March, 2007

March 30, 2007

JEREZ GP07, Race 2 "Black Sunday"

Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

I'm still a little taken back by how Sunday went down in Jerez, the second race of the World Championship. It was one of the more intense weeks of my life, and I wasn't quite expecting it. I think because I'm working daily preparing for the races, I take the results a little more personally than I should, because it's so much more to me than "just a race". It's not just a weekend for me, it's every single day, every single night. Jerez was not what we wanted - it's not what I wanted - and it's taken me a few days to digest the events and the madness that can only happen in MotoGP.

It all began on Tuesday, when I flew at dawn from Barcelona to Barajas Aeropuerto in Madrid. From there, the Spanish team members would meet at the Team raceshop in Daganzo and then drive the rest of the way to Jerez de la Frontera.

The length and breadth of Spain, half by plane, half by diesel van. Well, two vans - smoking and non-smoking! The semi-trucks had left the previous day, and the Italians were flying in directly to Sevilla, about 70km from the circuit, so the rest of us high-tailed it through the countryside, the anticipation building as the kilometres dropped away and we got ever closer to the southern tip of Spain. The true start of the season was here, and in no way can a race like Qatar ever hope to compare with the atmosphere that is Jerez. I was absolutely starving when we pulled into a small village for lunch.

In an effort to sleep for part of the drive, I had a beer. I should have remembered that the closer we got to Jerez, between Cordoba and Sevilla, it gets a little mountainous. I was reminded of the six hour endurance race I worked last year with Kenny Noyes, in Albacete, by the restaurant's knives. Albacete is known throughout Spain for their knives.

Our drivers attacked the roadways, bombing through sweepers and jostling us around so much that sleep was impossible. These are near perfect motorcycling roads, with high quality asphalt, and I saw a number of sportbikes railing through the hillsides with complete disregard for the posted speed limits. Welcome to Spain.

We rolled into the Jerez late in the day, sunlight beginning to weaken and fade. I was ready to fall asleep as soon as we checked in to the Hotel de las Cuevas, but because we were assembling our complete pit-box for this race, with special guest viewing area, the team members already in Jerez had started earlier in the afternoon. We took off to the circuit to join them and lend a hand.

Much of Jerez looks like an industrial area. It's fairly plain and straightforward to find your way around, but by the weekend some 140,000+ rabid Spaniards would descend on the place and really complicate things. . . .

Tuesday night saw us dining at Venta Esteban's, the restaurant close to the track that hosts a number of GP teams every night. I had some words with Kenny Roberts SR, about their new Vegas Sponsors, and was surprised to find out that he'd never dated a Spanish girl during his riding career in Europe, mostly French and English girls. "I hated Spain". Oddly enough, while many people in the paddock thought F1MAX-X was an X-rated company, Team KR actually HAS been approached by the Porn Industry but they opted not to run those graphics. . . . I also caught Valentino snuggling up with his girlfriend one night after Monday's practice. Esteban's does great meat and fish.

By Wednesday, we were in full-on race mode, the bikes undergoing their engine changes and pre-race preparations. The box was complete, we were putting the finishing touches on the two Team trailers outside (New Graphics!!), and there was a genuine feeling in the air that this was the real beginning of the Championship run. I think because Jerez brings so many fans and sponsors, there's a lot more pressure to perform, for everyone involved. Then the weekend comes and all hell breaks loose. It passes in a blur. Literally.

