January, 2007

January 25, 2007

Magnificent Malaysia

A fantastic series of tests, not only for the riders and the new machines, but for the 2007 crew who will be travelling and working together for the remainder of the year. Sometimes we were the last to leave the circuit, the earliest we left was after 9PM, the lastest near 1AM, so I was pretty wiped out by the time I returned to the hotel. There's so much good stuff to talk about, and photos to share, but I'm leaving for Melbourne in a few hours and I need to get a few more things squared away before then. I'm likely to be "internet-free" for the most part in Australia, so I may not be posting so much, but rest assured am still doing my thing and hopefully I'll have some free time to spend sorting though my pictures and experiences so that I can write about them here. Until then. . .

Sometimes we were first to the circuit also.

Malayasia, you rock! Such a great little country.

January 21, 2007

Long day prepping

It's the kind of sticky hot that makes peeling off your wet clothes harder than removing the melted saran wrap from an over-microwaved burrito. We spent a solid 12 hours at the circuit today putting the finishing touches on our new GP7's, and everyone was wiped out when we finally left. I started to feel like the mathematician wizard, because all I could see was swirling numbers and codes spinning around my head by the early evening. We don't have a hospitality unit out here, but we enjoyed a very brief catered lunch with suspect meat origins, and it's pretty grim trying to snack throughout the day. There's just no good hi-cal snacks laying around! Mostly, I'm guzzling down bottles of water at a high rate. We left the track after 9 and boogied back to the hotel just in time to catch the last fifteen minutes of the buffet before the hotel restaurant closed for the night. That meant a hurried meal. I showered up afterwards and decided to treat myself to a beer to unwind and put the finishing touches on an honest day's work.

Wouldn't you mop the floors to get in with a GP team? I would.

The new Kawasaki is sporting a gorgeous green, but it's a little hard to see here. Pretty much all the riders are in town and getting ready for business, and both Alex and Alex joined us for our rushed dinner, which was nice. Bikes hit the track in less than eight hours.

January 20, 2007

2007 MotoGP World Championship Preseason Starts Now!

It was an early flight for me to Roma, and I managed to forget my Mochi back in Barcelona! I guess hanging out and shooting the breeze with Coolio at the Custo party the night before left me in a daze, haha, but at least I managed to apologize for calling him Busta [Rhymes] at first. Doh! Gotta admit, all these small airlines/airports usually are pretty cool, but when you're always having to get to the gate for boarding and then have to take a bus somewhere else on the airport grounds, it can get annoying because it's one more potential ride to miss and that would really screw up a long distance trip like this. I got in to Roma at 8:10AM, and worked my way up to the International flight check in to give them one of my suitcases. I met up with Pepe, Barros' assistent, and we spent the next 45 minutes talking and waiting for the Spanish crew to arrive from Madrid. Pepe has been working in GP's for 15 years, so we had a lot to talk about.

I spend a lot of time at airports, and I usually manage to take a photo or two at every single one of them. Here I am testing out my latest headphones, some really cool retro Panasonic's, complete with 40mm drivers! Thump Thump! Yup, there's my "preseason" mustasche, what I like to call my Pirates of the Mediterranean look.

Once again, big thanks to the guys at MotoStrano for supplying me with some of the best travel gear I could ask for.

We eventually boarded our Malaysia airlines flight at 12:20, but then spent another hour in the plane just waiting for some late Italians - and the pilot managed to blame the delay on the notorious traffic jams in Rome. Bastardos! It was a fun flight, though, as much as 12 hours in a plane can be. Marloro Ducati was there, and also some other bike people. Davide Brivio, the team director for Factory Yamaha, was up in first class alongside Loris, and the 3T team (T.T.T. Tire Test Team) from Ducati/Bridgestone was also onboard, so it was a heavy Italian mix of people. One guy got so hammered he kept insisting I was sitting in his seat, and fortunately the flight attendants managed to squirrel him away before I had to get medievel on him. Note: he was just another normal Italian, not related to GP's at all. I watched a goofy English movie called StormBreaker, which featured a few seconds of Supermoto's racing around as the badguys tried to chase down Ewan Mcgregor, an MI6 secret agent. I don't really want to recommend this flick. Once we got to Kuala Lumpur International Airport, it was relatively smooth sailing. We picked up a couple boxes filled with preseason gear and fairings, and then got the heck out of the mess that is the taxi stand at K.L.I.A. They're soooo aggressive there. Taxi? Taxi? Sheesh. . . .

