March, 2008

March 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Toni! Time to get Jerez started!

Toni celebrated his 25th with us earlier tonight. It's a great way to kick off the first European race of 2008, and the electricity and anticipation is thick in the air. Our Alice Team transporters and scooters are looking sharp, and tomorrow we'll get the bike's finalized before the first session begins on Friday morning. While Qatar felt like more of a novelty, this feels like more of a Race. One of the big ones!

Unlike Qatar, where I was unable to directly access my webserver and upload music, I'm doing just fine in the Hotel la Cueva with their wifi, so without further ado, here's your
Song for the Jerez GP08!

March 18, 2008

GP08 Qatar GP, Race 1 "Moving Right Along"

A professional face, experienced and calm, waits on pit wall to see the first grid of 2008 assemble after their warm-up lap. It's our first race of the season, and the anticipation is high. Tonight has been a target for months, and a lot of hard work has already taken place.

Minutes earlier, Toni Elias had expressed what all of us had been feeling with one simple gesture. All the anxiety, the fear, the hope, and above all, the excitement! As one of our top mechanics said, "If you're not getting butterflies before the race, you better go home now." Martin's been in GP's for a lot of years, having wrenched on Alberto Puig's bikes in the nineties, and he usually regals us with one crazy story after another. But that was no story - it's the truth. If you don't get a charge, a jolt, before the lights go out and the riders blast away towards the first corner, you have no business being at the races. It's intensified for us, because from as early as September the previous year, we're already planning our assault for the following season.

There's the rumors, the clandestine meetings, the seemingly endless talks while sponsors hammer out their global marketing strategies and budgets, the teams trying to source and allocate their budgets, sign the riders, find the right people who will come together to forge the Team that will literally support everything - and all while the racing is still going on. It's a lot of work, and most of it takes place in the background, away from the televisions, the reporters, and everyone outside of this circle of speed. Riders become more friendly, other team personnel become more friendly, talking to different team members in the paddock, saying hi, inquiring about the conditions, the competitive spirit, the atmosphere. It's heady watching it all come together, but it's just another part of this game.

We've been working with Toni and Sylvain Guintoli since last November, when we had our first testing sessions together. Since then, we've travelled across the globe, running lap after lap collecting data, searching for the keys to unlock the secrets of the GP8 and get ourselves into a position where we can challenge at the front. It's been hard these months, because the work is there, the fighting spirit is there, the bike is obviously fast, but the results haven't been coming. During the race, four of the top six Top Speeds were made by Ducati's. During the race, three of those four Ducati's finished outside the Top Ten. But what's important is not to get discouraged. What's important is that everyone continues to push, to never give up. This is a fundamental element of a World Championship Team, and everyone from the top to the bottom has to keep pushing just as hard, if not harder. It's a question of everything coming together, and it's what we've all been working towards, and what we're working on even now, weeks later. I can't let myself stop pushing.

Our Alice Team bikes looked beautiful, their reflective "night-glow" shining in the light of the cameras. Casey Stoner's #1 Ducati blazed even more brightly, taking the checkered flag by more than 5 seconds. FIVE. An eternity.

We lined up alongside Marco Melandri, knowing we all had something of a hole to dig ourselves out of in this race. In this moment, I'm simply hoping the bikes make it off the line and through the first corner safely. Both Honda and Yamaha have been working on some advanced launch control systems, their bikes screaming (and big-bangin'), bouncing off the rev limiter at full throttle until the clutches are dumped and they rocket off at maximum warp. Pedrosa nailed the holeshot from the third row.

Toni and Sylvain had a hard race, trading places with one another. The big, red Alice on their backs like a giant target. Now all we need is more riders behind us to start aiming for them! Toni finished 14th. Sylvain in 15th. Our first Championship points of the season. Ironically, Toni and Sylvain finished in the exact same places they did the year before, in 14th and 15th. I am hopeful that their fortunes improve this year, as they had last year.

This year my old Ducati Corse point of contact, Luigi, is now working with the Marlboro squad. It adds another feeling of newness to this year. New people, new solutions. The Factory Team is sponsored by Puma this season, and we're also receiving some solid support. I'll get more into that in a future post.

