May 28, 2006
Hanging out with Evan and Joanne
I got back to BCN near 4AM, bushed and ready for a good nap. It wasn't to be, because (and I was super lucky) I would be able to hang out with Evan and Joanne again. We had some things to discuss, and Evan's advice is always appreciated. Not to mention Joanne is an MSF instructor in the Bay Area. I'd be willing to bet that a couple Barfers have probably taken the course from her.
Evan is responsible for helping me put this website into action, and he's a constant source of advice (when he's not busy working on other things!!!)
Here's me and Evan on the Metro train system on the way to Barcelona's best pizza,
Pizza El Borne!
Now that the happy couple (who just celebrated their 3rd wedding anniversary) are back in San Francisco, Joanne has been busy uploading photos from their trip. You can find them here:
Barcelona Part 1
Barcelona Part 2
Barcelona Part 3
Lest you think the trains are perfect, here's a hot and sweaty example of what they were like today.
What's that George used to scream?
"Humidity Now! Humidity Now!"
Did I mention they're all underground, and poorly ventilated?
As you've guessed, I'm a little behind schedule right now.
My favorite car in the world, with some twit getting in the way! I promised myself one day that I was going to own one of these, but I think I'll be totally old, fat, and bald by the time that happens, haha. Waitaminnit, don't say it!
All I can really say right now is that I'm tired, I'm stressed, but more than anything, I'm Happy!
I want to start making tentative plans to hang out with everyone at Laguna Seca, and because I'm most likely going to be busy during the days and early evenings, Friday Night sounds like the best plan. My time in the States will be short, but I want to connect/reconnect with as many of my friends as possible, so look sharp and let's make this happen. Why not have a Barf Function at Blue Moon (or someplace chill where we can all hang out without screaming) on Friday around 10ish? Budman, make some calls and let's see if we can have a Barf gathering somewhere. I might have some special guests with me who want to check out the nightlife and mingle with the locals.
See you guys later! yes, yes, haha, blatant plug!
Le Mans GP06, France
So Saturday was my first day at the races in France, and I made my way to the main grandstand/paddock area as soon as I could. I wasn't "officially" working for anyone this time around, so I wanted to concentrate on soaking up as much of the atmosphere as I could - I mean, that is one of the reasons why I'm in Europe! I took a ton of photos, and met with several extremely interesting people, and had one of the bext race experiences ever!
Extended view of the Paddock area. If you look carefully you can see me. Just kidding!
Sweeping right. This is one of the few paddocks that is split up, and many of the crews and workers were unhappy about it. It meant longer walks, more contact with the fans, and generally disrupted the routines that people were used to.
I forgot to mention that the 125/250 hospitalities and all-classes motorhomes were up a slight hill. The photo doesn't do the size of this place justice. It was a hike.
Sweeping right again, you can see the clouds barrelling in, and how quickly the conditions could change. This was the windiest race I've ever been to, and it was difficult just to hold the long lens on my camera steady. I must have blundered almost all of my shots because of the whipping winds, so after getting pushed around, I decided to try and take a different approach to action photography this race.
This is the final corner before the main straight, and it is probably my least favorite section in the entire championship.
Just to the right (not pictured) there was a stand alone grandstand filled with the hardcore fans (outside of Spain, and we'll see about Italy )- they never left their seats except to use the restroom. 24 Hours straight, endurance style. I know this from hanging out there a little on Saturday night, though truthfully, I left them alone around 4:30AM. Fun stuff that night also included walking through the entire camping area (pictured), filled with every sort of crazy French experience imaginable.
More Photos and Stories in the Extended Entry Below.
Once I'd gotten a lay of the land, I went over to say hi to Hiro Aoyama and wish him good luck. Hiro rides for KTM's new 250 team, and in only his third race developing the bike, he won the Instanbul Grand Prix!
While I was there, I had the chance to see KTM's 250 effort up close and personal. I met with Harold Bartol, who is singly responsible for developing the 125 and 250 KTM's (and has a huge list of accomplishments in GP, with other manufactuers) and out of everyone I've met, I can say without a doubt that he is an absolute Master. Their truck is a veritable factory on wheels, capable of all manner of repair and modification. I know that the 125/250's are some of the last racebikes still using carburetors, which I like, and seeing row after row of magnesium bodied FCR's was way cool. Not that they're using them, of course.
I then took a moment to check up on the crazy Sete-heads, who were busy mounting their enormous "Go-Gibbers" flag across the straightaway from the Ducati Paddock. Lots of strange looks from the locals, but the best were these Japanese race fans who couldn't stop taking pictures of us. I guess Sete fans are rare in Japan these days?
Stopped to say what's up to Alex Criville, 500GP champion after Doohan was injured. His work with Toni Elias is going to pay off some day.
Elias' other ride. Who can tell me exactly what this is?
This is actually his main scooter. Now that I think about it, many of the super nice scoots weren't used at this race, because of the Tabacco Ban in effect. That meant the Camel Yamaha team, and several others were running their "clean" colors, and weren't able to fully pimp around on their primary scooters.
Hmm, what's he doing here? Sito Pons is still very active in the Championship.
Also present was Peter Clifford, formerly of WCM. Since he's been involved in GP, he hasn't missed a race in years. This is the first time he hasn't had a team on the grid in I don't know how long! For you statistics types, find out, cause I'd like to know. Mr. Clifford is attending all the races this season, because deep down, he's just as big a fan as anyone. Right On!
Zoom! Alex Hoffman wears his Puma Boots. Expect to see more of these come Laguna time. . . .
That looks like Randy Mamola's Alpinestar's scooter in the background. On race weekends, Randy is EVERYWHERE!
I hope he gets used to the style of the Suzuki, cause it sure is different than the CBR1000 he was on last year. Really nice guy, balanced. Great in the rain, too, just absolutely beautiful front tire control in the wet.
'Sup, Sete. Rolling three deep I see, haha. I gotta admit, he's doing a lot better on the Ducati than I expected, because his style traditionally doesn't seem as loose or forgiving enough to get the most out of the big, bad Ducati.
Behind in red is Marcia Guidotti, PR person for Gresini Racing. When you see her at Laguna, say hi, because she's a super cool person.
May I present Mrs. Ingrid Capirossi. She had a lot to be happy about after the race. . . and so did Loris!
