Introducing The MotoMatters.com Travel Guide - How To Choose Which MotoGP Race To Go To

As someone who covers MotoGP, I get asked a lot of questions by fans. Most of those questions are about the racing itself, about why a particular rider did either well or poorly at a particular race, or why one manufacturer is performing better than another at a particular circuit, or any of a thousand other questions about riders, bikes, teams, and the series itself. I can answer most of the questions I am asked, some with more confidence than others, and usually find time to write about the questions I have been asked.

There is one class of question I don't get around to writing about, though. Again and again, I, like many other MotoGP regulars, am asked about which is the best race to attend, where to stay for a particular race, how to get to the track for a specific circuit, etc etc. Those are the kind of questions I don't get a chance to write about on the website, though I answer them on Twitter or Facebook regularly on an ad hoc basis.

So it's about time I rectified this situation. Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing a series of articles on each race track currently on the MotoGP calendar. These articles will cover just about any question you may have about a particular track, and put you in a position to answer for yourself the question, "Which race should I go to?" I won't be telling you which race you should go to – tastes and preferences are different for everyone, and one person's Casey Stoner is another man's Valentino Rossi – but I hope that once you have read the articles, you will be able to decide for yourself which race you really want to go to, given the choice.

Making decisions

There's more to a race than just a circuit, of course. I will try to give you reasons to attend a race which go beyond just the facilities at the track. What is there to do beyond the circuit? What bucket list items are nearby for race fans, for bike fans, and even for friends and family who have absolutely no affinity to racing? How can you persuade your partner, family, or friends to visit the region around a particular circuit when the race is on?

As part of that perspective, my wife Roosje Berbee will be giving her opinion on why she loves going to particular event, as someone who is only tangentially interested in racing thanks to being foolish enough to marry me. Roosje has been to roughly half the circuits on the calendar, and has formed some pretty good ideas about things to do near most tracks.

There is one question which I will not be able to answer, however. Fans often ask me, what's the best place to spectate at a specific circuit? My answer is always the same: "The media center." It is necessarily a rather glib answer, because quite honestly, I don't know in most case. I don't get a chance to go out around the track and sit in the various grandstands or viewing spots, so I don't know where the best spots are for spectators. Hopefully, readers will add their own favorite viewing spots or grandstands in the comments below each track.

Obviously, while the information in these articles is meant to be helpful, readers should bear in mind that they are all based around my own experience. That starts with pricing: I live in The Netherlands and fly from Amsterdam to races. I can get by in several European languages, and have a passing knowledge of European and US culture. My comments should be viewed from this Eurocentric perspective.

When I say a race is cheap to get to, I mean from Amsterdam. When I write that a destination is exotic, I mean it takes extra effort to navigate around culturally for me, a European. My comments will not always align with your own experience: I may believe that Motegi is expensive to get to and is an exotic destination, but if you are Japanese and live in Mito, you would probably disagree. Nevertheless, I hope this series will be useful, and provide a starting point for you to plan your own travel.

Package tours vs individual travel?

First things first. So you've decided you want to go to a MotoGP event. The first question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to buy a package tour or organize it yourself. Both approaches have their merits, and their disadvantages. The short answer is that organizing the trip yourself is usually cheaper, but more hassle. Buying a package through a specialist travel company is more expensive, but easier and can offer you access which is almost impossible to organize yourself.

Package tours

What you get when you buy a package tour through a company such as Pole Position Travel (disclaimer: Pole Position advertises with MotoMatters.com - see footnote) depends on the package you buy, but in general, the idea is that you are picked up at the airport before the weekend starts, and the travel company organizes accommodation, food, travel to and from the circuit, and tickets for the race. All you as a customer need to arrange are your own flights to a designated airport.

Package tour companies can organize other extras, which are much more difficult to arrange as a private individual. They offer packages with extra benefits, such as access to the paddock, meals in team hospitality units, sometimes even grid and service road (the road which rings the circuit where photographers and marshals stand) access. Such packages are not cheap, but do offer an added dimension to the experience of attending a MotoGP race.

When not to use a package tour company

If you're traveling to a local race on your own motorcycle and camping overnight, or only traveling down for race day, there is little reason to use a package tour company.

Doing it yourself

There are many benefits of organizing your own trip to a MotoGP race, but the biggest one is surely cost. A bit of shopping around early can help you find affordable hotels, especially if you know the region around the track a little. Doing it yourself also offers a lot more flexibility. For example, if you want to fly in to Barcelona on Friday night, spend Saturday exploring the city, then head to the track on Sunday before flying home Sunday night, there is little reason to have someone else arrange that for you.