I don't want this post to seem grim, because we all know what we need to be doing. It's a tough way to start the war, but there's 17 battles left and that's a lot of racing. I had some great pumpkin soup along the way, too.

Sergio picked up a titanium ProTrek, complete with compass, barometer, and altimeter. It'll be neat to see where we are when we're racing around the world.

And here's a neat shot of the permanent passes from the last three years, showing a different World Champion on each one. Who's going to make it onto next year's pass?

I've pretty much said all I want to say about Qatar, and after the race there was nothing left to do but pack up the garage, get everything shipped out, head back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep, and then wake up and head to the airport. As is my custom, I had a burger and a root-beer float while I waited for my flight, but A&W really let me down this time. You can't expect miracles at a fast food place in the desert, haha.

It's taken me a lot longer than normal to re-acclimate to the time change coming back to Europe, but in the meantime I've managed to be somewhat productive by cleaning up around my apartment. My room mates are out of town for the Easter week, so I took the opportunity to get some big household projects out of the way while I have the space. But my biggest project continues to be the Team and trying to make sure we're ready for the races ahead. The Squadra needs to be ready.

This week's episode from MotoGPod, the podcast, features yours truly in a three part discussion with Popmonkey. We talked while I was in Qatar after working the nights before and during the race, and then again after I'd returned home to Barcelona. It's quite a bit more detailed concerning the logistics and reality of running a night race, so if you're interested, it come highly recommended. I gotta warn you, though, it's a long podcast . . . so be prepared, haha. See you guys later this week, as I have some neat stuff in store before we head to Jerez.

March 09, 2008

24, til we know.

They bring the lights, we'll bring the fire!

By this time tomorrow night, we'll be packing up the entire garage after two weeks here in the desert. We'll know who's for real, who's on, and what the Championship will have in store for us this 2008. I can't wait. Wish I could give credit for this amazing aerial shot of the Losail Circuit, but I don't know who took it, only that it was floating around the paddock this weekend. A truly magnificent capture of this impressive event. Here's to more this year!

March 06, 2008

Squadra Delle Pecore Nere in the Desert

The Black Sheep Squadron, Thursday night before the racing begins . . .

March 03, 2008

Welcome to Doha, it's time for the last test of the Preseason!

It's plenty bright, in the middle of the night.

Teams arrived in Qatar last week, not quite sure exactly what to expect when the first Night Tests would take place. Already adjusting to a relatively minor 2 hour time difference from Europe, everyone would then further adjust to another shift of about approximately 7 hours, as the bikes were scheduled to be on track from 5PM through 12AM. I was just as curious as everyone else, and as I transferred flights in Madrid on my way to Doha, I spent some time wondering about the additional logistics needed to make the test and the race successful. Certainly, this would be one of the more complicated races of the season . . .

We flew in on Qatar Airways, one of my favorite airlines. They've usually got a decent selection of movies and seat mounted screens, plus the workers are generally courteous. Typical, we would be flying in overnight and would land at dawn, heading to the circuit later that same day. This was something I was quite familiar with, having campaigned the Qatar National Cup here in early 2006 and flying in multiple times that year. Luckily, I wasn't stuck in this seat, which is one of the bummers of economy travel. I don't understand how the ticket prices can all be the same if one seat is clearly lacking in foot space. Another thing I've noticed is that, regardless of the airline, aisle seats are often left with less foot space than center seats, perhaps as a trade-off because you don't have to do the "elbow fight" with people on both sides of you.

My dinner was pretty good, a nice mix of beef things with pumpkin, one of my favorite vegetables. I have gotten so used to watching mindless entertainment on flights that I hardly remember what I saw on the flight. The only film that I do remember watching was a Pang brothers murder mystery in Cantonese but filmed in Thailand.

We spent some time tracking down a lost piece of luggage once we arrived, and then it was off to the Mercure Hotel in old downtown, the are known as the Souq. This area was full of dust, commotion and noise, and I was sure it would provide some excellent people and culture watching on the days when I wasn't at the circuit. After checking in and resting for a few hours, we headed into the desert, to the Losail National Circuit. Even before we got to the entrance, you could see the hundred, if not thousands, of lights that had been put up around the track. There were clusters of green generators powering them, interspersed sporadically and reminding me of giant green scarab beetles in the sand.

