Keep that phone switched on

The summer break may have arrived, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a quiet few weeks in MotoGP™

The summer break has arrived. If the first half of the season is any indication, do not switch that phone off while lying on the beach. Never in the 75-year history of the sport has so much happened in the opening four months. Then check out what actually occurred on the racetrack, to realise just what an extraordinary first half we have witnessed.

We take for granted the on-track action and we have not been let down. The Sachsenring on Sunday summed it up perfectly. Jorge Martin joining that not-so-exclusive Turn 1 crashing club to hand Pecco Bagnaia the ideal wedding present – the World Championship lead. The battle of the Marquez brothers for second place, the fight for podium finishes behind Moto2™ winner Fermin Aldeguer and the battle for Moto3™ honours between David Alonso and Taiyo Furusato. It is what we have come to expect.

I suppose when Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo signed their allegiance to their respective teams, almost before a wheel had been turned in anger, we realised this was going to be so very different.

With so many riders’ contracts coming to a finish at the end of the season, it was inevitable. The media were revelling in the drama of where Marc Marquez and Jorge Martin were going next year, as much as they were reporting the races. I love announcements that arrive out of the blue and they came in great bundles.

Marquez to factory Ducati and Martin to Aprilia were a journalist's dream but there was so much more to come. Out of the blue, Bastanini and Vinales to Tech3 KTM. Catch a breath because there was more to follow. Bezzecchi to Aprilia, Pramac switching to Yamaha and Aleix Espargaro joining HRC as a test rider all before the summer break.

Sometimes the switch to a rival team is the worst-kept secret. It wasn’t exactly an explosive press conference at Valencia in 2003, when Valentino Rossi announced he was joining Yamaha the next season. I remember Casey Stoner in deep conversation with HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto in the Dresden airport hotel bar before the 2010 summer break. The following season he’d left Ducati to bring Honda the World title.

The switch that completely caught me cold and I think most others, came in 1988. My Phone rang very early on a December morning. A furious Wayne Gardner was on the line from Australia. Did I know that Eddie Lawson was leaving Yamaha and joining him at Honda the next season? As Media Manager for the Honda team, he presumed I knew, but I did not. It remained a secret until after I’d returned from California with videos, photographs and quotes from Eddie. He won the world title the next season and then returned to Yamaha, job done.

Sometimes a journalist can be caught in the crossfire. Barry Sheene rang me in January 1982 to say he’d turned down an offer to ride for Giacomo Agostini’s Yamaha team that season, but not to tell anybody else. Later that morning Graeme Crosby rang from New Zealand. He’d been controversially dropped by Suzuki and had no ride for the season. I told him to ring Ago. By the end of the week, he’d signed for the team and made his debut in Argentina two months later. He finished runner-up in the 500cc World Championship, but I never told Barry.

The first beer in the paddock after the summer break was always good fun. Sunburnt noses, stories from beaches and nightclubs flowed, but at Brno in 2002 it was far more sombre than usual. A message from Barry Sheene revealing he had cancer brought the holiday recollections to a temporary halt. Kenny Roberts rang him immediately and later in the evening we raised a glass of the glorious Brno beer. The stories flowed late into the night about this amazing person and great World Champion.

Enjoy your summer break because the tough part of the season is still to come. Eleven races in just over three months covering three separate continents. Remember, keep that phone switched on!