YOU’RE ( NEARLY) THEC NEXT BARRY SHEENE

These are the men who kept Bri­tish fans happy(ish) be­tween Barry Sheeneõs last GP win and Cal Crutchlow’s first Mo­togp suc­cess ear­lier this year

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Best Brit Racers - By Mat Ox­ley MCN’S GP EX­PERT

Agloomy 35 sea­sons stood be­tween Barry Sheene’s fi­nal GP vic­tory at An­der­storp in Au­gust 1981 and the na­tion’s next pre­mier class suc­cess at Brno in Au­gust 2016.

But surely not all Brits were losers dur­ing that pe­riod? Cer­tainly not. Sev­eral Bri­tish rid­ers won GPS in the 125, Moto3, 250 and Moto2 classes dur­ing those years and some chal­lenged for vic­tory in the pre­mier class. So here’s our top picks of the Bri­tons who tried man­fully to end the coun­try’s GP dol­drum years.

JAMES TOSE­LAND HIGH­LIGHT FRONT ROW: QATAR, 2008

Tose­land ar­rived in Mo­togp to much fan­fare in 2008, as a two-times World Su­per­bike cham­pion. He qual­i­fied on the front row at his very first Grand Prix and seemed full of prom­ise, but in fact that was as good as it got. He never made the front row again and never got close to chal­leng­ing for the podium. The clos­est he got was nine sixth-place fin­ishes dur­ing his two sea­sons in the class.

Tose­land, like most Miche­lin rid­ers, strug­gled at some tracks in 2008 and then he found the go­ing even tougher when Mo­togp switched to Bridge­stone in 2009. A huge high­side dur­ing pre-sea­son test­ing left him gun-shy and sealed his Mo­togp fate.

BRADLEY SMITH HIGH­LIGHT 2ND PLACE: MISANO, 2015

Smith’s ca­reer has fol­lowed the same tra­jec­tory as Scott Red­ding’s: rac­ing in Spain, then 125 GPS and Moto2, with three wins in the lit­tle class and three podi­ums in the in­ter­me­di­ate cat­e­gory.

Smith was pro­moted to Mo­togp in 2013. By 2015 he was fully com­pet­i­tive and fin­ished the year as top non-fac­tory rider. He had some great rides, in­clud­ing a podium fin­ish at Misano, along­side Red­ding, af­ter a ballsy de­ci­sion to stay out on slicks while ev­ery­one else changed tyres.

Last sea­son he should’ve reg­u­larly both­ered fac­tory rid­ers in the dry – but strug­gled to adapt to the Miche­lins and never made the top seven. But rac­ing isn’t like it was in Sheene’s day; now there are many more com­pet­i­tive bikes on the grid. Hope­fully the KTM will be on the pace.

RON HASLAM HIGH­LIGHT 2ND PLACE: ASSEN, 1985

On the Bri­tish scene in the 1970s, the long-haired loon from Lan­g­ley Mill struck ter­ror into the heart of Barry Sheene, but like so many fiery young­sters he calmed down and re­placed youth­ful ov­er­en­thu­si­asm with ma­ture race-craft.

Haslam’s first three GP sea­sons were as Fred­die Spencer’s team-mate. He scored seven of his nine 500 GP podi­ums in this pe­riod, us­ing Honda’s quick­start­ing, easy-han­dling NS500 triple to some­times beat Ed­die Law­son and Randy Mamola.

He was then signed by Elf to ride their wacky 500 with hub-cen­tre steer­ing. He spent three sea­sons with the French con­cern, un­co­in­ci­den­tally achiev­ing his last two podi­ums in 1987, when he had to ride a reg­u­lar NSR500 be­cause the

Elf NSR wasn’t ready.

CAL CRUTCHLOW HIGH­LIGHT WIN­NER: PHILLIP IS­LAND, 2016

No-one (surely!) could ar­gue that Crutchlow isn’t Bri­tain’s great­est GP rider since Sheene; if only be­cause last sea­son he did what no Bri­ton has done since Sheene. Crutchlow didn’t just win one race in the wet at Brno, he also beat ev­ery­one in the dry at Phillip Is­land, re­sist­ing se­ri­ous pres­sure from nine-times world cham­pion Valentino Rossi.

And he’s had some other great rides, most no­tably at the Sach­sen­ring in 2013, where he chased Marc Mar­quez home, and at Sil­ver­stone last sea­son when he beat Rossi and Mar­quez in a head-to-head for sec­ond place, which in­cluded a ge­nius pass on Mar­quez at Wood­cote.

