GP07 Brno Czech GP, Race 12 "Burned in Brno"
Seven days at the track. Seven days to tune back into racing, fire up the monsters, and then test new solutions for the remainder of the season (and moreso for next year!). Seven days is a long time away from home, but to see the evolution of the bikes continue, to hear the bellow and bark of brand new engines, to feel the joy of Casey Stoner and Ducati Corse as they put to rest any doubts that they wouldn't be competitive after the Big Four had used the summer break to flex their engineering might - well, the seven days were fantastic to say the least.
It didn't seem long enough, a couple days in Barcelona that was. I arrived in Europe on a Friday night, prepped over the weekend, and by Tuesday I was enroute to Prague (Praha) to meet up with some team mates and drive to Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic. I actually didn't know my flight details until Monday afternoon, when I double checked my status with the team coordinator and he subsequently emailed me the flight plan. I made myself a nice dinner on Monday night, then flew to Prague with Felix R. and Raul, two members of the team. We arrived after a slight delay in Barcelona, and from what I could gather, most of the CSA (Czech airlines) flights coming in were delayed at least an hour also. That meant waiting even longer at the airport to meet up with the crews. No worries, I was armed with my Nintendo DS and my iPod. Note to travellers: it's more expensive to buy your smokes from the airport "tax-free" places, then to buy them from the local stores or hotels in Brno.
I was so stoked to see my team mates again, and almost all of us arrived together from Spain and Italy. The only people missing were the riders (and their entourages), and the four members who drive the semi trucks to the races. We said our hellos, then spent the two hour drive to Brno catching up on what we did this summer, as much as we could have a "summer break" in just two weeks. It was great, and the drive went by quickly. Normally, I use times like this to sleep, because in a strange way, being in MotoGP is like being in the military. It's like we're all part of the same military (the racing community, or something like the U.N. of racing), but we're all separate units competing with one another for top honors. Or, you could split it up by countries, and then even smaller, into different team factions. And believe me, every single team is made up of different factions. Anyway, to me it can be like the military - because I've learned I can sleep anywhere, anytime, even sitting up (and I'll snore, too, hahaha).
Brno Bound!! The little "v" above the letters radically changes their pronounciation. The craziest thing I heard all week was a Czech girl saying the number 3,333 - you wouldn't believe it and I wish now I had it as a sound clip. Next year!
Lots of neat billboards in Czechlandia, too. I didn't get a chance to try me some Kactus Juice! The city of Prague is absolutely gorgeous - maybe the nicest in Europe. There are waterways that criss-cross through the city (much like Amsterdam, another favorite of mine), and the buildings are magnificent. You need only google search the images for Prague to understand what I'm talking about.
Day turned to night as we were headed to Brno, and we pulled over to a roadside restaurant in the early evening. I think we were all starving, not having eaten since we had left our home countries, and the portions we were served would put Claimjumper to shame. We are talking HUGE portions, and the salad I ordered (for 3 Euros) was large enough to feed two people - if all they ate for dinner was salad! Afterwards, someone wanted to use the restroom, but we found out you needed to pay 5 Kroens (crowns) to use it. None of us had any Czech money, so we drove a little further before pulling over and taking option #2. No! It wasn't me.
The next day we started working at the track. There were no crash bikes to repair, so everyone managed to swap engines and prep the bikes pretty quickly. I think we also had a ton of energy before this race, because we'd been sitting on our hands for a couple weeks and everyone wanted to go racing. Well, almost everyone. Seemed like people I spoke to, both on my team and others, wished that the break had been longer, and more than a few mentioned that they were still in "vacation-mode" and were having trouble getting into it. I received a ton of material from Ducati Corse, so I was hurriedly trying to check everything into my stock and organize the supplies we unloaded from our freight containers. Since this was our first race back in Europe after Laguna Seca, we had to repack the semi's full of all our supplies. It was like tetris a little, but more fun because Corse really came through and I was loaded for bear, so to speak. Last year, Thomas and I usually washed the trucks alone, but this time everyone jumped in and the trucks were spotless in record time.
On the first days of a GP week, I usually have a chance to head off on my own and eat by myself. The hospitality units aren't set up until the race weekend, when they are to serve all the team's guests and team members, so in the evenings the whole team will head out to a restaurant. I don't really understand why 16-20 people need to go out together on these ocassions, so I typically will go out on my own and check out the city sights and eat what I like. Other teams will usually separate, with one crew all together in a rentacar, and other crews and team members doing what they like. It's common to see Colin's crew together at night, or Valentino's, and in a way, it solidifies their working relationships because they're always together. As one crew needs to beat the other, it's only natural that they go their own way. However, my team usually goes together and that makes for a long dinner! Not just because we're so Spanish, but because it's hard to make so many pizzas for a whole team. I'm all for efficiency, so a quick bite somewhere plus some sight-seeing is what I try to do. This time I ate at a cool cafe, and had a great dinner of Duck, sweet potatoes, and some form of chutney mix.
By chance, Thomas had joined me at dinner, and later while walking through the city we ended up at a place we knew from the previous year - the Piano Bar! They have this funny little green drink there. . .
This weekend, we were working with our European back-up rider, #22, Ivan Silva. He didn't have any experience with the GP7, and coupled with some fitness issues resulting from a serious crash in the Spanish Championship, we definitely had our work cut out for us. We did our best to set the bike up, and Silva ran hard, passing Tamada during the race. He later said that his goal was not to finish last, so succcess! It was another difficult weekend for Alex Barros, but he did his best and came out on the top of a five rider dogfight that lasted almost the entire race. Once again, we finished in the Top Ten, but deep down I think our potential is higher and if it means we all need to put our heads down and work harder to achieve those results, then that's what we'll do. Over the race weekend, I ran across this fruit, which I'd never seen before. I also managed to get stung by some strange insect again, not bee's or wasps, but something else that hurt like no one's business. I will have to be more careful in the future.