It is a sheer carnival of motorcycling lunacy that is impossible to contain. The surrounding cities near the circuit become wild sideshows at night, helmetless drunks swerving through stop-and-go traffic until they get enough space to lift a wheel, and street legal quads roaring around distributing drinks and transporting any girl silly enough to climb on the back. Boys in vans loaded with speakers blast Euro-rave music and sell illicit "party-favors", while huge, simply huge crowds of people line the streets watching the whole sordid mess. The police do nothing - they can do nothing - just mop up the remains. I saw quite a few wrecks on the roadways, a CBR without a front end on an off-ramp, etc, and I'm amazed there's not more carnage taking place. I tried to keep clear of the mess but I got out for one night with little Nachete, who was there from Reus, and one of his friends, Samuel, a local from the area who was both my tour-guide and "food-suggester". Most of my photos didn't come out from this trip (still on the fence about a new camera), but Nachete will probably email me a few and I'll add them later. What's important is that the energy and ferver of the people will be with me forever. They. Are. That. Crazy. The night I went out I wasn't able to drive back to the hotel. Despite being armed with a valid Parking Pass for the racetrack, and my own MotoGP Permanent Pass, the Police wouldn't let any vehicles off the freeway near the circuit and that meant a long and convoluted drive through bumper to bumper traffic, taking the "back-way" towards the hotel and the circuit. Mind you, it was late at night and I had to work the next day, so it was pretty annoying not being able to get back to the hotel. We ended up talking to Police at several different checkpoints before one of them let us through and that meant a much shorter walk, haha. The action never stopped around the circuit, and indeed, there was a real Carnival assembled just outside the Circuit entrance, rides and all. People drove, rode, and walked in for miles, and I can't figure out when they slept. The major difference between this and other Spanish races was that IRTA was actively controlling the Paddock access by scanning the barcodes on all passes, effectively keeping everyone out who didn't belong. It meant the paddock was much quieter and we were all able to go about our business that much better.

Samuel, a former national 250cc racer who remembers racing against my boss, Luis D'antin, now works as an engineer and is responsible for helping design and build the restaurant/spaceship you see above the main straight at Jerez.

On Thursday, we got our new uniforms, and while they will undergo some small changes before Turkey, this is pretty much how we'll look for the remainder of the season. At least on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Other days, we'll still be the Squadra delle Pecore Nere. Maybe I'll have to rename the group. The days were full of set-up changes to the bikes, looking to grab a fraction of a second here or there, and in the evenings we had dinner at the racetrack in our two-story hospitality unit. I was sleeping in the same room as one of the new Hosp. kids, and because there were four of us sharing a room (common for a huge race in a small place), morning showertime was a little trickier than normal. Sleeping was also difficult for some, and not just because of the all-night festivities that occur around the track! It didn't help that the new kid brought a full contingent of face-creams, body lotions, and a hair-dryer. Hair-dryer?!? 35 minutes in the bathroom? C'mon, buddy, this is MotoGP - get with the program. We got things to do, hahaha!

Probably the biggest factor this weekend were the temperature differences between the morning and afternoon sessions, which provided us with more questions than anything else. Sure, we were ready for anything, so I thought, but tire choice proved to be critical in this race. Anyone who saw Checa or Stoner moving up and down the timecharts in the race could see that. But the fans - the fans really added a different element to the racer's mentalities. When you come right down to it, there are three things that come into play when racing a motorcycle. The bike, the tires, and the rider. When a rider is feeling good, then things really start to happen.

Barros and his crew looked sharp for the race, but a relatively weak start hampered his charge to the front. An error repassing Vermulen on the last lap opened the door for both Chris V. and Nakano to slip past and dropped us to 11th across the line. We tried some new things on Monday's test, got some valuable wet weather data, and we'll be back better equipped to perform in Turkey.

Sergio demonstrates how Captain Morgan does it. Sergio is on a mission this year, and I'm right there with him.

The red dye in the pants irritated my thighs, and I hope a thorough washing will take care of it. Just felt strange not wearing black. Speaking of Black, this weekend marked my first Black Flag, and it had to happen in international competition. I've been sick about it ever since, because I know that's not what we're about and I'm angry at the circumstances that led up to it. A bunch of factors came into play this weekend, and The Hoff got the worst of it. A technical issue at the start led to a problem with the chain, and when Alex came into the box to get the bike repaired there was some confusion and he ended up riding out on his second bike. The rules stipulate you can only change bikes if you're changing tire types, i.e., slicks to rains or intermediates, and immediately the Black Flag went up. I suppose it doesn't really matter, because once you pull into the pits, you're pretty much out of the race anyway, but I hope nothing like this ever happens to us again. If anything, it's brought some things to our attention that we've since addressed. Complete and open communication is paramount, and this goes from the top on down. Our partnership with the factory, the mechanics and riders, everyone needs to be in the loop and on the same page. We cannot afford to have anything like this happen, especially at this level of the game, and more than anything else about this race, I'll remember that Black Flag. I'm upset about it even now, but the wheel keeps on turning and I must move forward. Work continues as we gear up for Turkey, and the real weight of the new tire regulations will come into force because no one has tested there. Or in China. Should be fun, and I'm hoping that we'll be able to surprise some people because Barros is quite good at defining the feeling of the bike and that should pay off in a big way when it's time to set-up for those tracks.

