Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Moto Grand Prix... and The Luckiest Man Alive

I am the luckiest man alive.

Saturday night I received a text from my friend... "The wife is not feeling well, got an extra ticket, want to go to the Moto GP"

OK! ... let the adventure begin.
The Circuit of The Americas is a new facility that was built in Austin, Texas to host the Formula 1 (F1) and Motorcycle Grand Prix (Moto GP) races. These two events are arguably two of the top automotive and sports events in the world. People travel from all over the world to support their favorite teams and pilots. I'm just blessed and fortunate to live in Texas.

I'm a dual sport motorcycle rider, but I'm not really a sport motorcycle rider. I had a general interest in the Moto GP, but not a fanaticism for the sport. I was interested in checking out the event as a spectacle, but I was not so interested that I would pay the steep ticket prices. But hey... if someone was going to offer me a free ticket... I'M ALL IN!
This is my friend Andy. He rides a sport motorcycle and he hooked me up.
Not only did he have tickets to the event, he had a parking permit for lot A. The parking permit would allow us to park in one of the lots closest to the main entrance and near to the grandstand. The admission tickets and parking permit were gifts from one of his friends to Andy. 

I met Andy at his home. We got an early start an left from Andy's home at 9:15am. We arrived at the venue at about 9:30am. Luckily there was very little traffic at this time of the day, so we were able to drive right to the parking lot without encountering much traffic. We walked from the car, for about 100 yards, to the grandstand entrance. We were in! Easy.
That's right... grandstand! This was the ticket to the Main Grandstand... Section 109... Row 4... Seat 16.
We went directly to our seats to check out the viewing vantage point... Section 109.
It turned out that Section 109 was directly in front of the start, finish line, pit stops,  a big screen monitor and the VIP Village. It could not get any better... right.
The Ducati team was in red and ready to rumble.
The Honda team was in green and ready to go. 
From these seats we could see the final turn and the finish line.

Red Bull was the primary sponsor of the race series and definitely had a presence at the track.

During the day there were three classes of motorcycles racing. Moto 3 with 250cc motorcycles, Moto 2 with 600cc motorcycles and Moto GP with 1000cc motorcycles. I'm not an expert on the sport so for more accurate information it would be better to check out this link about the basics of Moto GP.
Andy had heard about and wanted to check out a pit walk. Basically a pit walk is an escorted walk prior to the race for people with special passes along the pit area where the teams work on the motorcycles. We found a track official and asked where we needed to go to participate in the pit walk. We were told by the official that we would not be able to do the pit walk with the tickets that we possessed... it was for VIPs only. Bummer. 

I've always consider myself to be a VIP in my own mind.

Well, we were not going to let this little set back ruin our day. We were inside the facilities, so we decided to take a walk around the track. We started walking around the facility toward the general admission entrance. It was a beautiful sunny day and about 70F (21C). Perfect. 

As we were walking, we ran into two friends of Andy. We shared a little small talk. We told them where we were sitting and where we were walking. They told us where they were sitting and where they were walking. It just so happened that they were going to the paddock/pit walk. We asked them how they had arranged to visit the paddock/pit. They said that they had attempted to visit the paddock the previous day, but the group was too large and they were turned down with just three people in front of them. Unlucky. Well, one of the track officials told them that she would put their names down on a waiting list for the following day. Nice. 

They asked us if we wanted to go with them. Andy and I looked at each other... WHY NOT!

