‘The Prince of Speed’ didn’t just get his name, he had to earn it:
Read’s story could have been so different. He almost didn’t go into Motorcycle racing, he started as an apprentice fitter at a machinery company but whilst there he competed in amateur short-circuit racing, gaining valuable experience for when two years later he won his first motorcycle event in the Junior Manx Grand Prix, breaking the speed record in the process. It was clear from an early age this young man had talent.
In 1959 he won another title, this time in the Junior 350cc TT race but it didn’t end there. Keeping his winning streak up he went on to win the Thruxton 500 Endurance two years in a row. In the second season he also made the step-up into Grand-Prix road racing replacing Derek Minter, who was injured at the time.
Phil’s 500cc debut came at the Isle of Man TT, he finished 3rd and followed that with podiums in the next two races.
But to become a house-hold name in the 1960’s and 70’s he had to push himself even further.
In 1964 he signed a contract for Yamaha and won the 250cc championship, not just that he also maintained it the second year. People were certainly now noticing Phil Read, if they hadn’t already.
Throughout his career he battled many giants of the sport and in 1966 was no exception. Going toe-to-toe against fellow Brit Mike Hailwood (Honda), he lost his first championship since competing in the GP’s.
Read had a rebellious streak and was known for being outspoken. In 1968 this behaviour came to the forefront in the most spectacular way:
Yamaha wanted to win both the 125 and 250 championships. For this they chose Read and another fellow Brit – Bill Ivy to race for them. Read for 125’s and Ivy for 250’s. However, Phil had decided this wasn’t for him and defied team orders. Yamaha still won both championships, but it was Read who took the trophy for both. Yamaha did not take this well and responded by firing him and leaving him with no ride in 1969 and 1970!
After two years away Phil came back with a bang! 1971 saw Read compete once again in the 250 championship on a private Yamaha. The odds were against him, but he succeeded in winning his 5th World Title – the first ever World Champion as a privateer.
MV Augusta took note of his performance and offered him a ride for the following season. Read took the chance with both hands and it proved to be a fantastic call. Together they won the 500cc Championship and also in the same year the 350cc Championship. Making him the first-ever rider to win the junior, intermediate and senior World Championships. To show how difficult this achievement truly is only Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez have done so since.
He then took back-to-back victories in the 500 class, claiming his 8th crown.
Read was a tough competitor, he needed this toughness to win all of his titles, but in 1975 he couldn’t quite compete against another ‘King of the Sport’ – Giacomo Agostini (Yamaha). He fought well but, finished 2nd behind him. That same year would be Read’s final GP victory. But not his last win ever – in 1977 he won the Formula TT.
Risk equals reward and during these times manufacturers were trying lots of new things as new technology became available. Riders would risk their lives (just like they do now) but the prize was always worth it. Read was rewarded with an MBE (for his services in motorcycle racing) in 1979 and skipping a few years, in 2002 the FIM – Motorcycling Racing Governing Body – named Phil a GP Legend, meaning he was entered into the Moto GP Hall of Fame.
He lived his best Rock ‘n’ Roll life and was known as the ‘bad boy’ in the paddock. Owning a Rolls Royce, flying his own private plane and having many glamorous ladies during this time.
He retired in 1982 to spend time on ‘business interests’ and to take part in classic racing.
His legendary status will always live on, and his large living lifestyle will always be remembered. He is a true icon of the sport.
(Featured image: Read winning for Yamaha. Courtesy of: Motor Company Website).
After issues with freight delays, qualifying finally got underway at Argentina and it was a surprise front row finish.
Aleix Espargaro with the Aprilia took pole, the first ever in the Moto GP era with 1:37.688. Jorge Martin (Ducati) was second and Luca Marini (Ducati) took his second front row in Moto GP.
(Sad news once again for Marc Marquez as he couldn’t participate in this weeks race either. Wishing him a speedy recovery)!
With the energy buzzing and all eyes on Aprilia, could we finally witness history? Could Aleix Espargaro finally win his first race?
Lights out and Martin quickly took the lead ahead of A. Espargaro and Marini.
Honda rider, P. Espargaro powered past Marini, knowing he had to get to the front and fast, if he was going to be in for a shot of the podium. On the same lap Andrea Dovizioso retired his Yamaha and Aleix put in the fastest lap.