After the race, we prepped the bikes a little for Monday's test and had a quiet dinner at the Hotel. Monday's test was cold and rainy, but we forged ahead and got some serious work done. We broke down the garage late in the evening, locked down the boxes before they took off for Turkia, and ate at Esteban's once again. Thomas is taking the new Agip racing fuel seriously. Very seriously.

Adios La Cueva! Tuesday saw an early drive back to Madrid, and a delayed flight out of Barajas meant I got home to Barcelona just in time to say hello to Wednesday morning.

Dark skies over Spain matched my mood as we pushed through a long and exhaustive week on the way to Madrid.

Still, things are looking up for us, which is more than I can say for 2006 World Champion, Nicky Hayden . At the Jerez race, Nicky was still trying to get a handle on the new Honda RC212V, while his younger team mate, Dani Pedrosa, was able to use an exclusive chassis available only to him during the weekend. I grabbed this photo from Spain's weekly motorcycle magazine, Solo Moto. Amazingly enough, these photos were on newstands by early Tuesday morning. You can clearly see the upper shock mounting directly to the swingarm in the updated chassis, as opposed to the rear frame cross member in the top photo (standard chassis).

Anyway, long story short, I'm a little frustrated and disappointed, and I'm going to use these three weeks to recharge, refocus, and do my best to make sure that the Team is ready to fight come Istanbul. Maybe I'll read a cool comic . . . .
Prices have dropped for Cuarenta y Seis, and now it's only 10 Euros at the stores here in Spain. It's in Spanish, too, which means I'll have fun translating it. Now to get ahold of an Italian version!

More stuff coming in the next week, as I re-energize and can commit more time to writing.

March 19, 2007

Oh Boy! The week before Jerez.

Time for a gentle break this evening as I prepare to travel to Madrid and then drive to Jerez. Think I'll be listening to The Jerez Race Song, to get myself in a good frame of mind before the madness ensues. There's something so nice about the chords in this song, and the Koto really moves me. Reminds me of an old song by Hiroshima - One Wish. I've had music on my mind for the last few months, and I'm thinking about picking up a guitar as soon as I'm able to. I sold off or gave away all of my old guitars before I left the states, and I really miss being able to pick one up and zone out for a bit, just writing something or jamming away with a good progression - it's so easy to loose track of time and touch that magic when you can get into that state of mind. Part of the problem is that I've been listening to more guitar-based rock recently, and after listening for a bit, that old itch has got me. I know I can play the same stuff, I want to strum and start wrting my own music again. The more pressure I get from work, the more I'm looking into ways to unwind and disconnect, in healthy ways. So, how did I spend my week?

I came back fighting off the rest of my cold, so I spent most of Sunday and part of Monday sleeping and recuperating. It's amazing how the body can just shut-down and do what it needs to do, and it helps that the room I'm staying in doesn't have access to natural light. That means it could be 4AM, or High Noon, and I wouldn't know the difference. When I sleep - I really sleep! But, when I'm awake on a nice day in Barcelona, I like to hop on the bike and go for a nice ride. About ten minutes after I took this shot at the Arc de Triomf, it started pouring cold, hard rain. The winds picked up significantly, enough to slow me and the bike from 20MPH to a dead stop. No matter, I kept going.

Riding through Barcelona is the best way to see and smell everything, and there's always something new to stop and look at. I appreciate the excercise, and the chance to see cool bikes like this beautiful Yamaha RD in Factory colors.

The styles of riding are so different here, and sometimes little things get lost in the translation. I always gear up with Snob before I go on a big ride!

You see a lot of cool bicycles, too, like this ancient free-style bike. Note the rear disc brake and etched rear rim. Strange and beautiful - but you wouldn't catch me riding something like this!

