Aloha and Welcome to *Liam's Wild Ride* , the Official Website of Liam Shubert. This is the mostly complete chronicle of my travels, adventures, and experiences while I was busy working in MotoGP, with stints in WSBK, WSS, and the World Endurance Championship! Please enjoy the Places, Races, and especially, the Races!
I'm currently living and working in beautiful San Francisco, California. How can I help make your auto/moto dreams into a reality? Email me to discuss your special project today.
Laguna Seca 2007 USGP - one month away in racing time . . . and with it, the SQUADRA DELLE PECORE NERE and MOTOLIAM are coming back to rock the house the only way I know how - with STYLE!
Long nights put in by the Ian, the resident MotoLiam graphics guru, and the end result is such an amazing design, I simply can't believe it! Last year, I produced the limited "Moto-Wrench" shirt, which was an incredible hit with everyone. This year, we've cranked it up a notch, because I'm never satisfied and I always want to push the envelope and take it to the next level. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the overall quality of last year's Limited model, so we set out to step it up. Shirts by American Apparel, supple and luxurious, two-stage printing process with an enzyme bleach and ultra trick printing technique, and a knock out graphic that is sure to impress the most diehard motorcycle afficionados, seriously, this is pure Dyno-Mite! What we'll get is a vintage looking, distressed print that is packed full of fine detailwork, and it is going to last - wash after wash - Ride after Ride! I really want to emphasize that the quality of this shirt is going to be amazing, so if you're thinking about a special something that not everyone is going to have a chance to buy, this is definitely it. From my heart, from the heart of MotoGP, this shirt is coming to Laguna Seca, and I can't wait!
So - How do you get yours? Because the timeframe is right here, right now, I'm only producing enough for my Team and a few extras that will be determined by whoever pre-orders through Paypal. This is your chance to grab what I think is some of the hottest MotoGP and MotoLiam memorabilia ever made - and after this race, we're not making it again. One shot, one chance, to show your love, show your support, and express your passion. Those are words I live by, and this shirt captures so much of the attitude I bring, it's just perfect, simply perfect.
If you frequent the website and enjoy the reports I make, here's a neat way to contribute and get more involved with something that you like.
Pre-order yours today - and they'll be ready for pick-up at Laguna Seca. $45 USD includes the shirt and the latest-gen MotoLiam stickers. Out of state? Add $5 USD for shipping! Friday night pick-up at the MotoLiam meet-n-greet in Monterey? Saturday night festival at the racetrack? I'll be there! The price may be steep, but it's worth it because we put a lot into this and it shows in the finished product. Not to mention, you're helping to support me - to support the Squadra! Click here to get to Paypal and the email address to send money to is MOTOLIAM@GMAIL.COM OH! Forgot to mention I'm taking pre-orders until JULY 3RD - after that, things are done, haha. I've got a whole mess of other things to keep me occupied, the shirts are just something I wanted to put together for my Team mates at my home-race, and why not spin up a couple more if people are interested?
MotoLiam LAGUNA SECA USGP 2007 "LIMITED" shirts - $45 USD. $50 Shipped in the USA! The email address to transfer funds to is MotoLiam@Gmail.com
Last hours before the Adventure Kicks in - AGAIN! Yee-Haw!
I got my travel plans this morning - shipping out tomorrow, Tuesday, on a flight to Amsterdam and then to Birmingham a few hours later. That means I'll be on the road from roughly 10AM through 8PM, getting to the hotel, which I believe is in Nottingham. Seems like an awful lot of work to get over to England, but it will give me a chance to sit alone with my thoughts on the flights, people watch in Holland's Schiphol airport (one of my favorites), and reconnect with my Team mates, away from the rigors of working at the racetrack. However long it takes, I'll should be in England by nightfall (fingers crossed), and I can't wait to hear the bikes fire up on Thursday afternoon!
I'm extremely happy to have the latest generation of MotoLiam decals, which we delivered by hand at the Mugello GP two weeks ago. Thinking about Mugello now, I wish we'd had more time to let everything really soak in, but the next race was only a few days away and all focus was aimed forward, towards Catalunya, just as all focus is now aimed at ---> Donington Park. Anyway, Mugello was great - always will be - and I'm just proud we played a part in that race and scored big. You can catch a couple of neat interviews with me over on MotoGPod.com , the internet radio podcast about MotoGP. It was good catching up with Bob, although I sounded pretty tired. Direct Show Link Here.
One of my old friends from Los Angeles, Nancy C, was bouncing through Europe on a mini-tour, having checked out Amsterdam, parts of Italy, and more throughout Europe. An avid 125cc and 600cc track rider (and amateur racer), she made sure to schedule the Mugello round into her travels! Not to mention, she also managed to create and bring me these awesome stickers so that I could clearly mark my gear, my bikes, and more. How Cool is That?!? Many big thanks to Nancy, and I hope she and her room mate, Peter (who was also along for the journey), had a fantastic time. They did it the right way in Italy, sleeping/camping in their rentacar at the racetrack, and just getting wiped out by the immense crowds at the racetrack day after day, rain or shine. Nancy also managed to get an autographed Dani Pedrosa poster, in the background, as she is a big fan and admirer. If you're in California, and need custom graphics and/or decals for an event, raceteam, or whatever, you can shoot Nancy an email at email@example.com or Check Out Nancy's Website Here , which is still a little "under-construction".