On Sunday night after the race, I decided to walk through the city a little, and low and behold, a Red Bull truck! This thing was awesome, showing extreme sports footage and blasting the bumping beats. It drew me like a moth to a candle, and I was soon swept downstairs into the Mandarin Club, a great little place.
Several paddock personalities were spotted within, and after saying my hello's to the Dorna guys, I ran into my old friend, Jordan Miller, Red Bull US director of coolness. He was busy fending off a cute German girl who knew who the Baltimore baseball team was (I think, or something like that), and we shared some beers and laughs. Oh! The beers in Czech are quite potent, with many advertising that they are 12 percent alcohol (and up). They creep up on you and then - whammo! I went back to the hotel early that night, because the next day we would be testing tires and parts for the new GP8. Last year I had only watched, as my team wasn't testing, but this year, we were in line to assist the Factory Marlboro Team with additional data. Woot!
You just know you're going to have a good time when you see the white whale at the track. This indicates the T-T-T team is here, the three T team, the Triple T's, the Tire Test Team! Shinichi Itoh was back on his feet after a horrific crash in Japan that broke one of his legs, and all of us were to hear the magic sounds of their test engines . . . . which are a teeny bit different than the ones we race with. WaaaahhhhhHH!
Some of us stayed on pit wall, listening to Rossi's new pneumatic valved motor power down the straightaway. . .which really didn't sound too different from his previous one, when accelerating. This could be because of the silencers they use, or maybe there really weren't too many changes to the valve timing despite the higher RPM ceiling being explored. Either way, this motor is in it's early stages of development, and although the Doctor is preoccupied with his Tax issues in Italy, once he gets in gear, he's sure to make this motor into something sweet.
While some people played outside, others of us stayed inside to play with the new goodies from Corse. You know, I used to have very long hair . . . now look out Elvis!
Because there's a lot less pressure during testing, we often get a chance to talk to other team personnel and the riders will spend time with one another. Both Loris Capirossi and Alex have been on the circuit for so long, they're old friends. They hung out a bit talking tires and life, but things really got cool later when Loris mounted Alex' bike and starting comparing basic set-up information with my crew. Handlebar positions were very different, as Loris likes them a little bit more "motocross" like, whereas Alex prefers them to be closer together so there's no extra leverage to cause front end tucks. It was fascinating to watch how differently they ride the same bike . . .
Anyway, I frequently get a chance to talk to Loris, and he is a grade "A" guy. Always cool to talk to, joke around with a little, and when he rides, man what a sight. I've always held an affinity for his riding style, as I tend to use a ton of body english myself when riding, and it's hard not to imagine yourself pushing a machine as hard as he does. This week he announced he was moving to the Rizla Suzuki squad next year, and I'll be sorry to see him go. This is two years I've been around the Ducati garages, and it just won't be the same without him. Best of luck next season, and I guess I should say hello to Marco Melandri, who is due to take his place on the Factory team.
Speaking of Loris, here's his dog, Nikki. Oh, and Ingrid, too, hahahaha.
We wrapped up testing an hour early, because once again the weather started to shift in the negative direction, and we quickly broke down the garages. Half of our crew had left the day earlier, when Silva finished testing on day one, so that meant we all pulled a little extra weight to get it all packed in so the trucks could drive to Misano that night. Before we rolled out, we took turns rolling a Honda 50 around! AWESOME!
We drove out at 6:30PM , then ended up driving back to the paddock later because someone forgot one of their luggage bags, haha. Then we headed to Prague, to spend the night before flying out Wednesday morning. At least we caught the mistake before we were halfway there! This is the view from my hotel window. Czech land is soooo green, and the forests are thick and beautiful. After a great dinner with only five people, including Alex, a couple of us went out for a night on the town. Alex knew a few nice places, so we had a drink and talked racing. It's amazing how much Alex remembers about every season and every race. We talked about his favorites, Assen (you guess the year), and what he remembers about the bikes and teams he's been on since '86. You wanted a racing encyclopedia? There he is!! Anyway, thanks go out to Alex for taking care of us that night - it was great! Anytime I get a chance to add to my own racing knowledge and experience is great, but to learn from someone I respect is even better!
Oh, and I guess since we were testing new stuff, you guys probably want to know a little bit about what some of it was . . . . thanks go to Livio Suppo, Marlboro Ducati racing director, for allowing me to show you a little of what that was. . . . Thanks Livio!
The boys from Bologna have done it again, and while I personally think the GP7 needs nothing, they've come up with what I think is yet another home run. Obviously, Casey has been doing stellar on the machine, but can you imagine what he's capable of on something even better?!?? I think it was super cool of Corse to let Loris ride the latest spec stuff, because he's moving to Suzuki next year and then he'll know more about who he's racing against after riding with this. I think it shows absolute trust and confidence, and it's also a sign of respect for the man who helped develop and pilot the Ducati Desmosedici for the last five years.
My bike was also looking STE - Sexier Than Ever!
Does it get any better than this? YES! And it will . . . .
Spent my Thursday morning here, taking care of some important business, and now it's time to go get dinner with Hiro. Italian again! hahahaha, gotta carbo-load, you know. Lots going on right now - see you guys soon!