Closer inspection revealed that they were all Pramac Generators! I've seen them before at other circuits around the world, but never on this scale. It just shows how everything is all connected, and it was good to see both the circuit and one of our Team's main sponsors were benefiting. I secretly hoped that would bring us some kind of good luck, somehow, but racing is way too complicated for just luck to be a factor these days.

I'm not sure how he came by this information, but a Yamaha guy told me that during the Night Test, the power to run all the lights was made at the cost of about 1000 liters of gasoline per hour! This would be a huge deal at a European circuit, but gas is incredibly cheap in Qatar. We filled up 50 liters in the car for about 8 Euros, which in "American-speak" translates into roughly 1.1 gallons for a dollar!

Last Pramac Generators shot for now. You can also learn a little bit more about them by Clicking Here.

After a few days of getting the garage built and the bikes ready, it was time to take pictures! We held off the first practice session by an hour so a local member of royalty could officially kick off the Night Test.

A bunch of the Qatari children came out waving flags and singing songs.

And the riders made an appearance, too. All the bikes were fully dressed, and it was a nice moment to step back and just savor. Soon enough we would all be engaged in a season long war.

Maybe one of my favorite pictures of this trip. The bikes are just sitting there, like predators. I can't wait for my Bull Sharks to be unleashed.

Soon enough, the testing was underway. The days kind of passed by quickly, because by the time we'd get back to our hotel, nearly 3 or 4AM, there was only time to shower and sleep before getting up and doing it all over again the next day. One thing that's been brought up online already was the fact that it was COLD at night. We're talking about the middle of the desert, so naturally we're looking at hotter hots in the day, and colder colds at night. The wind would pick up in the late afternoons, early evenings, as the weather would transition from day to night, and as the nights wore on, the temperatures would drop rapidly. It wasn't so bad if you were busy working, but for the riders I know this was some cause for concern. Without the sun to heat the tarmac, the boys were all running around hoping that the tire guys had brought the right stuff.

We tried a new lighting system in Qatar, but found that it wasn't very effective with all the crosswinds, hahaha.

I particularly like the focus on Sylvain's face in this shot. He's in the zone . . . .

. . . . . and he rides with a lot of Heart.

It was good to see that Toni was still laughing and having a good time. Sometimes when the results aren't coming you sit back and wonder why, and then self doubt can creep its way in. This might be the most serious poison for a rider's confidence, but I know from talking and hanging out with my boys that no matter what the testing times have shown thus far, we'll be charging hard come race time. On the last day of testing, with about fifteen minutes to go, Sylvain lost the front in a fast corner and went down pretty hard. The gravel traps in Qatar should really be called boulder traps, because the stones are huge and invariably they do quite a bit of damage to the bikes, not to mention the riders! At first, we were pretty worried that Sylvain had broken his wrist, but a quick onsite x-ray showed that it was likely to be a bad sprain. I saw him zipping up his sweater later that night with both hands, so I think he's going to be alright for this Sunday's race. When all the bikes had gone home to their garages to roost, we packed up and left the track. NOT! This was the first time I can remember not breaking down the bikes and the garage, and instead we simply left everything in place and locked up, knowing we'd be back in a few days to start repairing the #50 machine and getting some maintenance done to all the bikes in preparation for the race.

That meant a three day break for the Squadra, and we all slept in the next day!

I woke up in the afternoon, fresh and ready for some new adventures. I always have mixed feelings when I'm in Qatar, and I often find it a difficult place to write about. The view from my hotel balcony showed a mix of rubble and older buildings. There was a constant haze of dust, either from the desert sands, the automobile pollution, and likely, also the desert sands. In my immediate area were dirt roads, cheap vendors (of all manner of things), and I really got the sense of the Souq, that this place was were all the Old World trading was taking place, as it had been for thousands of years. You'd hear traffic, cars honking, people shouting into their cel phones, and the smells! The smells were intense, hahaha!

Another thing you'd hear was the 5X daily prayers rising up towards Mecca. I took a short video clip so you can all hear what it's like.

