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Nothing can stop the pace of life, not even pandemics, but MotoGP™ just does it so much quicker than anybody else. I could not believe it. I was still digesting the final Grand Prix of the season at that amazing Portimao circuit when less than 24 hours later the provisional entry list for the 2021 season popped into my inbox.
Dovizioso's Ducati farewell following the Portuguese GP
Already we had the provisional calendar and after the unbelievable efforts and personal sacrifices put in by everybody to produce such a stunning 2020 show we were up and running for 2021. No time to catch your breath or reflect on the most amazing season in the 72-year history of the sport because 2021 has already taken over. I should have realised that things had changed when Bradley Smith told me on the morning of the first Grand Prix of 2016 in Qatar that he had signed for KTM. My first reaction was I thought you were riding for Tech 3 when I realised, he meant for 2017 and his debut for the Austrian factory was still 12 months away. Talk about forward planning! Long gone were the days it was only in the new year that plans and team line ups for the new season started to emerge after all the festivities.
The first and most important piece of information to keep family unity on a proper level was the schedule. Family holidays to fit in with school holidays and the Grand Prix schedule had to be planned immediately before those long flights began. Then it was the premier class entry list. Who is not on it, as much as who is? The days of big surprises in the age of the internet have long gone. Although I knew their names would not be in the hallowed list of 22 riders it was the omission of two names that made me sad. Two very different characters who I so enjoyed working with, Andrea Dovizioso and Tito Rabat.
A MotoGP™ grid without the calm, friendly and mighty talented Dovi will be a lesser place. Three times runner–up in the Championship spearheading the Ducati revival. A rider who had come through the system. A 125cc World Champion, runner–up in the 250cc Championship before joining MotoGP™ in 2008. Fifteen MotoGP™ wins was not just enough to bring him the Championship he so deserved. Three times in succession he was runner-up to Marc Marquez. Dovi could not have chosen a worse time for his title challenge. His compatriot Max Biaggi was also runner-up three times after 13 premier class wins. Like Dovi at least he had world titles to look back winning four successive 250cc crowns before arriving in 1999 on the premier class grid and winning his first Grand Prix.
The unluckiest runner-up of them all must surely be Randy Mamola. Thirteen Grands Prix wins brought that runner-up spot no less than four times. The Californian was such a massive part of that vibrant 80’s 500cc Grand Prix decade and unlike Dovi and Max never had a world title to look back on that he certainly deserved. It still hurts.
I will never forget Tito Rabat’s brilliant impersonation of me in my farewell video from the riders at the end of the 2017 season. That toothy grin from a larger than life character as he spoke in an Oxfordshire accent with a strong Catalan flavour. Despite some big setbacks and certainly injuries he always bounced back with that grin and a joke. Tito was obsessed with the weather and would check for me what was coming up on what seemed at least ten separate weather apps. Before arriving in MotoGP™ in 2016 Tito had a brilliant career in Moto2™ winning 13 Grands Prix and the 2014 World title.
I wonder how Dovi and Tito will find life without MotoGP™. It is not easy I can promise them. Grand Prix and TT winner Mick Grant told me he did not go near a racetrack for six years after his retirement but is now actively involved back in racing. Suzuki Grand Prix winner Chris Vermeulen gave me good advice over a pint in the legendary Isle of Wight pub on Phillip Island. “Remember nothing remains the same forever” he said.
Of course, Chris was right, but it just seems to happen a great deal quicker in the World of MotoGP™.
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