I've seen her workshop, respect her work ethic and artistic abilities, and really can't recommend her enough - Thanks, Nancy!
Today was spent firing off email after email with the Ducati Factory, as we try to line everything up to be as competitive and ready as possible for the next four races. A little while in the afternoon I managed to check some of our invoices and budgetary concerns, and with all my paperwork squared away for the next day or so (can't really do anything more at this point, just wait for pieces to arrive at the racetrack this week, and next), I decided to put this up. The weird thing with my job is that if I do it perfectly, no one ever realizes it because everything goes smoothly, no hitches, and I can look like I'm twiddling my thumbs a little bit at the track. I'm usually thinking about the future, or how to solve a supply problem, and everyday at the races brings about fresh fires to put out. Instead of working fast with my hands, this year I'm working fast with my mind. Because there's so much that goes into the preparation and planning to wage a successful campaign in MotoGP, much of my time here in Barcelona is spent mulling over documents, maintenance programs, and generally trying to get a "read", a feel, for what we seem to be using more of, and what I think we'll need to make it through the season and not end up with a lot of material that might not apply to next year's machine, the Ducati GP8.
Anyway, it's time to turn off the work machine for me now, because it's dinnertime once again and I'm meeting my roomate for some health food at a small place I know near Plaza del Sol. I figure I should eat something extra healthy before arriving to England, hahaha. Speaking of the roomate, I'm gone for two weeks, she leaves for the island of Mallorca (her home) in one week, and with the schedule of racing I'm looking at this summer, I think this is the last we'll see one another until late August, early September (after Brno).
Something exceedingly cool is coming your way, everyone, and I should be able to post about it within the week. Just hope the hotel is equipped with internet in Nottingham, or it's going to be a tough week!
GP07 Donington Park-- Not much time to catch up with new music, but the races never stop, and It's Not Over Yet!
So we head to Donington Park in just a few days, and here on a Sunday night I'm beaming to you from Planet Cafe, the internet coffeeshop (and my second home) in Barcelona's Eixample district. The next two races will see us flying from the first race to the second directly out of Birmingham to Amsterdam, and just a quick reminder to everyone, in Holland, we race on SATURDAY. This effectively means that we won't have a true rest day between races, flying out on Monday (most likely) and starting to work at the Assen TT circuit on Tuesday morning in order to be ready to ride on Thursday. I can't wait, and even though I'm sure the next four races are going to be the most difficult and demanding of the season, I'm hungry to compete and lay it all on the line. Definitely the boys who are really going to be putting in the hard hours will be the #1 and #4 mechanics of Alex Hofmann, and the #2 and #3 mechanics of Alex Barros, who will be driving the Team semi-trucks from Donington Park to Assen instead of flying with us between races. Ohhhh Boy! Almost time for some English Food, hahahaha. Here's a small recap of what's been going on with me inside and outside the races lately, probably nothing new to anyone.
RassaFrassum! The internet has been down at my apartment since before the Catalunya race, which has meant that this past week has seen me conducting all of my internet actions from the cafe, which has only served to increase my frustration with the internet services here due to their lack of timely repair. Not to mention, mysterious internet connection failure tends to occur quite frequently in Spain, and the conspiracist in me thinks it's a way to limit the amount of internet traffic and bandwidth that the telecommunications companies use. Secondly, I haven't received my travel plans yet from our coordinator and ticket agency. That means I don't know if I fly out of Barcelona on Monday or Tuesday (most likely), and I don't know who or what I'll be flying on, haha. Oh well, it's always an adventure in MotoGP, and this is just one more thing that will keep it interesting.
One thing is for sure, I am really looking forward to meeting with some of the English MotoLiam Contingent! Paul was responsible for designing the second MotoLiam "Evel" logo, and here he is sporting it at his office in some rainy place, haha. Speaking of rain, Paul sent me this brief weather report, and man, I sure hope it brightens up around racetime. Right now, it's looking like typical English weather :(
Other notables should be a range of people, and the Day of Champions charity auction should bring a cool bunch of folks out. Sean De Fraine (Biggest Kevin Schwantz fan currently alive, and moderator of the Kevin Forums) should be around, as well. I've gotten some cool emails this week, one of which featured this great Triumph ad on Youtube which shows in detail how they developed and build the humongous triple, the Rocket 3.
Speaking of neat Ducs, here's a really limited version coming out in North America soon, and the Pantah font on the tank looks great . . . . as if someone thought my ressurection of the font for my '07 MotoLiam Retro logo was way cool and needed to be back on a bike again! Woot!
Coincidence? Well, stranger things have happened, haha.
This just seems so right, for the Marque to bridge the past and the future, with incredible machines like the GP7, the 1098, and the more classic Sports! This is Jo and Carey's gorgeous Washington bomber.
Ok, ok, one more :)
UPDATE: Here's a photo of Jo and Carey styling in their MotoLiam/Squadra Delle Pecore Nere Shirts. WOOT!
And speaking of super cool, I really enjoyed the tv show, Historias Sobre Ruedas, and here are some screenshots from the episode I was featured in.