Camping – a perennial favorite with race fans – is also something which is usually better organized yourself, though here, too, some companies are starting to step in, offering tent hire. Camping is not for the faint of heart, however. Anyone expecting race fans to turn in once the sun goes down is in for a bit of a shock. Campsites near race tracks tend to be rather boisterous, to put it politely. Music blares, bike engines bounce of the limiter, and fans in various states of inebriation attempt to shove anything which isn't bolted down into fires. It can be great fun, but not for anyone hoping to concentrate on a close reading of Arthur Schopenhauer's On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

If you are arranging your own trip, you have several options for buying tickets. You can buy directly from circuits – most sell tickets directly on their websites – and most offer early bird discounts for anyone buying tickets months in advance. That can sometimes be a little challenging, as circuit websites are not always particularly well translated, or easy to navigate.

If you don't fancy that, you can buy tickets through the MotoGP.com website, which seems to be generally reliable, as far as I can tell from fans. Alternatively, most package tour companies will also sell you just a ticket, though the downside of that is that they will have your email address and try to tempt you into buying a bigger package.

There are also a number of agencies which will sell you tickets. If you are going to purchase through such an agency, do some research on the internet first, to check their reputation. Ask other fans on Social Media if anyone has experience with them, and whether they received their tickets on time.

Of course, you could also just turn up at the gate. As the popularity of the sport has grown, this is becoming a risky strategy. There are races where this is a viable option: Qatar, Austin, Phillip Island, Aragon, Silverstone, tracks with either a very large capacity or relatively low attendance. But it can be risky at other circuits. There is no point turning up to Valencia on Sunday morning and hoping to get a ticket. Much the same is true for Assen, Jerez, the Red Bull Ring, Mugello, and even Misano.

Is it worth going to a MotoGP test?

One question I am sometimes asked is whether a particular test is open to the public, and less frequently, whether it is worth going to the test. The answer to both those questions is, it depends, on the type of test, and when it is.

First, the type of test. There are two main types of test: private tests and official tests. Official tests take place in the preseason – in 2018, at Sepang, Thailand, and Qatar – and also on the Monday after several races during the season (Jerez, Barcelona, and Brno for MotoGP, Le Mans, Mugello, and Aragon for Moto2 and Moto3).

Official tests are generally open to the public, and free in some cases. What this means is that the circuit will open certain grandstands and allow fans to come and sit and watch. At some tracks, it is also easier to gain access to the paddock as a fan during a test. That, in itself, is worth it, as everyone has a little more time and is more relaxed. Your chances of getting an autograph or selfie with a rider, or a brief chat with a mechanic or crew chief, are much greater at a test than they are on a race weekend, when everyone is 100% focused on racing.

The downside to a test is that as a fan, you have very little idea of what is going on, and you don't get to see much more than you would at a race. Less, perhaps, as there are no giant screens showing footage, no timing, no commentary over the speakers, no information at all. Your best hope of finding out what is going on is using your phone to check the live timing pages of the MotoGP.com website, or following Social Media to see what is being reported.

The truth about testing is that it is immensely boring, even as a journalist. The best thing about testing as a journalist is what you figure out afterwards, when you have time to put together all the bits and pieces you learned while you were there. But as a spectacle, testing is severely lacking.

Private testing is even worse for fans. Only a few of the private tests are open to the public, many being completely closed to everyone. The completely closed tests, of course, are the ones which everyone would love to attend, as that's where the factories actually test the secret stuff we are all itching to find out about. Which is why they keep us away.

Some private tests are open to the public, however. The combined MotoGP / WorldSBK test at Jerez in December is an example, as there are simply too many teams there for the factories to have any expectation of secrecy. If anything, there is even less information for fans at those tests than there is at official tests.

Attending a private test at Jerez does have one major attraction, however. The opportunity to sit outside on the terrace at the paddock restaurant, sipping coffee as the bikes howl by through two of the fastest corners on the circuit, is a delight.

About racing

So much for testing. In the coming days and weeks, I will offer advice and thoughts on all nineteen races on the MotoGP calendar. Stay tuned.

Footnote: Pole Position Travel is an advertiser with MotoMatters.com. However, my experience with the company has been overwhelmingly positive, and I have heard very few complaints from their customers. When I speak to groups from Pole Position, I often see faces I recognize, people who come back year after year. I am sure that other travel companies are just as good as Pole Position, but I have no experience with them, so I can't offer an opinion on them.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

Total votes: 24
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Comments

Looking forward to the Travel Guide. It's going to be a cracking season. The beauty of being trackside is that you can see the battles lower down the grid. 

