A few days ago I was fortunate to watch a truly enthralling sporting spectacle. Now, I’ve seen my share of great events, so I have comparisons. Yet, in my view, little currently compares with MotoGP.
On Sunday at Jerez de la Frontera, we saw why. The Gran Premio de Espana was always going to be a thriller, this race invariably producing a nail-biting finish. This is partly to do with the nature of the circuit and partly because MotoGP racing is just so damn close.
A huge crowd didn’t know whether to cheer for Dani Pedrosa or Jorge Lorenzo, both Spaniards and both in with a chance of beating Valentino Rossi who had hurt his shoulder falling off a Motocross bike. But everybody loves a legend, so they screamed and waved their flags for all three. And boy, were they entertained.
Pedrosa took a surprising pole on the Honda though he didn’t look very happy about it, complaining of inconsistent handling. Breathing down his neck were arch-rival Lorenzo in second (they don’t much like each other) and Rossi in fourth. Away from the line it was Pedrosa who got the jump followed by Rossi, who somehow managed to squeeze his way past team-mate Lorenzo. There is no quarter given or taken at Yamaha, where both men want the title – a first for Lorenzo and a tenth for Rossi.
Just as we thought it was going to stay this way till the end Lorenzo made his move, catching and passing Rossi before attaching himself to the back of Pedrosa, who could get no more from the Honda’s tyres. One of the great things about Jerez is that you have slow corners at the end of very fast straights, while one of the great things about MotoGP is that you have overtaking, and lots of it. The fun was about to begin.
As is so often the way, a superb duel between the two Spaniards – watched closely by Rossi – was decided by a breathtaking manoeuvre on the last lap. As they came down to the Dry Sack Corner, braking from 180mph to less than 50mph, Pedrosa ran wide and Lorenzo slipped through to win by half a second. He’d tried this move before, the bikes touching, Rossi ready to pounce, but this time he made it stick. Afterwards Lorenzo stopped out on the circuit to soak up the adulation, got going again, stopped again and jumped in a lake. By the time he made it to the podium, water streaming from his helmet, the crowd was hysterical.
I mention this because this weekend we return to Spain for a different kind of Grand Prix, this time at the Catalunya circuit outside Barcelona, a much less exciting track that does not encourage overtaking. Especially in a modern Formula 1 car. Sadly, we don’t go to Jerez any more. In recent years this race has been a procession, by the end of which you can’t wait to get to Monte Carlo where at least the procession is highly unpredictable.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Sport has to be dramatic, it has to enthral, excite and surprise the audience. MotoGP does this in bucketfuls and I urge you to make the trek to Silverstone next month for the race there. I fear that the only surprise in store at Barcelona will be a close finish, never mind the cars involved. A brighter note on which to close is that, later in the year, things may get very spicy indeed between Messrs Button and Hamilton and between McLaren and Red Bull. Let’s hope so.
Whoever wins, however, he won’t be leaping into a lake. He will park neatly in parc ferme, hug his mechanics and step quickly to the weighing machine. Bring back laps of honour, flags flying and crowds yelling their approval. Much more fun.