Quick! Someone tell me what tires Makoto Tamada is running on his Honda Ruckus! He finally seems to be getting comfortable on the Michelins, and as a perennial darkhorse, it would be great to see him crank out a win or two this season, like he did in '04.
Hey Kenny, rough luck during the race. The crappy part was waiting all this time for a new chassis, but then having junky weather conditions and being unable to push it to the limit.
This guy gets around pretty well, Michael Scott. We agree - couldn't be a more fascinating start to the season. Who could have predicted?!? James Ellison in the background has a cool Yamaha scooter that comes equipped with hard plastic pucks fore and aft, so if you chuck it, she slides. Very cool. It's amazing that there's so much action going on off the track and in the paddock. People don't seem to realize how much it actually takes to put a show like this together! In the flyaway races, you never see how grand the whole organism is.
Man on a Mission. Is there anyone as focused at beating Rossi as Dani Pedrosa? Other people race to win, Dani races to best Rossi. At least, that's the way it looks to me. Imagine you've been racing for the last five years - all you've ever seen is Rossi dominating the field. Now that Pedrosa is here, there's only one thing for him to do, though now that it's official Rossi will be staying next year, he might get a couple more years to go head to head with The Man.
Dunlop is not amused.
The weather conditions were so cold sometimes, the riders were wearing liners, even off the track! Then, in about five minutes, it'd be hot! Really strange conditions overall, and it only added to the French atmosphere.
Stoner, what can I say about this guy? He's making a statement, that's for sure. Can you imagine what he would be like on a factory Yamaha like Rossi's? And why hasn't anyone stepped up to sponsor these guys yet? Everytime we go to a shot of the bike from an onboard camera, the great white tundra just stares back at me.
Toby Moody talks shop with Livio Suppo. Who's riding for us next year? What are you talking about?
Poor Oliver Jacque didn't even get a real chance to play with everyone, and only tested on the Monday following the race. But he was there!
Fausto Gresini had a great weekend, errr, a great Sunday afternoon!
Cause his favorito Italian won the race! Man, Marco looks super slick - quite a change from the old days.
Spent some time with John, and I really must say, people better get out of his way! Ever since a certain race this year, he's just been more upbeat, more outgoing, and ready to boogie with anyone on the track! Look for good things to happen later this season. Actually, expect it!
For some strange reason, the weather decided to get really hot when I decided to make another trek around the circuit. This is turn one, uphill. I always take the time to run around the track at least once or twice, and usually it's a nice experience. Getting around at Seca can be a nightmare, as many of you know. . . . .
Still, Le Mans is a neat place, and filled with serious race fans who sit in the grandstands all day. It's so strange. They're sooo stoic, and then the announcer sounds like a cracked out Circus ringleader, shouting in French to come see the show! Total duality. More on this "phenomenon" (say it with the French accent, it's better) later.
I'm happy with this picture because it's probably the fastest moving vehicle I've ever shot clearly. What a shock to see the Kawasaki on top of the Qualifying boards, and for so long! Congratulations Shinya, that was very impressive.
Got to hang out with some very, very, interesting people this past weekend. Nicky was truly sick as a dog, but as Earl told me, he's just had to "gut it out" come raceday. I think their calendar only has six days, cause on the seventh, God goes racin'!
Chris Jonnum from RRX is sticking around through Mugello round, staying with his mother-in-law in Italy until the race in two weekends, and I hope to kick it again at that time. We'll see. I also got to spend some time talking with Andrew Northcott, one of the photographic giants in this field. What a great viewpoint he has on the circus, and it was refreshing and energizing to speak with him.
In response to a question I recieved from Peter - Paddock Passes are only sold for the USGP, and I think it's incredible. Not only are these areas off-limits at all other races around the world, the Laguna atmosphere - and the fact that the entire MotoGP contingent is crammed into a small space, really make it easy for people to really soak it all in. I can only say that I've been very lucky when it comes to getting where I've gotten. With all the positive energy that I put out, it is gratifying to see that some of it returns to me. Karmically, I feel like I give a lot to the sport, and to have it come around (via hard work, dumb luck, and all the great people I've met) is absolutely awesome. As for you not being able to see when you're in full tuck? Keep trying! Bear in mind these fuel cels, windscreens, etc, are all custom fitted to the rider, and there are sometimes "pockets" in the tank to fit the bottom of the chinbar of a helmet, or specially cut windscreens to accomodate the pilots. Perfect examples of "fitted" bikes can be seen with the Hondas, which have smaller tailsections and really cut-down windscreens for certain riders. You need to look pretty hard, though.
Saturday at the races was great, and I took full advantage of my freedom by seeing and experiencing as much as I could. I helped the kids pitch
Casa de Le Mans, before heading out of the circuit to drop a friend off at their hotel. The town's restaurants close up pretty early, before 11:30 even (sissies), but I wanted to spend the night cruising the campgrounds, anyway. Just getting out of the track was a nightmare, as all the seriousness of the day had disappeared, and the French were drunker than I've ever seen anyone! Literally, they were like zombies, and as I inched my way through the huge crowds just wandering through the circuit's roadways, flashing my highbeams and honking my horn, I wouldn't be lying if I said it was like Night of the Living Dead. It took people forever to realise there was a car behind them, and a couple (well, more than a couple) would rock and shake our car as I drove by. A particularly roady bunch put their beers on the car between the windshield and the hood and climbed on, oblivious to the danger that my driving presented. Priceless. It was a lesson in patience to get away from everyone, but coming back to the track was even better. I figured out how to get to power down the way I wanted it to, and in all the track's tunnels I pulled huge smokey burn-outs, the squealing tires alerting the zombies that I was a'comin' through!
By the time I ditched the car, around 1AM, the parties were in full swing. Reminded me a little of Acid Hill, times fifteen! It was surreal to see all these tents and people, light rain falling sporadically, the cold, the fires everywhere, just amazing. Like in Spain or Italy, the bikes were being fired up all the time, and the calls of the motors singing far into the night were beautiful. It was very muddy, but no one cared about the small things. Just the joy of being at a race mattered. My only regret is that the bottle of Rum the Sete-heads had given me was laced with Pineapple. I guess the sickenly sweet stuff only added to my impressions of the weird French.
They burned anything and everything.
This guy literally fired up his bike for me and ran it WFO for about fifteen minutes. He wanted to "prove" to me that you could get a fuelie to shoot flames.
Video of the Crazy Guy!
