October, 2006

October 30, 2006

Nicky Hayden, 2006 MotoGP World Champion!

My heartiest congratulations to Nicky Hayden, his crew chief, Pete Benson, the entire Repsol/HRC team behind him, Phil Baker, Aldon, and everyone else who made a difference. Everyone involved has worked extremely hard this season, and the fruit of all their labor is the 2006 MotoGP World Championship!

I've haven't been around the GP paddock very long, but I've learned a lot this season and everyday, every race, was an opportunity to grow and evolve. I've seen and done more than I expected, and I never missed a chance to try something new - whether it was something as simple as a new type of food, or something a bit more complicated. . . . haha! One thing that has confounded me, and I'm sure has also had an effect on the American riders and workers in MotoGP, are the amazing cultural differences between all the peoples working here. While we travel around the world, visiting strange and beautiful places, the paddock remains the same, everyone working hard no matter where we are or what the conditions may be. It's within the paddock life, the close and constant contact with your team-mates and friends, that you really see how life is totally different everywhere. Some things that would bother me meant nothing to other people, and conversely, I was guilty of inadvertantly stepping on a few toes myself. Nothing intentional, but it happens and it's important that we were all able to step back, stumble through the language barriers, and clear the air. Communication is really critical out here, and while English may be the "official" language of MotoGP (and it's fairly international, too), the bottom line is that without a solid grasp of Spanish and/or Italian, it's very, very lonely, and moreso, it's difficult to get the job done because there really isn't a lot of time between practice sessions!

My initial goal of working in MotoGP this year has been fulfilled, but through the course of all this travelling, and all these races, my ultimate goals have slightly shifted. Overall, I think everything is the same, but more than ever I want to contribute to my team (whichever that will be) and be as valuable as possible. There's something so special and magical to me about actually laying hands on a machine that is going to go out and race. Just knowing that I was responsible for something, that my dilligence and attention to detail was helping to insure that my bike was going to make it home to the finish, makes watching my rider and the races that much more intense. There's far more to MotoGP than just wrenching on the bikes, however, and there is a huge amount of preparation and planning that must be put into a season because there are details and obstacles to overcome that most people will never consider. How to get our equipment to a tiny island off of Australia, for instance, and what if we need something once we get there? Timing is everything, and making sure things are lined up so that the people on the front lines can get the job done with the utmost efficiency and minimum of fuss is just as important, if not moreso. Anyway, there are a bunch of things to do in MotoGP and it seems like everyone involved in the series is "world class". Speaking of World Class, I should get back to talking a little about Nicky Hayden, something I wanted to do when I sat down to put some clicks into the website!

I've seen and heard quite a bit about all the teams, the riders - just about everything and anything - and there is a huge amount of respect given to Nicky Hayden, and the rest of the Hayden clan. One recent vivid memory is of Estoril, just after 9AM on Monday morning following the race. Nicky had just lost the World Championship lead the day before after being torpedo'ed by Dani Pedrosa's bike. My team was leaving our hotel, which overlooked the track, and the weather was heavily overcast and slightly rainy. One bike was roaring in the distance, alone. No one had to look, no one had to ask. We all knew it was Nicky Hayden. Putting in the laps, putting in the time and effort, never giving up. This was the case as several tracks, in the preseason, wherever and whenever. Nicky works hard, and he's earned the respect and admiration of many people, myself included. More than just a hard-worker, Nicky is an approachable and genuine guy who is quite sincere. He took the time to check in on me a few times this year, always stopping to say hello and see how I was doing. If he was rolling by on a scooter (while I was running around working, haha!), he'd pull over just to say, "What's up?", and I want to say thanks. It helped me to get on with my job and was oddly comforting, because truthfully, we're a long way from home out here. Actually, the fraternity of Americans out here is really nice, because we recognize the same similarities and differences, and also enjoy joking around with one another - because we can "get it"! There's a hierarchy out here, and riders are usually at the top with their support, the teams, behind them all the way. Many times I've seen people changed by their position or their status, but Nicky Hayden is just one of the guys - a regular guy who has an incredible amount of drive, perserverance, tenacity, talent, and the ability to get his two-wheeled machine around the track better than anyone else.