We hightailed it for 45 minutes to get to our hotel, and bear in mind that it's about 8AM at this point. We travelled overnight and arrived before 7AM. Everyone was a little glum because we knew that as soon as we checked our stuff into the hotel, we'd be off to the racetrack to get set up for the following three days of testing. Naturally, our rooms weren't ready that early in the morning, so we all went to the hotel buffet/restaurant and had breakfast. Am I the only one who appreciates a good, steaming bowl of jook? Name that green stuff!

I continue to be amazed at the sheer grandeur of this hotel, the Hotel Equatorial in Bangi Baru. It's simply palatial, and by far the nicest place we'll stay at this year. I could spend days walking around and photographing the place, which won an award for best landscaping, and has a killed golf course on the premesis. The beer is a little expensive (like everywhere in Muslim Malaysia), but it's nice to have a Singaporean Tiger beer now and then.

Another thing I manage to do is take photos of neat shirts that I see around the world. Here's a little one about WSBK I saw on one of our new guys, Michele (Mi-Kel- Le). . . . Sorry Neil . . .

By 10:30AM, I had managed to get my stuff into a room, which was hardly enough time to use the bathroom, much less take a shower and brush my teeth. It was a slightly hectic morning, and everyone was a little edgey from the lack of sleep on the flight. A couple two hour naps doesn't really cut it, but we're all surviving. We took off for the circuit and made it there in 30 minutes flat, which is some kind of record. The weather was hot, the sun was shining, and it was a pleasant 90 degrees, plus near 100% humidity. Perfect summer/monsoon weather in this corner of the globe.

I was stuck by the vegetation again, which is lush, vibrant, and as green as you can get. Here and there you'll see scars in the hillsides from construction or housing areas, and the earth is bright red and orange, like the dirt from Millilani. It is truly something special to be careening through the hills and valleys of this tropical country, which reminds me so much of home. One major difference? There are huge billboards lining the freeways, advertising mostly tech stuff, and there are miles of neatly organized palm trees in rows that go on forever. Coconuts anyone? This photo is prety empty, because when you'll looking at the jungle, it's really dense. You can be sure that I'll find a fresh coconut somewhere along this trip!

Lucky to be alive? For so many reasons!!! Welcome to Sepang! You'll see that we followed in a whole bunch of ricer cars, which kind of threw me off at first.

They looked something like this.

We made our way to our garage, which was at the opposite end of the line this time around, and proceeded to start unpacking our fly boxes. Some came directly from the Ducati Factory (which was what I was packing last week in Italy), and others came from the raceshop in Madrid. It was nice that everything was there, or so I thought. I'm still bummed about not having my mochi, haha. Sure looks like we're wearing black for the preseason.

Meanwhile, we were accompanied by the sounds of rice cars ripping down the mainstraight at Sepang. Turns out there was some kind of trackday for the local kids, and it was like a mini-2Fast, 2Furious party in the parking lots outside of the paddock. Fortunately, there were only about 50 of these things running around, and eventually things came to a halt.

Because it started to pour! The skies unloaded on us, off and on, for the remainder of the afternoon.

As we all remember, the Qualifying practice at last year's GP was cancelled due to storming, because once the track gets wet, it floods in one particular corner. I took a short break to grab these photos, because I was deep in it trying to figure out my new job and all the little details that are going to make or break me. It became readily apparent that I'll have to spend some weeks in Madrid trying to sort things out a bit, because while I realize it will take me months to get a handle on this position, I'm more interested in rebuilding the system into something I can be proud of, and something that I'm sure will work, year in and year out. It's going to be tricky at first, but I think everyone will come together and help me get it done.

As the day wore on, people started feeling the heat and the lack of sleep. Some people resorted to using the nefarious Red Bulls, which come in these cute, shorty cans out here.

We called it quits in the late afternoon and headed back to the hotel. I promptly fell sound asleep, and almost missed dinner. I only woke up because of a text I received. Chicken rice? Satay? Sign me up!