Lap 5 of 25 – current World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) was struggling in 13th position and his teammate (Franco Morbidelli) was having an even worse time in 19th. Franco later retired from the race with a mechanical failure.
Lap 6 – Johann Zarco (Ducati) crashed, turn 2 from 12th position, but his teammate was having a great time, setting a fastest lap from the lead.
Both Spanish riders were fighting hard for first place, each taking fastest lap away from each other. They managed to gap the third and fourth place men and break away with 1.749 seconds between them. Alex Rins (Suzuki) passed P. Espargaro to claim third, knowing this was his chance to get close to the leaders and try to also fight for the win.
Although starting off well, Marini had gone backwards and was fighting for 6th place alongside Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Maverick Vinales (Aprilia).
With 14 laps to go A. Espargaro took another fastest lap, he clearly had more pace than Martin and continued to chase him down. But, ‘metronomic Martin’ just kept putting in the perfect laps, keeping Espargaro at bay.
By lap 13 Bagnaia had gotten the better of Marini and took 7th place. Brad Binder (KTM) also seized the advantage and passed the Italian.
Meanwhile from 4th position, P. Espargaro fell in the gravel. A bad weekend for Honda just got worse.
Having gotten the better of Marini earlier in the race, Bagnaia made a small mistake which took him wide and forced him to re-join the race ahead of teammate Jack Miller, in 12th.
Back at the front and the Aprilia continued it’s hunt for the Ducati. Could he pass Martin for that elusive win? Could he make the dream a reality?
8 laps until the chequered flag and everyone was willing Espargaro on. He managed to finally make a move on Martin but couldn’t hold onto it and Martin took the advantage and went back in front. With the two Suzuki’s biding their time just behind.
The second attempt from Espargaro came with 6 laps to go, but once again the Ducati passed him back. Rins was now closer and looking ready to strike.
Third time lucky! With only 5 laps to go, Espargaro took attempt number three and this time made it stick. Almost immediately he created a small gap from Martin (0.249 seconds). Which then became 0.381 seconds. The pace was most definitely there.
However, Martin was not going to give up without a fight and stayed with Aleix. Unlike Aleix, Jorge knows the sweet taste of victory and the rush of adrenaline, but was Aleix about to also know the elation?
All Espargaro had to do was ride the perfect few laps. Just hold on!
The pressure was rising and audiences had their hearts in their mouths whist biting their nails. Just willing Aleix to the finish line. With just two laps to go.
It felt like forever for the last lap. A. Espargaro still led from J. Martin and A. Rins. The gap between Espargaro and Martin was now too large to shrink. The dream was edging even closer!
And just like that, history was made! Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia won the Argentine Moto GP 2022 race. With only his 4th ever podium and Aprilia’s first ever Premier Class win. After all the years of hard-work. There wasn’t a single person who didn’t feel joy for both rider and the team. 200 (premier Moto GP starts) must have been Aleix’s lucky number. The longest wait in Moto GP history for a maiden win, had finally ended.
Not only did he win the race and the hearts of many viewers, he also leads the championship:
Top Ten Race Finishers:
Overcome with emotion A. Espargaro said “… this is just a dream…”. No Aleix, this really happened and everyone was 100% behind you.
With nine different podium finishers in the first three races this year, Moto GP has never been so unpredictable. What will happen this weekend in Austin?
The thrill and excitement. The smell of the fuel. The sound of the engines. The anticipation for the race to start. The energy building. The lights going out. The speed of the racers. The elation when the racer you support wins or the deflation when they don’t. We as fans feel it all.
But, how did Silverstone get to where it is today?
Built in 1942 and used up until 1947 as RAF Silverstone, its sole purpose was for Wellington Bombers in WWII to take-off at the airfield that used to occupy the space. At the end of the war it was left abandoned.
In 1948 the Royal Automobile Club were thinking of bringing back motor racing to England and chose the abandoned airfield located in Northamptonshire as the start of their journey. 30th June 1948 a one-year lease had been secured and later that year in October the first international Grand Prix was held. Behind the scenes a lot of effort took place, 620 marshals were hired, 170 tonnes of straw bales were used and 10 miles of signal writing put into place. The event drew in an audience of 100,000 spectators. The RAC Grand Prix victory went to Luigi Villoresi.
We couldn’t speak about Silverstone’s rich history without Formula One. During an F1 race there is an average of 52 laps to complete at Silverstone and the circuit length is: 306.198km/ 190.263miles.
