The waiting game - Rolls Royce or family time

Former MotoGP™ commentator Nick Harris remembers some unusual ways in which riders passed the time before sealing premier class crowns

Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) is discovering the wait is the worst part. So close to that MotoGP™ World title but then an agonising three-week gap, 21 days and counting, between Grands Prix. By the time the Frenchman reaches Misano at the end of the month, he will have run through his strategy a million times.

The second Grand Prix at Misano presents the Yamaha rider with his first chance to take the ultimate prize although with two more races before the end of the season, he may have to be even more patient. So, what does he do during those 21 days of waiting?

Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas

I’m sure he wants to ride motocross and dirt track to keep fit but do you risk injury. Of course he will be keeping fit, while also trying to relax at the same time. He is not the first potential World Champion to play the waiting game before the final showdown. They have faced the inactivity in very different ways.

Barry Sheene and Freddie Spencer were two very different characters until they jumped on a 500 cc two-stroke flying machine. Their approach to a final vital round epitomised just that and produced opposite outcomes.

The longest wait I remember was 28 days in 1983. Freddie won the penultimate round at Anderstorp in a controversial clash with his Championship rival Kenny Roberts. Two bends from the finish of the 30-lap race around the 4.031 km circuit, which doubled up as the local aerodrome, Freddie pushed his NS500 Honda up the inside of Kenny’s Yamaha. Both ended up on the grass but on the inside, Freddie reacted quicker and celebrated victory one bend later. Kenny was furious. The three-time World Champion being pushed wide by the young upstart chasing his first World title and opening a five-point lead in the Championship.

Freddie Spencer

Both flew home to the States to contemplate what happened in Sweden, both as you would imagine had very different opinions. They relaxed with family and friends, played golf and went water skiing both in the knowledge that Freddie could finish second behind Kenny to take the title at the final showdown at Imola in Italy. Yamaha drafted in Venezuelan 250cc World Champion Carlos Lavado to help Kenny, but Freddie rode the perfect 25 laps to take the title.  Kenny won the race and tried every trick in his considerable repertoire to unsettle the Champion elect but to no avail. There was total chaos at the end, and I remember being jammed against the door of the medical centre waiting for the first interview with the new Champion as he took longer to produce a urine sample than he did to ride the last five laps earlier.

As you would imagine Barry Sheene’s approach to the Roberts threat was totally different. World Champion Barry knew it was probably going to come down to the final round in 1978 at the 22.835 km Nürburgring and typical he was determined to be ready long before that last race. Neither Kenny nor Barry had ridden 500cc machines at the legendary but ageing venue before. Kenny learnt his way around on a Yamaha Road bike and Barry in a brand new super luxurious and very expensive Rolls Royce Silver Shadow car.

Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, 1979

Somehow Barry and his partner in crime Steve Parris persuaded Rolls Royce to lend them a Silver Shadow between the Dutch and Belgian Grands Prix. They decided the best way to test the car and learn the circuit was to have two days of driving around the most demanding Grand Prix circuit in history in a car that was totally unsuitable for such an excursion. They had a fantastic time, but the car was very second hand when handed back to Rolls Royce. Kenny won the first of his three World titles. The American finished third in the race won by Virginio Ferrari with Barry fourth. All that Rolls Royce time did not pay off and the car was certainly not sold as having one careful and considerate owner.

So make your choice Fabio – Rolls Royce or relax!

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