Yup, these two Alpinestars carry-ons I picked up at MotoStrano accompany me to every GP race I travel to. Shameless plug? Hey! I support the people and companies who help keep us all in the races, so big thanks to Joe at MotoStrano and the good people at Alpinestars for keeping me looking good, and able to work better.
Yee-Haw!!! I love bombing through this city. There are some natural hills and grades that always keep you hustling down towards the waterfront, or working hard just to get home every night! I really get a kick out of pushing it when I'm riding home after work, because I know a shower is just a couple minutes away and it only makes me stronger.
Obligatory shot of me in action, working in my racetruck. Can't believe they edited out all the fun I was having working on the bikes when I was in the garage!
Enjoy this little teaser, everyone :) And in the meantime, start making plans to get to the races!
Catalunya, the second Spanish GP this season, came too quickly and passed in a flash. After the race in Italy just one week prior, where we scored our first podium this year, everyone was hyped up and feeling (creating?) some pressure to repeat the performance in Montmelo. For me, there were some added complications to this race that I hadn't considered, and they led to some interesting moments.
The Catalunya GP is my "home-race" here in Europe, as I'm based in Barcelona about thirty minutes from the circuit of Montmelo. I arrived in my apartment late Monday afternoon, and Tuesday was a free day for rest of the team. The boys walked through the city, checked out the beach scene in Barceloneta, and we all met for a celebratory dinner in the Port Olympico area at a beautiful outdoor restaurant with our riders, Alex Hofmann and Alex Barros. I spent Tuesday recovering from the previous week of racing, emailing with the Ducati Factory, and more importantly, doing laundry! When we have back-to-back races and there's no chance to go home, the team has the hotel do our laundry, and you'd be surprised at how much something like that costs!
And then it was time to work, and get everything going again.
Dinner was great, delicious seafood on the seaside, and truly, there are few things in life as good the smell of the ocean air and something tasty. Every course was better than the last, and it all culminated with a great dessert. The Hoff uses his "laser-vision" on his, and you'll notice Lele wearing last summer's limited Original logo shirt.
We need to get on the podium more often, so I get to eat things like THIS! Speaking of podiums, I have a running bet with the Hoff, as do several other members of the Team, and they all involve haircuts, hahaha.
"No, seriously, the scorpion was this big!" You can see some swelling I had under my right eye, because I managed to get a small infection after some firegum (exhaust sealant) got blasted into my eye when I started up one of the bikes in Italy.
I spent Tuesday night in my apartment, getting ready for the race week, and with fresh clothes, some solid rest, and my bags all packed and waiting, I was ready to rock! A few minutes before my team mate (and normal sleeping/hotel partner) Felix, was due to pick my up on Wednesday morning, he gave me a call and asked me how many bags I was bringing to the track. I replied, my normal two Alpinestars carry-ons, plus my backpack and computer bag. He responded by saying he was swinging by on a scooter to collect me, which meant a fevered repacking of my normal kit so that I could travel with just one suitcase instead of two. We piled everything on the scooter, then had a break-neck ride through the city streets on the way to the carpark where his Mercedes wagon is stored. Tricky? Just a little bit. We got hung up in traffic but made it to the circuit in time to help everyone unload the trucks and get the garage built. Meanwhile, the other Barcelona based member, Alejandro, had a brisk ride (bombing past us through a tunnel exiting BCN) on his 996 SPS. A little squidly, no doubt, but that's how they ride out here. Summertime? Shorts and motocross gloves, hahaha. I gotta admit, that color scheme is just perfect with our Axio hardpacks.
Owing to the fact that I don't own a car or motorcycle here in Barcelona, I opted to stay with the Team in the Ibis hotel just behind the circuit, a ten minute walk from the paddock. It meant an easier time for me in the mornings getting to the racetrack, and I think it's better to stick with my crew when it's race time rather than fighting traffic everyday and having to shift gears if I went home. My apartment may be small, but it's in a great neighborhood and it's where I want to be when I'm not at the races. I think had I gone home every night, I would have had trouble getting up every day, and I prefer to be as focused as possible when it's gametime. Because Felix was staying in his house with his family, that meant I had a new room mate for this race, the hospitality boy from Valencia. He made it to the hotel before I did, and completely "made himself feel at home". I know we come from different places and cultures, but who leaves their dirty underwear on the bathroom counter top, day after day? Although we can communicate in Spanish, I tried to ignore him most of the time because I have much bigger concerns to occupy myself, and besides, it was only for one race, right? If any of you have heard me snoring at night, that should give you an indication of what kind of natural revenge I'm capable of, hahaha.
I made do with the smaller side of the room, which was barely big enough to hold my carry-on. No matter, I'm here to race, and every day brings new challenges and hurdles to overcome at the racetrack. I just wanted to show that travelling everywhere and staying in Hotels around the world isn't always as glamourous as it seems, haha.
Thursday brought about another cool surprise - this time it was Jon Farjado all the way from California! We'd met earlier at the Turkish GP, and this time he was styling in one of the latest MotoLiam designs, the Tiki Skull! You just know I had to get a picture of that, because this was the first time I'd seen the new design in person! Jon put together a Neat Little Thread on his CBR forum where you can find more pictures from his GP adventure in Spain. Jon, you rock! Great hanging out with you, and I'll see you at a future race this year.