Notable F1 moments:
1950 – King George VI and our now Queen (Elizabeth II) visited and watched the racing. This was the one and only time that a reigning Monarch had done so. The race was won by Giuseppe Farina.
1960 – Graham Hill was cruising to victory ahead of Jack Brabham but with only 5 laps till the chequered flag, Hill spun off, leaving Brabham to take the win.
1971 – Jackie Stewart won that years race and along with it a new lap record.
1983 – Alain Prost hailed victorious, claiming his first win at Silverstone.
1998 – Michael Schumacher oddly won that years race whilst being stationary in the pits.
2008 – Local-boy Sir Lewis Hamilton took victory (and would go on to win 8 times).
2022 – F1 will return to Silverstone 1st – 3rd July.
1964 –Trying to improve safety for the competitors and their mechanics, a new pit lane separate to the main track was put in place.
1975 – Brand new pit garages were erected and a chicane was added at Woodcote.
1987 – The s-bend was removed and replaced with a sharp left – right bend on approach and larger pit garages were also added.
1990’s – A massive renovation took place to the circuit, which remains today – extra seating was erected and changes were made to the layout of the track eg. run-off at Copse was increased and Stowe became tighter. Further alterations have since followed.
2000’s – A new pit and paddock complex was built between Copse and Abbey and a new “arena” complex was ready for the 2010 season.
2018/19 – In 2018 the track was resurfaced but drainage issues forced the Moto GP race to be cancelled. Ahead of the 2019 race, the track was resurfaced yet again.
It has become the home of iconic British Racing, with it’s incredible history stretching back all the way to those days in 1948. It is instantly recognisable and is one of the fastest tracks on the racing calendar.
But, it wasn’t all about cars. Britain had a taste for Motorbike racing also. During a motorbike race there is an average of 20 laps to complete at Silverstone and the circuit length is: 5.89km. With 8 left-hand corners, 10 right-hands and a 770m long straight.
On the weekend of 13th August 1977 the British Motorcycle Grand Prix debuted. It was to be legend Giacomo Agostini’s final race, he finished a respectful 9th and American Pat Hennon on the Texaco Heron Team Suzuki took victory.
Notable Moto GP moments:
1978 – Another American won, this time it was Kenny Roberts (Yamaha) who took the win, in-front of two Brits – Steve Manship and Barry Sheene.
1979 – 1981 – Americans dominated the podium: Kenny Roberts took a second victory (1979) and a third (1980). Kenny Roberts and Randy Mamola took 2nd and 3rd behind Jack Middleburg (Suzuki) (1981).
1986 – Australian Wayne Gardner (Honda) took the top-spot. Some may recognise the name – 2021 Moto 2 Champion Remy Gardner’s Father.
1987 – Eddie Lawson won from Wayne Gardner and Randy Mamola. The racing then left Silverstone in favour of another British track: Donington. But returned in 2010 with modern-day Moto GP.
2010 – Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) took the flag from Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) and Ben Spies (Yamaha).
2011 – Another Australian lifted the trophy this time it was Casey Stoner’s (Honda) turn. With Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) and Colin Edwards (Yamaha) third.
2013 – All Spanish podium consisted of: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), Marc Marquez (Honda) and Dani Pedrosa (Honda).
2015 – All Italian podium: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati).
2016 – Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) took the win ahead of British-man Cal Crutchlow (Honda). The first time a Brit in Moto GP had stepped onto the podium since 1984. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was third.
2018 – The race was cancelled due to torrential rain and the circuit having drainage issues.
2020 – Cancelled again this time due to Global Pandemic – Covid-19.
2021 – Current Moto GP Champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) took victory from Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).
2022 – Moto GP will return to Silverstone 5th – 7th August.
As we immerse ourselves in the racing, witnessing wheel-to-wheel fighting and cheering on the competitors, we say the names given to parts of the circuit but never think twice about where these names originated from.
The story behind the name:
Abbey and Luffield – Luffield Abbey remains were discovered 200 metres from Stowe corner.
Becketts and Chapel Curve – Ruins of the chapel of Thomas Beckett are close to the circuit.
Stowe Corner – Named after the school which resides not too far away.
Maggotts – Maggotts Moor Field is also close to the track.
Copse – A small wood used to be adjacent to the corner.
Club Corner – In honour of the RAC Club.