After dinner I had a Tiger and started to work on some things that I'll need to do tomorrow. I can't believe the amount of stuff I have to get done, but I'm looking forward to when I've got a better handle on things. Can't wait, actually. Haven't seen the Yamaha's yet, but I'm betting that they're running black for now. I can't see them with Movistar/Telefonica as their main sponsor, as certain rumors are suggesting, but we'll just have to wait and see, no? This is one of my favorite pictures - "The Life". Hotels, charging my things overnight after the long haul in the plane, and working on my Mac. In the background you can see my work Dell, and best of all, the Yeo's Soy Drink I nabbed from the mini-bar! It's going to be a busy but fun-filled three days, and it's about time this season started getting in motion! At least on the track, that is. I'm glad I stepped up into this new job because I notice the teams are running a more skeletal structure for the preseason tests. Far less "pit-box" stuff, no wall panels to mount, less frills. But the pieces, oh the humanity! There's just thousands of them! Argh!!!! I took an hour out before sleep to throw these photos up before I forgot about them and this day, because everyday something cool happens and it get's tough to keep track of it all. It's 2AM and I need to get some rest. I'll be around.

January 19, 2007

And they're off and running!

Not enough time in the day to take care of everything it seems. I'm scheduled to depart BCN at 6:30AM (!) so that means a very early taxi to the airport. Solution? Why sleep when you can join in the festivities of the Bread and Butter fashion week going on right now?!? Nacho swung by BCN and together with his girlfriend Cristina, we headed out to see a nice double decker runway show, complete with dancing girls in cages. It's so strange. Next up? All the motorcycle madness that is sure to ensue on-track in Malaysia. I got home before 4AM, perfect timing to finish packing and move on out. Here's a nice song to get us there, in the vein of synthpop that I like so much, sometimes. Funnily enough, I ran into one of Angel Nieto's kids, and also, Oscar, who works with Lucio Ceccinello (of LCR Honda). They told me a little bit about the two teams they're fielding this season, Checa in MotoGP, and an Irish lad in 250. They had just finished two days of motocross training, and were ready to party! Oh, how I wish I could have stayed out tonight.

Sepang Preseason Song

January 13, 2007

Colin Edwards II, Under the Radar

One of the cool things I did this past Christmas in California was get on the horn and call up some people. Here I am at Desmoto Sport on 9th with my ever present Axio Hardpack making some calls. This shop is full of vintage, full-resto's, and racebike carcasses everywhere - it's my kind of place. If you're in SF, check it out.

I was lucky enough to get in touch with Colin Edwards II and we set up a short, impromtu phone interview for MotoGPod, the internet radio show about motorcycle roadracing.

Here's a clip of from the full podcast which also features some great stuff from Dave Emmett, also known as Kropotkin, and an interview with the world class photographer, Andrew Wheeler!

MotoLiam and Colin Edwards II

Full MotoGPod Podcast

Also, here's a special shout out to Greg G., who mailed me this cool shirt he made.

Greg G. is also known as Graystoke on a ton of internet forums, and he's a nice guy so say hello if you see him on his red VFR with #45 stickers. I hear he's trying to switch to an Aprilia Futura in the near future. Good luck with the Italian bike, Greg!

And last but not least, the strange suit drying machine we spoke about on the podcast!

This makes more than 2000 photos that I've put out on www.MotoLiam.com

Edit - I've had a little time to look through some photos, so here are a couple from Desmoto Sport. Enjoy!

Here we have the perfect example of the old and the new.

Name that bike!

Training, training. This young lady, Kerri, is also the editor of SF Urban Moto Magazine. Cool, huh?

The "junkyard" starts here:

Lots of neat little things to look at, if you dig a little.

Totally Classic, and I wish I had a street tracker of one of these . . . .

My favorite bike there? Still undergoing a slight revision. . . .

See you guys at the races!

January 12, 2007

"I'm Back" (cue ACDC), in Barcelona that is!

Got back to Barcelona from Bologna a few days ago and spent my time catching up on emails, checking documents, and poring over some of the data I picked up at the Ducati Factory. It was an enlightening and gratifying trip for so many reasons, and although I definitely picked up on a different vibe while I was there, it was great nonetheless.

I want to say thank you to Antonio Cangiano, Luigi Mitolo, and everyone else, including Lele, Sergio, Michele, Jose, Andrea, Fabiano, and Corrado, for their hard work in helping me to assemble the information and materials I'm going to need to help my team to the fullest of my abilities. Grazie a tutti!

