The girls do SBK Valencia (cont.)

Continued from the previous post….

We watched the races from the stands, and then right before the end of Superbike went into the Suzuki garage so we could run down pit lane for the awards.

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Oh god the cameras are on, let me pop my collar and smooth my eyebrows.

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Ducati team says, we kick-a your ass-a Suzuki.

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Reuben "Crazy Train" Xaus

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Corti won the Superstock 1000 race for Alstare and Neukirshner took third in Superbike

We found some Spaniards waving an American flag for Ben. (It is far from the norm to find Europeans waving an American flag!!!!) We joined them during the podium speeches and smack in the middle of Ben’s interview we whooped loudly and rang a cowbell. Because we are mature adults. Hey it may give him some fuel for the next race, because really, all Ben needed to win was more cowbell.

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Note cowbell in Susannas hand, and please do not confuse the 2 fingers I'm holding up for Bens second place for a peace sign.

Britt and Suz take on World Superbike in Valencia

Susanna and I went to the World Superbike round in Valencia a couple weeks ago. We rented a car and drove the three and a half hours down south, as the trains were all sold out for whatever holiday weekend it was (Every other weekend is a holiday weekend here). Of course, I did not discover this until I was in the train station at 7am trying to buy a ticket for the 8am train.

Two hours later, we had a car and were bombing down the highway that goes straight to Valencia, listening to bad Spanish radio and singing along, waving at riders passing us on their way to this race, and straight into the parking lot of  the Ricardo Tormo racetrack. Susanna had a brace on her foot due to a mishap in the rain on a piece of junk BMW Scarver, so we got through all the gates and into the lots without required passes simply by flashing her gimp leg.

We picked up a pass from Dark Dog and one from Arai, and went straight to the Alstare Suzuki garage to watch superpole.

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With Katy from Dark Dog

We watched the next two superpole sessions from the grandstands, so we could listen to the unintentionally hilarious announcers throw in the few English words or phrases they knew in an attempt to make their announcing bi-lingual. The phrases attempted were completely random or incorrect, and they mangled nearly every riders name in the entire field. Except for Carlos Checa’s name, of course, who is still a favorite here in Spain and the only Spanish rider in the field.

The crowd was surprisingly small, filling the 150,000 capacity stands only halfway. Here in Spain, World Superbike is considered the Italian world championship, whereas MotoGP is considered the Spanish world championship. Indeed, walking through the paddock feels far more relaxed and friendly than the Moto GP paddock, and it is Italian that is  predominantly heard and well, seen in the accompanied hand gestures that go with the language. Passing the trucks and hospitality tents, there is no security guarding certain blue garages, no fans with cameras chasing scooters as they fly by with riders driven by personal assitants. The riders ride bicycles or walk around, generally looking relaxed and smiling. The paddock in general is also much taller.

Spies won pole and to my surprise, was the only other rider besides Checa who was loudly cheered for. Seems they love the new guy here.

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Suzuki/Dark Dog/Brux hospitality was the best in the paddock - Pinball and Foozeball, people!

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Helmet master, Olaf.

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Oh ouchie.

That evening we checked into quite an amazing hotel. It sat downtown next to the Palacio Marques de dos Aguas and the sidewalks in the entire surrounding area are marble. Our balcony looked directly onto the marbled walls of the palace.

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View from the hotel balcony. I am a master at finding great hotels for cheap, but this was even a surprise for me.

I do appreciate my grafitti.

I do appreciate my graffiti.

Race day, we watched practices from various locations, walked around the paddock and were treated to amazing food in the Suzuki hospitality tent.

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This carnage needed a wheel barrow and four men.

This carnage needed a wheel barrow and four men.

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To be continued shortly (when my internet connection is better)

Moving on…

So dudes, I have good news. And bad news. Let’s start with the bad news, shall we?

I am leaving Spain already. It will be six months to the day that I have been here when I leave on April 20th. I am sad about this, as I have made some good friends here and finally have some invitations to go riding offroad, a solution for owning a scooter, and I found the most amazing flat. I mean, this was a one in a million place. Spare room for visitors (unheard of). My own bathroom. Storage. Nice furniture, big kitchen with a dishwasher (!!!) Many, many windows. Balcony that wrapped around half the flat. great neighborhood close to everything but far from the kind of mayhem I live near right now. All utilities included.  2 Responsible, nice flatmates. Cleaning service. And sweet jesus in a car seat, a fishtank in the entryway. I like the fish and the animals and what-not.  I nearly put down a deposit, but I am glad I didn’t and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Even better than the flat, I have some new friends with free storage for a bike. And transportation to the track. Oh, and also? My last company I worked for in California told me I would be put on a new US Navy project, and could work from Spain.  Which meant I could buy a supermoto or bike for the track or…anything.  I know, right? So why the hell am I leaving?