Woodcote – Named for the Country Club, located in Woodcote Park in Surrey.
Hangar Straight – Two aircraft hangers originally lined the circuit where the straight sits.
Hamilton Straight – Named in 2010 in honour of the achievements of British racing driver Sir Lewis Hamilton.
Village – Commemorating Silverstone Village.
Ireland – Named for Innes Ireland (GP driver and President of the British Racing Drivers Club).
Wellington Straight – Vickes Wellington Bombers were based at RAF Silverstone.
Brooklands – Named for the world’s first purpose-built circuit at Weybridge, Surrey.
The Loop – Simply the shape of the corner.
The names may change over time and the circuit may yet again see change and growth. But one thing is for sure, racing unites fans and brings them together to enjoy the absolute ecstasy of the event. We all have our personal memories of a certain race at this legendary track, whether we were there in person soaking in the atmosphere or watching on TV – sitting on the edge of our seats. The magic of Silverstone will always live on.
Featured image: 2019 race win. Courtesy of: Ultimate Motorcycling Magazine
How do you sum up this Entertainer, this Role-Model, this Legend?
He has entertained audiences for the past 26 years, winning races and fans throughout the world, bringing new and old supporters to watch the spectacle that is Moto GP. His undying enthusiasm and passion for the sport that he loves has brought smiles and tears to many. His ups and downs shared and felt by all.
Starting in 125’s (now equivalent to Moto 2) on the Aprilia in 1996:
The young boy from Tavullia, Italy, who entered into the 1996 125cc World Championships didn’t start off lighting the world on fire, but little did we know he soon would. Starting his pattern of one year to watch and learn and second year to win, he went into 1997 with his first championship title, collecting 4 poles and 11 race wins, which would crown him Champion. It was here that we first saw the entertainer that fans would adore, dressing up as Robin Hood at Donington – one particular celebration that stands out and also adopting the iconic Sun and Moon design that he has carried with him through the years.
Progressing to 250’s (now equivalent to Moto 3) again on the Aprilia:
Rossi took another year to watch and learn and then became champion in 1999. Ditching the name Rossifumi and emerging as Valentinik. He continued to entertain the crowds with his celebrations on track, with the infamous Chicken riding pillion and the porta-loo gag. During the championship winning season he accumulated five poles and nine wins.
Following the pattern – watch and learn then win the next year, he moved up to the premier class: 500’s (now Moto GP):
With the dominating force of Mick Doohan winning everything in the premier-class, the racing was taking a bit of a lull and audiences were lacking in their numbers but even though the dominating force was due to change no-one was quite prepared for just how much!
Enter: The Doctor.
Another name change for Rossi saw him become The Doctor, a name that has become synonymous with him, just as much as the number 46 has.
Rossi teamed up with Doohan’s ex-crew chief Jeremy Burgess, who proved to be just what he needed. An impressive rookie season saw Rossi take 2nd in the championship and then in 2001 he became the last 500cc (2-stroke) World Champion. Taking 11 wins and 4 poles and along with that Honda’s 500th victory.
Spectators began to grow in their masses to watch this mesmerizing force that is Valentino Rossi, bringing with them a sea of yellow.
Moto GP – 2002: (the biggest-ever change in technical regulations):
Rossi was on the Repsol Honda – the first year of 990cc (4-stroke) and he pathed his way to glory once again, claiming 11 wins and 7 poles. Remaining with the same team for 2003, but with new team-mate the late Nicky Hayden, Vale again claimed the Moto GP crown with 9 wins and 9 poles.
But then when he was on top of the world he did what many people thought was the impossible and decided to do a ‘ridiculous move’. Many times we watched in awe at his talent but nothing more than when he switched teams. Why would he leave a championship winning team, one that had dominated for so long and ride for an under-dog team?
The under-dog team = Yamaha. The reason = A challenge.
The relationship between Rossi and Honda had slowly deteriorated, with Honda claiming that it was all the bike and not much to do with the rider. Rossi taking offence by this lack of respect up and left to prove a point and prove a point he did.
Taking along with him his crew chief and most of his team, they went into the 2004 championship with very little testing during the winter period leaving Rossi to ride his first race on the Yamaha in 2004 at Welkom and incredibly he won! Breaking Yamahas longest losing streak and beating Giacomo Agostini’s record run of 22 consecutive top-three finishers in the process. Finishing the season with 9 wins and 5 poles.
