Great Sporting Moment No.2: British MotoGP, Silverstone, June 17, 2012

19 Jun

One more item has been ticked off Stuart’s bucket list – to see the final day of the Motorcycle Grand Prix at Silverstone. We’ve been to Kuala Lumpur and Philip Island but when we last went to Silverstone, several decades ago, the event was rained off. Rain was forecast again Sunday.

Happily for us and thousands of other MotoGP fans weather and track conditions were perfect; mostly cloud cover with a steady 18 degrees Celsius and not a drop of rain.

The Races:
The main draw for me was Aussie Casey Stoner as this would be one of his last races. He announced last month he’ll retire at the end of this season. Smart move. He’s won 42 of the 176 races he’s competed in (in all categories) and won the championship in 2011 and 2007. He has continued to do well this season, sitting in number two position on points behind Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. Casey has done his time!

The first race was Moto2, the four stroke 600cc Honda engine with Dunlop tyres class, which provides a level playing field for up and coming riders. I used to ride a Honda 600 but cannot conceive of making it do what these guys and girls do. Check the leans on them in my photos. And yes, there is a girl, Elena Rosell from Spain. The 18 lap race was exciting with a couple of riders running off the track and plenty of changes in the lead. The Spaniard Pol Espargaro was too good for Brit Scott Redding who came second with Spaniard Marc Marquez third.

Then on to the main event, the 990cc MotoGP. Twenty laps at speeds up to 250 miles an hour. The crescendo of the riders revving their engines on the starting grid gave me goosebumps but when 16 motorcycles came roaring down the straight and turned into our corner my hair stood on end. I captured the start on video and have posted it here. I had ear plugs with me and should have worn them but the sound was so awesome I couldn’t bear to miss it.

US rider Ben Spies on a Yamaha went into the lead followed by Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo but Stoner quickly overtook him and stretched his lead for the next few laps. Lorenzo and Stoner began a duel for the lead at lap nine and thrillingly swapped places several times until Lorenzo got several seconds in front and stayed there. Stoner’s Honda teammate Danny Pedrosa took third. Crowd favourite Valentino Rossi on his Ducati was ninth but his teammate Nicky Hayden came seventh – what does that say about Rossi?

This race is a kind of dance, a dance with death. Riders have the balance, strength and stamina of dancers plus mental toughness and a will to win that enables them to ignore their mortality.

It was all over in less than 42 minutes. The generally accepted reason Stoner has been losing the lead is that his unique cornering technique wears out his tyres more than other riders, slowing him down. I was just happy to see him on the podium at the finish. There was a time we were lulled into a false belief that MotoGP was a fairly safe sport but with the deaths of Shoyo Tomizawa in 2010 and Marco Simoncelli last year that is clearly a myth.

The final race of the day for us was the Moto3. 250cc single cylinder four stroke engines have replaced the 125cc two strokes. I miss the smell of two stroke fuel….. This race is for aspiring riders between 16-28 years looking to win their way into Moto2 and Moto GP classes and the pace is cracking! The first few laps were awesome with so many of the riders clustered closely together up front. Again a Spaniard triumphed with Maverick Viñales in first, second place went to Luis Salom and third Sandro Cortese.

The Venue:
Serious money has been spent on the track and stands but ticket prices are still reasonable with access to the grounds on Sunday £50 and assigned seats in the covered stands ranging from £80 to £90. Kids are free. Our last minute seats in the front row of Abbey were good, right in front of a switchback, but we couldn’t see the giant screen nearest us or hear the commentary as the speaker near us didn’t work. This was remedied by pestering my neighbour who had the live feed on his smart phone and kept us informed.

The usual bugbear of mass events, toilets, weren’t a problem for women as we were in such a minority, but the queues for the blokes’ loos were ridiculous. We saw one leather clad biker who wouldn’t/couldn’t wait and was peeing French style by the fence.

Food and beverage outlets were plentiful but I wouldn’t want to eat there unless I was taking part in a reality TV show to see how quickly I could become obese. That’s clearly not a problem for the punters who were scoffing deep fried objects covered in sauce and vinegar like it was their last meal.

The Spectators:
Said punters tend to come in one variety; large, black leather or goretex clad bikers with T-shirts stretched over large bellies, many of them bearing their allegiances. ‘The Doctor’, number 46, Valentio Rossi, is still popular even though he’s been off form these past two seasons. See the photo of the young man in a wheelchair and his mate. The rest of the crowd were regular couples and families, especially dads with young kids in tow. Most of those folks came by car and then all tried to leave at the same time turning the car park paddocks into a giant dodgem cars as we funneled into two exits. My experience driving in Malaysia stood me in good stead and it only took 45 minutes to get the three miles onto the dual carriageway to our next destination, rural Wales.

It was a brilliant day and I was delighted to see Spain take all three major titles and six of the nine top three places. There must be something in the water there. Tickets for the British MotoGP 2013 are now on sale and I am tempted to get us the early bird specials!



















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