I might as well apologize for the poor photo quality, my small cam really stinks at night. In fact, it is time for an upgrade, so if anyone works with small electronics, let me know. I need something tiny with large amounts of pixels, 5+, the more the better. Big screen on the back is good, too. Exilim? Suggestions?
Word is that Valentino Rossi rides this very bike in his adopted home in England, with the Laguna paint scheme. If you see one on the street in London, check it out, because you might be in for a nice surprise.
Name that Bike! These are just a few examples of kookie bikes in France.
They love their trikes in France.
They really, really, love their Trikes.
They'll butcher any old bike to make a trike. I saw Hayabusa trikes, GSXR 1K trikes, and more.
Found this neat "mini-rave" next to the only bathrooms in the camping area. Just a straight mud-hole!
What have we here?
Bad Mustache? Check.
Oddest Collection of Music? Check.
Video of the Crazy Music these guys were blasting!
This guy was Hilarious!
Video of another Crazy Guy!
Naturally, what would a crazy night in France be like without a bunch of guys "hugging"? At this point, I thought it prudent to seek safer ground, and I made my way back to the motorhome I had managed to borrow for the night. SCORE!
After yet another sleepless night, relative to human needs, my needs had been met and it was time to once again hear the thunder and the glory of the MotoGP bikes!
I never forget where I'm from (Hawaii!), and it's nice to see the colors of the Hawaiian flag represented here.
Just the ticket to jumpstart my morning and get me in the zone.
I spent time in the Red Bull Hospitality to watch the big race, a first for me since I'm usually trackside somewhere. The staff was unbelievable, intelligent, gracious, and very down to earth. They made me feel welcome and a part of their family, and I won't forget it. And check out the Snack-ums!!
I swear, it's apple juice.
About the race, and the season. . . . I think Graziano is not amused.
Never, ever, bet against anyone in MotoGP. As this season is proving, anything can happen.
I also want to give a special shout-out to my friends at Alpinestars, both the hospitality people and the trackside service guys (who really work harder than everyone realizes). Big ups for making this one of the best GP's I've ever been to. Oh, and Lenny, I'll be in touch!
On the long drive back to Barcelona, I thought back on my crazy time in France, and the only thing that came to mind was:
May 24, 2006
The Road Trip to the Le MansGP, France
So last weekend I managed to get to the Le Mans GP in beautiful France. It was my first time 'officially' entering France, so I wanted to be ready. Thursday night was a fun-filled evening with a fabulous dinner with Barfers, Endo and MrsPeebles. We went after some traditionally seasoned (read heavily salted) dishes at one of my favorites, Vino Tinto. One of the neat things I've noticed about Spain is that you can get a fried egg on just about anything! This includes, but is not limited to, sandwiches, pizza's, and French Fries (get it? Prepping!). Delicious!
More pictures of this fantastic road trip in the extended entry!
A nice walk through the neighborhood brought us towards the Gracia area, and a chill little bar called Gusto. Endo and MrsPeebles had to stop and check out this Gaudi building - don't tell Mr. Peebles.
Thursday night ran longer than I expected, but no worries, it's Spain, and nothing ever seems to happen on schedule. By the time I got home that night, I was ready to start packing for the road trip up to Le Mans, which is about 200KM outside of Paris. What to pack, what to pack. No, I did not bring obscene amounts of cologne! Originally, I was going to drive up with my friend, Little Nacho, but he got a phone call from a team and ended up flying out on Thursday to work the race! Instead, the back-up plan was to get in a van with the
Sete Gibernau Fan Club and take turns driving all the way to the circuit. I figured it would work out perfectly, because then I could sleep in the van, on the road and at the track. I managed to stay awake for my morning rendevous, and walked about thirty minutes with my luggage to get to the Sants Estacion (Sants train station) where we would all be meeting up. On the way there, I ran into an old friend named Frank, who coincidentally is one of the head managers in charge of sponsorship for Movistar. Seriously, this was a weird coincidence. We spoke about my summer plans, and we'll see if anything interesting develops. . . . .
Anyway, I continued on my trek, and arrived at the station about 20 minutes early - just in time to get some reading done. It feels like I don't have the free time I'm used to, so I need to schedule things like reading around travelling! I'm a self confessed Sci-Fi junkie, and as one special friend says, Sci-Fi is junk food for the brain. Whatever. I like it. Twenty minutes into my book and I get a text message that the kids will be an hour late. Right . . . .so I just keep reading. It wasn't until they were more than an hour and a half late that they showed up. Traffic. Uh-huh. Spain! Imagine my surprise to find it wasn't a van at all, but a Citroen something or other. If you can figure out what this is, let me know so I never rent one! On the plus side, I almost finished the Hammer of God, by A.C. Clarke. It's an extremely well written book, with small chapters and lots of social and religious subjects tackled in the course of humanity's future. Or something like that.
I won't say it was a trial in frustration, but the kids got lost trying to exit the city and we spent an hour alledgedly looking for "Sete's house" before we made it to the freeway. It was already mid afternoon, and I knew we had a long way to go before we made it to Le Mans. I guess I was antsy, but stopping on the Autopista for lunch just soaked up too much time. Not to mention paying 6 Euros for a ham and cheese sandwich that looked like this really got my goat! Be careful of the Ham and Cheese in Spain.
This was the perfect opportunity for me to grab the keys, and let them know how Liam rolls, and oddly enough, there was a switch on the dash which disabled the traction control. Left to right, me, Noelia, Cris, and Sebas. The girls are 19-years old, and Sebas is recently 21. I don't think I've ever spent that much close quarters time with a bunch of obsessed moto-heads. In Spain, one way to express your ideas with passion is not to get overly eloquent, but simply to raise your voice. If you can imagine three shouting kids all the way to France, you have an idea of what I went through - and it was all Sete this, Rossi Puta that, etc. On and on and on and on and on and on and on and on. . . . .
I recieved a small measure of satisfaction knowing that I was with the Sete-heads wearing a Yamaha shirt.
I gotta admit, driving through France was awesome. Getting through the Pyrenees wasn't so bad, but the way the climate and foliage changed the further north we got was incredible. I never realized how lush and green the French countryside is, with rich colors and white accents on the forests and fields lining the freeways. It was truly amazing, and not something I'm likely to forget anytime soon. If you get the chance, go for a spin in the country.