Many people thought it would be too difficult or nearly impossible to win a race let alone the entire championship. But, Valentino is no normal rider. If people weren’t supporting Rossi already then they were now.
Staying with Yamaha for 2005, Rossi was joined by another American – Colin Edwards. Vale won for a second year in a row alongside Yamaha and clinched his 50th premier-class win. At Donington he mesmerized us by winning on water and miming playing a violin over the line. He took a total 11 wins (the highest number of premier class victories in a season on a Yamaha) and 5 poles.
2006 was a close year for the title and went right down to the last race in Valencia to see who would be crowned. It was between the reigning champ – Rossi and old team-mate Hayden. Consistency was key for Hayden and he became the only other rider other than Rossi to win the 990cc era. Rossi finished 2nd overall.
Another hard year for Rossi and Yamaha in 2007, saw them finish 3rd in the championship, only securing 4 race wins. Casey Stoner became another new champion. But, not letting any of this get to him Rossi won back his crown in 2008 becoming the most successful rider in the top-class with 69 wins, overtaking Agostini’s record total of wins. He accumulated 9 wins for the season, 2 poles and another title under a different formula – 800cc. He became the first rider to become champion on four different types of motorcycle and with that – Yamaha’s most successful rider.
The showman carried on his winning streak and in 2009 remained Moto GP World Champion for the 9th time (in all classes), accumulating his 100th win of his career, 6 wins for the season and 7 poles. In 2010 Rossi announced it would be his final year with Yamaha as he decided he would switch manufactures once again to Ducati. He missed the most races of his whole career during that season after breaking his leg, when he did return though it was like he had never left. He was strong but couldn’t quite catch up.
Ducati, as it turned out was not a great career move for the Italian, even though on paper it seemed like the dream team. The Doctor couldn’t produce miracles this time and ended up returning to Yamaha after 2 seasons with Ducati and that is where he remained. He finished 4th in 2013, being a runner-up for the crown in 2014/ 2015 and 2016. What could have been 12 championship wins was never to be. In 2017 Rossi was 5th, then 2018 rose back up to 3rd in the championship. He finished 7th in 2019, 15th in 2020 and for his last year in 2021 he finished 10th.
Even though the last few years he hasn’t been fighting for those wins we are all used to witnessing, it doesn’t matter because he transcended the sport and has become synonymous with Moto GP and can never be replaced. He has made Moto GP what it is today and even though he will leave a hole, we all know the racing will still be just as good as always and of course his VR46 team, with it’s young Italian riders will be there to carry the flag.
This living legend, leaves behind a legacy and fantastic memories from fans and riders alike. Ending his illustrious career the way he wanted to, having raced for 26 seasons, finishing 235 times on the podium (more than any other rider in the history of the sport) and accumulating 115 Grand Prix Victories. The stats are truly astounding!
We may never again watch the iconic rituals of The Doctor or the sheer joy of his winning celebrations and the on-track battles but the memories will stay with us forever. Etched in our minds are the fights between him and his rivals – Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. Who could forget the moment on the corkscrew at Laguna Seca between Vale and Casey? Which had us all on the edge of our seats, or the last corner at Jerez with Sete? Holding our breath.
He has inspired so many people, not just celebrities like F1 driver Lando Norris or fellow Moto GP champion Fabio Quartararo, but millions of people around the world. You say Valentino Rossi and people just know. He has a natural ability to make people want to support and cheer him on with his charisma and affection for all his fans. The whole Moto GP paddock admire him and it showed with the last race in Valencia 2021. The whole pitlane came out for him and every rider got a private hug – his popularity is unhinged.
For us that have had the joy to watch his incredible career, it has been a privilege. He has become a Titan of Motorbike racing and we all know God-like status’s never fade, his name will be there along with Sheene and Agostini forever.
You have written the most amazing story and you will be missed. But as we all know “it’s not the end, it’s the next chapter” – Rossi.
(Featured image. Courtesy of: Moto GP website).
Images Courtesy: Moto GP website/MCN/ The Guardian/ Blogspot and Daily Star.
Poor weather conditions resulted in championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) qualifying in an unusual position of 15th on the grid.
Second-place-man in the championship Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took another pole. Team-mate Jack Miller was second and it was a surprise last place on the front row, for fellow Ducati rider, Luca Marini getting his best qualifying result.
