Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Reflections on MotoGP here in the US

Now that I've had three days to recover from maybe the hottest day I've ever experienced, I feel my brain has safely un-addled itself enough to string together a sentence or two...

Man, was that HOT!?!?

I drove down to Laguna Seca on Friday morning with my father, who had never seen MotoGP bikes before, and we got to sample Laguna's new traffic solution, a huge offsite parking lot and a fleet of shuttle buses. It worked wonderfully on the way in, with no jams getting into the parking lot and no lines for the bus. We were very quickly at the track watching the AMA Superbike guys warming-up. I couldn't detect any aural evidence of the Ducatis using traction control, but of course that doesn't mean they weren't....

We chose turns 5 and 6 as our locations for MotoGP warm-up, which started half an hour late at 10:30am. By then it was already warm. Turn 6 in particular was a great spot, and we've enjoyed many an hour there in the past. Last year we never really saw much of it for one reason or another. Check out this pic of Valentino Rossi I got (not bad for a 3.2-megapixel point and shoot digital camera)

All in all, Friday was a great day. It didn't feel like there were 45,000 people there, as reported by the track. In fact, it seemed no more crowded than an ALMS raceday. The shuttle to get out was also very easy, and there was no traffic on Highway 1.

Sunday also promised much, with another easy trip into the track. This time we were with a couple of friends, neither of whom follow motorcycle racing and only one of whom actually rides. It wasn't long before we found out that all morning on-track activity was postponed until after the MotoGP race at 2pm, except for MotoGP warm-up. So once again it was up to turn 6, where our friends were blown away by the spectacle. But then it was a good three hours before the race. A trip around the corkscrew, a visit to a friend in the campsite and watching the riders parade around in the back of Mazda Miatas couldn't distract us from the searing heat - we were guzzling our water (after paying $4 per bottle on Friday we brought our own this time).

Another lesson learned from last year: eat at Ducati Island - they have the best food. After our tasty lunch we found a spot above turn 2 to watch the race from. There's plenty of reports elsewhere on the web about what actually happened, but suffice to say it was terrific and exciting, especially with Nicky Hayden bagging his second Laguna win and extending his points lead.

Now came a couple of AMA warm-up sessions followed by their races. In order to avoid the post-MotoGP crowd we opted to stick around for the Supersport race which ended up being quite exciting, bar Jamie Hacking's dominance. We then headed for the buses. This was where things started to go sour. The lines were HUGE! And what was worse was that they appeared to be completely static. Given the attendance figures that were published afterwards that indicated only a small difference in attendance between all three days, it seems as though something specific caused Sunday's problems. I've heard rumours about over-zealous police officers not allowing buses to turn left as they left the parking area for the track and having to go 10 miles in the wrong direction just to turn around. Just a rumour, mind you. Interestingly enough the people behind us were from England and told scary stories of trying to leave Donington, which is apparently much worse. I certainly remember traffic at the Group C race there in 1990, as well as at Monsters of Rock in 1994.

All in all, it was better than last year, but it sounds as though those on bikes came off best. So next year it's back to two wheels. Hopefully it won't be 105 degrees either....

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