So... off the four of us went. We first went to the main entrance. We waited for a while for a shuttle bus to pick us up. After a short wait, we boarded a bus which drove around and under the track by turn 1. It entered a gated area and dropped us off. There was a group of about 200 people waiting. We talked with another track official and were told to wait. After a short amount of time one of the track officials asked us if we were the group that had been turned away earlier. Andy's friend said... Yes. The lady said that she was sorry... then handed me four passes! I'm not sure why she handed the passes to me, but I distributed them to the others.
We each received one of these Promoter VIP Guest passes. Sweet! The track official said that with this pass we could enter the gated area. We did not need to hear anything else... off we went to explore.
We walked inside a gated area... and it was like a whole different world. 
Honestly, at first I did not understand where we were... the paddock was the rear pit area. 
Basically, we were granted entrance to the paddock or rear pit area where all the teams were prepping the Moto 2 and Moto 3 bikes for the races.
We were able to walk around freely. 
We walked right up to these team tents.
Some teams were working on electronics
Some teams were working on suspensions
We were able to get close to the bikes... really close.
I felt like one of the crew and thought about asking if they needed any help.
I wanted to hop on this moto and take off... but thought that would that be inappropriate.
OK, this guy did not seem to appreciate me getting so close to his workshop.
That was okay... I walked around a little bit, then these paddock/pit girls offered me shade under their umbrellas. It was a sunny day and the temperature was starting to warm up.
This group of paddock girls, as a group, had more umbrellas, so I thought that it would be a good idea to share their shade.
We walked around the rear paddock area some more... then I spotted this area.
It appeared to me that this was the entrance to the Ducati race team front pit area. The signs indicated... NO ENTRY... AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY. I was a little unclear as to what areas my pass would allow me to enter ;)... so I thought that I should put it to the test. I walked through to the other side.
Inside, it was indeed the Ducati Team. These guys seemed to be prepping the race tires.
These guys were working on some computer laptops with some screens full of numbers and graphs. I did not know whose pit area I was standing in... but the wall indicated it belonged to #69. I know very little about the teams and pilots of Moto GP... I did not recognize the guy in casual clothing standing right in front of me.
But, he sure looked similar to the guy in this photo that I found on the web... Nicky Hayden.
I walked further into the pit area toward the front. I approach the moto for #69 and snapped a photo.
I went to the other side of the pit and saw these guys hard at work. The guy on the left seemed to be looking at me and thinking to himself... who is that guy?. Andy did not follow me through the door and into the pit, so after some time passed, I thought that I better go look for him.
Once outside I could not find Andy right away. But, I found these two Ducati girls. They did not have umbrellas like the other girls, but when they asked me to stand next to them and take a photo... how could I resist.

I eventually found Andy. I asked him and his friends if they wanted to go inside another pit. They were tentative, but agreed to follow me. 
I walked through another door and into a hallway... but it led to a different area. It passed through directly to the front of the pits. I could look right and see pits #1 to 6. 
I could look to the left and see pits #8 - ???
I looked in front of me and saw some more paddock girls and all the people being escorted on the pit walk. For a second, I thought about maybe joining them, but then I realized that I was having much more fun on my side of the barrier.
So I turned around and took some photos of the pit in which I was standing... the workshop for racer #93. Not being a dedicated fan of Moto GP I did not even know who was the rider of bike #93. Everyone seemed to be quite busy and they did not appear to be bothered that I was standing in the middle of their pit.
Turns out the rider for #93 was Marc Marquez
This mechanic was deep into the bottom end of the moto #93. I took a look and offered him a little advice. He seemed to appreciate it. 