It wasn't all joy ride though, because Le Mans is approximately 1100 KM from my house, which would take roughly 11 hours of driving, not counting the stops. The winds were high and the sun dipped in and out of the clouds the whole way. The car wasn't very fast, but in all that time driving, I didn't see a single 5-0, just radar signs and ticket cameras. I think the camera idea is horrible, and it makes you paranoid.
After that stellar lunch, I had to rely on my emergency supplies. My latest addiction are these phenomenal cherry tomatoes that I can get for next to nothing in the open markets. SCORE!
Around 9PM, we pulled into Bordeax, France. It was a beautiful little town/village and I really enjoyed the time I spent there, about two hours. The sun was just barely starting to set, and we found parking near some government buildings. Many of the cars here parked up on the curbs, but not the way you're thinking. I'm talking about either the front wheels or the back wheels up on the curb!
Here's Cris showing off her Spanish flag at one of the cathedrals lining the town centre. National pride is strong in Europe.
Stumbled across this very nice Harley Dynaglide outfitted with Buell wheels and nice suspension. A rare sight anywhere I would think, but French bikers are a different breed, and I'll explain more about that later.
The largest structure in Bordeaux is this huge tower in the middle of a courtyard surrounded by Morrocan sandwich places. We took some time to recharge the mobile phones, eat some dinner, and catch up on the local scene. There is a definitely a clear separation here between French, and not French.
I really wanted to get a move on, because I knew we still had four or five more hours of driving before we hit Le Mans. We piled in the car, and drove through streaming rain before we got in the vicinity of the track. It was nearly 4AM at this time, and rather than pitch tents in the dark, we opted to crash in a little chain motel, the Formula 1. It was 35 Euros for three people to share a queen size bed, with a single bunk bed up above. Bathrooms and showers down the hall, pretty standard. What was tricky was distracting the counter girl so I could get up into the room! Four people shoved into a tiny place, and just when I thought we'd get a couple hours to sleep, the girls just wouldn't be quiet! On hindsight, I would've been the same way at 19, excited to be away from my hometown and ready to party with the notorious L.I.A.M.
We "woke" up at 6, everyone showered up, and by seven we were back on the road to drive the final 100KM to the track. We pulled into a little gas station cafe to get some coffee, and, naturally, Croissants! They kicked ass, and if one was good, two was even better! Even at the gas station level, the croissants were heads and tails better than most I've come across - soft, moist, fluffy, buttery goodness!
The French version of Yoo-Hoo is Candy'Up! Go on, Candy'Up yo-self! It was also good.
Driving in towards the circuit, my heart started to pound when I saw this. I felt like I knew some of these corners, and after three turns, I knew exactly where I was.
This track is HUGE. I'm not talking about the motorcycle section, I'm talking about the big version, that cars capable of running 400 KPH run on. If you've ever played Gran Turismo 4 and have used the Nissan to go after the 235 MPH mark, the turns after the main straight are also the inlet roads to the circuit facilities. Rad!
Apologies for the shakey shots - it was a long night and a moving vehicle!
We drove past several huge campgrounds, which looked like refuge camps. Bikes everywhere, tents lashed down to anything, and large mud-puddles on every path. The bikers were predominantly wearing dark, sport touring gear, rainproofed and miserable looking. There's a neat "walk" in France, and it reminded me a little of a mime. Now picture a burly biker type, in black cortech head to toe, walking like a mime. I kept getting flashbacks of Mad Max for some reason.
Actually, I ended up circling the complex twice, looking for the Media/Welcome centre. It might not look like much, but immediately following the entrance, there are tunnels that split off to take you to various spots around the track, like parking or the paddock area. Also, there is a well stocked museum onsite, with amazing four wheelers and motorcycles that have made it through the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance races.
The Welcome Centre was well guarded, but my broken English managed to convince them that I was picking up something there. Once inside, I was a little blown away by how big it was, because from outside it just looked like some little offices. Everyone was very, very polite and I felt lucky just to be there. Managed to catch the Anglo flags up above, and the guest hospitality booth is in the background.
There's a different vibe at this race than any of the others I've been to. It's darker, more intense, and a little scary. Everything seems a little more "hardcore" here, and it's difficult to get around the track. Maybe the weather had something to do with it, maybe it was all the security guards everywhere, and maybe it was the fact that the whole circuit was lined by barbed wire!
In the end, it was all worth it.
It was an adventure just getting to the track, and by Saturday morning, the real fun hadn't even begun!
I have some other business to take care of today, so I won't be updating more for a little while, at the minimum. Sorry to those people who have been emailing me lately, I just haven't had the time to get around to replying to everyone, but I know you're out there and I'm sure to respond shortly.
This is probably less than half the semi's at the race. Not to mention the huge amount of personal motorhomes and hospitality trucks that go to the European rounds. In fact, this isn't even the full contingent of MotoGP paddock trucks, so adding the 125, and 250 semi's, plus everything else - WOW!
May 19, 2006
No time for a proper update, as I'm headed to France for the Le Mans GP this weekend! Here are a couple photos from the Moto BCN bike exibition I went to earlier today.
This beautiful Yamaha MT-05 caught my eye. More photos of this beast later.
The Classics were also extremely well represented, with this gorgeous 1929 Griffin as an example. Check out the speed shifter!
One of Antonio Cobas' race bikes, a brutal Rotax powered two stroke.
More photos later as time permits.
May 18, 2006
Gran Semana de la Moto, the Great Week of Motorcycles!
What an great couple of days! I've been riding my bici muntanya through the city streets in the mornings, and excercising more in knowing that the next three weeks will be filled with constant travel, and a potentially poor diet. The journey begins today, with The Gran Semana de la Moto in Montjuic that will concentrate on former GP mechanic, team principal, and Spanish legend, Antonio Cobas! I expect to see a wide variety of race machinery, and hopefully will get a chance to demo some of the new supermoto hardware that is trickling down to the public.
The weather has been changing, and watching the city rise from it's slumber is beginning to get hot! I took a short ride down the coastline, but the morning's light wasn't the best for capturing the cityscape.
I also managed to find a couple nice ramps, but lack of gear prevented me from using them. Another time - for sure!
Here's a great example of some of the more modern architecture throughout the city. This is a mall!
And what good is all this exercise if you can't eat something really bad for you now and then?!? These custard filled donuts are just two blocks from my apartment, but I found out the hard way that on an empty stomach they can give a pretty mean sugar headache.
