Interview: Steve Parrish

BBC's MotoGP commentator and ex-GP racer Steve Parrish comments on the season ahead, the new 1000cc formula and Britain's hopefuls

Posted: 1 March 2012
by Robin Goodwin

Predicting MotoGP is easy, my choices are Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa

I'd love to see Valentino Rossi in there but I'm not too sure whether the bike will be up to it and it's very difficult to say whether he is up for it. He's 33 years old now and I think there are some younger and faster people out there.

I hope he proves me wrong, I truthfully do. For motorsport and motorcycling in general, Valentino has been such a great ambassador and I'd actually like him to go out and pack up on a high. I'm really not too sure he'll be able to do that, and I'm sure I'll get hate mail for saying that. If Valentino can get fourth he'll have done a good job.

I really hope Scott Redding is up there in Moto2. He's a great talent and well we want a British winner out there, with both him and Bradley Smith up there in the running.

I'm really excited about Danny Kent in the Moto3s. He's another Roger Burnett protege, who got world championships out of James Toseland and Neil Hodgson, so let's hope he can do the same again with Danny because that's what us Brits need and it'd make my job at the BBC much easier. If we get a Brit on the podium in MotoGP then our sport will take off again.

We've got a really exciting season ahead of us. A) Because we've got strong runners in Moto2, B) MotoGP has got a new formula and we're all keen to see what will happen there, and C) the brand new Moto3 class.

I don't think 1000cc will make any difference, because the bikes will be quite similar, they'll have more horsepower but it will only be used in fifth and sixth gear because you cannot put more than 230bhp down until you get into the top gears. So, it won't make a great deal of difference.

It'll be good, don't get me wrong, as the bikes will sound good, they'll be torquey, the riders will be able to slide them a bit more as the rideability will be slightly better. But it won't make a huge change, the fast blokes will still be at the front.

The good thing about changing the formula of MotoGP is sometimes it can throw the odd spanner in the works, someone might get it really right and someone wrong. I guess what we had hoped was that Honda would get it wrong, but going off testing that doesn't look likely, as that would even out the Stoner aspect and Ducati get it right and that brings Rossi forward. It would be perfect.

Nowadays it's a bit like Formula 1 you dial the bike into the computer and you have the wheelbase, the head angle, the weight distribution, horsepower and electronics, and you get the end product. They're not going to be much difference between any of those bikes out there, that's the way the world is now you can deal with anything you want at the laptop.

The CRT bikes are getting slagged off a bit too much, I believed right from the word go that they won't be as far off as everyone expects them to be and Randy de Puniet has proven that by going out and being on the pace.

If you put Stoner on a sorted CRT bike I reckon he could get a podium, because you can't really use more than 230bhp from what I've heard, seen and been told and a CRT bike can put that out. If you get the electronics solved, sort the chassis out - which can easily be done with computer programs - and put the rider on it, it could easily reach the podium.

With de Puniet and Colin Edwards, when he's motivated, they will be able to get into the top six - especially if there is a bit of a shower or something like that.

The people who are saying 'they'll be two laps behind', they might well be if there are crap riders on them. That's being quite cruel, but unfortunately the CRT bikes will attract the lesser riders because the top riders will want to be on factory bikes. It's kind of compounding the issue.

MotoGP needs good class riders and unfortunately in some way it's being split up. Dare I say it, we have B grade riders on superbikes, A grade on MotoGP and it seems as though we're getting C grade coming to CRT. It's diluting the talent, and my view is: MotoGP is the premier class, Superbikes division 1 or whatever you want to call it, and what we could do with is some more quality riders on CRT and satellite bikes.

Nobody can afford pure-bred prototypes anymore, I look at the magnificent machinery that Honda built, like the 6-cylinder RC166 that Mike Hailwood rode, but it's all about the cost and nobody can actually see the return in their sales.

If the industry sold millions and millions of motorcycles, then maybe we'd see the revolutionary prototypes again. However, motorcycle sales are down, everyone is tightening their belts and the exoticness is unaffordable, so we've got to go back to something that we can afford.

As follower of the sport for the past 50 years all I want to see is close racing, I don't care what makes it. I think Moto2 has proven that, 130hp on bikes that aren't very exciting but the racing has been brilliant.

I have absolutely no idea why there is a lack of British winners in MotoGP. The Australians believe when they come over that 'it's a bloody long way to come to fail' so they reckon that they try harder.