Jon managed to catch a photo of myself and MotoGP.com commentator, Nick "Absolutely Flying" Harris. I know he looks pretty small in this picture, but that's actually because I'm standing on something.
Speaking of neat visitors, my Mexican buddy, Omar, dropped by and got a little creative with a photo I took of him in the driver's seat. He even managed to change the Italian flag motif on the AGV helmet to the Mexican one! Omar is a competitive cyclist and training partner of Hiro Aoyama, which is how we met up. I can't keep up on the ole' BMX, haha.
This is just cool.
But not as cool as watching the Hoff's telemetrist, Andrea, getting blown away in a MotoGP 4 race (playstation!) with this little kid in the Red Bull Energy Station one night after work. Boo-yah! Andrea is 6'6", or something like that, and this kid was 4 foot nothing. He barely spoke, just tilted his head every time the bikes were leaned over, and he was quick in the game. Then I promptly lost to Stevie Bonsey, who's having a rough season learning the ropes in the 125 division.
We had a difficult couple of days getting the bikes sorted on Friday and Saturday, but it wasn't until Qualifying where we seemed to make any real progress. The boys from the Factory had made a siginificant improvement to Casey's bike, and they suggested we try a similar set-up. It really felt good to know that they were behind us, too, and they were willing to give us some advice and help when we were struggling a little. We had a small problem with the Hoff's #1 bike, and all of us jumped in and got bike #2 changed over to the same settings as fast as possible. To me, this was perfect teamwork, and we all came together after the session and shook hands. That's what it's all about in racing. As Nicky says, "You win as a team, and you lose as a team," and I feel the same way. The Hoff managed to get into 10th spot on the grid in the final seconds of the session, which was outstanding considering the lack of tracktime he had that afternoon, and Barros continued to get faster right up until the end.
The race was also a hard one, but we never gave up hope and kept plugging away lap after lap. The Hoff duked it out with the new and improved Dunlops, and Barros crept up and passed Melandri in the last quarter section of the last lap, which solidified him in 8th place for the race, and also moved him up into 8th in the World Championship standings. We're looking at the next two races like we always do, knowing that they'll be hard and that we'll be ready, haha.
Nacho and Rafa showed up, this time as more than spectators. Nacho helped a young 125 Wildcard, and Rafa was modelling some Imatra sunglasses. Ahhh, Spain, where they love their eyewear.
Also, the Hilferty clan made an appearance. All the way from San Carlos and the East Bay in San Francisco, the boys are both teachers and the father is retired. Joe lives here in Barcelona, teaching at the University, while his brother Clay teaches at Berkeley. Their father was big into flat-track, creating custom camshafts for racebikes and instilling a love of racing into his children. Actually, their family story is fascinating, and I'll get into it more in the future.
Clay was entrusted to bring over this guitar from California for me, which is a gift from one of MotoLiam's biggest supporters, Eric Frech. I've been jonesing for a guitar for months, but with my travel time and general life-craziness, I haven't had a chance to pick one up. Eric donated this one, a beautiful Carvin that plays as clean as it looks, and Clay got it to the track so that I'd have something to play as soon as possible. As it is, my forearms are a little sore, and I need to get back into guitar shape! Huge Thanks go out to Eric and Clay for making this happen.
This is the only photo I have of Eric, having only met online, but it's obvious he's got the sickness. Guys, can't wait to see everyone at Laguna Seca!
But back to the GP. After the race, we packed up as much of the garage as possible. We were scheduled to test at the track on Monday after the race, so that meant a quiet night on Sunday, and I was so tired I missed the Team dinner and just slept in the hotel. Another reason why I decided to stick close to the Hotel was the disaster I suffered last year after the Catalunya GP, when my wallet was pickpocketed the night of the race. No Way was I letting anything like that ever happen to me again, so sleeping was just about the best option I had. And it was worth it. Monday I was fresh, testing went well, and then everyone loaded up the trucks before heading home. Some of the bigger Factory Teams stayed to test on Tuesday, which was surely a rough day because we've been racing for two weeks already. That would minimize the Team's downtime between races, but it's important to get as much data as possible, now, because the next test isn't coming until after Brno.
There's more to the Catalunya Race, but this is the busiest time of the season for all of us, and I've got to get out and get some dinner now. I should have something up tomorrow about Historias Sobre Ruedas (Stories on Wheels), the Spanish television show that shadowed me before and during the Mugello Race. The show came out during the Spanish race the following week, and people approached me about it at the track, and here at the internet cafe I'm working at, which was super cool. "Dude, I saw you on TV!" It's since shown four times on national tv here, and if I can figure out a way to distribute it, I'd love to show it to you guys. What's especially cool for me is knowing that I helped put up 30 minutes of Team footage on national TV, which is great for the Team and the Sponsors. To capture the emotion and excitement of our podium in Italy was the cherry on top!
See you guys tomorrow!
We are also working on something spectacular for the USGP, something that will blow you all away. And no, this isn't it :)
Part of Mugello's magic comes from the lush countryside, the excellent local foods and wines, and the rustic charm that this area and its people exude. It's truly like waking up in a fairytale everyday. Besides, what would the MotoLiam Italy experience be like without some photos of food?!?
"This is the story of the little snail that could."