Sergio, Michele, and I took off for a stroll through the neighborhood. There's something very intense about the way people look at you, and this is one of the reasons why I feel unsettled here. There's such an imbalance between the Haves and Have-Nots. In my experiences, I've come across both obscenely wealthy and subsistence level poverty in Qatar. Many of the workers and laborers have come from India, Pakistan, the Phillipines, and elsewhere across Asia, but the promise and allure jobs and better wages has been largely hollow. From talking with the people at the fishmarket and on the street, it's easy to see that the life here is incredibly hard and generally people cannot even afford to go back home with the money that they're earning building this place up. It depresses me to see, and it explains in some part the hostility that I feel. The sense of naivete that I felt coming from the people in 2006 is already fading, but this may be simply because I'm more tuned in now, or because my eyes are wider. This isn't to say that Qatar is a bad place. It's just that I'm seeing more negatives as I spend more time here.

The traffic is among the craziest I've ever seen. Full size SUVs compete with econoboxes, and with horrible traffic light management (or no traffic lights at all), the large roundabouts at the major intersections have become hail-mary, bomb right in, nightmares. I've never witnessed such poor displays of driving ability and common sense, and it sobers me to think that there's only going to be more traffic as time goes by here. You can't imagine what it's like to slow to a stop and have old freight trucks, busses, and whatever kind of car you can think of continue zooming right past you into the roundabouts without a care as to the oncoming and approaching traffic. It's a kind of bravado and suicide rolled into one, and sooner or later I feel it's going to escalate .

I happen to have a night club in the lobby of my hotel, and that alone is an eye-opener. I dropped by for a beer the other night, wanting to see how the locals were interacting with one another, and was completely blown away. The floors and tables were all dirty, covered with spilt beer, cigarette butts, and the other stuff I didn't even want to know about. I don't know if it's because drinking is not really endorsed in Muslim countries, but from what I've seen, the locals cannot handle their alcohol at all. Two beers and they're stumbling around, spitting on the floor (well, that happens anyway), and provoking each other. What really stunned me was how angry and upset everyone looked, all the time. Sergio and I went in for one drink to put us to sleep, and immediately we both felt like something was wrong. The guys all looked like they wanted to fight, and indeed it looked like it might happen as one drunk would accost a cheap, asian prostitute who was sitting with another guy. It was shocking, disgusting, and we quickly left as soon as we could. What really stood out to me was how readily people would stare at whatever was going on, not from across the room or sitting at their own table, but that they'd get up and move to get as close to the "action" as possible, standing and staring with complete disregard for anyone's space or privacy. It was odd, and I remember it vividly happening at other moments, in different times and places in the city. I'm not sure if it had anything to do with the class or cultural background of the people, but it reminded me of dogs, waiting to move in on any scraps they could get.

This photo shows Serg next to some sort of wegiht/fortune machine, but more telling is the general disarray of the sidewalk conditions. It speaks to me of poverty, and it helps me to understand the fervor with which people had asked my team mates to help them immigrate to Italy, or anywhere - just to get out of here.

Qatar is not all bad, and I don't want to portray the place that way. I find many of my own values in line with the people here, and while I am not Muslim, I respect their religion and way of life. There are some beautiful mosques throughout this city, and while this is not the best example by far, it was still a nice place to see amidst all the lower income housing.

Just across the street in the center of a roundabout was one of my "landmarks" which we all used to help navigate our way through the city. Everyone on the Team has been coming here for years, but we still often find ourselves getting lost because the face of the city is changing so rapidly. Where in 2004 there was nothing near the large shopping center at one end of town, now there are several skyscrapers being developed, and new buildings and monuments are popping up all the time. I think we've pretty much figured out our route by now, but it made for some even longer nights after work finished trying to find our way home in the dark. I really got a kick out of this old boat for some reason, and I wish I knew more about the people who had sailed it before. I doubt I would have been able to read a plaque in sanskrit, though, but it was still nice to see. I would have liked to have gone fishing on a boat like this, but I ended up spending my free days differently here.