The Fastest? Sometimes.
The most entertaining? Maybe.
The Best? You're damn right!
Here's to Nicky Hayden, your 2006 MotoGP World Champion!

As Nicky said following the race,
"You've just got to believe!"

Lots going on this week and teams are busy testing here in Valencia for the following season, and there are still matters that are undecided at the moment. More excitement coming . . . . . .

Valencia GP06 Memories

Here's a small review of the Valencia week for me. It's been a couple days and I'm still going through a lot in my head. Lots of things are coming to light, and while there are still some uncertainties, one thing is for sure - my time here in MotoGP is not going to come to an end any time soon!

I've always noticed the skies in Valencia, and perhaps because of its proximity to the ocean, it varies quite a bit and is usually beautiful. I flew into Valencia from Barcelona on Tuesday afternoon/evening, and heading from the airport to the Bonaire Ibis hotel, I caught a gorgeous sunset.

Click on the photo to be taken to the rest of this post.

Valencia Memories

I settled into the hotel, tense and excited about the upcoming weekend. Wednesday morning brought cool temperatures and Tomas and I, along with Pachi (Antonio), had some fun washing both our team semi-trucks. Climbing around on the trailer tops afforded us a nice view of the rapidly expanding paddock, as the hospitalities were busily being assembled. Another nice touch was that I actually had some high-quality wax (from Japan) so I could really put the shine on the girls.

Nicky Hayden seemed to be in good spirits and ready to fight after the Danigate debacle in Estoril. As they say, "that's racing!". It was very interesting to see how public opinion has been swayed by the way everyone involved handled themselves in the press following the incident. Most notable (and the reason why I took this picture) are the two Spanish kids wearing the American flag. True, they were wearing Spanish flags around their waists, but up top, it was all red, white, and blue!

As much as there was some American support, in general, the paddock felt that the day would belong to the Italian. I would say there were more American fans at this race than any other foreign GP I have been to, and hopefully this is a trend that will continue. I have long preached that American fans, of whatever rider or brand (who cares?!) should get off their sofas and get onto some planes to check out how they do it in Europe.

That night I was invited out to dinner with a couple of the Ducati Factory guys, because Mark Elder and I were celebrating our little mini-interview in Road Racer X Magazine.

The food was at a little place deep in Valencia, and was prepared by some pure Ducatisti's. It was awesome, but I'll let the pictures do the talking for me.

Ahhhhh, meat and cheese! The Morcilla (blood sausage) was great!

But it doesn't get any better than Valencian Paella! The standard pan seems about three feet wide, and it was fantastic. This was my first time seeing snails in paella, and they complemented everything nicely.

Also ran into "Racerboy" from Barf. He and a few friends made it out to the race and were having the time of their lives. See? Travelling to the Euro-rounds is worth it!

Back in the garage on Thursday, we began putting our skulls to work getting ready for the last race of 2006. The man in white will be Casey Stoner's chief mechanic next year, but this year, he's doing his best to help us go faster with what we've got.

It bodes very well for the Pramac D'antin Ducati team that Ducati Corse are getting more and more involved. Alex Barros was visiting with us in preparation for his first outing on the bike the next week, and here he is talking with his future chief mechanic and two other engineers. Just as Troy Bayliss proved to everyone that he is as fast, if not faster, than ever, we're hoping that Barros is able to make the same transition to the GP7 800cc Ducati next year.

There were also tons of riders walking around, from many different series. I spoke with Shakey, McWilliams, Schwantz, you name it. It seemed like everyone was here for this historic race. Who's this?

Hmmmm, this could be an interesting place to work.

One evening I caught up with some other fellow Barfers, Higgy B and his girl, Ming, the merciful. Great couple, and they remind me of how things should be between a man and a woman.

