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GP Week : Issue 124
MotoGP captures 99 percent of the attention on GP racing. This is in line with Dorna’s marketing thinking: in order to be more like F1 there should be only one class that really counts. The smaller classes still do matter, however. And something (actually someone) of significance appears to be happening right now in the smallest of the. Most of last year’s 125 stars have moved up to Moto2, a small teenager has arrived. And he looks like a shooting star. His name is Maverick Viñales. He is from Spain (do I hear you say: “Of course.”). And he won only his fourth grand prix. The kid from Figueres north of Barcelona close to the French border (for art lovers, the home of Salvador Dali) has all the hallmarks of greatness. It’s a bit early to say that, I suppose, but in his first eight races, he’s won two of them, been on the rostrum for two others and two-thousandths off it in a third, and lies third overall. The youngster’s face has a hardness beyond his years, but his size reveals his youth. And his riding style: tucked in and ultra-aggressive. But there’s lots of kids who ride, in the vernacular, “as though they stole it”. It is Viñales’s speed that also goes beyond his years. We’ll have to wait and see what happens next, for a few years. It’s looking pretty damn good so far. If you look back, you cannot escape the fact – many of the greatest names in the sport arrived as shooting stars. Not all of them, however. Examine the statistics and there are great names that prove the rule, and several notable exceptions. We are nowadays accustomed to extreme youth in international sport. Professionals in all spheres invariably started at primary school. Previously, when the bottom age limit of the 125 class was 15 (it’s been restored to 16 since then) the youngest-ever race winner was Scott Redding. He was 15 years and 120 days old when he won the British 125 GP in 2008. (Since then, no more – and waning Moto2 performance this year has the rider and his backers increasingly concerned.) Yet more often than not major success later in a rider’s GP career has been preceded by precocious early race wins. Freddie Spencer, for instance. He’d only raced in Europe for the first time the year previously, but in his debut 1982 GP season he won his sixth GP. He’d been twice on the rostrum already, and would win one more, before defeating Kenny Roberts in a classic 1983 championship. That first victory, at Spa Francorchamps, made Freddie the youngest-ever premier Top: Not every day you get a hug from the boss, especially when it’s Paris Hilton. Opposite Right: Celebrating victory at Le Mans after a spectacular pass, right.