Those who feared the World Championship would lose its appeal with the abandonment of Valentino Rossi found the answer in Losail’s hat-trick with victories from Bastianini, Vietti and Migno. And we don’t even have to go too far to find another: it was 2018, in Misano and then it was Dalla Porta, Pasini and Dovizioso who triumphed in the three displacements.
An examination of the statistics reminds us of another distant date: the Malaysian GP 1996: at that time the race was held at the Shah Alan Circuit and Luca Cadalora won in 500, Max Biaggi in 250 and Stefano Perugini in 125.
We have to leaf through the book of time a little upside down, but it was the last moment when we found ourselves with three Italians leading the world championship in three categories. And a further glance at the rankings reminds us that precisely on this date Valentino made his world championship debut in 125, with a sixth place.
The long wave of Italian motorcycling champions is inexhaustible. There may be times when the wind drops, but then it starts blowing harder than before.
So many pages, between the folds of time… At Bastianini’s victory, indeed, also reminds us that the Gresini team has always come out of drama: Sete Gibernau won at Welkom in 2003, after the death of Kato and Michele Pirro triumphed at Valencia in Moto2 after the drama at Simoncelli.
This now elderly motorcycle racing scribe is surprised by all these coincidences and maybe there would be more, if only I wanted to time travel, but sport must be experienced in the present. We forget the joys, even sensational ones, as well as the intense pains, which nevertheless remain as anchored in the mind as in the memory.
For this reason, we must cherish Migno’s victory, which is the success of a rider who reaped less than he sowed and who is one of the nicest in this world. Academy which is Rossi’s true competitive legacy. More than his nine world titles.
Because we must not forget that Pecco Bagnaia and Franco Morbidelli, as well as the other Losail winner, Celestino Vietti, were born not so much on the Ranch as with the Ranch. In a playful and familiar environment reminiscent of motorcycling in the 70s, where the common training was not the flat track, but the race behind the skirts of the groupies which, with the open paddock, cluttered the world championship circuits when it was still called the Cirque Continental and “the school” stood in small groups of people around the most victorious riders, strictly in silence, listening to the stories of Grands Prix on tracks with Francorchamps, Anderstorp, Imatra, Abbazzia, where today no sane driver would dare to go and do a few laps.
So this 2022 world championship has started wellbut not so much or just because we Italians won it all. It would have been the same, perhaps, if a rider of another nationality had found himself on the top step of the podium.
What fascinates us, in fact, are the stories: a youngster like Enea Bastianini who exceeds Mark Marquez and other more experienced pilots, flawless, and return to victory deserves a story. And if Nadia Gresini, the first female team owner, celebrating crying on the podium, it’s almost a fairy tale. It won’t bring Fausto Gresini back, but it reminds us of the best of him: as a driver and as a manager. A man with a clear vision and purpose.
Stories. That’s the beauty of the bike. Then, of course, serial winners are necessary. These champions who repeat the feat Sunday after Sunday, because one-off victories do not strike the same chord with the general public.
Fans want riders to love and, alas, to hate too but if cheering against is sporting, I don’t see anything wrong with it: at the time there were factions for Giacomo Agostini and those for Renzo Pasolini and there was no lack of raillery, like this time when in Misano a banner was raised which said: “Agostini, watch out for the gloves”, because the King of Kings had complained that his gloves were too tight. Thin gloves, with metal studs under the palms as the only protection, built by the Five Rings of Milan: you wore them and you felt like Giacomo.
I never tire of following the Grands Prix, even if those of today seem to me to be boys compared to the men of the time.
And if Enea, ‘the Beast’, calls his two Desmosedici, Pumbaa and Timoncharacters from Lion KingI smile because when he climbs into the saddle I rediscover the courage, the talent, the inexhaustible thirst for victory that all champions have.
A generation leaves, a generation arrives, but the world championship always remains the same. The eyes don’t just watch the races, nor the ears hear the roar of four-strokes, where once there was the hiss of two-strokes. Everything that happened – victories and triumphs, accidents and dramas – will happen again. Everything that happened in the past will also happen in the future.
Look at Valentino, what attracted you is still there. You are part of it like so many others. Other stars will shine and then, in a year or ten we will see another comet coming from the bottom of the grid…