I'd much rather be riding something like this . . . . . . And maybe one day I will be!

Generally, the week was spent answering emails, sending emails, and re-structuring my files to better control the situation with the team and our supplies. Most days I tried to start off with a small ride (no sense pushing it and not recovering fully before Jerez), just to get my blood pumping. I went to a nice birthday dinner on Saturday with my roomate, and tonight will be a long one because I have to leave for the airport at 5AM. I spent some time at the bike shop checking out the green machine, because it's time to change things up a little bit for '07, and managed to get some good pizza at my favorite place. The time away from the racetrack was refreshing, reinvigorating, and now I'm ready to get it started in Jerez and see if we can't put our boys in a better position than they were in Qatar! The team mechanics continued working in Qatar after the GP, on a special project for the boss, and this weekend they were working again in Jerez finalizing all the gear in the semi-trucks before they took off today for Jerez. I can't wait, I can't wait to get to the next race. With more than 200,000 people expected to show up, it's going to be a total Riot. Let's get it on!

March 17, 2007

2007 Liamaniac Shirts Ahoy!

A lot of good people came together to help me put together the MotoLiam Shirt Project for 2007, so I'd like to send out a huge "Thank You" to Ian, Evan, Lola, Paul, and Nancy. After the limited run of MotoLiam "Wrench" shirts that I sold at the 2006 USGP, I wanted to be able to release something that would have both a broader appeal to the non-motorcycling segment, and also provide a unique link for those of you who have followed the story and appreciate the power of dreams. I'm proud to announce that the 2007 Shirts are here, and as you may have noticed in some of the photos I've posted since Christmas, I've been wearing them around the world since then! I really wanted to verify the quality of the prints and the materials before I said anything, and I can happily report that these babies are sure to provide years of comfort and style. The heavy duty cotton shirts which feature the "Evel" logo seen at the top of the website are strong and durable, the ringer tee's are slightly thinner and are more "form-fitting' (read: slightly smaller), and the sweatshirts and trackjackets are what you'd expect from a premium provider like Hanes (I have always worn Hanes, just like MJ). Due to my hectic travel schedule, I'm not able to store a large amount of shirts in any one place and ship them out whenever people order them, so I hooked up with an online retailer that handles all of the details. In this way, I'm able to create the designs with the help of Ian, Evan, Paul, or Nancy, and then choose how and where they'll be applied. You click to order, and blammo, whatever you want is headed your way. I'm hoping to use the proceeds from the shirt sales to continue to run the website this year, possibly get a new pocket-sized camera, and maybe, just maybe, pick up that lime green BMX I've been eyeing for the last few months. . . .

If you feel like showing your love and support for Liam's Wild Ride, pick up your "MotoLiam", "All Things Moto", or "Squadra Delle Pecore Nere" shirt today! Please take the time to photograph yourself, or your significant others, wearing the gear and send me the pictures. I think it would be a really cool idea to make a special Liamaniac page showing all of you from different parts of the world, all united by this love for motorcycling and the spirit to chase what moves you.

Knowing that my audience spans the globe, I have two online retailers that will be handling all the orders - one based in the United States, and a second one based in Europe. In this way, I hope to insure that everything is created and shipped out with the minimum possible delay so that everyone can be styling pronto.

Many thanks to Carlita, my roomate, for posing for this blatant advertising picture :)
If you click on the photo, you'll be taken to the US MotoLiam Store.

For those of you in Europe and the rest of the world, Click Here to visit MotoLiam's European Store.

Both Stores offer slightly different items, and if you see something you have questions about, or just want to offer some advice/suggestions, feel free to email me and I'll see what we can do.

Mark Elder, of the Marlboro Ducati Team, was kind enough to model this shirt. Who will we be seeing in MotoLiam Gear in the future?!?

March 13, 2007

QATAR GP07, Race 1 "Duel in the Desert"

Welcome back to the MotoGP World Championship . . . . . 2007 is HERE!

