WEL­COME ‘The best since Bazza? It could be ar­gued...’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Best Brit Racers - OLI RUSHBY SPORTS RE­PORTER

It’s been a good few years for us Brits in Grand Prix mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing. Last year saw Danny Kent be­come Bri­tain’s first Grand Prix World Cham­pion since Barry Sheene won his fi­nal world ti­tle in 1977 and this year, Cal Crutchlow be­came the first Bri­tish rider to win a top-class Grand Prix since Sheene in 1981.

Crutchlow’s vic­tory in Brno was re­mark­able, he took a gam­ble on the harder op­tion wet Miche­lin tyre which saw him out of the points in the early stages of the race, be­fore charg­ing through to take his de­but GP win, end­ing the un­bear­able drought Bri­tain has had to suf­fer for the last 35 years.

While Crutchlow’s vic­tory was un­doubt­edly im­pres­sive, there’s al­ways a cer­tain stigma sur­round­ing win­ning a race in the wet. There are a num­ber of rid­ers who have ‘only’ won in wet or iffy con­di­tions and it’s of­ten not un­til they take a win in the dry that per­cep­tion of their po­ten­tial be­gins to change.

How­ever, Crutchlow fol­lowed up his Brno vic­tory with what was widely re­garded as a more im­pres­sive ride (to sec­ond) in front of his home crowd at Sil­ver­stone the week af­ter. Then, four races later, Crutchlow de­fied the odds to win again. This time in the dry af­ter start­ing to chase down race leader Mar­quez, who then crashed out of the race.

Both of Crutchlow’s vic­to­ries earned him places in the his­tory books. His first win in Brno saw him join an ex­clu­sive list of 22 Bri­tish rid­ers to have won in the pre­mier class. And, of those 21 rid­ers other than Crutchlow, just eight of them had won more than one race.

As a mul­ti­ple Bri­tish pre­mier class win­ner, Crutchlow is listed along­side names such as Hail­wood, Read, Sur­tees, Duke and of course, Sheene.

Nine-time World Cham­pion Mike Hail­wood is with­out doubt the great­est Bri­tish Grand Prix mo­tor­cy­cle racer of all time. His 76 Grand Prix wins (37 in the pre­miere class) place him fourth in the all-time GP win­ners list, be­hind only le­gends Gi­a­como Agostini, Valentino Rossi and An­gel Ni­eto.

In com­par­i­son, Sheene’s num­bers are small. 23 vic­to­ries, 19 of which were in the pre­mier class, and two world ti­tles, both in the 500cc cat­e­gory. How­ever, two things see Sheene stand out as one of the Bri­tish greats. His charis­matic, cheeky-chap, at­ti­tude that won over the hearts of mil­lions, and the fact that it took so long for an­other Brit to win a pre­miere class race af­ter Sheene took his last vic­tory in 1981.

In fact, just nine Bri­tish rid­ers won in any Grand Prix class be­tween Sheene’s last win and now. Un­be­liev­ably, af­ter Ian Mc­connachie’s 80cc GP vic­tory in 1986, there wasn’t an­other Bri­tish Grand Prix win­ner un­til Jeremy Mcwil­liams crossed the line to take vic­tory in the Dutch TT some 15 years later. Seven years later, Scott Red­ding won the 125cc class at Don­ing­ton Park in 2008. Since then, Brits have won GP races in at least one class in the 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 sea­sons, so it would seem things are on the up. 2016 saw Bri­tain win races in all three classes (John Mcphee, Sam Lowes and Cal).

How­ever, it wasn’t just vic­to­ries Bri­tain was lack­ing in the pre­miere class be­tween Sheene’s last ros­trum and Crutchlow’s first. Only seven rid­ers, in­clud­ing Crutchlow, have stood on the pre­miere class podium.

Ron Haslam and Niall Macken­zie came clos­est to tak­ing Bri­tain to Grand Prix suc­cess in that 35-year drought, with Haslam tak­ing nine podi­ums and Macken­zie seven.

Crutchlow’s four podi­ums in 2016 take his tally to 12 – more than any other Bri­tish rider since Sheene. With that, plus the fact he broke the 35-year duck, it could be ar­gued that he is the best Bri­tish GP racer since Bazza him­self.

‘Cal end­ing the GP drought Bri­tain has had to suf­fer for the last 35 years’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.