Maybe we've got a bit of complacency, it's a lot of fun racing in the British championship and the riders can get a lot of success at home in front of large crowds, so the guys get a bit of notoriety and they're on television. There is all that going on that maybe the gamble and go overseas to start at the bottom end is too much for them.

One of the problems that we've got is that we don't have as many people to draw from. You look at the Spanish, the Italians and everyone has got a scooter or a moped from 15-16 years old, in Britain we're drawing from a smaller pool.

People ask 'why don't riders make the shift from superbikes to MotoGP' but if you look at a lot of riders they have been in the paddock from a very early age, to them it's like going back to a regular holiday destination so they know the surroundings and feel at ease with that and can focus on the racing as opposed to what's going on around them.

I hope Cal Crutchlow, Scott Redding and Bradley Smith can be up there, but Danny Kent is the bright star. I like him, he seems to have the right attitude, is quite mature for his age, is hungry and has the ingredients - but that hasn't always proven to be the person that'll win.

If Barry Sheene was racing now he'd be at the top. But you can't take riders from one generation to another and say who is best; Rossi, Ago, Hailwood - they were all the best at their time. Barry was the best in 77-79 and if you put him here now he would probably be as good as anyone out there. It's too difficult to say.

Me on the other hand, I'd always be fifth or sixth because that was where I always was and always would be. I didn't want to die, I was allergic to pain. I was a decent rider but I was never going to be a World Champion, I wasn't as committed as what I should have been.

The trouble is, and I'm not being rude, what the readers forget and it cracks me up at times, they go 'well I don't suppose that anyone watches BBC, they all watch Eurosport' but we get 1.5 to 2 million viewers and Eurosport gets 200,000.

Admittedly the ardent fan will watch Eurosport as they get full race coverage, it's all day. BBC give up an hour and a half, so we cannot give as much time and talk about what we want to. What we have to do is broadcast to people who don't know much about motorcycle racing and what we hopefully do is bring people in to like the sport and motorcycling.

It amazes me how people can't understand that, I could happily talk all day about the way the Desmodromic system works and how the valves are powered up and down, but that person is going to switch over and watch the cricket because it'll be just as boring. So we have to talk in a dumbed down way and keep it simple because to most of our viewers it's just a bloke on a bike, going around a race track.

It's easy to talk on Eurosport as the person that has gone there is a bike fan, they want all the in-depth information but that's not the BBC audience and that's who pays my salary.

I guess that's just the way it goes. You can please all of the people some of the time or some of the people all the time and there are some bloody idiots on these forums, and all they're doing is ruining it for other people. It's quite sad at times, how personal people can take it and if they don't like it then go somewhere else. Rather than bitch and moan about.

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Discuss this story

I think the reason people bitch and moan about it is they blame the BBC for Eurosport losing the right to show the MotoGP race live. I think that was Dorna's idea though. Anybody know when that contract runs out?

Of course, the other reason to bitch and moan is Charlie Cox. How do you put up with him Steve?

Posted: 02/03/2012 at 10:11

I believe the BBC it much better positioned to get people interested in biking, just a shame there wasn't a bit more coverage. If Top Gear ran a bike test from time to time our numbers would increase, maybe they should bin Clarkson.....:-)

Posted: 02/03/2012 at 20:21

I like the BBC coverage of the MotoGP.

I don't believe that you should have to pay the premium price of Subscription TV to be able to watch the sport that you enjoy.

It is getting ridiculous with all sports coverage being taken over by Subscription TV, and eventually the sports fan that cannot afford or doesn't want to pay a premium will not be able to follow their chosen sport. It's happened with football and rugby and now Formula One is going that way. I think it is a great shame, and something needs to be done before it is too late.

Posted: 03/03/2012 at 21:47

Some interesting and valid points there. And some not so much. Fans go to Yoyosport and the bbc is catering for people who don't know much about motorcycling? And this amazes Steve? Well prepare to be amazed! I know a fair few people and those with no interest in bike racing don't watch MotoGP on any channel. Those who are new to the sport but have an interest, I would imagine, are keen to learn about who's who and what's what. Regardless of all this though is that Auntie Beeb's biggest problem regarding MotoGP is how that they are willing to drop it mid race or drop the 125 and/or Moto2 classes to televise something the see as more worthy, like 24hr coverage of Bill Oddie staring at Kate Humble's badger. To hell with the GP viewers, fan or otherwise! I will make my prediction now, with the olympics and no doubt some other sporting events, this years GP coverage will be a shambles! Prove me wrong BBC.