Here's Lele, Sergio, Antonio, and I, hidden away in one of the secret supply warehouses of Ducati Corse. It doesn't look like much here (intentional), but this three level storeroom was filled with all manner of fantastic and historical things, from older Superbikes and all their pieces, to the latest gen Desmosedici's and equipment. It was a priviledge to be there, but as I had a bunch of things to take care of, I wasn't able to inspect everything as much as I would have liked to. Besides, Corse is pretty tight about stuff and they don't appreciate people poking around too much.

Overall, it was a lot of organizational tasks and you can see how weary we were after just a couple days in the Factory. The Marlboro Ducati factory team was also there, rebuilding their GP7's after the Jerez tests and checking out some new pieces that were made over the break. I saw some really trick paint on one of the D16's, and hopefully Ducati will do something special like they did at Mugello last year. If they do, I would expect it to be at Misano instead of Mugello, because it's closer to the Ducati shop. In case you forgot, here's a pic. Photo Credit: Ben, the Dunlop Guy.

The Marlboro guys were a little quiet this time around, and I wasn't sure why. Maybe it had something to do with the weather, which was cold and dreary, with constantly grey skies and moisture everywhere.

At least it wasn't snowing! Last time around, I felt more friendly with the factory team, going out to dinner with them and generally hanging out when I could. This time I felt a little bit of an edge, and maybe this is because they think that we're going to be a viable threat next season. Alex Barros pipped both Capirossi and Stoner on the time sheets at the most recent test in Jerez, and I'm sure that doesn't sit too well with some of the guys. My take on it? Bring it! There's nothing I want more than to get results on the track next year, and if we have to ruffle some feathers while doing it, that's racing.

Spotted just across the street from the Factory walls. I'm not sure, but I think the marks on Marco Melandri's neck could be from his throat surgery this past winter. Dude couldn't talk for a week!

Off-topic, the Vice Director of Ducati Corse, and former factory team director, Corrado Cecchinelli, and I had some neat talks about bikes, and I was suprised to hear that he rides an old tube frame fuel-injected Buell. There's a neat relation there, because the earliest production Buells ('95-'96) used parts that were also used on the Ducati Monster line, and also, the Buell frames were (and still are) made by Verlicchi, the frame manufacturer who produces the Ducati WSBK and GP frames. Which leads me to my next spin off of this trip.

One night after work, I hung out with Mark Elder, and he drove me to check out his friend's workshop, Pierobon! Turns out Massimo Pierobon is Mark's best friend in Italy, and they do all kinds of crazy stuff together like bombing up to Germany for Oktoberfest. Anyway, the facility was great, with three large benches and tons (literally) of custom frame jigs and whatnot for creating virtually anything out of steel or aluminum.

The right hand man, Ricardo, used to work with Verlicchi designing and fabricating frames for Ducati alongside Franco Farne, and he just finished a run of 20 vintage racing frames for a German spec series.

Sweet stuff.

Massimo collects oddball fruit stickers from around the world.

Every wall is covered with incredible racing memorabilia, signed photos and letters from Ducati racers around the world, and more. It gets a little tricky to understand, but Pierobon used to work with Ducati Corse and took care of all the WSBK frames. Even when Corse contracted Verlicchi, frames were sent to Pierobon for straigtening and repair. Anyway, reading through some of the letters really makes you appreciate how much time and effort the Italians put in to go racing. Speaking of letters, here's a neat one at the Factory from Carl Fogarty, who writes, Thanks Franco for making such sweet engines for me all season, or something like that :) And speaking of Franco Farne, he and Stefano Caracchi (headman at Ducati NCR) dropped by the Ducati shop while I was there and I got a chance to say hi. You may recall I did a bit of work for Stefano earlier in 2006, and now he wants to sell me the 999R that Roby Rolfo raced in WSBK this past season. It's an ex-AMA bike. . . . but it's just not my style.

Damaged goods. . . .

Also got a chance to see the Junior bikes, which is a really neat idea on Ducati's part. They're basically supporting some young guns from Italy in hopes of grooming them for future successes with the Factory at the world level.

And you just know I had to throw in a shot of one of my new bikes. Alex Hofmann's brand new GP7!