I had been looking forward to this race for months - and it couldn't have come soon enough. It was with mixed emotions that I journeyed back to Qatar for the race on March 10th, about a month since I'd been there last for the preseason test, about a year since I first got a break and starting working in Qatar on the Losail National Cup. Only now, this was THE World Championship, and this was to be my first race as Parts Manager. Would I be ready? Did I line everything up? Nervous, excited, stressed, worried, all these emotions took a back seat once it was "go-time" on Thursday morning. We had things to do, obstacles to overcome, and a battle to wage.

"This is a real war, these 16 races" - Bob Maclean (WCM Red Bull Yamaha 500cc, 2002) - only moreso this year.

18 races, 15 countries, 11 months, 4 continents, 1 goal, 1 Championship, 1 All-Encompassing love of speed on two wheels. We're maniacs. For us, this is the real racing, these are the best riders of their generation, and we're all witness to magic happening. Pure Magic.

The Duel in the Desert was worth the wait. Worth its weight in gold.

The team flew in from Madrid and Milan, flying overnight and arriving early Tuesday morning. We dropped our gear at the Movenpick Hotel, found out our rooms weren't ready, changed in the gymnasium bathrooms, and hightailed it to the circuit to begin assembling our garage/pit-box, and prepare our bikes for the weekend of racing. The entire pit-box is new this year, new graphics, new lay-out, and some really cool viewing features that are sure to impress the VIP's and sponsors who will visit with the team at the racetrack this year. As such, it took a little longer to set up than last year's arrangement, but overall, it's quite nice on the eyes and it only makes the team that much more effective and efficient. I'll post photos of the complete deal soon enough, as we're still waiting for our custom toolboxes and kits from Beta Tools. The team didn't really get a good night's rest coming in, due to the 60 crazy Track Marshalls on our flight from Portugal, so rather than burning ourselves out on day one, we finished up in the early evening and rolled back to the hotel for a well-deserved night's rest.

I TOTALLY needed it. I had been fighting a cold since Saturday, March 3rd. I over-excercised (is that even possible?) the previous week, putting my anxious energy to the pedals and working on some good hills here in Barcelona. I blitzed the beach area, powered through the Gracia area, and looped the length of the Diagonal, so by the weekend I think I was cutting it a bit close and the lack of sleep on the flight plus the flight's dry-air conditions put me over the edge and into the land of . . . . .THE DREADED COLD. Tuesday at the track I was sneezing up a storm, nose runnier than I can remember, eyes as red as strawberries. In this world, everyday is like a job interview, and I knew I looked pretty rough. Was I cracking before the racing had even started? I was miserable, and it was not the way I wanted to start the season off. Whatever. I crashed out as soon as I got back to the hotel, woke up three hours later, had a room service cheeseburger (double patty, lots of pepper on it), then went back to sleep. I wasn't quite refreshed the next day, but my batteries were sufficiently recharged and I was good to go. Brain was clear, which was the important thing. I've been known to survive a GP weekend on extremely small amounts of sleep, but I was in conservation mode this time, sleeping in the car to and from the racetrack everyday. It paid off, because I was fresh all day long. I didn't even have to see Dr. Costa (my last resort - don't like drugs - prefer passion), because I managed to beat the cold into submission within 24 hours. Like Costa says, " It is incredible what a xxxxx filled with irrational desire can achieve."

By Wednesday, we were putting the finishing touches on our racebikes.

The goofy Qatari Pitlane "stormtrooper" marshalls were back, and this time some of them actually wore their faceshields down throughout the day. I caught up with Andy, a British ex-pat, racer, and one of the "local" Qatari-based marshalls, and he offered me a case of beer which was really cool. I knew I wouldn't have time to drink it, or a place to stash it, so I had to pass, but it was a really cool offer, nonetheless. In Qatar, you need a permit/license to buy alcohol (outside of one of the 9 bars/clubs in Doha), so I'll be remembering that in the future. Thanks, Andy!

Our bikes fired up on Wednesday afternoon, and we were all-systems-go for a great weekend of racing. The Muslim work week runs from Sunday through Thursday, which is why the race is held on a Saturday there. Both our riders had a good base set-up from the Qatar test, but conditions are always changing and we're always tweaking things looking for every little advantage. Come Saturday, we wanted to throw down in the worst way. It almost worked out, but I'm mostly satisfied because I know what we're capable of and I'm confident for future races. Two guesses what David and Alejandro are talking about. . . .

