CLAS­SIC RACER IN DE­TAIL

Classic Racer - - IN DETAIL -

of­fered Sito a place in his fac­tory Suzuki team, but in spite of top 10 fin­ishes in his first three races, it proved to be a poor de­ci­sion to ac­cept it. A com­bi­na­tion of dif­fi­culty in adapt­ing his high-turn speed rid­ing style to the 500 class as well as the Suzuki’s de­clin­ing com­pet­i­tive­ness and re­li­a­bil­ity saw Sito’s best re­sult just seventh at Le Mans, but a se­ries of crashes left him rid­ing in­jured for a good part of the sea­son. So for 1986 Sito re­turned to the 250GP class, for which he man­aged to land a ride on a fac­tory Honda NSR250 sim­i­lar to the one on which Fred­die Spencer had won the 250cc world ti­tle the pre­vi­ous sea­son. It was a wise de­ci­sion, and sup­ported by Campsa, Spain’s then largest petroleum com­pany, Pons fin­ished sec­ond in the world cham­pi­onship af­ter a sea­son-long bat­tle with Car­los Lavado on the fac­tory yama­hayzr250, scor­ing eight podi­ums and two vic­to­ries in Yu­goslavia and – yes, Bel­gium to fin­ish as top Honda rider. But the fol­low­ing year, he won just one race and was only third in the world se­ries be­hind Ger­man rid­er­stoni Mang and Rein­hold Roth, both on Hon­das sim­i­lar to his own. At 28 years of age, Sito Pons was now aware that time was run­ning out for him to re­alise his am­bi­tion to be­come Spain’s first 250cc world cham­pion. But af­ter fin­ish­ing on the podium in the first two races of the year, he once again won the Span­ish GP, this time at Jerez, the first of four vic­to­ries in a sea­son which saw him fin­ish on the podium 11 times, en route to clinch­ing the world ti­tle just 10 points ahead of Juan Gar­riga. The ca­reers of both of them would be in­ter­twined for the next four years. With his con­fi­dence boosted by this sec­ond world crown, Pons then de­cided to try again to make his mark in the 500GP class in 1990 with a Honda NSR500. But even with the help of An­to­nio Cobas, who had played a key role in his two world ti­tle vic­to­ries, Sito found it hard to tame the fiery NSR, and could only fin­ish tenth in the cham­pi­onship in 1990, and four­teenth in 1991. At the end of that sea­son he fi­nally de­cided to re­tire to be­gin a new ca­reer as a team man­ager, first with the young Alex Criv­ille as his rider, whom he saw as his suc­ces­sor. Over the next two decadesteam Pons be­came a sta­ple mem­ber of the GP pad­dock, and in due course Sito be­came Pres­i­dent of the team’s as­so­ci­a­tion IRTA. Team Pons rid­ers down the years have in­cluded Car­los Checa, Max Bi­aggi,troy Bayliss, Al­berto Puig, Loris Capirossi, and Alex Bar­ros be­fore he switched to the Moto2 se­ries in which in 2013Team Pons led Pol Es­par­garó to the ti­tle of Moto2 World Cham­pion. On the 30th an­niver­sary this year of the first of his two world cham­pi­onships, Sito Pons shows no signs of want­ing his long ca­reer in GP rac­ing to end…

DON MOR­LEY

Psych­ing up for the 1988 Swedish GP. Steely de­ter­mi­na­tion? Check. Con­cerned brolly man? Check.

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