Anyway, I sat through some informative meetings with Luis D'antin and the Ducati Corse guys so I could better understand my responsibilities and open up a better line of communication with the Factory, and I prepped our flight boxes filled with Spares and our four new GP7's. It's in the air. . . . and I can't wait to get the racing started. I ate a bunch of pasta for lunch, and pizza's for dinner, and overall the food was pretty good. Here's a shot of the Hotel del Borgo eating area, and I also found out it was 230 Euros per night! Yo! It costs roughly 45,000 Euros a year to transport and house a single team member, so that's something to think about when you consider that a two bike team will run approximately 25 people. Naturally, some of us get to travel a little bit more than others, but it's a small sacrifice to make to get to the races. I'm leaving BCN in less than a week to head to Sepang, and then to Australia, and I hope the weather co-operates with us. Personally, I think it's a bit odd to test at Sepang, because the Ducati/Bridgestone combination already goes well there, and I'd rather be testing at tracks where we have problems - like Laguna Seca!! I'll probably have a little bit of time this weekend to compile some of the Xmas escapades I was involved in a couple weeks ago, so check back often. Oh, and this year we've switched from Nissin to Brembo. This was at the request of Barros, who's well known to be an extremely capable late braker. Here's a video clip to see what I'm talking about.

About carbon brakes: Apparently all the pads and rotors are manufactured by Mitsubishi, because the process required to heat up and pressurize the carbon is extremely difficult to do. Nissin and Brembo then purchase the materials from them and make up the rest of the components. That's where it gets super tricky. It's really important to have good rider feel, and this is where Brembo is regarded as the best by a lot of world level riders. Soft as first, rather than an abrupt bite that causes the front end to dive and upset the chassis. Personally, I never really brake that hard on the street, and I've almost always used Nissin pumpers. I prefer all my slides to come on the gas!

Time to get back to some other things now, stay in touch everyone!
I leave you with this: Bolongna di Bologna!

January 08, 2007

Time to get back into gear!

Whew! What a winter break. I wasn't planning on being away from my website for so long, but with the twists and turns I've been through in the last thirty days, it wasn't such a bad idea!

I moved apartments last month in Barcelona, managed to handle six flights of stairs with every trip (the elevator was broken), and then before I could get a chance to settle in, it was off to California to see my Dad and younger brother in Los Angeles, and also spend some time with my best friends in San Francisco. Look for the Christmas special episode of MotoGPod, the internet radio show about motorcycle roadracing where I spent a couple minutes speaking with Factory Yamaha pilot, Colin Edwards II!!! It just gets better and better from there. After a hurried (and harried!) holiday week, it was time to bounce back to Europe, which I did a few days ago. Less than two days in Barcelona unpacking some of my household goods, and then a quick pack-up before I hit the road once again for Bologna, Italy, to make some of the final preseason preparations for the Asian tests at the Ducati Factory.

I'm quite nervous and I have to say this is one of the more stressful times in my life. Not only is working in MotoGP stressful for a variety of reasons, but there are factors that come into play that most people will never think about. I'll probably get into that a bit more inthe coming weeks as time allows, but for now it's almost 6AM and I'm posting this on the web because I haven't been able to sleep much this past night. I'm sick with the runny nose/super sneezing thing that everyone gets over the winter, and as it just started when I got back to BCN, I have to wonder whether I'm allergic to Europe or something! Hahaha, actually, I got into Italy last night with our electronics engineer, Jose Contreras, and by the time we finished dinner, about 8:30PM, I crawled into bed and was sound asleep, totally wiped out from being sick. I woke up at 12:30AM, just after midnight, and have been restless since then, waking up on the hour, every hour, that sort of thing. Part of the reason may be because these next three days are critical for me, and it's the first real time I'll be performing my new job.

Several members of the team are going to visit the factory with me and help me get up to speed as much as possible. As always, I'm a little nervous, but confident that I can learn what I need to do. I just wish I wasn't sick! I think I'll grab a really hot shower and go get some coffee to officially get the day started. You wouldn't believe all the cool stuff that's happened in the last month, but hopefully I'll be able to capture some of it and write about it soon, so that you'll be able to see for yourselves!

Huge shout out to my family, MotoLola, MotoEvan and Joanne, and especially, MotoBrad. Details forthcoming!