This race was the first under all the new rules. Tires were selected on Wednesday, and every team had a track marshall on hand at all times to monitor the usage of the tires. They read barcodes on each tire, scanning them into little computers, and reporting back to race control. Our particular guy wasn't really suited for the job. For one, he couldn't even see the barcodes with his glasses on, and two, he couldn't speak English very well (or Spanish, or Italian). Throw in his deluded sense of self-importance, and he tossed a little bit of a monkey-wrench into what was otherwise a smoothly flowing weekend for us. Finally, we had to ask him to stay out of the way, otherwise we might have an accident on him. I'm sure things will be much smoother at other racetracks, but then again, who knows?

Ex-racer time! Name this former 250 GP rider, who's currently our Bridgestone tire technician.

Race day came too soon. I woke up early, as soon as the wake-up call sounded, and immediately checked outside to see the weather. It was gloomy, dark, impossible to read. I hadn't expected Doha to get so foggy, and like at the IRTA test in Jerez, it was thick and impermeable. Those of us trying to see into the future were stopped dead in our tracks. That's the parking lot downstairs where the kids (and adults) play cricket day and night. One night I saw them playing at 11:30PM.

I don't think anyone knew what to expect, and it was almost as if someone wanted to add a special touch to the raceday proceedings. Would the 800's make race distance on the lowered fuel limit? Would the laptimes be crushed over the duration of a race? Who would win? So many "What-if's", and the soup only added to the feelings suspense and tension. The fog was low to the ground, and I wondered if it would affect the grip of the track. You can see the track tower in the background, barely.

Morning warm-up was good, everyone seemed to be doing alright with the exception of some small bike gremlins, and by racetime (an hour later than normal) everyone was itching to get it on. My guys were pumped, the race set-up was clear, and we were looking towards making up some serious ground in the race because we didn't qualify the best. We were down in 15th and 17th, but I knew from looking at the race simulations that we would be ok. All we needed were a couple of solid starts, but that's when things went a little nuts. Maybe it's because it was the first race of the year, the first race of the 800's, the combination of a "too-long" preseason, who knows, but everyone jammed in to the first corner and thank goodness no one went down. Alex Hofmann rocketed away to a great start, moving into 10th position by the first corner, only to be struck in the right thigh by Chris Vermeulen, knocking him off line and almost off track. Don't know how he kept it up, but he rejoined the pack in 18th. I sure wish I'd gotten a photo of the tire smear down his leathers after the race, but everyone was busy hustling. Meanwhile, Alex Barros took off from the far right of the grid, suffering from wheelspin that Colin Edwards stated was from a dirty track. He was down in 19th place. He picked up a spot and in doing so, put Hofmann in 19th. We can see on our monitors where all the riders are, because the laptimes are shown in all four sections of the track. We see the progress and the passes in the numbers, because it's not always shown on the telecast stuff. I gulped when I saw both our riders in 18th and 19th at the end of lap one. I knew they were going to have to grit this race out, because nothing was going to come easy at that point. Both riders started picking people off, and bit by bit they climbed the positions one by one. A couple people fell (like Checa, who had been passed by Barros), and that gifted us a couple spots. Barros made it up to 8th at one point, a testament to his awesome race pace. I wonder how far up the grid he would have been if his start had been better. The Hoff was involved in some killer action as well. In the end, we finished 9th and 11th, and I'd say that coming from the very back of the line-up into the top ten was a good result for what could have been a horrible day for both riders. I was really proud of how well the team worked up until the race, and let's face it, 9th place is the highest I've ever finished in a MotoGP race, so I was stoked. Naturally, I'm ready for more, and so are the riders.

After the race, won by an outstanding Casey Stoner on the #27 Marlboro Ducati, we congratulated the boys from Big Red on their Big Speed. Everyone was happy that the first race was done and everything was good. Because we weren't testing the following Sunday, the mad-dash to pack up the flight boxes ensued, and after a good 30 minute break watching the race, we really kicked out the jams to get it done. I took care of my duties, then ran upstairs to the Media center to write our English Press Release, then ran back downstairs to clean up the final bits and pieces before my flight boxes took off to Jerez. All in all? Mixed bag. But there's 17 more races to go and we're ready. Every little bit adds to the momentum, fuels the drive. Let's GO!