By this time, Saturday, I'd developed a serious eye infection, most likely from having a piece of debris get stuck under my contact lense and ruining my day. I'm not quite certain, as I also managed to get some fuel in there, too. Anyway, things move around pretty quick when you're standing behind a 990cc powerhouse with the bump starter and it's impossible to be perfectly "safe" in this kind of environment. I went to the Clinica Mobile for some eye-drops and just to check in with them in case it was more serious than I thought. It's been four days now, so I think it's pretty bad. A few more days and I'll probably end up getting it really checked out in Barcelona. Found this cool chopper behind the facilities.

It was pretty tough to bull through the eye problems (massive sensitivity to light and constant watering and pain), but this was the race of the season, and I wanted my rider to do his best. The hills were at max capacity, with extremely hot weather and tons of sunshine. 130,000 people showed up on Sunday - that's like, what, double what Laguna brings?!?

The race was shocking, dramatic, and I enjoyed it more than any other this year. Our box was crowded with VIP guests, and everyone was riveted to the monitors as the action unfolded. History was being made. Immediately after the race, fireworks started going off.

What could have been? I think Valetino lost this year because Hayden put together the best combination of skill, consistency, teamwork, and luck. I'm positive that Yamaha and Michelin are busier than ever getting ready for next season. . . . just like everyone else!

I wasn't sure if this was going to be my last race or not, and I wanted to wish the tire guys well. Tomas and I spent a few minutes saying thank you for the year, and everyone confirmed that we're all good. Good on you, guys, I'd rate you.

Then it was time to say hello to next year's people. I can't wait to see how next season goes, with the new tire regulations in place.

That's all the time I have right now, but I'll be back to post some more photos from this past race, and eventually I'll get around to posting more photos and experiences from the fly-away races and anything else I may have missed. Feel free to email with and questions or comments.


October 29, 2006

Who's going to win the 2006 MotoGP World Championship?

Caught up with Kevin Schwantz last night at the Red Bull Party (Fantastic!) and he let me know who he thinks is going to win tomorrow. Enjoy the races, and we'll catch up some time next week.

Direct link here!!!

October 24, 2006

Valencia Bound!

Back once again to beautiful Valencia for the 17th and final round of the 2006 MotoGP World Championship! I began my European adventure here almost exactly one year ago. In fact, October 26th marks the date of my departure from San Francisco, California, when I relocated to Barcelona, Spain. It has been an incredible journey, filled with struggles, stresses, and most of all, motorcycles! I'm proud of what I've accomplished this year, and I could not have made it without the support of my team mates and my team back home in the U.S.

Everyone has been an integral part of this adventure, and I'd like to say thank you to MotoLola, Evan and Joanne, Chris Jonnum of Road Racer X, MotoBrad, MotoIan, Nacho Delgado, Nacho Lorenzana, MotoStrano, the upstanding membership of Barf (Bay Area Riders Forum), and all the people around the world who have emailed me with letters of encouragement and well wishes.

A special thank you goes to Bob Hayes, of MotoGPOD.com for sticking with me and always following my adventures with enthusiasm and faith. Through Bob, I've met some incredible people around the world, and this is just a small, small thank you to him. Thanks Bob!

It's a little sad to see this season go, and it's with mixed feelings that I head to the airport in a few minutes. I don't want it to end - I never do. The future is still undecided for me at the moment, and while my team has announced that Alex Barros will be riding with us next season, we have yet to sign our second rider. Until that moment, the team waits before beginning our session of talks. I definitely think that the hardest year is behind me, and I'm ready for more. More learning, more growing, and more wonderment at the world around me. Here are a few songs I'll be listening to on the plane, and while they're not very current, I feel a little out of this world right now so they fit perfectly. Enjoy this race everyone; it is sure to be the finale we're all expecting!

Valencia 06.1--I've loved this song for years, and it captures so much of the "Nintendo" generation while managing to stay classy. Is this the future of R&B/Jazz?

Valencia 06.2--Fantastic remix of a second generation Brazilian talent, by my favorite German specialist!

Valencia 06.3--One of the most underrated talents to come out of Canada, with an interesting blend of Eastern and Western instrumentation.

October 17, 2006

How was Estoril? MotoLiam Explains All!

Direct Link, if you can't watch it here.

