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It all looks so easy but it’s not. Take the lead from the very start, pull away from the pursuing pack in the early stages or as Marc Marquez did on Sunday on the first lap and then cruise to victory without a care in the world. Ask any rider who has the talent to be able to perform such an act and they will all tell you it can be one of the toughest methods of securing 25 World Championship points.
Double 500cc World Champion Barry Sheene told me it needed more concentration and resolve to prevent the mind wandering as lap after lap all that was in front of you was empty tarmac with your pity board the only reality check to the real world. It was important to keep up your lap times at a constant fast pace, not only to prevent your pursuers to get a sniff of catching you but also to keep your mind focused. He told me it was so easy to let those lap times drop and his mind would start to wander towards the most bizarre thoughts that had absolutely nothing to do with Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Where have I left my car keys, what times the flight home tonight and what have we got for dinner were the most common. In those days such was the diversity of the field and the machinery they were riding, lapping backmarkers was a welcome exercise to sharpen the mind and bring you back to reality.
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I’m sure it was vital for 15 times World Champion Giacomo Agostini to have a few riders to lap to keep fully focused as he dominated those 350 and 500cc Grands Prix in the late sixties and early seventies. In 1969 Ago, riding the MV Agusta, won the 183.300 kms 500cc race at the Belgium Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps by four minutes 19s from the Triumph of Percy Tait lapping everybody but the British rider who brought the current day Moto2™ engine supplier their one and only premier class podium. Just a week later he lapped the entire field in the East German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Ago did what he had to do but I’m sure those epic battle with the Honda of Mike Hailwood and then bringing Yamaha that first premier class two-stroke 500cc World Championship brought him more satisfaction on route to those record-breaking 122 Grands Prix wins.
We have been so spoilt in the last couple of decades watching such close racing at the very front. Fifty two overtaking manoeuvres in that epic Phillip Island battle four years ago. The three Grands Prix before Aragon this week produced last bend showdowns that have all involved Marquez. The Repsol Honda displayed with his masterful ride on Sunday that sometimes you just have to get out in front from the start and concentrate to the very end. World Champions can win in any circumstances and his last two wins have shown why he could clinch his eighth World title in Thailand in a couple of weeks’ time.
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