End of season, and my last one for the foreseeable future as a MotoGP commentator. Eighteen races a year are plenty, 19 are too many. Time to spend more time at auctions and autojumbles… I mean at home.
So the mind has been wondering back to the turn of the century and the arrival of one V Rossi in the top class of racing and the stuff that’s stuck in my memory. His first 500cc win, at Donington, was overshadowed by the recent death of Joey Dunlop. My abiding image of that race is Jeremy McWilliams carrying the flag of Northern Ireland complete with black ribbons on the slowdown lap.
Then came MotoGP and those man-eating two-stroke V4s instantly looked like mopeds as the 990 four-strokes trampled all over them on the run down to Suzuka’s first corner.
Then the Rossi miracles started: Phillip Island 2003 and the best ride I think I’ve ever seen after he was given a ten-second penalty and won by 15. Welkom 2004 when I thought he was crying his eyes out leant against the Armco. Turned out he was laughing his head off.
There were others. Casey Stoner arrived like a lightning bolt. His first flying lap of Mugello involved a flat-out, sideways trip over the curbs at Poggio Secco. That first lap overtake down the straight at Qatar 2007 told us all we needed to know about the first 800cc season. Jorge Lorenzo, precision personified, set pole position in his first three races. And then Marc Marquez. We’re going to need a bigger superlative.
Emotionally, nothing beat Nicky’s championship win in 2006 – probably the best season I have commentated right up until this year. Personally, seeing a British winner in the top class for the first time since Barry Sheene was my highlight. Thank you Cal.
Nearly 20 years of travel have allowed me to see more of the world than I ever thought possible. Japan remains different, fascinating and confusing, Malaysia is a fabulous place. China was the least Communist place I’ve ever been, or maybe that’s just Shanghai, Qatar’s indentured labour system is an affront to human decency.
All GPs, with the possible exception of Qatar, have something to recommend them. Jerez and Andalusia still feel seriously foreign to a Northern European, Mugello and Tuscany are beautiful and Italy is still reliably, wonderfully, crazy. I still retain a fondness for Assen despite the abbreviation of the track, Brno is the new Assen, and Austin is cool. And – whisper it – I rather like the rowdy old dump that is Le Mans; history seeps from every brick and the crowd is permanently on the edge of a set-to with the riot police. No-one sings the anthem like them.
And please stop congratulating me on my retirement. I will be broadcasting again next year, but travelling a lot less. Might still get to a coupe of GPs though.