Total votes: 9

Looking forward to this series, David & the comments of those who can get to the circuits.

Your footnote, "when I speak to groups from [PP],..." indicates a direct briefing from you is sometimes part of their package.   How often does that happen?

Your comments re: Barcelona nailed down precisely a dream trip of mine with a partner who has no interest in racing, but strong interest in Gaudi.

Total votes: 24

Speaking as the rather biased managing director of Pole Position Travel, let me respond to this to save David the embarassment. We engage David on a number of times during the year to address our customers, both informally (ambushed in the paddock) and formally -- notably as our Friday opening dinner speaker at his home round of Assen MotoGP.  He is - as you would expect from his commentary - simply spellbinding, our biggest problem is prying him away from all the questions he gets! Proud to admit that we get an high percent of "moto geek" customers, and access to his deep insight in person is always a highlight of the Assen (and others) weekend. 
We don't pay him enough, but don't tell him that... :-)
-gordon

 

Total votes: 19

Pole position travel you might want to update your site. I made contact & found this on your website "SBK appeals strongly to the serious motorcycle enthusiast. Also with multiple factories competing at the top, the series constantly throws up surprises and tight racing. In many ways, an SBK weekend can be evben(sic) more rewarding than MotoGP"

I think Jonathan Rea has reduced the number of surprises by an order of magnitude. More upsets in MotoGp last year.

Pole position t. I like your work. If David says your OK & he does, then I will hitch a ride on your caravan this northern summer.

Total votes: 0

I was at my first MotoGP at Silverstone this year having organised everything myself, went to the four days with my wife and it was great. However as the weather was awesome my wife has said she won't go again to Silverstone as it won't be as good. Looking forward to your articles to pick the next place to see MotoGP!

Total votes: 5

I have for the last 9 years been making the flight over from Australia,with companions, to the continent to experience the motogp/WSBK seasons in europe.My chosen method of travel/accommodation has been to rent motorhomes,preferably from Germany, and drive to whatever races we have booked for.The best part about doing it this way is that you can enjoy the time between races visiting small villages etc and living like the locals.I totally agree with Davids comment about there being lots of noise etc on circuit,but if you can live with that you will have an amazing weekend.My favourites over the years have been Mugello gp (not to be missed) ,Monza WSBK,Le Mans gp,Catalunya gp,Imola WSBK,Monaco F1,Magny Cors WSBK,Donington WSB as well speedway,mx or anything else that may be on.The beauty about motorhome travel is that you unpack/pack your bag once and do not waste time checking into/out of hotels or hanging around airports or railway stations,which usually wastes a whole day anyway,a day you could be travelling and experienceing european culture.And it is very cost effective.

Total votes: 9

A word of caution about using an RV.

My own experience ,mainly in the States, was that you have to book into a campsite at night. If you try to just stop in a layby the local cops would turn up and move you on. Also, some of the sites are simply commercial parking lots with an electric hookup and they cram in as many parking spaces as possible, so it's not very appealing.

The other alternative could be to end up at a motorway service area, where you have to park with the trucks.

Total votes: 5

Walmart opens its parking lots at night to RVs and other travelers.  This 2017 article describes that experience albeit with a limited sample. I would call the specific Walmart to confirm that they're doing this before showing up (and check traveler reviews online, too.)

Disclaimer: I haven't done this myself (and I'm not a Walmart shopper), but this practice definitely impressed me when I read this article.

Total votes: 6

Very good points RM, from a bloke who has been there done that. Cheers mate.

Hmmm, now if and when I get there........ :)

Total votes: 5

Thank you for writing about this topic. Looking forward to the upcoming articles. Cheers

Total votes: 5

I went to the Jerez pre-season test in ‘07 for the dawn of the 800 era and it was the best holiday ever! 

We didn’t know there was no campground so we ninja camped in the circuit for the weekend and hung out in the city after the on track action was over. 

Such a shame that event got canned. 

Total votes: 8

Like many here, I'm grateful David and Roosje are sharing their experiences so the rest of us can make better informed decisions.  This is a question I've had for several years, and with their articles (and reader comments) I'm going to make firmer plans.