May 15, 2006
Svensk Roadracing Magazine debuts with Motoliam Included!
A fantastic day for me, as the first issue of Svensk Roadracing has gone to print. Thanks to some quality emails I had with the editor, Matte, of Madmoose Racing, I decided to join forces with these enthusiastic and knowledgable Swedes to further my audience and help share the joy and the passion that encompasses the two world championships that I work with. You can find out more about the magazine by clicking on Svensk Roadracing!
And hey, maybe I'll be able to sign a copy if we ever meet up! Thanks Matte, and I hope everyone enjoys having me be a part of Sweden's premiere motorcycle racing magazine!
May 13, 2006
Interview with Anthony Gobert, April, 2006
Anthony Gobert Interview 4/22/06, by Liam "Motoliam" Shubert
Anthony Gobert is paying his dues. Again. Having already competed at the highest levels of motorcycle racing since 1992, including WSBK, 500 Grand Prix, AMA Superbike and Superstock, and the Australian Superbike Championships, one would think Anthony would be ready to retire, but the "Go-Show" isn't slowing down a bit. In fact, he's back ontrack, racing in the Spanish National Championship this year, and ready to show the world that even though, "I've been on a roller coaster ride for the last ten years, I've finally got my act back together."
I had the opportunity to spend some time with the notoriously wild rider at the third round of the World Superbike Championship in Valencia, Spain, where Gobert was slated to compete as a wildcard rider. Anthony was excited to be racing in Europe again, and while we spoke he was laid back, composed, and spoke freely about his life and his experiences. Due to an ankle injury sustained in his first session at the track, Anthony was unable to make the WSBK race, but he's confident he'll be ready to battle for the Formula Extreme title in the Spanish National Championship when the season begins in Albacete on May 7th.
Liam: It's been quite a year for you already, what with three international races (2 rides in WSS as a replacement rider for Davide Checa on the GMT 94 Yamaha team and a wildcard entry in WSBK), and moving to Spain to join the Coronas Suzuki team. How did this all come about?
AG: Well, to be honest, I had some time away from racing, and I kinda retired in a way [after the '04 season]. I did the Australian Championship last year, and it took me a lot of the Championship to get my confidence back and get into it again. I just thought that bikes is what I love to do, you know, I just love racing. It's what I've always done. I was going to do the Australian Superbike Championship this year, and I had a bike from Honda with some factory support, and then I got a phone call from GMT about doing the World Supersport. It was a bit of a surprise, really. I got the call on a Saturday and I flew out on a Tuesday morning - it was only really two days notice to get to Qatar! I had such a good time doing the World Supersport, I mean, to be honest, that's the most fun I've had for a long time. It was a really good experience, a good team, and it was awesome to be back in the World scene. I actually did a lot better than what I expected ‚Äì the rear tire came apart on me in Phillip Island, and I probably would have gotten 4th or 5th in that race. I was sixth when I was dicing with them, and I'm just happy to be back on the world scene, you know, just happy that I did some decent results for them.
Liam: With no seat time on the bike, not knowing the crew, and the language difficulties(GMT is a French team), what was riding the new '06 Yamaha like?
AG: You know, the Yamaha 600 is such an awesome bike, it's so fun to ride. The bike was brand new, and it lacked a bit on the acceleration, but with the 600 you can make up for it a bit with corner speed. And the Supersport tires have really progressed. It's really weird that with the treaded [Supersport] tires, there's two inches of on the side which isn't treaded. They're pretty much slicks nowadays, but they give you a better feel than the slicks. You always know where you're at on the Supersport, you can feel the front move around and the Pirellis really surprised me. They were really good. Being back in Europe got me thinking that I wish I could have done the full season with them. They're really happy with what I did, especially with no testing.
Liam: Now you're with the Coronas Suzuki team. [ed. Not to be confused with the Corona Alstare Suzuki WSBK team. Coronas is a Spanish Tobacco company] Can you tell me a little bit about what it's been like working with them?
AG: I already had a factory support ride in Australia with the same team I rode with in
'05, Redwing Honda, so I knew what I was going to be doing this year, and then I got a phone call and got asked if I was interested in coming to Spain. I thought about it for a bit, and I thought at least it's a chance to get back into Europe and get a bit known again. I hadn't been getting the good stuff in Australia, and nowadays, unless you have the good stuff, it doesn't matter how good of a rider you are. If you're not getting the right tires and the right parts, you're just wasting your time. I figured Coronas is a top team, with support from Suzuki, and enough cash to get the right stuff. I've worked with Dunlop for a long time and they told me they're 100% behind the team, so that made me feel good about the whole thing. I figured I'd come over here and give it a try, mate. It's been good so far, I've been pretty fast in testing, and I'm just happy about everything, really.
Liam: So, you've ridden in World Supersport this year on a Yamaha, and now you're riding a Suzuki GSXR 1000 for the Coronas team. Tell me a little about the transition.
AG: I've been real fortunate this year. I've ridden the best 600, the Yamaha, and the Suzuki's are just awesome bikes. I rode one in '03 in the Suzuka eight hour race, and it did everything nice. The power was smooth and it handled good. The '06 is the same, just more refined. When you're riding it, it just seems to be real narrow and quite comfortable. At the moment, I would say it's the best Superbike around.
Liam: You've had experience on just about every kind of roadracing bike, from twins, to inline screamers, to GP bikes. Some riders have told me that riding japanese bikes is like being right handed, and that riding anything else is like being left handed. You've been successful at both - What's it been like riding such a variety of machinery?
AG: I'd say it's 90% mental. When you're racing, you just mentally push yourself through the race. It's important not to distance yourself from the bike. Maybe that's what happenned to me a little in '03, on the Austin Ducati. When you distance yourself from the bike, when you tell yourself it's never going to be quick enough, or handle right, or that the guys can get it set-up half decent, it's easy to get yourself in trouble. It's easy to psyche yourself out of the game. That's why it's all mental, this game.
Liam: What's your life like living in Spain now?
AG: At the moment, living in Madrid it's a bit cold, and not many people speak English, so it's more frustrating than anything, I guess. I live by the big Bull Ring, and I'm not overly thrilled about living by myself out here in Spain. It's not a whole lot of fun, but it's not bad, either. I'm close enough with the team that we see each other a couple times a week, and we go dirt bike riding on the weekends. Nah, I'm coping with it, mate, and I'm just sorta glad to be back on the scene a bit.