Crutchlow ad­mits he isn’t a nat­u­rally gifted racer. He has to work hard to reach the limit and even harder to not over­step it. He crashes a lot, but teams don’t mind rid­ers bend­ing bikes if they get re­sults. FULL IN­TER­VIEW WITH CAL, p4

DANNY KENT HIGH­LIGHT MOTO3 WORLD CHAM­PION: 2015

Danny Kent’s ca­reer proves that ma­chin­ery is now more im­por­tant than ever, be­cause the dif­fer­ences be­tween a good bike and a bad bike are smaller than ever.

Kent won six Moto3 races in 2015 to win the world ti­tle and won two Moto3 races in 2012, but oth­er­wise has strug­gled to get near the front, in Moto2 and Moto3. His best wins in 2015 – by ten sec­onds in Ar­gentina and eight sec­onds in Texas and Bri­tain – were his­toric in a class that nor­mally crowns its win­ners by a few tenths.

Those vic­to­ries sug­gest an un­canny skill to squeeze the max­i­mum out of a mo­tor­cy­cle, but when the ma­chine isn’t quite right Kent seems to go to pieces. He needs to de­liver in Moto2.

JEREMY MCWIL­LIAMS HIGH­LIGHT WIN­NER: DUTCH GP, 2001

Mcwil­liams was the na­tion’s top Grand Prix rider of the late 1990s and the early 2000s, when pretty much ev­ery other Bri­ton was busy chas­ing glory in World Su­per­bikes.

He spent years as a 500 and 250 pri­va­teer, catch­ing the eye of Aprilia when he beat a cer­tain Valentino Rossi to sec­ond place in the 1998 Ger­man 250 GP. Mcwil­liams was a fac­tory rider for the Ital­ian mar­que for sev­eral years, win­ning the 2001 Dutch 250 race and chas­ing Rossi home in the 2000 Bri­tish 500 GP. He later rode King Kenny Roberts’s Pro­ton 500 two-stroke triple, beat­ing all the Mo­togp four-strokes to pole po­si­tion at the 2002 Aus­tralian GP.

ROB M MCELNEA HIGH­LIGHT 5TH OVER­ALL: 500GP, 1986

All kinds of fac­tors go into de­cid­ing the fate of a racer’s ca­reer. The de­cid­ing fac­tor of Rob Mcelnea’s six sea­sons in 500s was his size.

The burly Hum­ber­sider’s best race weight was 84 ki­los, which is ap­prox­i­mately 1.75 Dani Pe­drosas. This af­fected ev­ery­thing: ac­cel­er­a­tion and top speed, as well as tyre wear and brake wear. There’s no doubt Mcelnea had tal­ent but he al­ways fought an up­hill bat­tle against rid­ers of more nor­mal rac­ing stature.

He scored eight fourth-place fin­ishes and never quite made the podium, miss­ing out by a frac­tion of a sec­ond on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, af­ter which he could be found cry­ing his eyes out in the shower. Ten ki­los less and he would’ve

been higher up this list.

SCOTT RED­DING HIGH­LIGHT WIN­NER: BRI­TISH MOTO2, 2013

Crutchlow may be the first Bri­ton since Sheene to win a pre­mier class GP but Red­ding could still be­come the first Bri­ton since Sheene to score vic­to­ries across three dif­fer­ent GP cat­e­gories.

Sheene won in the 50, 125 and 500cc classes, whereas Red­ding has so far won in 125s and Moto2. He also chal­lenged very strongly for the 2013 Moto2 world ti­tle, the first Bri­ton to make a se­ri­ous GP ti­tle bid in decades.

Red­ding hasn’t had the eas­i­est time since grad­u­at­ing to Mo­togp in 2014. Last sea­son was his first on a bike that felt right to him and he had sev­eral promis­ing rides cut short by bike prob­lems. At Assen he did what he had done at Misano the pre­vi­ous year – made the most of rainy con­di­tions to score a podium. All he needs now is some dry-weather top threes.

NIALL MACKEN­ZIE HIGH­LIGHT 4TH OVER­ALL: 500GP, 1990

Macken­zie had both the good luck and mis­for­tune to com­pete in one of the golden age of Grand Prix rac­ing. He raced 500 GPS dur­ing the late 1980s and early 1990s against Mick Doohan, Kevin Sch­wantz, Wayne Rainey, Ed­die Law­son and Wayne Gard­ner.

The Scot never won a race but he climbed the podium on many oc­ca­sions and would surely have made the top step a few times if he hadn’t had to deal with that five-some of rac­ing su­per­heroes.

Like his friend Rob Mcelnea, Macken­zie re­turned to the Bri­tish scene from Grands Prix de­ter­mined to teach a les­son to any­one who be­lieved his fail­ure to win a 500 GP sug­gested he wasn’t that good af­ter all. Three con­sec­u­tive Bri­tish Su­per­bike ti­tles – be­tween 1996 and 1998 – proved just how fast he was, even at the end of his ca­reer.

Cal’s Aus­tralian GP win was his sec­ond of 2016, and his first vic­tory in the dry

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