The good news part: In a week I move to the North East of Italy to work in a moto racing company, my dream job, the reason for which I moved to Europe. My going away celebration starts now people. I’ll take my cake with espresso ice cream, and a gin chaser.

Jerez GP Zero, Sunday

This post is titled Sunday because Saturday I woke up late and was feeling terrible (drinking sometimes does that). It wasn’t until the middle of the afternoon I even got out of the hotel, and then I didn’t feel like spending money on a taxi to go to the track.

I know that sounds ridiculous, I had access, I was in Jerez and paying to be there, but it was the GP teams first day of testing and the people I wanted to speak with would be incredibly busy so I wouldn’t even contact them until later. So I walked around town a bit and enjoyed the nice weather and sent text messages to a few people I was meant to find at the tests, asking them if I could stop by the next day. I recieved gracious and positive responses.

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Church in the center of the old part of Jerez. Why it's lit up all heavenly I don't know, I'm sure many evil things happened in it's name

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Rossi's other ride

In the evening I went to a tiny traditional bar for dinner. Southern Spain has really. really. good. food.  And amazing wine. While I was standing at the bar, some silent procession went by outside in preparation for the Semana Santa. It’s essentially a week (and then some), where they parade giant effigies of bible scenes and figures through the streets and get very emotional, sing spontaneously with lots of Southern Spanish clapping and flair, usually accompanied with crying, and generally flail about at the feet of “their” Maria -each town has their own statue thing of the virgin Mary and the details about how it looks seem to be something people are proud of and identify with, as if they were acutally different goddesses to pray to.

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Semana Santa procession at midnight. How those kids resisted torching everything sight with their giant candles I don't know.

Sunday I headed to the track in the late morning.  I was absolutely shocked at how many people there were there to watch testing. There were no jumbotrons, but there was an announcer. And the stands were totally full.

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In the afternoon some ominous clouds appeared on the horizon. A mass exodus of people who rode motorcycles there followed (and there were a lot of them).

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Parked bikes as far as the eye can see. Note rainclouds in the sky.

The rain and wind came quickly. The temperature dropped around 10 degrees (Celsius) and all the bikes went in the garages while it poured rain. I hung out in the womens lavatories with my hands under the hot air blower. A woman with a radio show in Madrid joined me under the dryer for around an hour.  Bikes ventured onto the track a bit later, and Casey Stoner won a BMW. (I’m sure he had been saving for one for months.)

I stopped by the garages I needed to and received word that someone was looking for me, that they likely had a job in the Redbull Rookies Cup for me. I nearly ran over there, and met with Jose whom I had exchanged maybe one or two emails with, introducing myself as a friend of Eduard (whom I met on the return flight from Italy). He told me he had emailed me and did not know I was at the track, so was very happy when I introduced myself in person. And he did have a job for me as an assistant with the Rookies Cup, for the year. He just needed to OK it with the rider and the bosses (Note the foreshadowing in this last phrase…).

I don’t think I need to tell you that I was excited. This would mean working at 6 European GPs for the year, an opportunity that in nearly April was very rare indeed.  So I agreed to talk more about it on the phone.  Meanwhile, I found Anscari Nadal, who was there to help out the US Rookies cup rider Benny Solis (whose dad I raced with a couple of times), and who eventually gave me a ride to my hotel.

When I spoke with Jose later, he asked if I could stay longer and come to the track on Monday to help him out with the Rookies tests. I walked around thinking about what this whole thing could mean, and went for dinner at another bar (the total was 3 Euros for some amazing fish, patatas fritas, bread and tea). Dudes, did I mention I love the food here? Well I also love the prices.

Monday morning I got up early and as I was getting ready to head to the track, Jose called and told me…there would be no job after all.  “They” didn’t want to pay, and a rider’s father was going to attend the races to work instead. I had already told a few people that I had a job offer from the Rookies Cup, as I do have a hard time keeping quiet about things, hence, this blog. (It took me a little while to figure out who “they” were, but when I had dinner with Jose later to cry on his shoulder, he told me who, and now it all makes sense. I cannot divulge here though, sorry!)

Remember my friend Gerard’s tires? Well I picked them up and checked them as my baggage on my flight back to Barcelona Monday. I wish I had gotten a few photos of this. Then I saw Gerard and his crew in the airport, looking quite the worse for wear. They had stayed out until 6 in the morning, after several very long days and not much sleep each night. I wish I had gotten some photos of these guys as well, and I am positive they are glad that I did not.

