April 07, 2006

Qatar GP 06, with the Losail Nat'l Cup, Rd. 5

Wassup from cloudy Doha, Qatar!

I'm back in town for round five of the Losail National Cup races, which happens to be the one of the support races for MotoGP!

I had my usual travel from Barcelona to London to Doha, but this time it was slightly more interesting. I was scheduled to leave on Tuesday, instead of my normal Wednesday rountine, and this is because the ultimate race of our series will take place on Friday instead of Saturday. I met up with my Barcelona crew and we had some pasta before heading to our gate. That's when I found this!

If I were in the market for a current Scrambler, this Derbi Mulhacen is right up there with the MT-03 and Aprilia Pegaso Motard. I love the simple clean lines and the purr of a single. Not to mention this display is super cool!

Sure seemed like there were a ton of people at the airport. Two of the kids I was with were in the magazine store making wisecracks about the covers of some moto-mags and when they spun around they ran into this guy. We chatted for a couple minutes and I immediately picked up the need for discretion, hence the long shot afterwards. Say what you will about him, but there hasn't been anyone who has run wheel to wheel with the Doctor more. Hopefully we'll see some more of that this year.

Finally we boarded our flight to London, and were joined by Hector Barbera and Jorge Lorenzo (Fortune Aprilia 250). It was a fun hop over to the land of the limeys and then it got even better.

Oh, almost forgot, the guy next to him is the former physical trainer for Dani Pedrosa and the rest of Puig's riders, but now he's working exclusively with you-know-who. A certain model girlfriend showed up in London.

Ahhh, just stretching out on the bus from the plane to the airport, Spanish style 6:30AM in Doha.

So wandering around during my lunchbreak, I managed to spend some time with Kenny Roberts Jr. while he was busy programming his VCR to record the practice sessions (without reading the instructions first). We talked a bit the KR Honda, his last lap pass on Hopper two weeks ago, "He gave me the opportunity and I took it", and his new leathers. Then I chatted for a while with Chuck Aksland, the race director for Team KR. While we were talking about HRC and their involvement (or lack thereof, who can say, haha) concerning the KR chassis developments, a strange Time/Space Americano thing happened and we were joined by Randy Mamola, then Henny Ray Abrams, then KRJR, then John Hopkins rolled up, then some english speaking media types. Hopper had just rolled up from playing in the dunes on a quad. We were all just joking around, speculating about various things (so nothing with proof and I can't talk about any of it), and it was all good. I may not have made it to Jerez two weeks ago, but judging from Budman's daughter's pictures, it was super crowded, and it's just way easier to navigate the paddock when it's mellow. Note to you guys - go to "empty" races! I bumped into the usual suspects; Pedrosa was surprised to see me here, the engine guys from Fortuna Honda and Repsol's squad were busy showing me a "Hero Honda" CB100SS, Juan Martinez in little red socks and shoes, Harold Eckl from Kawasaki, Davide Brivio, the ringleaders. It's going to be a fun weekend for me, and the racing should be great. Did I mention I loves the racing?!?

So anyway, I was given a special task at the end of the day - swapping tires on this Honda CBR600RR. Word was that KRJR was going to ride this tonight to see if holding nightraces is viable. Strange seeing the elder Roberts' on Hondas, and seeing Kurtis riding something else! Life works in strange ways. . . . .

P.S., forgot to add that the internet costs about 30 USD for one day! Or 15 bucks for an hour. How crazy is that when gas, oil, and tobacco are cheaper than water out here?!?

I hung out with Hiro in the KTM box this afternoon and I gotta admit, it was really snazzy. Refined, high tech, and bright orange! He and his brother, Shuhei, went to a quiet Japanese dinner tonight with the two Shoei attendants and Makoto Tamada. I got the nod to go, but work prevented me. I had other mischief to get in to. Give me some time to chop/edit some pictures. Good stuff to come, although it's 5AM and I have to work in the morning. . . I'll see what I can do.

Wow, what a great day! I managed to keep my rider on the up and up throughout his practice and qualifying, and also snagged some shots during the MotoGP practices. First off, "The Doctor" is definitely back, and the "Rossi" logo from Jerez has been replaced by the standard issue label.

A big congratulations goes out to Team KR, because in Free Practice #2 KRJR recorded the fastest lap. The man wasn't on track a whole bunch, but when he was he was lapping at a good racepace, and when it was time to drop the hammer, he delivered! Now go drink some Phantom, and support the beverage that supports the American effort in GP!

I took a lot of photos today, nearly two gigs worth, so I don't have time to go through them all at the moment. I want to point out some things I noticed from studying them, but that will have to come later. Here's KRJR headed out onto the main straight, 1.1 KM in length.

Two different photos, but almost exactly the same! The man is cool as a cucumber, and consistent.

I was wrong about last night's alledged night ride, but I was right about it being on the CBR I worked on! Around seven this evening, Loris, Vale, and KRJR took to the track on various machinery and spun some laps. A short debriefing for the safety commitee and it was just about time to call it a night. I caught up with KRJR and grabed a photo of his new suit. Phantom. . . . anybody know what it's like? We spoke later in the office about racing at night, and just plain riding. I mentioned that my night vision suffered as I got older, and when I asked about whether Kenny rides at night on the street (in real life), he said no. If the track was better lit, it's quite possible they might race, but it's up to the Safety Commission. Despite my misgivings that the youngsters might have an advantage due to their age, we agreed it all equals out in the end because everyone would be racing in the same dark on the same track. Plus, if they lit the track up really well, can you imagine what the satellite shots would look like? I can see it now, the track outlined in white, surrounded by a black desert. Maybe then we'd have another man made structure visible from outer space - cause the racing is definitely outta this world!

I thought my day was done (why am I always wrong about this kind of thing?!?), and I waited for my teamates to get their gear together so we could leave the circuit and get some dinner. One of the guys started playing around with my camera, hence this sterling shot.

I bumped into this guy while I was chatting with Davide Brivio about the difficulties of learning Italian, and other things. Rossi had just finished the night riding, and after a full day of practices, he looked as tired as I felt! Naturally, the Spaniards wanted to go to some GP parties tonight, and I can totally recommend the Paloma bar in the Intercontinental Hotel. Do not waste your time at the Rydges Hotel. I'm bushed, see you guys later. If I have a connection, maybe I'll post live from the track, schedule permitting.

Fantastic day, filled with twists and turns. I'm so impressed with Casey Stoner, having missed several of the preseason tests due to a shoulder injury and surgery, but right back on track in Jerez!

Loris Capirossi didn't seem tired, despite riding around the circuit last night!

Another super impressive youngster, Tony Elias. His crew is the same bunch of guys who used to work on Gibernau's bike. Anyone else think he might make the same "jump" that Sete made when he joined the Gresini Team?

Elias qualified on the front row in third position. Not bad at all!

Quite possibly one of my favorite photos. Capirossi kept the momentum going by taking the center position on the front line! 2nd place at the start - could we see a podium progression?

And in Pole Postion, we have MotoGP class rookie, Casey Stoner!!! I can't wait for the race tomorrow, and I'm up in the air if I'm going to hide out in the shade and watch it on the tele-screens, or camp out in the sun and do it like I normally do - dancing and jumping for joy! Let's Get It On!!!!!



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