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.
The night race at Qatar is spectacular alright, but it certainly has its downsides. For example, it's ten to four in the morning as I type this, and I've been back at the hotel for about 15 minutes. I'll go to sleep in an hour or so, then be up at some weird time in the afternoon.
Whenever I go to a MotoGP race, it seems that something weird always happens. Not just the kind of weird stuff that happens when you go on vacation - that happens often enough - but stuff that catches you off guard and leaves baffled and bewildered.
The announcement a couple of days ago that I was attending Qatar as a guest of the Fiat Yamaha Team and the Fiat on the Web team drew one comment drawing into question whether I could maintain my journalistic integrity in the face of such generosity. The first day of the Fiat Yamaha Team's road trip to Losail shed some light on that question, and on the question of motorcycle racing in general.
Seen from outside, getting to follow the MotoGP circus around and flying from race to race sounds immeasurably glamorous. But just as any seasoned business traveler will tell you, the glamor soon wears thin.
Whenever I meet readers and friends of MotoMatters.com, I am invariably asked the same question: What's it like in the paddock? Since earning entry to that hallowed ground, I have often wanted to share some of the experiences and the atmosphere in the MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks, but had never found - or never got round to finding - the appropriate outlet for such musings.