Liam: Are you picking up any Spanish? What's it like trying to communicate with your team?
AG: It's weird, like when I first came here, none of them spoke any English, you know, but since I've been here it's like now nearly most of them speak English! It's like, they don't really speak that good English, but it's good enough that I can understand what thery're talking about, and I can sorta just say enough to them and they sorta know what I'm saying. We kinda got a bit of a cool thing going, you know? We don't really have to say too much. It's just a weird thing, but it's good [chuckling].
Liam: How does the team compare to anyone that you've worked with before in the AMA or on the World Scene?
AG: There's a lot of them, I mean, an unbelievable amount of people! There's about thirty people or more. This team is way bigger than any team I've been with before ‚Äì GP, anything! There's just people everywhere, helping, doin stuff. You know, there's one of fifteen guys who want to clean my visor every time I come in! I'm loving it, it's good, mate.
Liam: I notice the Spanish press has been really excited about you coming to compete in their National Championship. How do you feel about being here?
AG: Well, I'm on the way back up again. I've had three chances to be in World competition again, and I've finally got my act back together, and this year my results have been really good ‚Äì everything is going really good.
Liam: What do you think your chances are in the Spanish Nationals?
AG: I think I've got a really good chance to win. I've only tested at two places, Albacete, and this place, Valencia, and I only had a standard streetbike engine, but straightaway, to be honest, I'm pretty sure I was the quickest out of everybody who was there, out of the Formula Extreme guys. It's going to be tough. There's a lot of guys who are fast, and it's going to be tough. I'm just going into it with an open mind. I've been training hard, putting a lot of effort into it, and I'm just going to do the best I can. My goal is to not try and win every race, but to always finish up towards the front because I've noticed that most people who win championships do that.
Liam: Speaking from experience, I know that Spain is a very Party friendly place. Do you feel it's dangerous for you living here with your past problems with Drugs and Alcohol?
AG: I do have problems, everybody knows that, I've made no secret of it. I've always been honest about how I am as a person. When I mess up, I say I messed up. I'm not the sort of person who blames other people for my mistakes, and I can only say that I've come a long way in a short period and I'm just trying to keep on track. Spain is a party place, but I've stayed away from it a lot. When I got the sack from Erion for the DUI, I went back to Australia and I just partied pretty hard for about 6 to 8 months. I hated the world, hated everybody, and I hated myself the most. It just got to the point one day, I just kinda thought about it and I realized that I was just smashing myself up. I realized that I gotta put everything into racing and try and succeed. It's a constant battle, and at the end of the day, I am only human, with normal problems just like anybody else.
Liam: What are your goals now?
AG: I want to be World Champion. I've proved that I'm quick enough on a given day to be a World Champion, but I haven't proved it for a whole season. I'm not in it because I want to finish and be a hero, I just want to finish a season, get on an airplane to go home, and be satisfied.
Liam: So satisfation is . . . .
AG: Being World Champion! Nah, satisfied is knowing you did everything you could for a whole season. That's why I'm putting in a lot of effort. I don't want to cheat myself. I'm sick of getting on that airplance and thinking to myself, ‚ÄúWhat the hell have I done‚Äù.
Liam: The most important lesson you've learned to be a successful racer anywhere in the world would be?
AG: Don't do Drugs!
May 12, 2006
Prelim work for Road Racer X
Chris Jonnum, the editor for Road Racer X Magazine emailed me and asked for a short bio of myself to be added to the Road Racer X Contributors page! While this might not sound like much, it means that one of the projects I have been working on will be published, hopefully before the USGP this July. As this will be my largest feature to hit the press, I am naturally excited, and a little nervous. Hopefully everything works out as smoothly as I think it will. My bio goes like this:
Liam Shubert built custom motorcycles and worked on Harley-Davidson's before moving to Spain last year to work as a race mechanic for teams in both MotoGP and WSBK. While living the Euro-life, he has become involved in jounalism, photography, webdesign, and pretty much anything that will keep him active at the races! You can find him at www.motoliam.com.
or how about this?
Liam Shubert built custom motorcycles and worked on Harley-Davidson's before moving to Spain last year to work as a race mechanic for teams in both MotoGP and WSBK. He has built a website to log his adventures and travels, www.motoliam.com, and continues to be an active participant on motorcycle forums and podcasts around the world.
I'll let you know how it turns out, but either way it's clear that I better get this website polished up and ready to run, because (as someone once told me), "If you build it, they will come."
Here's a tiny sample of what to expect later this summer in Road Racer X!
May 09, 2006
Red Bull MotoGP Academy at Albacete
One of the reasons I was excited to go to Albacete last weekend was because I would see the Red Bull MotoGP Academy at work. The school is run by Alberto Puig to find and develop new riders from foreign countries. It is pure genius at work, to see if a countries viewership will increaase should there be a young rider from that country competing in MotoGP. As well as classroom instruction and various types of riding instruction (dirt/supermoto/trials/etc), the school competes in the Spanish National 125 Championship. It is a very demanding series and only the best will shine in the category. The school has already produced some stellar pilots, most notably Dani Pedrosa, and later, Bradley Smith. Pedrosa currently rides for the Repsol Honda HRC team in MotoGP while Bradley Smith contests the 125GP class, also under the Repsol wing. Other notables involved with the school are Santi, formerly of Showa Suspension (and previously having worked with a number of high level teams, like Gresini's) and Juan Martinez, chief mechanic for Sete Gibernau.
Here we see young rider getting advice from the former 500GP rider, Alberto Puig.
A closer look reveals the rider had a nasty get-off and is icing his wrists.
And man, I really get a kick out of seeing the bikes up close. I'd love to see the school facilities in person one day and do a full report/article on it. I think this is a perfect example of how other countries are doing things to improve their riders of the future. Why doesn't the US have anything like this?!?
The resolution isn't that good with this collage shot, but it give you an idea of how hard this youngster is manhandling his Honda RS125. He ended up fourth in the 125 class this last race, which is a highly contested category here in Spain, and a nice achievement at his age. In fact, I think there were a large number of 12 year olds ripping around the track!