As you can see, there were a lot more people at this race than in previous years. "All the way from Florence to the Desert! Go, Loris, Full Gas!" Members of Rossi's Tifosi were also present.

We closed up shop and headed back to the hotel to shower up and eat before our 1AM flight out of Qatar. Two days of overnight travel. One tremendous race, that proved that Ducati is here to fight. They won the last race of the 990 era. They won the first race of the 800's. One small team of engineers who pour their souls into the machines they race. Anyone who doubts the significance of this achievement doesn't understand the magnitude of going up against the Big Four in a virtually no-holds-barred contest of speed and design. My sincere congratulations to Ducati Corse and Casey Stoner. Now get out of the way so my boys can get a cracK!

I also met with some great Barfers from Sacramento, Carl and Lisa, who travelled all the way from California to watch a GP like it was meant to me - On Foreign Soil. Huge props to them for making the effort and enjoying a little of the nightlife of Doha with me. Hope you guys had a great time!

My night came to an end at A&W upstairs in the airport. See you next year, Qatar!

Another nice touch? Getting a photograph I took of the Doctor in Qatar last year signed for posterity.

March 06, 2007

Team Fiat Yamaha

Looks Official to Me! And what a really nice touch to put the track name and layout on the side of the Canopy. Very Classy.

I'm down with a serious cold right now that really blew up on the flight over here last night. My nose is doing the "Rudolph" impression, I'm sneezing and blowing constantly, and my throat is sore and skipping every third syllable I utter. This might be the one time I'm a little happy I'm not completely in the garage all day and night - because I'd hate to pass anything to my crew. I really thought I'd beaten this back in BCN on Saturday, what with all the sleep and health food I got, but the longer flight coupled with the 58 Portugese Track Marshals who were also on the flight (and who seemed to be all sitting right behind me drinking up a storm!) conspired to keep me from showing up Tuesday morning at my best. I survived the day, and tomorrow I hope the Clinica Mobile can patch me up with some effervescent goodness.

March 05, 2007

What's a Black Sheep to do? GO RACING!

GP07 Qatar

We're flying out Monday afternoon/evening, and will travel overnight to Qatar. Once we arrive on Tuesday morning, we'll check our luggage in to the hotel and then proceed directly to the racetrack. I think I'll be too excited to sleep on the plane.

March 04, 2007

IRTA Test, Jerez

No real time to Update about the IRTA Test last week in Jerez, too many things happening and in a few hours I'm leaving for Qatar. Here are a couple images from the test, now it's time to get ready to Race!

I meant to post this up when I noticed my website was on the fritz.

"I managed to get ahold of my missing bag by Saturday night, and as Sunday rolled around I tried to concentrate on completely disconnecting from the Motorcycle world by taking a nice little spin on my Haro and consciously avoiding the heavy workload that I knew would ensue as soon I as took off for Jerez de la Frontera. It didn't really work, as I spent much of my afternoon replying to various emails and getting my paperwork in order for the IRTA test, which for me would begin at dawn on Monday.

I flew out of BCN to Madrid, and then spent an hour at the team raceshop in Daganzo, Madrid, before loading up in a van with a couple teamates so that we could make the seven hour drive to Jerez. We stopped at a great roadside cafe/diner, Spanish-style, and then made it to the hotel by 9PM. For me, it was a little frustrating, because I wasn't able to get anything done while being jostled around in the back of the van, and aside from the rain, the only interesting thing to happen was a roadblock by the national police, which naturally led to us being pulled over and my bags being searched. Apparently, they're on the lookout for terrorists, and little ole' me was the only team member who fit the description, hahaha. We started working at the track on Tuesday, a full day earlier than most of the MotoGP teams, so that we could assemble our new pit box and get a headstart on prepping the bikes for the test. It has been a mile-a-minute since then, but on the plus side, I've got my own trailer to myself, and when it's quiet I can really go to town and get some work done. Except, there hasn't been a moment of peace since we parked the Semi's, and so my multi-tasking will have to improve even more. There's so much to learn, and so many ways I feel I can make my mark, that I'm pretty excited about everything and I've definitely got my goals in sight for this season. Another thing, and I've noticed it's affecting everyone, is that being around the Big Show has got us really psyched for the upcoming season, and it's really good to be surrounded by all the trucks and listening to the wail of the two-strokes as they make their test right now. The weather was pretty bad for riding on Tuesday, but today was much better, and I anticipate good temperatures this weekend. We've got a car on the line, and I'm sure The Hoff could use it. I just want what I always want - to perform to my full capabilities and continue growing.

