What It's Like . . . . Part 1
Been meaning to write this for some time now, but something always got in the way. Like John Lennon said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans", and he was right! My best friend Brad recently sparked some reflection by asking me some questions, and here's a partial answer. Sooooo, What's it Like - What is my life like?
I'm know I'm not as qualified as most in the Paddock to be writing this (having been here for just about a year), but for me, to truly capture the essence of what's it like to work in MotoGP, you have to understand some background of the people involved, what drives us, and then we can start getting in to the "life" - the often tumultuous and incredible series of journies that carries us across continents to distant lands the world over. And while every little journey is incredible, the Life Journey is that much moreso.
I can't speak for everyone (naturally), but from what I've gathered talking to so many different people working on teams, in the media, and the riders themselves, one thing is perfectly clear. We are here because we love the allure and the promise of Big Speed, and by Big, I mean the Top-Level, Ultimate, World Class Machines, Teams, and Riders going head-to-head. This literally is the best of the best, and just being a part of it all, a "Cog in the Machine", really makes me beam with pride when I think about it. In an interview on Superbike Planet, Former SBK World Champion Neil Hodgson, already having raced in BSB, MotoGP, and AMA Superbike, says that, "by far, in my opinion, MotoGP is still head and shoulders—talent-wise and difficulty-wise—above any other championship."
For Motorcyclists and Gearheads alike, there is no holier grail than a full-on MotoGP machine, capable of flying at fantastic speeds around some of the most magnificent and grand racetracks the world has to offer. From a rider's perspective, these are the best motorcycles in the world, and to wield one in fury is the greatest test of Man and Machine. This year, the measure of that combination is 18 races. I had a long talk with Alex Barros, who returned to the MotoGP fold after a year in WSBK, and he empahtically pointed out, "I really like the MotoGP bikes more. They're the best. The Superbikes are just streetbikes - THESE are Race Bikes!"
I'm going to start putting my own spin on things as I get more detailed, because my point of view is primarily the basis for this piece. I became really interested in MotoGP in 2001 (I know, not so long ago!) when the series was confirmed to change from 500cc Two-stoke to 990cc Four-stroke machines. Sure, I'd followed all forms of motorcycle racing by reading magazines to stay current and watching on TV when I had the chance, but I really wasn't as passionate about MotoGP until they went to the big, booming 4-Strokes. I never had any experience with Two-Smokes, and the Fours? They were like magical creatures to me, Wrrrrraaaaaah WrrrrrrrrrraaaaH! I began to watch every race I could, and this fit in nicely to my work schedule because I worked at a motorcycle shop from Tuesday through Saturday and would then go on spirited Motorcycle rides to various bars throughout the San Francisco area on Sunday mornings to catch the races on Speed TV. Ricky's in San Leandro, Benders in San Francisco, Babe's in San Jose, Fred's Place in Mountain View, wherever and whenever - this is where I watched the future. I dedicated myself to learning as much about the series as possible, in particular, the machines and systems they used. The internet was a glorious treasure trove of photos, ideas, and opinions, but was just a taste of what it was really like. I was racing a little here and there, mostly minibike stuff, and watching the '02 and '03 season really captured my attention - heck, I even geared my bike differently and ran sport-touring tires just so I could manage long acceleration slides easier on the street. Something was definitely infecting me. Supermoto was undergoing a renaissance in the States, and this did Not help. I played all the MotoGP video games, memorized movies like Faster, and it would be safe to say that I was the biggest Die-Hard out of everyone I knew or rode with. 2005 rolled around, and everything went a little crazy for me.
I had been stuck in a groove for a couple years, working at a Harley-Davidson dealership and generally spending my extra time and money riding motorcycles. They dominated my lifestyle. I was never brand specific, though, because I share a great love of "All Things Moto" - if it had two wheels and a motor, I was interested! Quite common to see dismantled machines of all breeds littering my apartment (don't get me started on my garage), and I even had a little display at my shop, a 49cc (3 Cubic Inches) Honda piston next to a piston from a 95" high-compression Harley Twin-Cam piston. I distinctly remember having my Buell transmission completely apart on my living room coffee table, while the heads and barrels where on my bookshelf - and I was scrouging for space so I could rebuild one of my other engines!
My personal life was fairly normal, always had a impressive girlfriend, and I wasn't really stressed or pressured by anything outside of bike projects. Sometimes my relationships suffered because I was too focused on my own world, but I didn't know any better at the time. I was also becoming unhappy working on streetbikes, because year after year the Harley's didn't change much. Except for their increased electronics, alarm systems, and more "Show-Not-Go"parts , I wasn't feeding my hunger enough, I wasn't feeding my obsession enough. The completely Prototype MotoGP bikes were completely the opposite, undergoing changes regularly. I went to Shanghai, China, to visit with an old riding buddy (and see the first GP China was to hold, also, my first GP) and everything got a little clearer for me. This was the first time I heard the Four-strokes in person, and they left a mark. I watched the bikes from across the mainstraight and vowed to get up close at the next race. That's pretty much it. I HEARD them.
Fast forward a couple months later to the 2005 USGP. I had met one of the sponsors from Movistar, Nacho Delgado, in China and we met up in Monterey for the American race. Thanks to him, I had virtually unlimited backstage access at the GP, and I didn't waste a moment. I watched everything I could, studied the Gresini mechanics working on Melandri's and Gibernau's machines, and something inside my head went, "CLICK". I knew immediately that this was where I had to be, this was where I needed to work, and everything else in my life was about to take a back seat because I was going to find a way to break in to MotoGP. Over that weekend, I met with virtually every team manager and coordinator, all the riders, and anyone else I thought could help me. It was the beginning of the adventure that is still going strong today.
So, I've explained a little bit about the passion I have for this sport, and while much of it centers around the amazing machines, there's a lot more to it than that - as I was to discover once I arrived in Europe. It's really in Barcelona that I got the true taste of what it's like - the lifestyle behind the lifestyle. At this point, I had sold off most of my stuff and was pretty much down to two suitcases, one large bag, and my ever-present Axio hardpack stuffed full of my laptop and electronic essentials.
Coming from Honolulu, Hawaii, and having spent time in Phoenix, AZ, Los Angeles and San Francisco (ok, ok, Sunnyvale), CA, the European way of life shocked me. Read More in Part II . . . .