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.


Now it starts. Rock on, brother.


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