The MotoGP™ World Championship turns 70 years old this weekend at the Catalan GP and in conjunction with this, the MotoGP™ Podcast paid a visit to former MotoGP™ commentator and known to many as the ‘voice of MotoGP™’, Nick Harris, to chat about the history of the sport, key riders from across every era and more.
One of those key riders is nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, a rider Nick remembers meeting for the first in the media centre at Mugello in 1996. Little did he, or anyone, know how much of an impact the charismatic Italian would make on the sport.
“I remember meeting him, this angelic looking 15/16 year old with the long hair and in the media centre at Mugello and being told it’s Graziano’s son, because I knew Graziano as he was Barry’s great friend. I was told to keep an eye on him and I followed his progress… well, what he’s done for motorcycle racing as one single person, we’ve talked about Kenny, Barry, Geoff Duke, Ago… but he’s had the biggest impact than any single one person in 70 years.
“I don’t think there’s any shadow of a doubt about that and what he has done. And when I came back (to the sport), it was his first year in the 500s. I have actually commentated on every one of his 500 or MotoGP™ victories. But I want that fact to disappear as I’d love to see him win again! But the impact he’s made on and off the track is amazing. He is an amazing motorcycle racer, his charisma off the track… I remember going to Silverstone when they launched the new pit complex, the Wing. They’d assembled all the greats of motorsport there, from Jackie Stewart, Murray Walker, Niki Lauda, Damon Hill, you name them, they were all there.
“And then Valentino decided he was going to fly in and I tell you all the people wanted to see him, including the Formula 1 people. That had quite an impact on me. I thought this guy has just put this sport somewhere where it’s never, ever been before… When I came back in 2000, I’d have never have believed the sport would be where it is now.”
MotoGP™ Podcast host Fran Wyld was with Nick for a chat in his home town of Oxford as the conversation moved onto what sets Rossi apart off track: “It’s the charisma, an understanding of what it’s all about, and a lot of things with Valentino,” said Nick.
“We used to get him to come to London and meet the public in Leicester Square and everything else. Getting him there on time, never easy, getting him to fit into what you want to do totally - never easy. Once he was on it and started though, he was charming people, talking very cleverly. The after-race press conferences, you just ask him how the race went and you’d get the whole thing from beginning to end without me saying another word. There’d be a few expletives in it as well.
“He is absolutely an amazing sportsman. He can’t go on forever can he, or can he? He’s double the age of Quartararo and he’s in front of him in the World Championship. I do hope and I honestly believe he will win another Grand Prix in the right circumstances. Sepang last year was the real opportunity and I was so disappointed that he didn’t do it.”
To listen to more from the 18th episode of the MotoGP™ Podcast, click this link!