I then turned around to look for Andy. It seems that he did not make it past the security guard at the door. I'm not sure why I was not stopped. I did not even see the security guard. And, I guess the security guard did not see me enter. While I was standing on the inside of the pit, I told the security guard that the rest of the people were with me and that he should let them pass through. Unfortunately, he wasn't buying it. But for some reason, he did not question why I was already inside of the pit area. 
Since Andy and his friends could not pass to the inside of the pit, we left the area and walked upstairs to the VIP Village. We found ourselves in the upper seating section. We could see below that the pit walk participants were finishing their tour. I felt okay about missing the pit walk, I felt that creating my own self guided pit walk actually turned out pretty well and was quite rewarding. We stayed in the VIP Village for a while and watched the activity.
Prior to the Moto 3 race, the pilots were driven around the track in these convertible cars. I suppose that it gave the fans an opportunity to see the racers and it gave the racers a chance to see the fans. Cool.
Shortly after the car caravan, a big group of pit crew members with gear started moving toward the race track. They set up the bikes on the track, did a little tuning and started the engines. Then... they cleared off the track.
At 11:01, the announcer gave some cues...
And very quickly the race began... the motos and men were off!
It only took a few minutes for the bikes to go all the way around the track, cruise around turn 20...
And pass in front of the grandstand. 
We watched the Moto 3 race for a while then we decided that we wanted to walk around the rest of the track a little.
As we exited the VIP Village grandstand, the Moto 3 pilots were just finishing their race and were returning to the rear pit area. 
A number of them passed by. It was cool to see them up and running and so close.
We walked around the rear pit area a bit more. There was a section of the rear pit area with a grouping of these square grey cubes. These cubes were the waiting areas for the racers.
This cube belonged to Yamaha racer Valentino Rossi. Many people consider Valentino Rossi to be the greatest Moto GP Pilot of all time. The sign on the door indicated TEAM STAFF ONLY. I asked Andy if he wanted me to knock on the door to see if Rossi had a little time for us to visit with him. Andy did not think that it was a good idea. Andy was being considerate and thought that Rossi might be mentally preparing for his upcoming race. OK, so we left him alone.
I did find two of the Yamaha Team paddock girls and took a photo. I was glad that by chance I was wearing my blue shirt. I think that we looked quite nice in our team colors.

Moto GP... Welcome to Texas!
We walked around the team cubes a little more. After each race some of the pilots would hang their protective leather suits outside to dry. 
It was interesting seeing these leather suits up close.  They kind of looked like bodies without heads, hands and feet.
We walked on... Red Bull was the main sponsor of the Moto GP race series.
And if you look closely you could see their presence all around.
This tent was behind the grandstand in the team area and contained all the motorcycles for Team Red Bull.
Andy showed his approval.
We walked on and crossed over a bridge to see some of the other seating areas.
This was the seating area near turn 15.
This was the view of turn 12, 13, 14 and 15.
Looking through a chain link fence we could see riders leaning into turn 13. 
Riders leaning into turn 14.
Riders grouped together and drafting during a turn.
A hill and corner at turn 19.
The straight away with turn 20 in sight... it is the final turn before the grandstand and finish line.
Around and around they rode... passing the starting line, up the hill and into turn 1.
We headed back to the VIP Village above the pit to eat lunch. The seating area had a good view of the main grandstand, the main straight away, the big screen monitors and some of the mini pits.
It was nice to have a view of the big screen monitor to keep track of the race while the riders were racing around the far side of the track.
Team Yamaha monitoring their racer.
Team Monster Energy monitoring their racer.
The Moto GP race started at 2:00pm. We watched it from the VIP Village.
Much of the race was a race between team members of team Honda. 
Marc Marquez #93
Dani Pedrosa #26
These guys were moving so fast while passing by the grandstand that it was hard to capture them on a photo.
Although I kind of like these images of the riders as a blur.
Andy and I decided that we would make our way from the VIP Village to the Main Grandstand to be closer to the exit.
Along the way we stopped near the main strait away to watch the battle between the Hondas.
The general admission area near the starting line had the same view as the VIP Village for a fraction of the cost. Of course, since we received free tickets and VIP passes we had the best deal of all.
In the end, the winner of the race was Marc Marquez #93. From what I understand, Marquez is the new wonder kid of Moto GP. He became the youngest winner in the history of Moto GP. Congratulations!
I wonder if my advice in the pit had anything to do with the victory. I'm going to take some credit for helping Marquez make history. I think that my presence and help in the pit must have put him over the top.
What an amazing day. I have to thank my friend for inviting me. Andy, that Ducati 1199 that you were testing in the Ducati tent should be arriving in the mail any day now.

I'm the luckiest man alive!




1 comment:

  1. best line: "I've always considered myself to be a VIP in my own mind." :)

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for visiting my website and for leaving a comment. - Troy