It didn’t hit me until the next day back in Barcelona how disappointed I was. A job in the GPs in my hand for 14 hours and now nothing. I needed to move out of my flat soon, I needed some kind of job to keep me in Spain longer while I worked on an employment position in racing, I was running out of money, I couldn’t sell bikes at home because the titles have been lost in the post,  I still hadn’t heard from Alpinestars about a second interview, and to top it off, it was raining when I returned to Barcelona. It was a depressing week, but there were many good things about the weekend as well (and more than just the food).

I met a lot of good people and I was reminded that anything can happen. Things can change overnight, and often do when you keep trying (more foreshadowing here, people…) I also have a new friend here in the form of Jose, who has worked in the US with the AMA and with the Spanish championship and the GPs, and is interested in helping me out. Awesome. He makes a kit for the new 450 single racers and is invloved in all kinds of racing (His company is . He also drives a pickup truck in Barcelona. Dude has some serious street cred.

Jerez GP Zero, Friday

2009 125/250/Moto GP tests, Jerez, otherwise know as GP Zero (term coined by Toby Moody)

So I went to Jerez again, for the IRTA tests this time. Unlike the test in November, all the classes were present.

I nearly did not make this trip because of the expense and the likelihood that the trip as a networking opportunity being successful was low. Last time was a bit disappointing in terms of being introduced to people and how busy everyone was, and of course this time, everyone would be busier still because of the new rules, new teams, new year… but I had a  few new contacts expecting me, plus I would know more people there this time. So I flew in on Friday and took a taxi straight to the track. (SIDE NOTE for my friends who must know Valentino’s every move:  I was considering renting a car in Jerez so I loitered around the small airport a while after landing. Most of the flight passengers had gone, and  I was alone when Valentino came strolling through the airport by himself, looking every bit like a skinny 18 year old and less like the 30 year old world champion he is.)

Thanks to a friend from the US, two guys from Simoncelli’s Gilera team were expecting me. I was supposed to call when I arrived at the gate and one of them would come get me with a pass, but I had been calling and text messaging since I was still at the airport in BCN, and had not heard back. So standing at the gate, still with my luggage and no contact, I sent texts to a couple of my friends who might possibly be able to help me, but being incredibly busy, they couldn’t even answer my messages. I finally called the technical director of MotoGP himself, who, being the nicest, most gracious guy in the entire paddock if not the world, came and picked me up himself, pass in hand. THANK YOU (again) MIKE.

p10002801I spent the first part of my Friday afternoon in the Metis Gilera box. Now ya’ll may or may not know that this is the reigning 250 world champion team, and in Spain, riders of this caliber are very popular. Very.  (second photo down in this earlier post is one I took on the track after he won the last race of the year). When I first arrived, the team were rushing to introduce me to Marco Simoncelli, assuming I was one more raving fan. I kept saying, no it’s OK, I just want to check out the bikes and hang with you guys…they finally dragged the poor guy over and told him I was a racer from the US. He graciously asked which cc bikes I liked racing better, 125 or 600, of course I said 125 (he was probably thinking: what a girl). With that out of the way everyone went back to their work.  I tried to stay out of the way, opting to sit in a chair next to the telemetry guy Elvio (or Elvis as he likes to be called) and chat, but I did get a photo of one of the new for 2009 bikes being mantled for shipping. Sooooooo pretty…

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that's a carbon fiber subframe and swingarm...

Remember my awesome friend who took me supermoto riding? Well he gave me a little tour of the Dorna camera truck/workshop for all the onbike images. I saw some progressive designs for minimally intrusive onboard photography with tiny cassette motors to clean the lenses and other neat stuff.  (I took these images with my phone so they kind of suck.)

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Carbon fiber housing. This cam faces backwards on the tail of the bike. Or maybe forward for the famous butt shots?

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Same old 1960s design grinder you have in your garage...

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Onbike camera schematic

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Brake/clutch hand camera

Of course I didn’t take pictures of the coolest stuff, like the two sets of used 250 slicks stashed in the cabinet for personal supermoto use by a certain unnamed staff member. I offered to take these as my carry on for the plane ride home, which I did. Just taped them together and rolled ’em into the airport…

I also hunted down Cam, who is debuting in the 125 class this year with Redbull KTM team!  He is having a good time and has befriended Casey Stoner.  In fact while talking with Cam, Casey came looking for him. Good to see he has a lot of support and is doing well.

Booby, all growed up

Booby, all growed up

That night I met with my friend Francesco, an Italian who works this year doing telemetry for the Caffe Latte 250 team. Their weekend was finished, so it was their responsibility to consume many adult beverages and stay out until 5am.

Francesco (on the right) babysitting Luthi

Francesco (on the right) babysitting his rider Luthi

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Smiley (with the bald head) and friend, me, Francesco, Niño in front

That’s all from Friday…more to come.