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46 minutes ago
By Nick Harris

No bet on Danilo or Alex

Former MotoGP™ commentator Nick Harris discusses Petrucci and Marquez’ surprise podiums at Le Mans

Even my great friend from Yorkshire did not think to place a bet on Danilo Petrucci’s magnificent win at Le Mans. My friend had a good track record at Le Mans and like most Yorkshiremen is known to be particularly careful with his money.

He is the most knowledgeable person I have ever met about his great love MotoGP, but Danilo plus Alex Marquez caught him and all of us by surprise on Sunday. I am pretty sure the odds would have been impressive on what happened in the cold and wet Le Mans rain.

Emotional Petrucci gets a surprise videocall from his mum

Petrucci’s second ever Grand Prix win in what had been such a wretched season for the former policeman. The first MotoGP™ podium finish for former Moto3™ and current Moto2™ World Champion Alex Marquez. Only four sets of brothers have secured premier class podium finishes in the history of the sport. Argentinian brothers Eduardo and Juan Salatino in the early sixties took podium finishes in their home Grand Prix. Eduardo was third in 1962 while Juan grabbed two second places in 1961 and 1962.

The most famous trio of Grand Prix siblings were the Japanese Aoki brothers. Both Nobuatsu, a former 250cc Grand Prix winner, and Takuma grabbed second places in the premier class. Younger brother Haruchika also rode in the premier class but is better known for his two 125 cc World titles. Older brother Aleix Espargaro took his only premier class podium with a second place in Aragon six years ago while younger brother Pol grabbed his first for KTM in Valencia 2018 and of course finished third in Le Mans. Despite those two World titles Alex Marquez has always lived in the shadow of his older brother Mark. Ninety-five premier class podiums for the older brother including 56 wins says it all but Alex is off the mark. Perhaps the biggest surprise of them all on Sunday – Honda secured their first premier class podium of the season. It is the longest period they had gone without a podium since they returned to World Championship racing in 1982.

Le Mans and the Bugatti circuit has always been capable of producing surprise results. My first visit was no exception. I learnt so much. It can be very cold and do not travel round the Peripherique, the Paris Ring Road, on a Good Friday. It took me over six hours to drive to the legendary venue in 1983 from Charles Le Gaulle Airport but it was well worth it. On a freezing cold afternoon in early April British rider Alan Carter won the 250cc race to become at the time the youngest ever Grand Prix winner. He had started from 31st position on the grid. A year later his team-mate in the Yamaha 250cc team was a certain Wayne Rainey who went on to win three 500cc world titles. Sadly, for Alan Le Mans was his only ever Grand Prix win.

First wet race and first podium for magnificent Marquez

Back to my friend from Yorkshire. We sat in the press room at Le Mans in 2007, he looked out of the window at the gathering clouds and declared that Australian Chris Vermeulen could win his first Grand Prix and bring Suzuki their first victory for six years. When somebody checked the odds of 36/1 on such a prediction, we persuaded him to open his first internet betting account and put his money where his mouth was. When Vermeulen romped home with a comfortable win in the difficult conditions we prepared ourselves for a big Sunday night out on his winnings before driving to Paris the next day. We just about managed one round of drinks from those winnings. He had placed the princely sum of £1 for a Vermeulen victory but do not forget he is from Yorkshire.

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