Although this is pretty funny, there's just way too much that went down in Estoril for me to really capture at the moment. I can't believe what happenned in the race! Not only that, but the feelings throughout the paddock are running rampant. There's more tension now than at any other point of the season, and this is partially due to the stress that is coming off of all the crews as they wait for plans to be finalized with riders and sponsors for next year. So many people are playing a waiting game, and not knowing what you're doing next year, or the off-season this year, is wreaking havoc within some teams. It's a little ruthless, as people start looking for reasons to do or say something to make themselves look better, and you start seeing people putting themselves and their interests before what is best for the team. Personally, I just want to put myself in a position where I can do the most good, and be of the most benefit for a team. Not to mention the stress in some of the garages! You have no idea what it's like for the Repsol Honda team right now.

I'm moving apartments this week, and the internet is not set up at the new place yet. I won't be online much for the next few days, and then next week I'll be at Valencia for the ultimate round of the greatest season in recent history. Internet unlikely. We'll be in touch. One thing is for sure. This is shaping up to be the most incredible season I've ever seen, much less been a part of. Hearty congratulations to my rider, Alex Hofmann, for besting his practice times during the race and being the first Ducati to cross the finish line! Awesome! I hope we can carry this momentum with us to the next and final race of the season.

October 09, 2006

Gettin' excited about Estoril? I am!

Countdown to Estoril? 9 hours before I begin the journey. Headed to Madrid first, on an early morning flight, then driving the rest of the way with most of my team. Should be cool, seeing the countryside like that. Yesterday, while driving with the A-Bros, we passed by the main boat harbour in Barcelona, and saw a huge oceanliner from Italy unloading some cool cargo - namely the hospitality and race trucks from LCR Honda and Konica Minolta Honda! We waved from our little car and the drivers recognized us, so that was pretty cool. Just the timing of it was neat. Anyhow, brown cow, I've added two new music selections for you all in the EXTRAS section of the website, or you can just download from the links below. Enjoy!

Estoril 1

Estoril 2

Nice way to spend a Sunday

Saturday night came, and although I was still nursing a fairly serious cold, I decided some fresh air would be good and that I should get out of the house. Coincidently, Hiro Aoyama had returned from Japan with his brother, Shuhei, and they invited me out for dinner along with some friends. Why not? I took the BMX down from my apartment in the Eixample district and rode through the Ramblas and Gothic area, getting my bearings back and trying to see if I had enough time to get to the water before I had to turn around and get to the restaurant. Sure enough, I managed to get lost in the dark, zig-zagging through the maze of the Gothic area's winding roads. I was moving at a good clip and all the buildings are a couple stories high, so it was difficult to find my landmarks, but I covered enough ground to go around more than once, and when I reached the restaurant, I was still first. Naturally, I wasn't running on Spanish-Time.

It was good to breathe again, to feel the burn in my chest and in my legs, and to be honest, I really get a kick out of zooming around on my bike. It's so strange to see how my life has played out so far, and to be fair, I'm a little scared at how it's going to keep on going. I remember my first "real" bike, a chrome frame Mongoose that I spent hours on trying to remove the rust spots. It was a garage sale special, and I rode the wheels off it. Later, I started riding seriously on Kona Fire Mountain MTB bike, tackling the hills in Hawaii and bombing through the backside of Tantalus every weekend. I'll never forget my good buddy, Chris Winn, high-siding it as we were coming down the frontside on city streets. He was trying to avoid a car that was over the double yellow and the result was a broken ankle. But I'm getting off-topic here. Oh! Just remembered, my headbearings on the BMX (Haro Mirra 540 AIR) are completely shot and need replacing. Anyone know where I can get some? The shops here in Spain leave a little to be desired.

