Thursdays at MotoGP races usually mean the first chance the media has to talk to riders for the week, both at their debriefs and at the pre-event press conference, but at the British Grand Prix it means something a little bit more special.
Helping raise money for Riders for Health, Silverstone played host to the Day of Champions event, which sees fans able to ride the massive British track, walk the pit lane and see bikes up-close, meet GP stars, and bid on one-of-a-kind GP memorabilia.
All of the money raised from Day of Champions will help Riders for Health ensure health workers in Africa have access to reliable, well maintained motorcycles and ambulances so that they can continue to deliver life-saving health care to 14 million people. The Day of Champions is a great event, and it supports a wonderful charity.
This year accordingly, Riders for Health is proud to announce that the 3,500+ fans in attendance helped raise £193,802 at the Day of Champions event, a figure which the UK government will match. Booyah!
Silverstone has all the makings of being a very hectic weekend for a lot of people. Not so much because of the weather – things are looking up compared to a week ago, with just a few drops of rain forecast for Friday, and dry weather for Saturday and Sunday – but more because of the goings on behind the scenes.
Thursday was the deadline for Moto2 and Moto3 entries to be submitted. The class looks to be oversubscribed again, with Dorna and IRTA left to whittle the entry list down to something of its present size.
Since the beginning of the season, as he racked up one victory after another, Marc Marquez faced the same question over and over again: can you keep on winning? And over and over again, Marc Marquez gave the same answer: one day, he would not win. On that day, he added, it would be important to think of the championship, and get on the podium if possible.
That day came 10 days ago, at Brno. After struggling all weekend with a lack of rear grip on his Repsol Honda, Marquez couldn’t match the pace of his teammate Dani Pedrosa, and the two Movistar Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Fourth was all that Marquez could manage.
The measure of a champion is not just how he wins, but also how he handles defeat. As Marquez rolled back into his garage after the race – a rare occurrence indeed, this the first time Marquez finished off the podium in his MotoGP career – there were no tantrums, no anger, no shouting.
He patted his mechanics on their shoulders, sat down in his seat, and immediately started analyzing the defeat he had just suffered with his team. This was clearly not an experience he was keen to replicate any time soon. If any doubt still lingered, the eagerness with which he attacked the official test at Brno on the Monday after the race quickly removed them.
Yet there is good reason for Marquez to fear another defeat. After the summer break, the reigning world champion pinpointed both Brno and Silverstone as tracks where he expected to come under fire from his rivals. Fans and journalists were quick to dismiss those doubts as merely sandbagging, or playing to the peanut gallery.
Had Marquez not said exactly the same thing about Mugello, Barcelona and Assen? And had Marquez not taken victory at those tracks, too? At Brno, it turned out Marquez had been telling the truth. “Everyone said that winning was easy for me,” Marquez told the media. “But I know how hard it was.”
Another hallowed name is to make a return to the Grand Prix paddock. At Silverstone, Dakota Mamola, son of famed former 500 GP winner Randy Mamola, is to replace Nico Terol.
Terol is absent due to illness, the Spaniard suffering a mystery metabolic disorder, which is causing extreme muscle fatigue. While Terol undergoes treatment, Mamola will take his place, with Terol hoping to make a return at Misano, two weeks after Silverstone.
Under normal circumstances, Scott Redding would already know exactly where he will be racing in 2015. He has a contract with HRC and Gresini to race with the Go&Fun Gresini team, which puts him aboard the factory option Honda RC213V next year, replacing Alvaro Bautista.
Up until a few races ago, the only question mark was whether Redding would continue to run Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, which come as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal for Gresini, or whether the team would switch to Ohlins and Brembo, like the factory Honda team.
In the past couple of weeks, that situation appears to have changed. Ahead of the Brno round of MotoGP, rumors emerged that Gresini was struggling to raise the funds for 2015.
It will be McWilliams’ first Grand Prix since 2007, when he rode the ill-fated Ilmor, which was withdrawn after just one race due to a failure to raise sponsorship. Since then, McWilliams has been active in both the US and Ireland, racing in the XR1200 championship, which serves as a support race to the AMA, and racing on the roads in Northern Ireland.
The British Grand Prix is to move, if everything goes to plan. At a press conference held today, Dorna and the management of the Circuit of Wales announced that a deal had been reached that will see the track, to be built in Ebbw Vale in South Wales, will host the race for the next five seasons, with an option to extend the contract for another five years after that, until 2024.
The only problem is that the Circuit of Wales does not exist yet. The track is part of a £315 million project aimed at regenerating the Blaenau Gwent region, a once-prosperous region that has lost most of its employment since the coal and steel industries closed.
The Heads of the Valleys Development Company have set up a scheme to create a major motorsports industry hub centered around an FIM and FIA homologated race track, capable of hosting world championship racing.
After the serious incident at Silverstone, in which Dani Rivas crashed into Steven Odendaal during the Sunday morning warm up, as Odendaal and other riders stood waiting to make practice starts, the Grand Prix Commission has taken steps to regulate practice starts in all three Grand Prix classes.
From now on, practice starts will only be allowed from designated locations at the circuit, and practice starts elsewhere will be banned.
The casual MotoGP fan may not realize just how much Grand Prix motorcycle racing means to the British. Similar to the long tradition of success for American riders, British motorbike history includes some great champions and an important legacy of cultural contributions to top level racing.
It has been a while since the British had a premier class champ, but just as America dominated for over a decade with Roberts, Spencer, Rainey, Lawson, and Schwantz, the British once ruled the two-wheeled world with such legendary names as Sheene, Read, Surtees, Duke, and perhaps the greatest of them all, Hailwood.
So the British Grand Prix is simply a weightier affair than a MotoGP race in a country without decades of tradition haunting the grandstands and paddock. This is especially true when there are British riders contending for victory in their home race.
Perhaps Cal Crutchlow wasn’t a favorite for victory, but many in the paddock feel that if any current rider is going to join Ben Spies as the only other non-alien to win a dry race, it will be Crutchlow, and if that is to happen, where better than at Silverstone?