Total votes: 6

Adding to my comment on motorhome travel,I was specifically refering to europe,I have no experience at using RV`s in the USA,and as such can only confir that in europe I have had no trouble with overnight camping between races,most villages have areas set aside for motorhomes (not caravans) to park up for up to 4 nights,usually a gold coin donation is required.In France these areas are called aries de service,in Italy their called aries de sosta,in Germany their called Stellplatze.The common name through out Europe is just Aries.There is even a website for the info.Once again in my humble opinion motorhomes are the ideal way to travel Europe and spend weekends at race meetings,why do you think most of the racers lease them for the racing season,beats travelling each day into the circuit with the hoardes of day trippers,Mugello is the perfect example it can take many hours on race day to get there from Florence ( closest city with major accommodation)

Total votes: 8

Cheers again mate. That's been filed :)

Total votes: 4

I’ve been travelling to GP/WSBK since 1983-not every year but most. Last year Sachsenring & Misano, this year Aragón & Sepang. Being small I don’t risk looking at someone’s armpit when I’ve travelled a long way (with my wife of 25 years, Glo), so it’s Saturday tour of the circuit and Sunday in my seat. If at all possible I HAVE to explore the circuit as that’s my driver-its history, place in the grand scheme and how it all came to be. Heck I was (innocently) so passionate of my defence of Monza to the MotoPod website a few years ago, they persuaded me to do 7-8 spoken word features on circuits!!

I’m in the trade but rarely get freebie or special tickets-I often could but don’t want to be in anyone’s debt and just love seeing it as a fan. I’m so impressed with David’s site that, if I can help enhance a fan’s experience in any way I’d love to help. There’s so much to consider and the upcoming feature is so overdue-trust this site to be the first to be undertaking it! There is one factor-possibly part of maybe a contemporary safety culture-a growing number of tracks that you actually CAN’T wander around; you buy a ticket for a certain area and that’s where you will be. It baffles me when there is clearly paths around places but-generally -Fridays excepted-that’s the deal in Misano, Sepang, Aragón, Sachsenring (partially), and I’m sure more as I haven’t been to them all. It won’t bother some, but may others. 

Oh and yes, Mugello really is that good; old skool, chaotic, not entirely safe, camping inside the circuit, bare-chested macho Italians (men, that is), pushing, shoving, Rossi, full participation track invasions, exploded engines on trestles, that ‘straight!’, Lorenzo effigies swinging from camper vans, beer can bridges between trees, paddock pass collection in a village 4 miles away that no officials at the circuit seems to know about... BELLISSIMO!!

 

Total votes: 9

Hey funsize,I too am very passionate about Monza,where else in the world besides Italia would a full on race circuit be situated in the middle of a  populated city.It`s a crying shame that Monza has lost the rights to hold the WSBK round there,although Imola is nearly as good except for the very limited camping available.Myself and mates have had some memorable race weekends at Monza,hopefully we get the oppurtunity to experience it once more before international travel becomes too hard to do. I will be spectating at Mugello and Catalunya again this year,travelling by motorhome as usual,and can`t wait to head over from Australia on the big bird to see all the crazy Italians and Spanish going off.

 

Total votes: 7

As a west coast American who has travelled to numerous European rounds, this advice is extremely helpful.  My one recommendation is Norwegian Air for getting to Europe, it can save you the cost of the race event!

I have only used a package service once, Pole Position for the Czech GP, and I would certainly use them again.  Their special events truly made it a lifetime experience for my sister and I.

Hopefully the next is taking my wife and sister to Mugello (I have been 3x).  Let the racing begin!

Total votes: 6

If traveling alone and can comit to waking up before dawn each day, being a track marshal is a unique and unfirgetable way to experience a MotoGP Race.  It's offers the best access for cost you can find and I would say a must for die hard fans.

I never thought this a possibility or gave it any thought until the eve of the first Austin race at COTA when the all call went out for warm bodies to man posts else the race could not go on. 

I show up 6am each day and get treated to the best access and lowest possible cost of atendence.  Free. (lunch included). I actually had tickets which went unused.

Got to sit track side, run through gravel traps to pick up crashed bikes, (which is not easy those things are deep), wear head phones listen in on and report back to race direction on naughty behavior on track, and have access to basically walk anywhere you want after all the races are finished. 

For info go to the tracks webpage directly for details. COTA now has an application process in which you fill in befoe hand.  This is a great way to get behind the scenes expirence and all fans who read these pages should try to do at least once.

P.s. Love the idea for this series. Another value adding contribution from our host at motormatters. Well done Sir, 

Total votes: 8

Will look forward to your, and your fans advice here David.