Like many parts of old Europe, the countryside is patchworked with small fields criss-crossing the hillsides. These aren't the big "miles and miles" of fields that you'll see throughout the Midwest (USA), these are small fields that a single family could work (and did - and still do) to provide for themselves and maybe sell a little bit on the side when the season was over. It is a real throwback in time to see it and drive through it (it's also possible to see it all from an airplane, too, which is a real treat), but what really jumps out are the array of colors that this place has. Much like the greenery in France is different than in Spain (think "Mintier"), the greens and browns in Italy are that much more Crisp and Deep. I also can't explain why the eyes of the women here are different than in other Mediterranean countries, but I digress.
After spending the previous night in Bagnolo in Piano, with friend and team mate, Andrea, the rest of the Italian crew picked us up in a Fiat Ducato! Just like last year! I tried peeling the emblem off the furgonetta (van?) but it wouldn't go, and besides, that would have been vandalism, which isn't really my style.
I don't remember the name of the place, or any of the streetnames, either, but I could find my way back to this "agriturismo" converted farmhouse/motel in a heartbeat if I needed to. We wound to the left from the circuit, and after cutting through some small villages, we drove through some one lane roads through a couple fields and eventually ended up here. It wasn't very far from the circuit, which was a HUGE bonus considering the number of people who descend on the place come Sunday, and the trails we had to drive through weren't bad at all. You never would have known the place existed, but I'm sure glad it did.
The buildings were truly "Old-School", and some of the rooms, mine included, weren't really set up for habitation. Oddly enough, my room was the smallest one available, but because housing is at such a premium for this race, I shared it with Felix, one of our coordinators. Our bathroom was outside and across the hall, which meant fumbling around in the dark in the mornings, haha. There was a small dining room downstairs, and the food served up by the host family was magnificent.
No, this is not something from the hotel, hahaha. This is the subsistence pasta that keeps us going at the racetrack on Wednesdays for lunch. You try kicking out the jams all day with this to keep you going, and you'll understand why some of us split out that night for some real food, at the hotel :)
Now THIS is what I'm talking about! Actually, it's pretty hard to keep a Team fed and happy all the time, and more to the point, it gets very expensive because we're usually on the move and eating in hotels or restaurants. We probably only eat "home-cooked" meals at Phillip Island, because the island is so remote and quiet that it's easier to go to the supermarket and cook at our tourist rental place there. In any case, this pasta was awesome, and I had seconds.
Big Thanks go out to the little family operation that made every meal a joy!
Some of us got ahold of some incredible steaks, cooked in the local style, and it was pure pleasure sharing the laughs and goodtimes over a great meal with great people.
I was waking up earlier than normal at this race, partially due to nerves I think, and I'd often go for short walks around the area. I ran into this old tractor, and had to get a picture of it. Barros' chief mechanic's nickname is "Lando", and it's derived from Landini. Reason? He says it's because of the stubborn and "hot-headed" nature of this tractor, which oftentimes would need a fire lit under the engine to get it going in the morning. Once the motor was running, you couldn't stop it, and it would keep going and going. Lando can be a little hot-headed, so I can see that as being the correlating factor, but really, I think it's because he's got such a square head and jawline. Haha, sometimes the chief for Capirossi (PeePee) will come into our garage looking for him, asking for "quadrato", or something similar. My quest to find one of the infamous Lamborghini 12 cylinder tractors in the flesh was once again denied in Italy, but the search continues.
Saturday night, we came back to the hotel pretty late, just in time to see this enormous Scorpion sitting on the wall next to the front door. He was just chilling there. I don't know if this was some kind of sign or omen, but we all took photos and marvelled at the creature. There's an old story about the frog and scorpion that my friend loves to tell me, but that's another story for another day. Suffice it to say that lots of thoughts were bouncing through my head later that night, because this was the anniversary of my first race in MotoGP, and it meant a lot to me (if no one else, haha). Actually, it is very rare for someone to have started working mid-season, so I count myself as doubly lucky.
Up super early on raceday, just in time to catch Mr. Snail getting some action! Now this is the kind of good omen I can relate to, hahahaha.
We pulled into the circuit after forcing our way past hundred of people walking in to the track from all directions. They didn't seem to realize they were walking in the middle of the streets, or maybe they just didn't care, but there were tons of people and it took a little longer than normal to get our van into the parking area. Turns out all the regular parking was full, so we parked a little further away than normal. The skies were heavy and foreboding. What was this race going to bring? One problem with all the rain the weekend had brought was the mud. All the parking areas turned into little mudholes, and one night both my Team vans got stuck in the mud, unable to move. One crew pushed their van out, while another had to wait for a towtruck to save them. It was another little crazy moment that makes up my life in MotoGP, hahaha.
I'd like to give a shout out to all the Americans that I ran into at the race. Nancy (who brought the latest generation of MotoLiam stickers all the way from Los Angeles), Peter, Mrs. Beaubier, Norm V. Jordan, and all the rest. We had a nice evening after Friday's sessions catching up in the Alpinestar's hospitality unit, sharing stories and Euro-experiences involving the racing. It was really a pleasure.
Well, we should all know how the race turned out by now, as it's been more than a week since the event and, admittedly, I'm a little behind on working on my personal website, haha. Sunday night we were treated to yet another fantastic meal at the hotel, and we were joined by Bridgestone's top people because we were the top Bridgestone finisher in the race. The food was superb, the conversation light and exceptionally exuberant, and the finishing touch was this exquisite Grappa. I guess after all the wine, it should have tasted better, but I switched to beer shortly thereafter.