If the weather was dramatic in qualifying, it certainly wasn’t for the race. However, the drama was there to stay:
The two factory Ducati’s gained a great start from the front and remained in first and second from Marc Marquez (Honda) who quickly got himself to third. Quartararo however, went backwards from 15th to 17th.
Straight away Miller became the perfect team player and took the defensive line against Marquez, keeping him at bay, to let Bagnaia get away. Bagnaia responded and quickly started to create a gap.
Meanwhile, down in 17th, Fabio started ticking people from his list and by lap 3 was up to 12th position, on the same lap unfortunately, last years champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) was told he had a jump start and was given a long-lap penalty, but soon after that he crashed out alongside Birthday-Boy Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) on turn 2.
Marquez was pushing himself and soon claimed fastest lap. Could he keep this form up and fight for a podium spot? With his fellow Repsol Honda rider behind him he only had to focus on the two Ducati’s ahead.
But there was drama unfolding on the track and with 24 laps to go the first part played out. Jack Miller crashed from second on turn 15, trying to defend for Pecco – leaving him alone to fight for first.
Marquez took his opportunity and closed up on Bagnaia, piling on the pressure. It appeared he was able to turn his Honda better than the Ducati, his arm problems seemingly a thing of the past. Or was it due to the Michelin tyre choice between the two? Bagnaia chose to race with a hard front and medium rear, while Marquez chose a medium front and soft rear. Which set of tyres were going to prevail?
Also piling on pressure was Fabio, now up to 10th place, passing fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco (Ducati).
Crashing on the same lap however was Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) but he managed to rejoin, albeit in last place.
Continuing his hunt, Fabio was soon up to 9th place behind a group of riders, ready to pick them off one-by-one.
A technical issue resulted in Alex Marquez (Honda) having to retire early on lap 11 and Iker Lecuona (KTM) also retired early due to a crash on turn 1.
The tension meanwhile between first and second continued to build with Marc still looking like he was going to pounce at any moment on Pecco.
Quartararo started to pick off the riders in the pack and soon passed into 8th place, with 14 laps until the end. Whilst Fabio was riding high, disaster struck for another Ducati rider – Jorge Martin, who crashed out turn 1, lap 13.
The group in-front of El Diablo started to have mini battles for positions, bringing him into the fray. He soon passed team-mate Franko Morbidelli and number 10 rider – Marini, taking 7th place. With only 12 laps to go, could he progress any further? Any questions were answered when on lap 18 he also passed Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) for 5th position. He only had KTM rider Miguel Oliveria and Honda rider Pol Espargaro in-front for a podium spot. Could he do it?
Meanwhile, Bagnaia was responding to Marquez’s pressure and pushed for the fastest lap, trying to break away from the Spaniard.
But, the Ducati drama was not over and with only 5 crucial laps until the end, Bagnaia suddenly slid from first position into the gravel and alongside that his championship hopes. Ducati held their heads in their hands along with multiple fans who couldn’t believe what they had seen. Leaving Marquez to claim first and lead the race all the way to the chequered flag. Quartararo was also granted another position, but Enea Bastianini (Ducati), who had come from 16th place on the grid, had other ideas for Fabio and with only 2 laps until the end, looked like he might fight for 3rd.
The edge-of-your-seat drama continued on the last lap and Bastianini did indeed pass Quartararo for the last spot on the podium.
There was too many things happening all at once – Marquez crossed the line, proving all the doubters wrong with regards to his arm health. Bastianini passed Quartararo on the last lap. Fabio claimed the World Championship and local Hero Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) finished in 10th at his last home race.
It was history in the making! Fabio Quartararo became the first Frenchman to ever claim the Moto GP World Championship title and along with it the first championship win for Yamaha since 2015.
It was also the first podium for Pol, racing for his new team and a second podium for rookie Bastianini in the Premier Class.
Fabio celebrated in style, walking down a red carpet to receive a golden helmet, alongside celebrations which included pyrotechnics and a live DJ.
Top 10 race results:
Top Four Championship results:
With only 2 races left for the season, will there be another new race winner? A third in a row win for Marquez? Or will El Diablo want to go out with an even bigger bang?
Warm weather and good track conditions saw Ducati dominate in Spain.
Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took an all-time lap record for pole position and Ducati’s 50th pole in the Moto GP class while his team-mate took a sensational second. From Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), who rounded off front row in third.
