Frantic Phillip Island
When we landed in Melbourne, it was full tilt boogie to get to our rentacars and get underway towards Phillip Island. While the normal ambience in Australia is a bit laid back with a strong sense of "surferesque" notions, our team is quite the opposite, bombing in to McDonald's with a sense of hunger and urgency that shocked and scared the poor counter workers, haha. We would have liked to have eaten at Lazy Moe's, but true to their name, they had decided to close up shop early for the night, before their standard closing time (which is darn early by European standards!), so we were forced to grab some happy meals next door at Mickey D's. After eating, we high-tailed it to Phillip Island, while I managed to get some sleep at in the back of the van. The next morning we'd begin again, unloading our flight containers and building up a sparse garage. The feeling in the air was one of anticipation and readiness. We were here once again to put ourselves out there, to spread our hands out, palms up, and see what the God of Speed had in store for us. The Sun set on a peaceful racetrack, waiting for the inevitable and awe-inspiring sounds that would signal the MotoGP boys were here.
We finished up a little early the first day of setting up, and that was a plus as it enabled a few of us, myself and the Italian contigent of the team, to relocate to a second house on the island. We were in the Island Bay resort, which is a big house with rooms that can sleep four people, and best of all, there is a massive entertainment room with a pool table, a ping pong table, big screen tv/dvd, and a swimming pool! I watched Peter Starr's epic motorcycling film there later in the week, Take it to the Limit, which featured actual footage of Kenny Roberts Senior giving it to the Harley Wrecking Crew aboard his infamous TZ750 Flat-tracker. Evenings were spent watching Season One of the NBC tv show, Heroes, which I picked up in Malaysia the week prior. I normally don't watch any television these days (no real time or desire), but I'd heard good things about the show, and besides, it's Sci-Fi! I don't think I've enjoyed a tv show this much since FireFly. My Italians enjoyed some time in the pool while I concentrated on eating some seriously good cookies from the pantry :)
From the backside of the garages, you can peer out and watch the riders cresting one of the hillsides. The wild life living at or near the circuit doesn't ever seem to mind the noise of the bikes, and on more than one occasion during the testing days, the red flag went out because a stray goose or two would wander onto the track (they call them big birds in the press releases). The track itself imposes certain times that the bikes can run, too, and that meant we couldn't fire up the machines until after 9AM and had to stop promptly at 6PM. Not like in Mugello, where I remember looking straight down the twin barrels of the rear exhaust pipes of our GP6, pipes glowing cherry red and white hot at eleven o'clock one night. That was a beautiful sight, and not one seldom seen by anyone outside of the crews who work on their racebikes late into night.
This shot comes from Daggs, the patriarch of my Australian family. I had a chance to catch up with my Aussie crew one night over pizza, and then we had tea and a yak :) I can tell I must be working on something greasy, haha, either setting up a gear kit for a transmission change, or something else oily enough to make me wear the gloves. Martin is to my right, the number one mechanic for Guintoli. It's rather ironic that the guy who crashed into and injured my old rider, Alex Hofmann, at Laguna Seca (thereby kicking off a season that saw us work with three other replacement riders), is now working with Alex's old crew.
No matter how good everything is that comes direct from the Factory, these are still prototype machines, and fairings always take a little bit of massaging to fit just right :)
Vanessa and Tezza also made an appearance at the racetrack, much to the delight of all the mechanics.
Here's a slightly more professional photograph, seeing as how my ability to rest my handheld Sony on a trashcan lid and use the countdown timer just doesn't have the same effect, hahaha.
Toni Elias started getting more comfortable with setting up a Ducati, which will be a good thing because it's a long season. For this test, we had the assistance of Peter, a big German Bridgestone technician, but it was only because Rossi and his Fiat Yamaha guys were taking a break from the Phillip Island test and choosing instead to stay in Sepang to continue testing the following week. Peter is assigned to work with Valentino this year, and he really knows his stuff.
Truly, this track is a nexus point. Speed energy from all over the world comes here, like magnetic ley lines. Also evident? My Christmas poundage is still there, har har.
We didn't end the tests on fire, like we had the previous year with Alex Barros, but overall it was a satisfying week because we learned more and were starting to come together better. We kissed the circuit goodbye for another nine months and headed out ready to sleep! The two testing weeks were long, and we had a big push on the final day of testing on the logistical side because much of our material had to be separated to go to Madrid instead of directly on to Jerez. Much thanks to my team mates for staying strong and helping me get everything handled. We're much stronger working together, and this year should be a lot of fun if we can stay focused and organized. There's a palpable feeling of wanting to improve the Team (perhaps contrary to previous years), and it's through working diligently and with a purpose that is going to make that happen. We'll see, it's a long 18 races.
We finished up in Phillip Island with a beautiful dinner at Taylor's restaurant, known for it's fish dishes and seaside views. I had the Shark and chips, and it was great! I'll need to resample the fish-n-chips I had in Nottingham with Paul last year to see which is better, but for now the Shark is in the lead.
For those of you who may have missed it, Chinese New Year is upon us! Thanks to the combined efforts of several people, especially my girlfriend, I was able to have a taste of what I'm missing here in Spain thanks to a funpack that was sent over to me. The timing of packages arriving to me in BCN is tricky, because of my travel schedule and inability to pick everything up at the post office, but this one made it over just fine and I'm over the moon about the contents.
More posts to come before I head out to the official IRTA Tests at Jerez in a few days, and until then I'll just say, KUNG HEE FAT CHOY!