Thomas and I stayed up late into the night, re-watching the race and re-living the emotions that surrounded our success in Mugello. You couldn't have asked for a better night to have played out, there in the country with no internet, no mobile phone signal, just peace and nature, and some rocking race video!
The next morning we got up relatively early, for our drive back to Bologna. I had wanted to get an early start, so we would have time to visit with our friends at the Ducati factory before heading to the airport for our early afternoon flight, but everyone else was late to meet up, and we actually ended up driving to the circuit and then back to the hotel (to drop off some forgotten keys). When all was said and done, there just wasn't time enough to make the factory visit happen. It's ok, because honestly, I don't think we made any more friends that race. We barrelled through the hillsides, making good time through the winding roads, and eventually arrived in Bologna, tired, a little hung-over, and eagerly anticipating the Catalunya GP. Couldn't wait. Always - can't wait for the next race! Quick thank you to Daggs and Tezza from Australia, who called me Monday morning with a, "Bet it feels good to get that monkey off your back," call. You know what? IT DID! Thanks guys!!
Along the way, I thought about so many different experiences I've gone through just to get to this point, and while it can be a bit over-powering to remember everything, I'm ready for the next set of challenges. Some of the greatest challenges in the two years have been the emotional roller-coaster I've gone through, but as I continue racing, and learn little by little, I'm only getting stronger and more sure of myself and my choices. I have to stick by my convictions, because at the end of the night, they're all I have left.
Bologna's airport is small, and filled with little stores like Ferrari, and Ducati! We all checked in our luggage, getting in line ahead of the Factory Yamaha crew of Valentino, and then stopped by the store to buy some small souvenirs. Everyone chipped in a little something, and it's neat knowing that somewhere, somehow, part of the money goes to help fund our Factory and keep us racing. However small the circle is, it's still a circle, and it keeps going round and round. I picked up another set of mugs, to replace the Ducati Meccanica one I broke a couple months back while doing the dishes. This time I've got two, hahaha. Stay tuned people, Catalunya stories coming your way later this week!
The Race week in Italy was pure magic, and I lost myself as the days flowed in and out, edging closer to Qualifying, and then, the RACE.
I always forget what day of the week it is, remembering only what time we're waking up in order to be at the track by a certain time in the morning. It goes; set-up day, be there by 9, bike prep day, be there by 9, warm-up day, be there a minimum of two hours before the session starts, Q-day, same thing as warm-up day, and then Raceday, which can mean getting out of bed before the sun depending on the crowd and crazy traffic that ensues. Mugello is a magnificent racetrack, and here are some photos and memories of that beautiful spot tucked away in the hills.
They've just painted fresh markers on the track, a fresh start/finish checkered stripe, and the walls are bright red, just in time for the white Alice's to be sprayed on.
Just in case you forgot where we are, remember the main entrance to the Autodromo Internationale. It's MUGELLO, baby!!
The opening days before the race were hectic, and the weather was beautiful. We spent Wednesday morning setting up the garage in near record time, and then part of the afternoon tearing down the Barro's machine that had crashed during the Le Mans race two weeks prior. Fully stripped, it was apparent that we would have our hands full on Thursday getting everything sorted so that we'd be ready to run at the front come Friday's free practices. No problem, haha, our crew is tight and they work well together, so it was mostly a matter of time separating the pieces that would be salvaged and/or re-used from the damaged material. When you're playing with motorcycles as expensive as these, you try not to let anything go to waste - not to mention that things are sometimes produced in extremely small and limited quantities, and it might be months before another run of pieces could be produced. While the Barro's crew was steadily getting it done, the Hoff's guys had some free time to walk about, take the bicycle for a couple laps around the circuit at the end of the day, and they were ready to get it on. Martin Zabala, the number one mechanic for Alex Hofmann, spent a few minutes checking out the latest streetbike from Ducati, the 1098 Tri-Colore. It's fascinating to watch him poke and prod around, looking for design quirks, and commenting on the overall package. You'll notice he's wearing my EVS wristbrace, which I got a couple years ago after breaking my wrist in a mini-motard crash. Martin was recovering from a motocross accident of his own, but I'm happy to say he's since stopped using the brace and is almost back to full strength.
This was our most crowded race yet, with many people from the Team's sponsors making an appearance over the three days of competition. The box was usually full of guests, and we had several special fans drop by and spend some time with us. While there, I met Fabio, a great fan of Alex Hofmann, and also of the MotoLiam website! I was so shocked when I stepped out of my truck one afternoon and heard someone call out, "MotoLiam!". It was great! Fabio was super cool, checking in on the Hoff's progress after every session, and I hope he had a great time. It was nice to meet you, Fabio!