If you're near the Cathedral in Barcelona, head north and you'll end up in a small loop of streets with a couple nice restaurants. You're looking for this:

Here's a close-up. I've been coming here for almost a year now, mostly for special ocassions or with a special person. Shunka (not to be confused with Shunko!) is a small Japanese restaurant that serves traditional and non-traditional food. The owner is a highly animated man who loves motorbikes and the wall above the openview kitchen is covered with autographed photos of Hiro and Shinya Nakano, who also is based out of Barcelona. Although Hiro and I had made big plans to party and "whoop it up" in Tokyo following the Motegi round, I knew he was pretty busy with work commitments and I wanted him to be able to spend as much time with his Japanese friends as possible. Besides, my own schedule was rather chaotic and I wanted to explore Japan at my own pace. This was our real Motegi Victory celebration, and the food and the company were great. Shunka is great!

We were joined by my roomates, Patricia and Daniel, and a few girls who were friends of Ursula, a girl who does a lot of work with Telefonica. She's full of neat stories about the riders who have been sponsored by Telefonica/Movistar in the past.

Muggin' for the camera is the norm. I guess this means I've had two Motegi victory dinners - with the winners of the MotoGP class and the 250cc class!

Dinner ran a couple of hours, until after midnight. I had already made plans to attend the 5th round of the CEV, the Spanish National Championship, the next day, Sunday, in Montmelo. Turns out Shuhei wanted to go, too. His team has been in something of an unheaval this season ever since Sebastian Porto left Grand Prix earlier this year, and he has had several different teamates since then. He wanted to see David De Gea racing in the Formula Extreme (1000cc, almost Superbike spec bikes) class, because De Gea might be joining him in Estoril. The plan for an early day didn't seem to put much of a damper on anyone's partying spirit, though. Some of our group didn't make it back to the house until almost 6AM. . . . . . . . . . . but that's Spain for you. I started my morning off with some serious coffee and a tarta de queso, or cheese tart. Note the extra sugar necessary to get the day going.

Montmelo! Four of us drove together in Hiro's car, myself, Ursula, and the A-Bros. Hiro remarked as we were driving in under the bridges (the roads going to the paddock pass under parts of the track), that he was feeling a little nervous, even though he wasn't racing. We had a good chuckle, and then we talked a little about what it's like for him at the start of a race. Hiro says that after the mechanics leave the starting grid, it all gets very quiet for him, very calm. Meanwhile, the paddock in the Spanish Champ. was anything but. I couldn't believe how many people were there! Not only the National guys, but there were a significant amount of GP folks in attendence, as well. The usual suspects were there, and I said hi in passing. Randy Mamola was there with Dakota, who's still nursing a broken wrist (in a fat fiberglass cast), and the MotoGP Academy was running, too. Said hi to Juan Martinez, who's not talking about where he'll be working next season, and Raul Jara, one of the main coordinators of the Academy. He's a great guy and was a good racer a few years back. In fact, it's a little sad, but when he was coming up through the Movistar cup, he did quite well, outplacing Dani Pedrosa. At that time, Joan Olive and Jara were slated to move up into the 125 GP's, but Alberto Puig made the decision that Jara wouldn't move up, and instead chose Dani Pedrosa. The rest, as they say, is history. Oh, there were a lot of 125 adn 250 guys around, too. Mechanics from Lorenzo's squad, and from Seedorf Valsir. It was a little strange seeing some of the people from the "big" circus, and I had fun watching Pol Espargaro win the Spanish 125 Championship. I had a good time racing with his older brother, Aleix, at Valencia last year. I should mention that Pol is the youngest person to score points in a GP, at 15 years 8 days, with his 13th place the other week. Great job, and I hope he continues to improve and impress as he gains more experience. Not only was I able to catch up with some of the GP guys, but I ran into a bunch of mechanics I had worked with in the Qatar series this year, before I got the ride in GP. They're spread out, working for various teams, but I think we'll all still get together next season and do it again. Who knows?

Turns out the Formula Extreme race was won by Ivan Silva, the rider who substituted for Alex Hofmann for three rounds in MotoGP, and who I've had the pleasure of working with! This was D'Antin's first victory in the F. Ext. Championship this season, and they boys were ecstatic! There was a huge celebration, and I hope we can take that momentum with us into next year. Here's a photo of the Trophy, along with Pedro, who I worked with in Qatar, and Tomas, who I work with in GP.

