Running MotoMatters.com is the second most rewarding thing I do as a person, second only to my marriage with my wife. It is a source of intense pleasure, pride and satisfaction, of the response and appreciation we receive, as well as the support from both inside and outside the racing community.
(Editor's note: I made a photo lap of the Aragon circuit last year, to give readers an idea of just how steep and tricky the circuit is. I've reposted this photo lap as a reminder for anyone who has forgotten.)
Motorland Aragon is a brand new track on the MotoGP calendar, and if it has a defining feature, it's the elevation around the track. The track winds uphill, drops down a little, then climbs back up again before plummeting down the back straight towards the final corner. I went for a walk around the track to explore, and took some photos.
When you arrive to pick up your credentials at a motorcycle racing event, they make you sign a form. On that form, you are informed that motorsports are dangerous in whatever capacity you attend, and you do so at your own risk. If you don't sign the form, you don't get your passes, that's how seriously they take this.
Mugello truly is a spectacular setting for motorcycle racing. Truth be told, Mugello is a spectacular setting for any kind of activity, from a leisurely picnic to a high-speed chase through the scenery. But it really is an amazing place for a motorcycle race. The track sits wedged in a valley between a couple of hills, and this generates a huge amount of elevation changes as it snakes its way up and around the valley.
The response to the tale of woe that my visit to Le Mans to cover the Grand Prix has become has been both touching and overwhelming. Offers of help have coming flooding in from all over the world, for which I am truly grateful. The only problem with having an international audience is that despite the many kind offers of help, few of them have come from anywhere close enough to be of immediate assistance.
Motorcycles have been my life now for many years. I grew up watching my uncle race; tracing the logos of the great British marques onto my school bag along with the rest of my peers; and gawping in awe and wonder at the first of the new generation of race-inspired street bikes that appeared at the end of the 1970s, and evolved to become the stunning machines which now grace our highways. I truly love motorcycles, with a passion.
Today we take you on a lap of the circuit, as seen from trackside. On Thursday, little moves on the track, and so we are free to go round the circuit, if we so wish. Most people go round on the scooter, many riders go round on a bicycle, mixing physical training with mental training. I like to circulate on foot, to get a sense of the elevation changes around the track. Here's my lap of Le Mans:
I never fail to get a thrill of excitement when I enter the paddock on race day, and this morning was no exception. I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, but despite having to get up at 5:30am to get in on time, I still got that electric tingle as we arrived at the gate. Here's a few of my (poorly shot) photos to give you an idea of why.
Whenever groups of people band together, they inevitably start to take on each others habits, mannerisms and perhaps most especially, appearance. The MotoGP paddock is no different, and the dress adopted by its members means they all bear a remarkable resemblance to one another. The fact that many of the people in the paddock are restricted to wearing team uniforms merely underlines the uniformity. So here's your guide to the latest in MotoGP paddock chic:
With MotoGP reconvened at Jerez, after being forced to skip Motegi due to volcanic ash grounding flights in Europe, the paddock in Southern Spain is filling up once again. Hospitality units are up, and team members forced to skip Qatar to cut spending are all back in the paddock, giving the place a more homely feel. "It feels like the first day back at school," MotoGP technical guru Neil Spalding said, upon entering the media center this morning. "Qatar just isn't the same."
Once practice got underway for this weekend's World Superbike round at Assen, I received an urgent email from the family of one rider in the MotoGP paddock asking me where the sudden burst of speed was coming from. All of a sudden, the World Superbike men were going faster than the MotoGP riders, and Ben Spies' pole record from 2009 was not so much being shattered, as being stomped on, atomized and then thrown away like a cheap plaything.
Entering the paddock at any World Championship event still sends a thrill of excitement through me every time I do it, though as a fellow - and far more experienced - journalist pointed out to me, perhaps that's because I've only been doing this for a couple of years. Yet the difference between entering the World Superbike paddock and the MotoGP paddock is huge, despite the fact that their core activity is absolutely identical: allowing brave young men (and in the case of the World Supersport paddock, one brave young woman) to go as fast as possible on two wheels.
By the time you read this, I will probably be in transit, flying back home from Qatar, and trying to shift my sleep schedule back to some semblance of normality. Most of all, I will be looking back on an amazing weekend spent in Qatar, thanks to the generosity of the Fiat Yamaha team, and most particularly, their sponsor Fiat. So as a way of expressing my gratitude to them, here's a collection of photos of the Fiat Yamaha Team in action.
One of the best places in the world to watch a MotoGP race - apart from the stands, among the fans - is in the press room. Journalism is supposed to be a lofty profession, whose practitioners raise themselves above the level of the subjective fans, and regard the world with a cool, clear, objective eye. To be fair, for most of the weekend, that's exactly what the journalists attempt to do. But once the lights go out and the racing starts, any pretense of objectivity goes right out of the window, and the journos become ordinary fans once again.