Probably the biggest stress for all of us this weekend was the frequent weather shifts. The morning sessions were cool and dry, but thunderstorms in the afternoon meant frantic bike set-up changes, and a huge anxiety for me because it's that much easier to step over the line and lose it when you're riding in poor conditions. Qualifying was outrageous, starting off wet as heck, then drying up in some powerful sunshine, then storming again about midway through the session, only to start drying up completely towards the final minutes! It was like four sessions in one, and it meant the riders had to mentally switch gears every time they got on or off the bike, because we would change more than just tires to give them every opportunity to excel and make some good times. All the while, I was being filmed by TVE's Historias Sobre Ruedas (Stories on Wheels), the Spanish TV show I would be featured on the following week. In any event, we qualified and were happy with our race pace, and I couldn't wait to get it on here in Mugello. Studying the time sheets of all the riders, it was obvious that Dani Pedrosa would be a factor, and there were several other riders who also had a shot at the podium. You can never, ever, count out the Doctor.
The evenings were spent having dinner around 8 in our double decker hospitality unit. The food was especially good at this race, owing to all our sponsors being there I think. In particular, we managed to enjoy some home-brewed beer made by Lele, the Hoff's chief mechanic. He says, "I don't like beer. Beer likes me!"
You just couldn't beat it. Lele was also stoked because we were joined at this race by the Hoff's friend and training partner, pro-mountain biker and multiple time World Champion, Brian Lopes. When Alex's scooter wouldn't start one morning, he rolled down to the garage on Brian's runabout, and I stored it in the back of my truck, haha. You could tell this thing was set up for downhill, because it sat like a real chopper.
Along the weekend, we were also joined by Vitantonio Liuzzi, of the Toro Rosso F1 team. He was really laid back, and spoke highly about his experience riding John Hopkin's 990cc GSVR last year at Valencia's post race test days.
Raceday! It was cold, dark, and predictions of afternoon showers had everyone a little on edge. Would it be another Le Mans, with bike switches going on mid-race? No one knew. Looking back into the valley, the only thing you could be sure of was that everyone was going to have to deal with the same stuff. Mugello's climate can change rapidly, rain blowing in and filling the valley before you really know it. It just happens. All I was hoping for was a clean ride by both my pilots.
Everyone always asks me, "What is Pramac?". Well, they make generators. Big Generators, and they're used worldwide for all types of applications. Here are a couple helping to power the circuit.
And then, it was time. The skies were dark, the wind had a chill to it, moisture in it, and while people were staging on the grid, all the bikes in the paddock were undergoing the "flip" to rain settings. Would we need them? I was almost sure of it. At this point, choosing the racetire became a genuine gamble, because even if it stayed dry, would the track temps get warmer or colder? This is when race-craft, experience, and self-confidence would come into play.
I think every racer in MotoGP knows what they're capable of, but sometimes it takes a little more to know that you can do it even if the package isn't 100% perfect. It takes you-know-what.
We had these Miss Italias underfoot during the race, but everyone's eyes were glued to the monitors. This was a serious race.
Don't ask me how, but this one got her fingernail stuck in a lighter. I gave her a rotary cut-off wheel and told her to work it out.
Its a strange time, during the race. I focus intently on the monitors, checking out everyone's laptimes, who's going fast where, who is making time. I almost watch the time screens more than the video feed, and watching Barros set top speed time and again had me smiling. After a beautiful start that saw him rocket up from 10th to 3rd or 4th in the first corner, I was trying to remain calm as we dropped positions over the next two laps, settling in 8th for much of the race. It was a seven man train that wound their way through Mugello's gorgeous curves, and while out of screenshot on the tellie, Barros was slowly moving up. I later spoke with Jeremny Burgess at the Bologna airport, as we flew into Barcelona together for the Catalunya race, and he was obviously so proud of Valentino. As we talked about the race and the string of top riders in the train, JB mentioned with a grin, "You know, whenever there's a group of riders, there's only one who's going to end up first." We had fun analyzing and dissecting the race, and it was a fun flight, too, that next Monday, because everyone was reading the Italian and Spanish newspapers which all featured front page coverage of the race with great photos. Anyway, watching Barros in 8th, I began to see the laptimes showing, and as rider after rider dropped before him, Barros moved into fifth and set his sights on John Hopkins. Outbraking Hopper is difficult enough, but with the closing speed Barros had on the first corner, it happened. I should mention that I was extremely happy to see the top speeds shown by Barros, as it indicated to me that he was getting a better drive out of the final corner and onto the mainstraight that all the other Ducati's. Once Hopped had been dispatched, there was blood in the water, and Barros smelt it. He closed on Stoner, and from four laps to go, it was on. After the pass, those were the longest three laps of my life. You could feel the tension in the garage, and everytime our boy came onscreen, people were yelling, chanting almost, "Dai, dai, dai" (go, go, go). I don't know how to spell it, but that's how it went. Everyone was on pitwall for the finish, Barros narrowly edging out Stoner over the line, and we all went ballistic. Security shut down the end of pitlane, the crowd flowed it, and several of us ran to the parce ferme to great our rider after the cool down lap. It was intense. The track temps had actually gotten much hotter over the course of the race, instead of getting colder like we'd anticipated, and maybe we didn't go with the best choice after all. All I know is that Barros went out there and wrung that Ducati's neck in a fantastic race that left us breathless, speechless, and tearing. Meanwhile, the Hoff was engaged in a battle with Vermeulen and Hayden, finding it hard to pass the World Champion and his slightly sideways cornering technique. It was a solid performance to hang with Nicky, and I'm proud of him for bringing it home strong. From this point on, instead of the usual breaking down of the bikes and the garage, we were beseiged by fans and sponsors, all trying to get in the box and celebrate with us. We spent the next several hours taking photos, talking, and for once, actually enjoying it - revelling in it - that we had taken a podium at Mugello. After the last few years, this result was crucial, and helped breathe new life back into the Team.