The team packed and loaded the semi, driving to Madrid that evening. Come Tuesday, we're all driving to Lisbon together - no idea how long that will take, so hopefully the scenery is nice. We wrapped up the day with a super meal at La Trabuc in Montmelo (call for reservations), and then headed back to Barcelona, tired and happy. What a great day, with good racing, good food, and good people. Can't wait to do something like that again! However, I've since learned that the race that took place after we left was marred by tradegy, as a rider went down in Supersport in front of the main pack and was struck repeatedly while sliding/rolling. He was medivac'd immediately but was pronounced dead at the hospital. Complete downer. I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for Estoril, and hopefully everything goes out without a hitch, and that everyone stays safe. Be safe out there.

October 07, 2006

What am I doing?

Recently, someone on the Bay Area Riders Forum, an online motorcycle forum that I frequent, asked me what I was doing during the off-season.

I wasn't sure how to answer, so I just let it roll and this is what I came up with:

Well, I guess that depends. A lot is in the air right now, especially because next year promises new machinery and new challenges for the teams to be competitive. From what I've gathered in the paddock, a lot of the factory teams have re-signed their current crews, because that's one less thing to be concerned about when you're trying to get a new machine to the top of the box, week in and week out. A lot also depends on where riders are going, and if the team feels the crew will mesh well with them. It seems perfectly normal, that if you had, say, and Italian rider coming into your team, you might want your crew to be predominantly Italian, if only to make it easier to get along with the rider and give him more a sense of "home" and a sense of stability. I also know some riders want to keep their crews with them (ala Rossi, keeping JB and his boys when he made the switch to Yamaha in '04). While this is very unusual in the GP community, it has shown natural benefits, and I think Marco Melandri is considering something similar should he choose to move to Marlboro Ducati. What does this mean? It means that Ducati Corse would have to "downsize" their current staff of race mechanics to make space for the incoming new guys, something that would definitely put some stress on the boys who haven't re-signed yet. Still, Melandri isn't signed, so it's just more waiting on the part of the team. . . .waiting, and waiting.

Speaking of re-signing, I haven't. Yet. My team's decisions are dependant on the rider selection for next season, and everyone is playing a waiting game. I've been exploring what limited options I have, but honestly, I really enjoy working with some of the people I've been with this year, and I can't think of anything better than staying with them another year and learning that much more. It should go without saying that I learn something significant at every race, and moreso, I learn about racing every week I spend with these guys. You cannot believe how much we all talk about racing, and history, and successful strategies, when we're travelling on planes, driving in cars, wherever and whenever. Some of our dinner conversations have been amazing, and I wish I recorded some of them. It's more than just with the team. I enjoy being around everyone in the paddock, and I know it shows. In Brno, I came back to the hotel one afternoon after taking a walk through the city, and lo and behold, there was Jeremy Burgess just sitting outside by himself at the hotel cafe, having a beer. We joined up and talked racing for more than an hour, one on one, and for me, it was a chance to explore the mind of someone who has been actively racing since the late seventies. Someone who has seen more and done more than I'm likely to, and with his frank, open, and honest discourse, it proved to be an eye-opening talk. In fact, it was talking with JB that made me realize how much more complex and beautiful this racing world can be. Most of all, I really got an understanding of JB's racing philosophy, and that was truly special. Until you know, you really can't know. I really wish I could share more, but most of what I've learned is all in confidence, and will never be spoken of again. Anyway, it's fun to be here, to share my life and experiences with my team and with my friends in the paddock.

You have no idea how many people in GP are mountain bike fanatics, and we're constantly swapping videos (avi's) of the New World Disorder series. Or that several high placed guys are really into old-school Harley's, bobbers, and choppers. This kind of stuff goes beyond teams, because everyone who's interested in it talks - when we're walking to our garages, when we're taking a break at the end of the day, whenever. It's really neat. It makes for a really neat circus. Oh, anyone have a .AVI file of Faster 2 (Faster and Faster?) I'd like a copy, and we can FTP it. . . .

