Top 10 Things at the 2015 Catalunya Grand Prix
This T10 is more Little Johnny’s GP Vacation than it is “race coverage” (Bruce Allen has that here.) This is more a random look behind whatever Catalunyan scenes I could get behind under tight security with my Media pass, in no particular order:
Most of the moto-press is no longer ink-stained, but we’re still mostly wretched and stick out like the proverbial sore thumb amidst the monetary splendor that is MotoGP. Which makes it that much nicer that we get the best seat in the house. The Media Room at Catalunya is a room the size of a football field right on top of pit row, lined in front with glass windows that angle out over the pits. Naturally, it’s filled with flat screens that show the rest of the track and real-time scoreboards that track lap times, etc. Dorna knows what side its bread is buttered on; there must’ve been 100 journalists from around the world in there, pounding away on their laptops and 600mm lenses and TV cameras to get the word out to the world ASAP. (MO readers may have gotten it quicker if internet access wasn’t 15 Euros a day. But probably not.)
This Guy’s Hat
I believe the official count was 97,000 fans at Catalunya, and about 80,000 of them were Rossi ones. Hats off to this guy for the original Valentino Diorama headgear. If Vale quit racing yesterday, he could support Luxembourg on his t-shirt and hat sales alone for many decades to come.
Drinking your milkshake (and your beer)
Our most excellent hosts at American Honda got us into the HRC paddock pleasure dome for a little lunch. Things took a turn for the awkward when the Champ turned up (to my left), and found us at his table. A fisticuff broke out and I was ejected. Kidding.
Judging from its building boom on wheels, you’d never suspect MotoGP was experiencing any sort of financial problems. Ducati’s paddock presence consists of three or four buses linked together, then built upward.
No Silicon Valley HQ can outdo Tech 3 Yamaha’s black mobile monolith. Even many of the Moto2 and 3 small fry put up brave facades. Sadly, the class system is alive and well in the old country; my Media credential and Motorcycle.com t-shirt could not gain me entry into any of these swell edifices in spite of my efforts to talk my way in: No Anglais, beat it pal.
The Grassy Knoll
Our Media passes were also no good for getting into the grandstands (where seats go for around 60-90 Euros, I heard), which would’ve been okay except that many prime viewing spots along the fence between the bleachers had red nylon fencing all along them to block the view, I suppose to make you buy a bleacher seat. On Saturday, though, the magical Media pass got a few of us into an area, outside Turn 7, that was too good to be true, even if it brought back sad memories of auguring a ZX-6R into the same (very damp) gravel trap a few years ago. We had the shady knoll almost to ourselves, and kept waiting to be kicked out but never were. Amazing thing #2, we got back into the same park-like spot Sunday for the MotoGP race, when the rest of the track was a sea of humanity.
Things are not going great for the Kentucky Kid and his new Honda RCV1000R so far this year, but then it’s not going great for most of the Hondas. And it’s all relative. Even a bad day riding a motorcycle in MotoGP has to rival the best day most of us will ever have doing anything else. It’s natural for Nicky to be upbeat and nice on the outside; he started off seventh fastest in practice before things began going backwards, followed by a DNF in the race.
I need to get out more: A short toddle down from the media room had us right at parc ferme under the Catalan sun and the podium, canyoned in between Catalunya’s main grandstand and its thousands of screaming fans. To stand there while every one of them clammed up as they played the Marseillaise for Johann Zarco after his Moto2 win, then to later watch Rossi actually remove hat and shades while they played the Spanish anthem for Jorge Lorenzo after his MotoGP win, was for me a truly moving, even religious experience.
I’m with Kev Cameron; roadracing is an art, and at this highest level especially, a display of what humankind is capable of at its very best. I felt closer to God this Sunday than I have in years. Okay ever. Then I screamed and hollered and stuck out my tongue like a dog to grab a few drops of cheap champagne.
My Fan Club
Okay, not really. These are the girls who are about to boldly go forth and hold up the grid row marker signs. I’m a Freudian: What would be the point of MotoGP without them?
The life of an umbrella girl is not always an easy one. I need to apologize. I really had no idea what a creepy old coot I’ve become till I saw this photo. Maybe a shave and a wardrobe upgrade? But that’s my favorite outfit, so … Nice bike, though.
Luckily, MX GOAT Ricky Carmichael was also in attendance to present trophies, and to help me feel like not the least fashionable guy in Barcelona. Just kidding, RC, we love you man!
This guy: Valentino Rossi
Seems like only yesterday a box dropped in from AGV with a very cool helmet in it; moon and stars on one side, bright smiling sun on the other. ‘Vale-who replica?,’ I asked. How he’s suddenly 36 years old, I have no idea. But the pleasure I have derived from watching him ride a motorcycle since then is inestimable (almost exclusively on TV). He started from the third row at Catalunya, and by about lap ten, it was just him and teammate Jorge Lorenzo knocking out laps like men on a Yamaha assembly line: 1.4- second gap, 1.1-seconds … while all the faster qualifiers crashed out or fell back out of sight.
You knew Valentino had a shot as long as he could keep Lorenzo in sight, but Lorenzo isn’t two-time MotoGP champ for nothing. The gap between them never appeared to vary by more than ten feet. The championship points spread between them is now narrowed to one. On the podium, the Rossi fan club at first booed Lorenzo, until the huge Spanish crowd rose up and outroared them. Lorenzo has a huge grin the whole time; with four wins in a row, the momentum has swung decidedly his way. He and Rossi carry on the battle with champagne until they meet again at Assen.
A lot of people thought GP racing had grown a bit bland there for awhile, because it had. And I’m sure there are more than a few willing to take credit for resuscitating it. But I think we all know who’s responsible. In Spain, everybody knows who Valentino Rossi is. In the paddock, they stand outside Yamaha Gulch for hours, hoping he might appear on the balcon between the transporters like the Pope. Dominus vobiscum, people. This was my first European GP; if it winds up being my last, it’s almost enough. Highly recommended.
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