

Kymi Ring

TBC

TBC

TBC

15th August

Austria

Red Bull Ring – Spielberg

29th August

Britain

Silverstone Circuit

12th September

Spain (Aragon)

Motorland Aragon

19th September

San Marino

Misano World Circuit – Marco Simoncelli

3rd October

Japan

Twin Ring Motegi

10th October

Thailand

Chang International Circuit

24th October

Australia

Phillip Island

31st October

Malaysia

Sepang International Circuit

14th November

Spain (Valencia)

Circuit Ricardo Tormo

However, due to Covid 19 the Sepang tests have already been cancelled. All dates and tracks are up to date and confirmed at the time of writing (January 2021), but can be subject to change.

There has also been a change for the Circuit de Barcelona. Turn 10 has had the shape re-designed, in agreement with the FIM and FIA for both Moto GP and F1, following safety concerns from past years.

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales during the Austrian 2020 Race in which both riders avoided bikes re-entering the track. Image courtesy of Yamaha Motor Racing

There is one new important rule to Moto GP this year: both non-concession and concession manufacturers must start the 2021 season using March 2020 approved parts. After that, normal upgrade regulations will apply for the rest of 2021.

Yamaha had issues last year with their engines and once with brake failure, which led to Vinales having to jump off at the end of the start-finish straight at the Styrian Grand Prix. Will this continue into 2021? Arguably, the Petronas Yamaha seemed to be the more competitive and reliable bike within the Yamaha team, will that still be the case for Rossi and Morbidelli this year? If so will Valentino be able to achieve his illusive 200th podium?

Marco Bezzecchi, Moto2 race, European MotoGP, 08 November 2020. Picture courtesy of Triumph

As for BT Sport viewers, they will also not be hearing the familiar voice of Keith Huewen as he has decided he would like to step down from commentating and spend more quality time with his family. It has not been announced yet who will be filling his shoes, but there are plenty of possibilities. Best wishes for him in the future.

Whatever the outcome, audiences are sure to be in for a treat with the 2021 Moto GP Championship.

Who do you think will come out victorious? And also which team will be number one at the end of the season?

Racing Legends: Casey Stoner

When talking about legends of grand prix racing, the name of Casey Stoner is never far from anyone’s lips. 

Stoner’s early career is somewhat unremarkable in terms of results. From dirt-track racing in the Australian outback, to honing his short circuit skills in the junior ranks of BSB and then through the 125cc and 250cc grand prix classes. His natural speed on a bike and his skill to ride any machine was undoubted, but throughout his junior years there was concern by many over his consistency.

His debut season in MotoGP, in 2006, seemed only to emphasise this. A regular front-row starter with LCR Honda, Stoner struggled for consistency over longer races – sending himself and bike barrelling through gravel traps as he tried to chase down those on superior machinery.  A pole position and a podium finish towards the end of the season provided a glimpse as to what was to come.

With Honda’s eggs at the time all devoted to Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa, Stoner had to jump ship if he was to become a serious championship contender.

2007 – Ducati’s Golden Year

Credit: Ducati Corse

Stoner’s arrival at Ducati was met with more than a few questioning murmurs from many quarters, after a difficult debut season with LCR Honda. The discontent was particularly vocal back in his home country. Despite having claimed a maiden win for the factory outfit, Troy Bayliss was shown the door to make way for his younger compatriot.

Stoner would be paired with Loris Capirossi, with the expectation that the Italian stalwart would initially set the standard, and the young Australian would gradually build to an even footing by the end of the season. 

Whether it was the plan, or a cryptic challenge from the team, Stoner’s response on track was something else. 10 wins across the season, including an emotionally charged victory at Ducati’s home race at Misano to wrap up his first world championship crown. 

Such was his relentless charge to the title, it’s impossible not to draw similarities with Valentino Rossi. Was this a changing of the guard? The media couldn’t help but stir that particular pot. It irked Rossi, and as the season drew on there was a growing sense of rivalry between them. Things came to a head at Laguna Seca when Rossi accused Stoner of breaking the track limits to force an overtake at the corkscrew. Rossi would famously ‘repay the favour’ the following season. Whilst the two would joust each other more often than not for top honours in the years to come, Stoner was too fast and too consistent to be stopped in 2007. 

The Desmosedici machine was undeniably fast – especially on low-fuel qualifying runs and in a straight line (the traditional strength of any Ducati). However, those doubting Stoner’s racecraft were silenced as he hauled and wrestled a fully fuel laden Ducati around the circuits with relentless precision. When forced to cut through the field after a less than clean start, Stoner relied on the skills honed way back on the dirt tracks in Australia, as he dived, carved and – occasionally – bullied his way through the pack. 