Speaking of really neat, I never really spoke about how I managed to be there for the debut of the 800's. On Sunday night after the Motegi race, my team packed up and because we had checked out of our hotel early that morning (6-something!) all our gear was already loaded up in the rental vans. The team was relocating from the town of Mito to a hotel in Narita, next to the airport. It seemed like almost all of the Europeans (all teams) did not like Japan (or Asia), and after three weeks from home, they all wanted to get back as soon as possible! I wanted to stay in Japan, so I paid for a flight change and started scrambling for a place to crash. Huge thanks to crazy Dave, from Marlboro Ducati, for letting me crash with him on Sunday night. I kissed my team goodbye in a black parking lot and made my way back into the paddock to meet up with the factory Ducati guys. You cannot know what I treat it was to have dinner with the team that night because they had just won the race and we had a beautiful meal prepared at the circuit. Livio Suppo gave a heart-warming speech and everyone's spirits were high. I want that feeling. I want to win races. We cleaned up a bit afterwards, prepared for Monday's test, and then all drove back to their hotel, at breakneck speed in the Alfa Romeos that are provided for them at almost all of the GP rounds, courtesy of the sponsorship deal that see's Alfa and Ducati linked. We shared a couple beers, joked about girls, bikes, and F1 (gasp!), in the hotel bar, and then promptly crashed out. I almost didn't make the ride the next morning, because I was soo wiped out. But I made it. The Factory guys really took care of me that Monday, allowing me full access to study their new 800, and I also was able to get some good looks at the rest of the bikes. Not enough to learn much, but hearing them was such a treat! They really are out of this world, and when you hear them at Laguna Seca next year, you're definitely going to know that something special is out on the track. As if the current bikes aren't special, haha. The new 800's are going to shock a lot of people, because they're so well made and race ready. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of them racing at the Valencia round, something Chris Jonnum echoes in his Road Racerhead article. I think if you're out of the points for the championship, running the bikes early will only give you that much more data for next season, something that is critical before the winter break, when testing is banned. You really can't get the kind of information you want except in race conditions, so for this reason I think we'll be seeing the factory Ducati's and factory Yamaha's gathering more data through their satellite teams, who will be running virtually identical set-up's and tires. What does this mean? It means that the factories will be able to make changes that much more quickly, based on the data from four bikes, instead of two, and if they're all the same, the data is irrefutable. What's very interesting is the idea that several of the Honda's will be wearin Bridgestone tires next year. I'm not sure what to make of this, because I had thought that Michelin had a lock on the Honda's and didn't want rival Bridgestone to gather data on what the Honda's ran like. Anway, with the new tire regulations in place for next year, it's going to be a tricky and complicated process to get the bikes "just-right", and unfortunately (in my mind), there are going to be compromises and choices made that will be based on tire availability, and whatever else is left

So? Where does that leave me? Ideally, I would be testing in the off-season, through the end of November. I could then get some work done in the workshop, preparing our racing supplies for next year and our garage/box materials. If I stay with this team. And . . . . if we are allowed to test. I don't know all the ramifications of the tire contract in place with Dunlop this season, but presumably there is a clause that won't allow us to test with another brand until this year is up, and as we're switching to Bridgestones next season, along with the Ducati GP7 800, we're kind of in a hard place. If we don't test, we will be at a disadvantage at the beginning of next season, but hopefully the Factory engineers can help point us in the right direction. It all depends. If I'm unable to test, I might change countries. I might hole up somewhere and practice my language lessons. I honestly don't know. In one month I have no idea what I'll be doing, and it's possible I'll be hunting for another last-minute GP position, somewhere. It is a type of stress that most jobs don't come with, and oddly enough, most of the paddock people I've talked to have a rather funny take on it -

"You like suspense, don't you?"

Who knows where I'm going next? On the train from Narita into Tokyo, I had some time to think about it. Yes, I got overcharged for my tickets, yes, I had to change seven (7!) cars because my seating number was wrong (and the train was empty!!), but it's all worth it. It's all part of the crazy ride. See you guys in Portugal next week, where we're going to see the Ilmor (and the return of McCoy!!!!), and whether or not Nicky can hold off the Doctor. I'm under the weather and when I can I'll start going through all my photos again because there's just sooo much good stuff in there. Take care everyone!