Your Le Mans edition will certainley be interesting :)

Total votes: 6

..one of the founding fathers of race circuits, coming after Brooklands and Indianapolis and one of the few circuits that makes the hairs stand up on the back of the neck even when there’s NO racing going on!  Can spend a day going round the oval and the overgrown remains of other configurations-magical, especially when approached through the royal park! Let’s hope we get it back.

Catalunya and Mugello by motorhome-that sounds awesome-especially as Mugello still allows fans to camp/park inside some parts of the circuit, adding to the craziness!

Total votes: 7

Thanks David. 2018 may be the year for me. I'm planning to get to the U.K. for a few races. Summer looks good at the mo. I intend to make it easy for my first trip. In the UK they speak my language & drive on the same side of the road that i am used to. World supers at Donington, last weekend in May, then over to the Isle of Man for the TT. Possibly BSB at Snetterton. Some speedway racing while I'm there then back to work, with a grin.

Thanks for your comments Funsize & RM400man. Thanx everyone else to. Maybe Europe by rv in 2019. I must check if the Italian national series goes to Monza.

Total votes: 6

I may have missed out on watching bikes at Monza. Looks like the Italian championship, CIV doesn't race at Monza in 2018. Cars only at Monza in 2018 as far as I have been able to find out. Such is life, plenty of other frivolity to enjoy.

Total votes: 5

Hi Apical, unfortunately the FIM,governing body of motorcyle racing, does not consider Monza to be safe for 2 wheel racing anymore,it is a very fast circuit with questionable runoff areas,the left hand exit of prima variente being one, curve grande another,so I doubt very much if we will see any world class 2 wheeled racing there any time soon,funy tho` the F1 brigade consider it ok,the Italians would declare war if they took the flying ferraris away.If you seriously want to travel by motorhome (they do not call them RV`s in europe) around the european gp`s and wsbk I would be more than happy to pass on my knowledge of what I have learned over the years.My email is - rm400man@yahoo.com.au.

Some tips that I have learned the hard way

Number 1- NEVER rent out of Italy,best to rent in Germany and drive the extra distance I have always used Ideamerge,a world wide motorhome brokerage firm that is based in Portland Oregon,great all round service.

Number 2-Most race circuits have camping either on circuit or adjacent to the circuit,best to turn up thursday morning at the latest to secure a good spot.

Number 3- secure your race/camping tickets before you leave home,trying to purchase in a foreign speaking country could ruin your trip.

Number 4- Don`t be afraid to use the auto bahns/stradas they can save you time if needed,just don`t venture into the fast lane,the BMW`S,Audi`s etc travel at warp speed out there.

Number 5 - EARPLUGS, you will need plenty as well as liquid sedatives to help you sleep at the races

I personally would not bother going over to europe if I had to hotel it and do battle with the hoardes of day trippers trying to get into and out of the circuits every day, remember, Mugello can get 140,000 + on race day,so camping on circuit avoids the nightmare of this,plus there will be non stop entertainment all night long.

 

Total votes: 7

I don't expect MotoGp to race at Monza, looks like SBK won't return, anything on two wheels would be good enough for me.

Thanks for the advice. I wonder if there are track days at Monza for bikes ? I still have Monza on the SBK video game.

If I make it to Italy there is plenty to do. I would enjoy a walk around Monza.

Oh yes, Marshalling at the circuit is a great way to get close to the action. In 1982 I was a flaggie at Bathurst for the Australian M/c Gp. Between races we could move to a different flag point. Got to see the action from places the plebs can't go on a race weekend. Top fun! I have been a flaggie at Amaroo park for the Castrol 6 hour, nothing like it.

Total votes: 5

Thanks everybody, you have imspired me to have another look at Autodromo Monza. I have just enjoyed a few races around Monza, video games races. Monza what a great circuit! What awesome corners! like for example, la Curva Grande, la Parabolica, Serraglio, Lesmo one & Lesmo two. Jolly exciting fun, as a game, when I'm garanteed not to hurt myself no matter how many times I crash. It took lot of laps & lots of crashes but I did get my eye in, eventually. Then I won a superbike race. Videogames help me to remember the track better & learn circuits that I've never been to. I will continue in the forum "racing circuits pantheon". I welcome any feedback.

Total votes: 4

I am a dutch living in Sepang (which is my forum name) district for 12 years. Any questions on the Malaysia track I’m more than happy to answer.

Total votes: 4