Thursday, June 05, 2008

World Superbike at Miller, a spectator perspective

We all know what happened in the races at Miller last weekend, so here's some non-racing observations from my first trip to this new track...

Event management was virtually flawless: Getting in and out of the facility was a piece of cake on all three days. Even on Sunday after the second WSBK race, when everybody left at the same time, it still only took about ten minutes to get out of the parking lot. From the checkered flag until I checked in at the airport took me 50 minutes, including a ten minute walk to my car and a twenty mile drive!

The schedule also ran to the minute - there were no red flags and any on-track incidents were handled quickly and effectively, no small feat given that the 4.5 mile track requires 250 marshals. The large run-off areas no doubt helped in this.

The crowd were great: Check this out from the track's CEO. I'd agree with him. People were courteous, friendly and it seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves. Every rider got a supportive cheer at the end of a race, and the enthusiasm during the press conference after WSBK race 1 was terrific.

The track still lacks soul: The very things that make Miller so great (plenty of space and high degree of safety) also rob it of soul. At the end of the day it's a flat circuit in the middle of a plain and all the runoff means that decent spectating spots are extremely rare. The entry to the Attitudes was pretty good, as was the Witchcraft corner. There's one small part of the straight between Tooele turn and Clubhouse corner that is quite dramatic. The best parts, strangely enough, are the pitlane entry and exit, both of which allow you to get very close to the bikes.

Biggest complaint: concessions: They make a big deal of the six "oasis" areas dotted around the circuit. These feature grass, restrooms and concessions. So I set off to walk the whole damn thing on Friday afternoon, having had some water before I started. Halfway round I was getting thirsty. I had discovered that there were no open concessions at the Tooele turn oasis, so I faced either a long walk back to the Clubhouse corner oasis or I could push on to the oasis at the southwest corner. I did the latter. When I got there, there was nothing - no food, no drink, nothing. I checked my map and found that there wasn't supposed to be anything there. My fault, but had the the cafe at Tooele turn been open I wouldn't find myself miles from water. Now I had to choose whether to wait for one of the very occasional shuttles, or continue walking back around to the cafe at Sunset corner. Since there was no sign of a shuttle I kept walking. By the time I got to Sunset I was utterly dehydrated.

The food and drink vendors that were there were not bad. The permanent cafes offered some decent platters with rice, beans and salad along with the tri-tip steak, whilst there was always a Mexican food vendor on hand. The shortage of vendors in general was brought sharply into focus on Sunday lunchtime - the lines were LOOOOOOONG.

Thanks for the pitwalk: Three times on Friday and twice on Saturday and Sunday the World Superbike pitlane was open for spectators. Not many people took advantage of this because the only place it was written was on a small sign at the east end of the lane. If people spend $15 on a paddock pass, they should be told that the things they want to see most (e.g. WSBK riders and bikes) can be viewed. Most paddock-goers only got to see the back of the garages.

Don't listen to me: I predicted that Ryuichi Kiyonari would do well this weekend. Instead, he sucked, with a poor qualifying position that forced him to battle for mid-pack places in both races. He made solid progress in each but was never in with a shout, unlike his team-mate.


Nic Fetter said...

It was great to meet you this past weekend at squatters. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Good Luck with everything.


Nicebloke said...

Nic - shoot me your email address...