P.S. Click Here for Honda Collection Hall Museum Photos

October 05, 2006

Fighting a cold, as Autumn sets in.

The skies are getting grey, and the winds are colder. The next two races may be just in time, and if the rumors are true, we'll be seeing more than one 800cc machine racing at Valencia. I could be over-reacting to the cold, because I'm feeling under the weather. Head-aches, sweats, complete loss of appetite, the usual. Except this time, it's different. I was cleaning my room a little today in preparation for the big move when I get back from Estoril, and I came across my favorite candy bar in the world. I can't buy these in Europe. At least, I haven't found them. Yet. Don't know if I ever will. I don't know why I was holding onto this particular power-pellet, but the time has come to eat it. I'm going to need every ounce of strength I can get to make it through the next couple weeks. Tomorrow, I will go shopping for cherry tomatoes, cheese, soup, and bread. Today, I'm laying low. Again.

Here are a couple entries to keep you entertained, hope you like them. Click on the photo to be taken directly to the post.
Japan, part 7

Japan, part 6

Japan, part 5

October 03, 2006

Back in Barcelona, time to get a move on!

Ok, after travelling on planes for the better part of two days, I made it back to Barcelona in one piece - and my luggage made it, too! I was a little worried because when I was transferring flights in Rome the checkout counter couldn't tell me if my bags were also going to make the flight swtich - or even where they were!

I got home by taxi and prompty hit the sack. It felt like I must have slept for a day straight, and I probably did. When I awoke, I found my two roomates were busy packing up the household because we'd been approved to move apartments into a larger place in the Poble Sec area of Barcelona. The rent is marginally cheaper, but the space is bigger, so it appears to be a win-win situation. The only drawback is the timing of the move, because we're switching places mid-month. That means I'll be in Portugal for the Estoril race and the day I get back to BCN we begin our move. Then, a few days later I'll be headed to Valencia for the final round of the MotoGP World Championship. I guess it's not such a bad thing to be moving, but coming up with rent money a couple weeks early, deposit money, truck rental money, and utility start-up costs, is going to be a little tricky. It just weird to be thinking so much about the place because I hardly spend any time there. Since the Sachsenring round (early July), it feels like I've only been in Spain for a couple weeks. Oh well, life is what happens when you're busy making other plans, haha.

I'll handle the move and see about getting something for next season lined up. That's my priority right now, because to be honest, I could be living anywhere. What matters is the racing. Second priority is the travelling. How sweet is it to smell the air on different continents, to breath in the life of different cultures? To eat the food?!? It's a blessing that comes with a price, as many of the GP paddock can attest to. To spend so much time on the road, away from friends, family, and loved ones, is a tough road to hoe. What makes it slightly more complicated for me is that I don't have a family in Europe, I don't have anyone to come home to. It is this reason that makes finding the right place for myself so critical. My team must become my family, because we all need to take care of one another when we're travelling and far from what we know and love. I know the future is undecided at the moment, but I have my fingers crossed that everything will work out - it usually does, for one reason or another. All I can say is that it's been a long time since a World Championship has come down to the last race, like it's looking to do this season. And next season? Well, you've all seen the new 800's that I posted about here , and it's looking like everyone is getting ready for a phenomenal year of racing. I honestly can't wait to get it started. But, before then, it's time to get this season wrapped up.

Here are a few entries from Japan, before the Motegi round. I am in the process of back-updating the website with photos and stories from the Asia fly-away races, starting with Japan. After that, expect to see coverage from Phillip Island, and then Sepang, Malaysia.

Click on the photo to be taken to that entry.

Japan, part 1

Japan, part 2

Japan, part 3

Japan, part 4

Next up? Tons more from Japan, then we'll delve into Phillip Island and wrap up in Malaysia. The problem I'm facing right now is the incredible amount of photos of the beautiful cars and motorcycles from Honda's Museum at Motegi. How can you sort a couple hundred photos? Phew!