We wrapped up our first two nights here at a nice restaurant called Esteban's, and it was always full of the paddock people. Spotted KRSR and Chuck, Rossi, a bunch of 125/250 teams, and a host of GP squads, and since it's been a while since we've all seen each other outside of the track (since November for most of us), we enjoyed teasing one another and catching up. Tonight we finished up at 11:30, but it's all worth it to know that you're giving it your all, and your team is right there with you.

At least I can say that I've got all my luggage this time around and the future is happening right now. I'm ready - because this is going to be another year where history is made, and my hands are in on it."

For the first time in five years, there's a new rider gracing the permanent pass, 2006 MotoGP World Champion, Nicky Hayden!

Red ones are for the boys in the garage, Blue ones are for team workers who are allowed in the paddock, but can't visit pitlane (like engine builders), Green ones are for hospitality workers (paddock only), and Orange ones are for Media people (paddock and pitlane I think, not completely sure). There are a couple smaller tags that get spread out on the lanyard for starting grid priviledges, and then there's the coveted "ALL" which means you can go anywhere and do anything. Select riders, team owners, past champions, those kinds of people get the ALL-pass.

It really WAS super foggy on Saturday and Sunday morning. This was about 9AM and it just blanketed the entire area with thick, dense, soup. It took hours for this stuff to burn off on Saturday, so pretty much no one rode until after 1PM.

This spaceship overlooks the end of the mainstraight. You can't really tell how cool it is from the videogames, but it's pretty cool. There's another big watchtower with a sign advertising, Don Pepe, which is pretty neat, too, and it's the restaurant located at the Hotel de las Cuevas, about five minutes from the track. Cuevas means Bunker, and true to the name, my room was below ground, with no windows. Just a 12" square grated airhole to the hallway between the rooms.

Forgot to mention how different everyone's engine braking and traction control sounded going through turn 1. Ilmor definitely was the loudest. Those car guys have a really neat bike, but they're still learning the dynamics of how to get a motorcycle around the track. There's a lot more pitch and yaw than in a car, hahaha. Still, I'd like to see everyone competitive this year, so here's hoping they get it sorted. On another side, I can totally see Ilien working the 200cc piston development angle in the event that F1 goes to a 2 litre V10 format in the future. . . . .

We took some fancy pictures.

Every night we stayed up late and played cards, or at least, whenever I'd get back to the hotel, Alex was up playing cards, hahaha. Tobey is cool as heck, had a lot of killer advice and stories for me, and yes, that is a GMT Master II he's wearing.

"Look! There's MotoLiam's corrupted database website, where he can't upload or post anything cool!"

Seconds later, I joined my flock.

And this is how I felt about the IRTA Test.

March 02, 2007

Back Online!

Ritorni ad Azione!

I wasn't able to post the last two weeks because I ended up with a corrupted database on my server (don't ask me how, or why, I have no idea), and I wouldn't be posting here now if not for the efforts of my good friend, Evan Donn, of Digital Independence. Huge thanks goes out to him for deciphering the problems and getting Media Temple, the hosting company, to fix all the issues.

Evan has a great set-up in the Presidio, rides a Yamaha, and looks damn good in a trucker hat! Thanks, Evan, you're my Web-Guru!!

I'll be posting soon about the IRTA test in Jerez, and then it'll be time to get even more amp'd up for the first race of the season coming up this next Saturday, the tenth of March, in Doha, Qatar. Is that even possible?!?!? Let's get reeeeeaaaaady to ruuuuuuuuuummmmmbbbbbllllllllllllle!!