Posted: 06/03/2012 at 13:26

Eurosport online is £3.99 p/m - half the price of a packet of fags. How can you not afford that ?

Posted: 06/03/2012 at 13:38

I don't mind the BBC's coverage. However, I much prefer Eurosport's, and watch the qualifying, 125's and Moto2 there. The only thing I object to is being forced to watch the BBC coverage in order to watch the MotoGP race live. Dorna / BBC should allow Eurosport to broadcast it too, and give us the choice.

Posted: 07/03/2012 at 09:21

"I guess that's just the way it goes. You can please all of the people some of the time or some of the people all the time and there are some bloody idiots on these forums, and all they're doing is ruining it for other people. It's quite sad at times, how personal people can take it and if they don't like it then go somewhere else."

Well said Mr. Parrish...sits down in front of Eurosport.

Posted: 07/03/2012 at 09:58

"Eurosport online is £3.99 p/m" is a good deal but I need them to stream it to my Android phone! they must be missing a trick here as there are 300 million android devices out there.

Posted: 07/03/2012 at 17:47

Fairly certain there's an app in the Andriod market place that'll cater for your needs...

Posted: 08/03/2012 at 08:59

The problem with the BBC is that if it doesn't have a ball in gets second best coverage if at all. Parish is right that we need more Brits in it at the top to make them realize that football golf and tennis are not the only sports of note.

Posted: 08/03/2012 at 17:41

Granted I have a basic Sky subscription at £19/month, but it's only an extra £1/month to add Eurosport.
On the other hand I rather have Steve commentating (who's done the biz), than that walking encyclopedia on EuroSport.

Posted: 11/03/2012 at 09:50

Me and my partner watch the MotoGP on the BBC (and Iplayer for the two smaller classes).

It's not a matter of money, it's simply the fact that the BBC commentators are more entertaining. Plus, if the commentators didn't "dumb it down" then my missus wouldn't be sat next to me enjoying the racing, she doesn't want to learn about the Desmodromic system.

What she wants to see is great commentators giving us information regarding the race and where our home boys are on the track.
Everyone can get behind their home grown heroes, and this year we'll be glued to the BBC supporting ALL the brits.

Posted: 13/03/2012 at 11:42

Eurosport commentary bores me shitless, and the commentators sound like they're 80 years old each...
They sound like 2 old codgers chinwagging over a pint...
I personally like the BBC coverage, although I do want Suzi back...

Posted: 13/03/2012 at 15:07

As usual, I pretty much agree with all Steve says, predictions re Vale included sadly, as I am a huge fan. His explanation of the difference between Eurosport and BBC in their approach makes total sense. I' d watch Eurosport every time for it's tech analysis, but my less bike mad mates get more out of watching BBC and wouldn't bother watching if Eurosport was the only choice. Re Scott Reading though, can he really overcome his size to challenge for a championship? Going quick in testing is one thing (he dominated last per season too remember) but when he is racing in a pack and can't take the perfect line or gets baulked in a corner, his weight and baulk is going to always put him at a few tenths disadvantage when it comes to acceleration and top speed.

Posted: 18/03/2012 at 11:22

The most annoying thing with the BCC coverage is that it seems to be lowest priority and gets bumped off the schedule for any old dross...

If they are going to cover it do it properly with Moto3 and Moto2 coverage. Think it should be on free to air channels but come on do it service, you used our money to buy the right to show it so do it properly.

Posted: 20/03/2012 at 14:25

I like watching the bbc for moto gp. if here is too much tv coverage i switch off so maybe a bit more would be nice but then how many bikers add their comments to the bbc. i think we are not heard enough.
voice your comments to the bbc.

Posted: 31/03/2012 at 10:03

I'm a lifelong biker, really interested in the technical stuff and I really enjoy the BBC coverage. Charlie Cox does come out with some right old bollox every now and then but I think he's only there to give Steve someone to play his jokes on anyway. If we have to have some ditzy commentary could we have Jennie Gow back instead of Charlie? At least she was pretty!

But in all seriousness, between the iPlayer/Red Button coverage of Moto2 (and now Moto 3) and the main coverage I think the BBC do a good job. And no cutting to ****ing annoying ads! If you think our coverage is bad you should see the sh1te the US audience has to put up with on Speed TV!

Posted: 07/04/2012 at 07:20

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