We missed the race
I guess another reason I was bummed last week was because for all our hard work, Kenny wasn't able to compete in Sunday's Formula Extreme race in Albacete! We tried a bunch of things to alleviate his hand, and with advice from Dean Miller (who works with Nicky Hayden, and John Hopkins, among others), Randy Mamola (who called us and talked for an hour while I drove us back to Barcelona one evening), and many more, we just weren't able to get everything "right" come race day. It was frustrating and disappointing, especially for Kenny, who has trained and prepared for this very race since late last year. You can read more about his crappy day here. We took a moment on Saturday afternoon to check out the competition, evaluate our status, and work on our tans.
On the flip side, we're more determined than ever to come back stronger than before, and while I crank stuff out on the computer, Kenny is recuperating and rehabbing in Bulgaria with his girlfriend, Iana.
I've been busy actively seeking sponsorship for the AMA rounds Kenny has lined up at Laguna Seca, Mid-Ohio, and Virginia, and so far it's been gratifying to see that several people have come onboard. While I haven't secured a title sponsor yet for the team, we will be running strong with a R1 massaged by noted tuner, Dale Lineaweaver , with support from Yamaha, Alpinestars, and Michelin. We lucked out, because Yamaha gave us the last R1 LE available, with Ohlins suspenders and slipper clutch, and we're putting together a nice package that will hopefully surprise a couple of the big dogs when we get on track. Speaking of which, we scored, because Roadracing World is taking care of the bike transport for us, so that means we won't have to bolt on some lights and a license plate and ride it cross country (just kidding).
Just think, you could have your very own team under your own easy up, in front of thousands of your friends at Laguna Seca. Not to mention they're broadcasting the AMA rounds here in Europe because it's connected with MotoGP that weekend.
This is Kenny's team mate in Formula Extreme, Antonio Salom. His family is from the island of Mallorca, and every time I see them, they bring a giant (pizza-sized) pastry called Empanada, which is like a powdered sugar covered apple danish, or something like that. Wish I had a photo of the food, but we always scarf it down as soon as we can.
My old boss, Luis D'antin, runs a complete team in the Spanish Championship. He uses the same hospitality rig and motorcycle transport semi trucks from the MotoGP team to get everywhere, and he has a great program running Kawasaki's. I know, you're thinking, Ducati Satellite bikes in MotoGP, and Kawi's in Formula Extreme - what's next - Vespa's in the cross country race?!? In all seriousness, this guy, Ivan Silva, is pretty quick. He finished second on the European Superstock/GSXR cup a couple weeks ago in Valencia, and here he muscles the ZX-10R around the track.
Don't you wish your CBR handled like this?
This is De Hea, the front runner in the Spanish Championship. He's 32 years old, and has been competing since he was 15, in GP. That means he has been racing professionally for more than half his life. Obviously, he hasn't lost any style points.
May 05, 2006
Formula Extreme Rd.1, Day 1
I should have expected it, but I wasn't. I'm not talking about the rain we had all morning, I'm talking about the size of the paddock! Semi's everywhere (some teams compete in both Grand Prix and the Spanish Nationals, and will use the same rigs and hospitality areas for both), vendors selling trick parts, t-shirts, you name it! I was so busy running around and working today that I only managed to take one picture. This is 9PMish, and the bikes are still being fired up and worked on. It will go on til about 2AM, if my hunch is correct. Time to eat!
May 04, 2006
I've always been a fan of the Underdog. While I respect the might and technology of the Factories (not to mention their budget!!), there's always a large part of me rooting for the privateer.
That said, I've decided to throw my expertise and ability (limited as that is ) behind Kenny Noyes for some races this year in Spain, and possibly during the three AMA rounds he will contest later this year.
We worked together last week for three days to test some special parts he's going to use in the upcoming Spanish Formula Extreme races, and then over the weekend I helped the Folch Endurance team (which Kenny rides for) during the six hour race. Initially, I had just wanted to check out an Endurance race, but getting involved is my stock in trade, and working with those guys was fun and educational for me. I'm always trying to learn as much as I can, and anything I can do to improve my skillset comes first. This weekend I'm going to figure out Kenny's telemetry system and see if I can make a positive difference. As todays motorcycles get more complex, and more adjustable, the electronics package becomes that much more important, and I'm hoping that I can adapt to the software quickly. I can't think of a better way to test parts than at the racetrack, and what better way to test myself than by working at the racetrack, too!
Hopefully, I'll be able to give Kenny an extra boost at the track. . . because this weekend we're going up against some heavy hitters - namely David De Hea, and moreso, Anthony Gobert!
You can find out more about Kenny in the current issue of Road Racer X Magazine . He's got an eight page spread that's full of some great pictures and stories, and I can totally relate. Or, heck, just go to his personal website! After all, not many Americans move to Europe to get into racing .
^^Image borrowed from Kenny's site ^^
Tomorrow I'm off to drive six or seven hours to rustic Albacete. It's not one of the huge tracks in Spain, but WSBK used to go there in the late nineties and I think it's a pretty nice track. In fact, BSB still goes there every year for preseason testing because the weather is so much better than in cold and rainy England. Anyway, catch you guys later!
May 01, 2006
A Weekend with Yamaha Folch Endurance!
I had just gotten back from Valencia WSBK on Monday afternoon, and no sooner had I taken a nap I got a message from my friend, Kenny Noyes, about some upcoming tests he had at Albacete, a racetrack in Southern Spain. Kenny had just competed as a replacement rider for David Checa (brother of Carlos) for GMT 94, a Yamaha World Supersport team. While he had a good time riding a 600 for the first time in years, it's not his main job, which is competing in the Spanish National Formula Extreme Champsionship (which is a series where the bikes are about halfway between an AMA Superbike and Superstock bike specification). Late Tuesday afternoon we piled into his Citroen van and prepared to drive to Reus to get ahold of one of his CEV (Spanish Championship) bikes. Away we went, and like all things, there were cool little details and problems that needed to be A) fixed, B) ignored, or C) just worked around. . .
Here we are bombing down the freeway with the little five spd. engine maxed out, doing around 130KMH, but not really sure. . . . because the speedo cable had broken. I guess if you're used to racing bikes much faster than that and gauging speed by feel, then buzzing around in a slow van doesn't really register, haha.
We arrived in Reus about an hour and a half later, thanks to the traffico de espanol, but arrive we did! Jose Maria Folch is a man who owns two Yamaha dealerships, and he has been racing Yamahas for 25 years straight! 25 years! He has seen a lot change in the world scene, and has competed in various levels of competition in that time, from local Spanish races to entire international series'. I was hoping I could learn a lot from watching his style and his operation, and I did! His race team headquarters is based at his home, a sprawling estate that isn't visible from the street. If Kenny didn't know which tiny dirt road to drive down, we never would have found it. Most of the team's budget goes to upgrading the bikes to the highest caliber possible, and they're transported in these rugged little vans all over Europe.
