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.
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.
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.
Race day, we watched practices from various locations, walked around the paddock and were treated to amazing food in the Suzuki hospitality tent.
To be continued shortly (when my internet connection is better)