Three decades of Aspar glory

Jorge Martinez 'Aspar' looks back over a lasting success story in the World Championship, starting at Misano in 1986…

Jorge Martinez ASpar

The 23rd August 1986 was the first day of a fairy story that has gone on to last for thirty years. For on that special day, at Misano, Jorge Martinez 'Aspar' tasted the sweetest kind of success for the first time. He was already used to winning motorcycle races by then, but now he was the 80cc World Champion

This weekend the MotoGP™ World Championship heads to Misano and for Jorge 'Aspar' the memories are still as fresh as ever, even three decades on from the day when he added his name to those of his heroes Angel Nieto, the 12+1-time World Champion and Valencia's own Ricardo Tormo, 50cc World Champion in 1978 and 1981.

“I feel very privileged to have been a World Champion four times as a rider,” admits the heart and soul of the Aspar Team. That first time, in 1986, came at the end of a “very complete” season, with victories at Jarama (Spain), Salzburgring (Austria), Rijeka (Yugoslavia) and Assen (Holland), two second places Monza (GP of Nations) and Misano (San Marino), and a third place at Silverstone (Great Britain). Out of nine races that season he was on the podium on seven occasions.

“At the last round in Germany I crashed when I was leading. But anyway, I had already won the title by then,” recalls Jorge Martinez with the same excitement as the day he won the title.

“It was an unforgettable season; my team-mate was Angel Nieto, who was everything at that time, the man with all the world titles and the driving force of the era. At Derbi he was the one who had done it all. He was a true great. That season was an incredible experience, the Rabasas were great with me from the start, they welcomed me as a rider and as a part of the family, the way they treated me was marvellous. It is part of my life,” adds 'Aspar'.

Jorge Martinez ASpar

When asked about the glory of that day, the Spaniard is quick to point out the obstacles he had to get over first. “The race was on the Saturday and I really struggled because my balaclava was slipping down and I couldn't see properly. It was tough, I kept pulling it out of the way as best I could and in the end I finished second to win the title.”

Newspaper articles from that day also reported that 'Aspar' made “an Angel Nieto-style start, in other words, very poor.” “It's true. The Derbis had really strong engines but they were difficult to set-up and to get them going from a standing start was really tricky. They were two-strokes that revved very high. You have to give a tiny amount of throttle to get them going and sometimes they'd flood a little and you had to really push them along. That was one of my bad starts but I made up positions and when I got up to second, which I knew was enough, I relaxed and thought “no more risks” and finished second.”

'Aspar' was the only rider that season to take more than one win, with the likes of Manuel “Champi” Herreros (championship runner-up), Stefan Dörflinger, Gerhard Waibel, Ian McConnachie and Pier Paolo Bianchi all taking single victories. “All of those guys were very different: Dorflinger was complete and consistent, but not that fast because he was a veteran by then. His bike was really fast, more so than the Derbi. He was the champion and my main rival for the title. McConnachie was very fast but he crashed a lot, Waibel would come and go, Bianchi was coming towards the end of his career but he was still fast and 'Champi' was new on the scene. I won during a very good era.”

The truth is that 1986 could easily have been his second title if it wasn't for two 'DNFs' during the previous season. “I could have won the title [in 1985] but I had a spark plug break in Germany and I crashed out of the lead at Le Mans. The points system was also different and there weren't many rounds so any mistake was difficult to recover from. If it wasn't for those two races I could have been World Champion already but as we always say... that's racing.”

In 1986 'Aspar' became the third name on a list of Spanish World Champions that has seen been extended by fifteen, a number that was unthinkable at that time. “It was impossible to foresee that, absolutely impossible. The boom started with Angel Nieto, without a doubt. [Spanish] motorcycle racing owes him a lot. He laid the first stone, he forced the media to come to the races and to talk about bikes. Then Ricardo came along, then myself, Sito, Criville…”

“The big change,” continues 'Aspar', “came at the start of the 90s, with the arrival of Dorna and the creation of new circuits like Jerez and Barcelona to add to the likes of Jarama and Calafat, during a period when the rest were street races. The Aspar Team was also born in 1992. All together, the foundations for the future were laid. All of that helped everything else to grow.”

Jorge Martinez ASpar

As far as 'Aspar' is concerned, motorcycle is enjoying “a sweet moment, and Spain is a reference point in every aspect, with all the top riders coming from Spain unlike in the past when the spotlight was on the British, the Italians or the Americans. It is a nice thing and very satisfying to see riders like Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo or Maverick Viñales who are still young and are going to be around for many years to come.”