The raceshop is well sorted, with an area to work on the bikes, a separate room for engine/transmission work, another room for the machine shop, and more. There are wreaths and bottles of champagne throughout from previous victories, and there's a feeling of pride and history emanating from all corners. Here's an extremely rare R7 racebike. . . and it's been converted into an Endurance bike, to boot! I'd never seen on of these in person, and due to the limited production numbers (Yamaha only made enough to get the bike homologated for racing). Amazing!
In the machineshop area, there are lathes, presses, valve grinders, and more. Some of the quick refuelers are stored here, and there was also an R1 resting here. . . with a 3000 dollar hand made aluminum fuel cel!
Motor work is handled by a guy named Alex. He's been working with Folch for 16 years! He massages these engines to a nice state of tune, running well on 98 octane pump gas, and running *Really* well on Agip race fuel! Not to mention all the cool electronics and secret stuff that's installed on these machines. Good smells in the engine room, and I got really homesick thinking about all the engine work I've done myself in the past.
We finally loaded up Kenny's van with the equipment we'd need for a couple days at the track, and we then cruised for about another five or six hours until we reached Albacete. Housing accomodations provided by the Van, which was split into two sections - the living quarters up front, the storage and changing area out back. It was sweet! Not only was a lot of it homemade by Kenny, like the electical hookups and beds, but Ikea provided some good storage options and containers. It was very professional, and if I was racing in the states, I would definitely like to roll in a van this well set up.
When we arrived, I immediately noticed the MotoGP academy vehicles. Apparently, they were here testing this week with their 125's, and because of this, I had the chance to speak with the crew from Monlau (the race mechanic institute in BCN). Monlau is expensive, but they turn out some decent wrenches. However, the more I work, the more I see that race mechanics and shop mechanics are two very different breeds, each with unique skills and abilities. I want to stress that - it is two completely different worlds.
Because we were travelling light, I only had enough equipment to make this modest pit box. It was enough to do, because the real heavy work would come later. Kenny spun some laps around Albacete, and got re-aquainted with the circuit. Most people don't seem to remember this, but Albacete used to host WSBK rounds in the late nineties, and it's a nice track.
Along with the Monlau crew (which is also sponsored by Repsol), I also met Emilio Alzamorra, former World Champion 125cc rider! 125 is a very demanding and unique class of racing, and anyone that can put it together to win a World Championship in this category possesses a ton of focus and dedication. Other notable GP racers in attendance were David Tomas, former 250GP rider. He was fast. . . .
After riding and prepping the Spanish Championship bike with Kenny on Wednesday and Thursday, the Folch Endurance team arrived. We had to switch garages and get ready, because we would be competing in a six hour endurance race on Sunday! Folch was running three teams, with three riders each. That meant a ton of tire changes for me. . . . but it was well worth it. Here's one of the bikes taking a nap, along with the boss! He's quite animated, and because the whole team communicates in Catalan (different than standard Spanish) it was a challenge for me to stay in the loop. I nodded a lot, played it by ear, and tried not to screw anything up. I think I did just fine, and who knows, maybe I'll work with them on some races in the future. Not only does Folch run in the Spanish Endurace races (the Copa de Resitencia), he also competes in the World Endurance races, and last year narrowly missed beating the full factory Castrol Suzuki team. If you compare budgets, you realize what an acheivement that is. . .
Here's a nice swingarm on one of the Endurance rigs. It features some fascinating quick change gear, like a sprocket that stays with the bike, and a brake caliper that has some trick parts in it. . . . all of it combining to make a full pit stop (meaning both tire changes, re-fueling 24 litres - 6 gallons, changing riders, and then some), only about 17 or 18 seconds. . . . and this is still a little off from the record of 13.5 seconds! The brake pads have special magnets in them that keep the pads from falling in the way of the rotor when removing or installing the wheel, and the sprocket has a neat groove in it that locks the wheel into place in one quick move. Add a single axle that can be blasted in or out with an impact gun, and two guys can swap a wheel in just a couple seconds. Fantastic!
Another shot of the cool swingarms used. They're much wider than stock, and use special wheels, too. After working with them for the last couple days, I decided that if I was ever putting together a special rig for the street, this would definitely be part of the package!
Here's a neat fuel cap, spring loaded, and one of two that are installed in the hand built Aluminum fuel cels. With these, there's no need to unscrew anything, just plug the fuel dispenser in, and a couple seconds later, remove, wipe, and get the hell out of pit lane and back into the race!
Think Endurance racing is boring? It's not, though it can be quite grueling, both of the riders, and the crew! This is a shot of the quick change front fork, which is a remote gas charged Ohlins unit that was formerly on a Factory World Superbike last year. It has been modified to accept super brakes from Nissin, and I've never seen a front tire that was as simple or quick to swap out. Still blows me away thinking about it. If I make some custom street bikes for people (or myself!) this is another cool innovation that I want!
Last shot for now. When the axle is blasted out, the wheel pops forward, the calipers spring out of the way, and the wheel is free. The new wheel is placed on the first notch, then the calipers are swung into place, and with a simple nudge, the wheel goes right into place - no lining anything up, just go!!!! The axle is then re-installed (reverse threads so it doesn't loosen over time during the race) and it's zoom zoom zoom!
The race itself was off the hook, and despite some technical issues during the six hours (one of the pilots had a nasty fall that bunged up a couple things) we managed to get the bike back to together and on track. . . all the way to second spot on the podium! It was amazing for me to be part of this, an active member of the pit crew, and a member of the team. I have a new and deeper respect for endurance racing, and while the lap times are not the absolute fastest, I doubt many fast riders could go out and ride until the tank was empty, then come in for fuel and tires, and go back out again. It happens, and it's incredible. You owe it to yourself to check out one of these races if you get a chance, and because the race is so long, there's plenty of time to move around, check out different aspects, and enjoy a day at the races!
I'd add more, but I left my camera in Kenny's van last night when we got back into BCN at 1AM. Long week, and I'm bushed all over again. More cool stuff to come, as Liam continues on his wild adventures in the world of Motorcycle racing!