Aragon saw the return of Maverick Vinales, on an Aprilia (his new team for 2022) and last weekends two Brits – Jake Dixon, riding for Petronas Yamaha and Cal Crutchlow, riding for the factory Yamaha.
Track temperature remained at a high level, reaching 42degrees by lights out. The Ducati’s had been superb in qualifying but Marc Marquez (Honda) was on home-ground with numerous victories already in place at the Aragon circuit. Starting from fourth on the grid, on a track better suited for his injured shoulder, could he perform at his best once again to take two victories this season?
Bagnaia was quick off the line but it was Marquez who soared up to 2nd place, ahead of Jack Miller (Ducati) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Unfortunately, luck was not on Alex Marquez’s (Honda) side and he took a tumble on the first lap.
Fabio’s luck didn’t go too well for him either and he went from 3rd to 7th. Could he work his way back through the pack?
Good luck however was on the side of last years race winner Alex Rins (Suzuki), who had risen 5 places from where he started on the grid.
Lap two saw Britain’s Jake Dixon crash in sector 2, bringing an early end to his second Moto GP race.
Soon Quartararo and Brad Binder (KTM) were scrapping for 7th place but while that was happening Bagnaia claimed fastest lap. Putting in a lot of effort to try and break free of Marquez, but Marquez never released him and constantly sat on his rear – watching.
By lap five, Rins had made good progress and was up to 12th place and there were mini battles forming throughout the pack – Miguel Oliveira (KTM) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) fought for 14th place, while Iker Lecuona (KTM) and Brad Binder (KTM) fought for 8th place.
Marquez soon stole fastest lap from Bagnaia, all the while watching and formulating a plan.
All the riders, apart from Zarco, had chosen to use hard front Michelin tyres and soft rear. Did Zarco know something the others didn’t? Would we see a change in pace later on in the race?
First and second started to break away from Miller in third and 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th created their own group.
With 12 laps to go Miller went wide and A. Espargaro and Joan Mir (Suzuki) took advantage and passed but Mir went one further and also passed Espargaro for last place spot on the podium.
With all this happening behind them, Bagnaia and Marquez extended their lead even further to 3.405 seconds.
Rookie Enea Bastianini (Ducati) and Quartararo battled it out for 9th place, which brought Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) into the fray. But it resulted in Nakagami passing both Bastianini and Quartararo on lap 14 of 23. The fight then switched between Nakagami and Bastianini, with the Japanese rider winning the place.
The gap between the leading pair extended further still with 4.226 seconds between them and Mir.
Fabio was back up into 8th place after Iker went wide on lap 18.
Predator mode was fully activated for Marquez with four laps until the chequered flag, as he closed down further on Bagnaia, all of his waiting, watching and planning were put into action.
Bagnaia was warned of his proximity and rode defensively, keeping him at bay.
With 3 laps to go:
Marquez passed Bagnaia but the Ducati rider took the position straight back and rode defensive into turn 12.
Marquez passed him again, but again Bagnaia re-took the lead.
2 laps to go:
Marquez tried once again, but once again Bagnaia out-braked Marquez and remained in 1st.
Another pass from Marquez, saw Bagnaia pass right back.
The lead was momentarily Marquez’s for the 5th time but for the 5th time Bagnaia took it back.
Turn one saw Marquez go back into the lead but it was taken straight back by Bagnaia.
Marquez passed again soon after but he went wide and Bagnaia needed no invitation and re-took the lead again.
The final attempt on turn 12 saw Marquez pass again, he got into the lead but went wide and in doing so exceeded track limits. Bagnaia fought a hard but respectful battle and beat Marquez to victory, to claim his maiden win in Moto GP. A healthy 25 points meant he climbed up the championship ladder into second place and he became the 8th different winner for 2021.
It was an even sweeter day for Ducati as it was not only their 50th pole position in Moto GP which accumulated into a win but it was also their 50th anniversary of their first entry into the Moto GP championship (12th September 1971 – Monza).
Top Ten Riders:
The only Yamaha rider to gain any points during the race had relatively poor finish but it still sees him leading the championship:
Championship top four:
Making history for Ducati and himself, Bagnaia proved he has what it takes to be a Moto GP winner. Will we now see a new championship contender for 2021?
Featured image. Courtesy of: Ducati Course Twitter.