Jerez MotoGP test

Thanks to the MotoGP technical director, Mike Webb I was able to attend the last Moto GP test of 2008, held in Jerez de la Frontera, in Southern Spain.  The track is just outside the town, close enough I could take a taxi from my hotel and it cost around 12-13 Euro. There is also a big roadracing statue of point out of town straight toward the race track, which I cannot find a photo of anywhere. (Can someone help me out?)

The weather was unseasonably freezing for the time of year, and accordingly I was entirely unprepared. Day one was so cold I went a bought a jacket the next morning. My contact was Ricky, the tech directors assistant. He was incredibly sick and outside of picking me up at the gate, he couldn’t do much of anything other than writhe in pain in his chair.  I did see a few people I knew but the atmosphere was pretty somber, as mechanics and other staff alike were unsure of their jobs for next year. Only Yamaha, Ducati and Honda were at this test while the other manufacturers were at Phillip Island, so not only did everyone have mopey faces, the paddock was kind of sparse.  So yeah, day one at the track was a downer.

Fortunately my friend Gerard from Dorna was there and we planned to meet up after he was finished at the track for drinks and some food. I got started early and walked into a tiny bar for some wine – wine from Andalucia is amazing. The second I ordered I was introduced to the other few people in the bar and had a lively conversation with in my limited Spanish. Very friendly locals though the dialect (accent? manner of speaking?) is akin to listening to someone with a mouth full of cotton leaving off the second half of every third word, along with using an incredible number of words to say essentially nothing. But it’s charming, don’t get me wrong.

I waited outside in the rain for Gerard in his rental car trying to maneuver the ancient streets of downtown. He ended up working on a helmet device at the track until 9pm. By the time he found me we were pretty hungry, though I had had a few tiny plates of tapas that are thrown at you free in this region whenever you buy a drink. We found a cool little restaurant with traditional food (served with  a nice helping of cigarette smoke as is the case round these parts) I had some more tapas type plates, and Gerard had what he called “blood”. Which was…blood. Congealed into a sausage type thing. MMMM–MMMM!

tasty congealed blood.

tasty congealed blood.

Next day was sunny and while it was still cold, the riders were happier and everyone seemed to be in a better mood.  Ricky was better and was up and about.

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Ricky, not sick.

Nicky Hayden was loving the Ducati on the second day. It was exciting to watch him at the top of the times all day. It was also Thanksgiving day in the US.  Altogether now- Team Amercia, f*** yeah!

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He had a American flag livery, which was awesome. I tried to take some video from the roof of the garages but while it was impressive in person, my camera didn’t do any justice to Nick. So here is a photo that I did not take of his livery:

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Made me all gushy proud to be ‘Merican. Nicks teammate Stoner was there, keeping a low profile after surgery on with hand, helping Nick with setup and the bike. I was in the Ducati garage at one point, but I’m not about to go taking photos of the riders or anyone at a test like this where there aren’t any fans per se. And yet…everyone there is kind of a fan. Pedrosa was posing in the sunset for some PR photos, and the VIPs walking by all stopped to take his photo with their phones or cameras as well.

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I got my photo taken as well, because me?  I are famous.  The rest of the day I met a few new people and chatted with some of the mechanics I am getting to know, but otherwise it wasn’t too productive for me to be there. The whole trip overall didn’t open any doors for me, but  it WAS fun. The fun started that evening of the second day, after everyone was done with work. Let me tell you now, the next day was full of ouch. So much ouch.

To be continued…

Thanksgiving dinner, 2008

Thanksgiving dinner, 2008

More photos from the GP

Some more images from the races.

I like this shot

Simoncelli gets a drink on the track after his win

The traveling circus

Lorenzo's Land Livery

Hayes holding court with the rookies

Hayes holding court with the rookies

This is where I watched the race from. Notice the tire wall I'm leaning on.

Valencia GP

I took the train out to Cheste, on Thursday from downtown Valencia. It was maybe 30 minutes and there is a stop directly at the racetrack. Problem is…the racetrack grounds are HUUGE. I exited the train and saw only miles and miles of rental cars and basically no one on the roads! After walking in the general direction of the track, a girl on a scooter took me right to the front of the entrance.

It took a while but I figured out where to pick up my pass for the weekend. I hitched a ride with some Italians to the administration building and eventually made my way in…

The first pass, later upgraded for an even better pass. Notes for the italians - that's a drawing of a tire, part of italy and all our names

Once there I met up with my friend Francesco who runs the KTM 250 team and he gave me a Redbull hospitality sticker for my pass. I spent a lot of time there and it also got me into the Redbull rookies cup area.

Redbull station was spacious and served free booze

Since there are no bikes on the track on Thursday, it was a day spent meeting with people and collecting phone numbers of people who could potentially help me with a job. Buying that phone was the best decision ever because I filled it with numbers!

Thursday evening I met Olaf, the European Arai rep in my hotel. He ended up driving me to and from the track for the next couple of days. He snuck me into the press conference for Sete Gibernau’s return to GP racing with the Onda 2000 team Friday night. I also attended the 10 year track anniversary party, which was really nothing more than opportunities for the press to take photos of the riders and some important people together, along with some kind of stupid statues that were supposed to be the riders but looked nothing like them.

Olaf and some other Dutch journalist at the press release

Olaf and some other Dutch journalist at the press release

there are important people in this photo

there are important people in this photo

Marc showed up late Friday night from France, and Melissa and Josh Hayes drove all the way out from Portugal Friday night/ Saturday morning and stayed in my hotel. Marc, Olaf and I met up with them at the track on Saturday.

Marc and I were able to watch Saturday morning practice from the Tech 3 Yamaha garages, and qualifying from KTM red bull 250 garage. Later that evening we visited in the Tech 3 garages and saw some interesting things on the bikes.

Filling pneumatic valves Saturday night


Lead weights for balance

Saturday qualifying from inside the circuit:

Saturday after qualifying, the technical director Mike Webb escorted me into the Fiat garages so I could say hello to Jorge Lorenzo’s team that I worked for at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis. I needed an escort as the crowd outside the Fiat garages waiting for a glimpse of Rossi was so huge it was literally inaccessible at all times. The team was surprised and happy to see me, and amazed that I was speaking Spanish (albeit fairly basic and broken). I didn’t stay too long but it was a highlight of the weekend just being able to chat with those guys again.

The rest of the weekend I circulated and met with people, as this was my main reason for being there. I also ran into plenty of people I knew and caught up with them.

Scott from Honda, Britt and Josh Hayes

The races I got to watch from inside the track which was a treat for sure, though the premeir class race was fairly uneventful. Mike Webb gave me two tickets to the staff end of the year party, where I met Charley Boorman and (from Long Way Around/Long WAy Down movies with Ewan MacGregor), all of the Dorna guys I met at Laguna Seca, etc, etc. I stayed at until 5am, and when I left it was still in full swing…