The final standings for the season said it all – Stoner finished the season winning the championship by an astonishing 125 point margin. Capirossi, for the record, finished 7th and over 200 points behind. 

Stoner remains to this day Ducati’s only MotoGP world champion.

2009 – Battle with Chronic Fatigue

Credit: Getty Images

After securing another routine victory at the opening round in Qatar, the Australian’s form fell off the proverbial cliff. Nobody could fathom why. In qualifying he’d still have the beating of everyone – often by the best part of half a second. After the Catalan grand prix fell apart so spectacularly, Stoner took the unprecedented decision of taking a mid-season hiatus. 

At first it was just suspected burnout. Sit out the next round or two and be back. The reality was far more complex. After numerous tests and consultations back in Australia, Stoner was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue – a condition he is still managing to this day. The condition has many symptoms – among them most prevalent are a complete lack of energy / total exhaustion with an acute state of depression and quite often acute muscle and joint pains. Heavy exercise or over-exercising increases the symptoms. 

With this in mind one can see how racing an 800cc prototype, particularly such a demanding bike like the Ducati, resulted in such a sudden blowout for Stoner. Critics were quick to question his mentality – and even state he no longer had the desire to race as hard as his rivals. The truth is, he physically and mentally couldn’t race and needed to recuperate away from the inferno that is grand prix racing. For more information about Chronic fatigue: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs/ is a very useful starting point.   

Stoner’s decision to take a hiatus was vindicated immediately upon his return. He followed Lorenzo home to a comfortable second place at the Portuguese grand prix in Estoril, then demolished the field at Phillip Island to secure a hat-trick of victories on home-turf. 

Stoner was back.     

2011 – The Dream Come True

Credit: HRC Images

After relations soured with Ducati in 2010, Stoner signed for the Repsol Honda team. Emulating his boyhood hero, Mick Doohan. Once more he faced critics – this time aimed more at the team than the rider. The bike, whilst a competent competitor, had fallen clearly behind Yamaha in recent years. There was also the controversy of Honda employing three riders in their Repsol-backed factory team.

With a competitive bike underneath him again, and a team actively supporting his direction, Stoner was once more given an opportunity to fight for the championship. The season couldn’t have started better. Fast throughout testing, Stoner delivered at the opening round under the floodlights in Qatar, leaving the defending champion Jorge Lorenzo in a distant second place. 

The rivalry between Stoner and Rossi briefly resurfaced at the following round when the Italian – now at Ducati – lost the front wheel into turn one and took himself and Stoner out of the race. In the aftermath, Stoner uttered to Rossi the now famous line in racing folklore: “Your ambition outweighed your talent”.

Arguably, Stoner’s finest hour of the season came at a drenched Silverstone. The start was delayed due to the continuous downpour, but the decision was finally made to get underway. Whilst chaos reigned behind him with riders constantly tripping up on the treacherous surface, Stoner executed a wet-weather masterclass, negotiating every corner and braking point – almost drifting through every apex – with an elegance previously unseen by him. His teammate Andrea Dovizioso was the best of the rest, finishing 15 seconds adrift. The race effectively ended any hope Lorenzo had of retaining the title, crashing out halfway through the race, unable to stick to the Australian.

From then on, Stoner ensured he had it all his own way for the rest of the season. At Aragon he showcased another imperious lights-to-flag victory ahead of his other team-mate Dani Pedrosa. The result ensured victory in the constructors’ championship for Honda for the first time since 2006 with the late and much missed Nicky Hayden. Stoner’s personal triumph would be confirmed once again at Phillip Island. 

The weekend had been drummed up as a tribute to Mick Doohan – officially badged to mark 20 years since he joined HRC. Essentially, it was a grand gesture from Honda to mark Stoner realising his dream of following in his hero’s footsteps. Though before he could don the champions t-shirt again, he first had to fend off a spirited challenge from Marco Simoncelli, pushed all the way to the final lap before the Italian was forced into a mistake. 

Battle won, and cue the euphoric celebrations from rider, team and fans alike. A premier class world champion with multiple teams. Only a select few have managed to claim such an accolade.

Credit: Getty Images

2012 – The Curtain Falls

The Australian may have had a much shorter grand prix career than his contemporaries – he called time on his career just 7 seasons since making his bow in the premier class.

His decision to retire stunned the racing world, in much the same vein as his signing for Ducati and his decision to take time out did. Very fitting – above all else, Casey Stoner did it his own way throughout his career. His ability and sheer tenacity on the bike ensured that he succeeded wherever he went.

Any controversy that followed him was ultimately silenced by his results.