Fabiano Sterlacchini and Marco Baileron were ecstatic over the result. Fabiano has worked with Ducati Corse for years, and was responsible for the chassis design of the new GP07. He's Barros' chief mechanic this season, and his hard work paid off with a win at his homerace in front of his factory. Marco is one of the few Brazilian's working in MotoGP. For him to be with the best Brazilian rider to ever come out of that country, well, let's just say that they share a deep bond that goes far beyond a common language. For Marco, this was a beautiful moment. All the hard work at the track, the late nights, the work at the raceshop in Madrid, the weeks and weeks without a day off. This was his reward. Like me, he's not here to get rich. He's here to race. In Mugello, he scored his first podium since the two stroke era. D'antin got another podium in 2004, Qatar, with Ruben Xaus, but Marco was wrenching with Hodgson at the time. And for me? It's all a blur.
The smell of smoke and fireworks. The constant cheering of the crowd, the roar. The smell of Champagne as it rained down from the podium. Shaking hands and hugging everyone. There's only one thing that could be better. Well, two things. Winning races, and winning World Championships. That's next on my list.
Thanks to whoever sent me this photo - not sure who took it, but it's great!
I also cannot say enough about what a gracious Champion Valentino is. Looking into his eyes after the race, he was destroyed, utterly exhausted. And he was over-joyed. Valentino came over to all of us, taking the time to shake hands and genuinely congratulate us on our finish, and this was a true sign of what makes him such a magnificent Champion. He didn't stop there, he made it to all the mechanics from HRC/Repsol and did the same thing. Maybe because my emotions were already on such a high, I'll never forget shaking hands at that moment. The same goes for when Barros arrived. These are some of the highlights of my racing career thus far.
Valentino Rossi showed his heart that day in Mugello. He rode a perfect race and put all the doubters back on their heels once again. How can people bet against him? His hospitality guy (shown here), spent some time just talking to himself, kissing the heart on the helmet, and just soaking in it. Soon after the kissing session, the helmet was thrown by Valentino from the podium into the huge crwod of fans gathered on the racetrack. I don't know who ended up with it, but he sure is one lucky racefan, haha. One day I am going to beat Valentino Rossi.
My biggest congratulations and thanks to Alex Barros, for giving me my first Podium in MotoGP! This is the top of the World Level! There are 36 more podiums available this season, and I'm looking for as many as we can get!
Michelin in 1-2, Bridgestone in 3-9. Where were all the other Michelin riders?
Yee-Haa!!! The place went absolutely nuts. We pulled in all our gear as soon as the racers came over the line, tv monitors, chairs, everything, but we still managed to have our weather station stolen, and that's one of those items that is a little tricky to replace. Oh well, I blame it on mob-mentality. People do crazy things with all the emotion after a race, and anytime there are that many people around, things get a little nuts.
At Mugello, we shocked a lot of people. I've always maintained that when everything was lined up and clicking, we could run with the best in the world. That Sunday, everything clicked.
Boo-YAh!!!!!! The day finished up with a slow and elated packing of the trucks. No one was driving out that night, we were all staying to celebrate over a nice dinner. Everyone deserved it, not just Barros' crew, because we're all a Team, a Famiglia, and we all share the successes and disasters together. This is one more moment that makes everything "worth it" for me. It's always been worth it, but now it's getting even better.
Mugello is the most important and special race of the year for me. It means so much to me, to race here in this idyllic paradise nestled in the hills of Toscany. This is the Homesoil and Heartland of D-U-C-A-T-I. This is the Italian Grand Prix, where the most fervent, passionate, and religious fans congregate to salute the Magic and Majesty of Motorcycle Racing, and it's current King, il Re di Mugello, Valentino Rossi. Mugello has so much meaning to me, it holds such a significance in my life, that I came here with great expectations, high hopes, and more anxiety and trepidation than I've ever experienced before a race. For this was not just "any race", this was Mugello. The Big One. The King of Races. Mugello is everything you could ever ask for - it is Wild, Beautiful, Breathtaking, Stunning, Overpowering - and Mugello is where I scored my debut Podium with Alex Barros and our Pramac D'antin Ducati!
On Sunday, we put a Ducati on the box. Not just any Ducati, but a Pramac D'antin Ducati. A Satellite Ducati. My Ducati. And I want to do it again. It didn't rain during the race, until afterwards, as tears of pure happiness began to fall.
The Team is now in Barcelona, and we're having a team dinner in the city not far from my apartment. Afterwards, I'll be back home packing for an early morning drive to the circuit where we'll begin to put everything together for the Catalunya GP, because it's time to do it all over again. I will most likely have a very late night, because I want to capture all that is Mugello before I switch gears and get into the next race. The racing never stops, and neither will I.
On behalf of the Team and myself, I want to say Thank You to everyone for the emails and phone calls. I will do my best to respond to all of you, but please understand if I can't get to you at this moment.
I am busy shooting for the stars.
We are pushing to create our own destiny.
And we are more focused and motivated than ever before. Beware the Squadra delle Pecore Nere, because we are here, and we're here to fight.