I didn't just want to flip my timeframe upside down completely by waking up early in the mornings because I wanted to maintain the "timezone" I'd established through working at night. Serg and I would sleep until lunchtime, then either take a walk or spend some time in the hotel gym working out. I can't remember the last time I was in a gym, haha, but it felt good to stretch again and get my blood pumping. In the evenings we headed over to the giant mall, Carrefour, and I picked up some supplies like the Herbal Miswak toothpaste I like so much. We wasted time walking around, shopping for nick-nacks, and eventually we found a cheap Casio kiosk, hahaha. JACKPOT! Four of us picked up some nice souvenirs and then it was time to eat at Applebee's. Along the way we'd run into members from Suzuki, Kawasaki, and managed to catch up with Chris V as he was about to check out "No Country for Old Men" with Dean Miller. Nicky Hayden was wandering around with Aldon Baker, and the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to me that these riders would stay in Qatar acclimating further to this place and spending their days getting ready for the first race. In fact, I stopped feeling bad that I hadn't gone back to Barcelona for a couple days to rest up, because it all balances out in the wash, anyway.

If you're wandering around the old town and you see a guy selling deep-fried, spicy potato thingy's for a Reial (about a quarter, USD), buy one! They were great. The days swept by, the weekend was over, and now it's time to go back to the circuit tomorrow. I'll get a good night's rest and wake up ready to fight again. We've got a long, tough year ahead of us, but I know we're going to give it everything we've got. At least I am, haha. I've got to do whatever it takes to win races, and sometimes, maybe more than sometimes, I'll pause for a moment and enjoy a brownie.

I'll be seeing you all later this week, as the first race approaches. I haven't been able to connect with my server from this hotel connection, so I've been unable to upload new music for you all. Stay tuned, though, because this week is going to be a doozy!

March 02, 2008

Preseason Wrap-Up, On To The Racing!

It's been a few weeks since I've last written, and in that time we've passed through the Official IRTA Tests at Jerez and travelled to Doha, Qatar, to participate in the first Night Tests at the Losail International Circuit. It's a historic moment in any series, running at night for the very first time, but undoubtedly the real focus will be on whether or not Casey Stoner, Ducati Corse, and Bridgestone will be able to defend their 2007 World Championship with another dominant win here in the desert. Everyone seems to have taken great strides during the off-season (which in itself is something of a misnomer, because there is no off-season, hahaha), and both the Michelin shod Yamaha's and Honda's are running well and sounding good. Kawasaki and Suzuki have each had their own setbacks, either due to weather or rider issues, but they're sure to be a factor once the season is in full swing. The sounds of the bikes are becoming much easier to distinguish as time goes by, with each manufacturer zero'ing in on what they feel is going to work best for their chassis, electronics, and rider. I'm getting ahead of myself here, so I might as well just dive into what things were like for the Squadra Delle Pecore Nere these last weeks . . .

Most importantly, at Jerez we were introduced to our Alice Team Ducati GP8's! These four bikes will be mine for the next 9 months of racing competition, and I aim to keep them going in tip-top shape.

The night before I left for Jerez de la Frontera, in the south of Spain, I made sure to have a good dinner complete with a hearty Mediterranean salad, a pizza of Mozzarella di Bufala and Carciofo, some "primativo" wine from the southern region of Italy, outside of Napoli, and washed it all down with a cheesecake and a glass of sambucca. It was truly magnificent fare, and I'm going to see if I can't start myself a new tradition this season, kicking off my italian escapades with similar meals.

The next day I took off in the afternoon on a direct flight to Jerez, and through some bizarre coincidence I was seated next to a guy who whipped out a vintage laptop next to me and began playing an animated Japanese cartoon movie, Ninja Scroll, which I originally saw during highschool in the nineties and then again just recently over my Christmas in California.

I disembarked in Jerez airport for the first time, surprised to find that it was very small. So small you simply got off your plane and Walked(!) to the baggage claim terminal! I had arrived before the rest of my Team members, so I waited with a member of Kawasaki's team for a little over an hour and he gave me a small history lesson on how GP has changed over the last decade. Ironically enough, he had been with the D'antin Team for many years, so we were able to laugh about a good many things and share some common ground despite coming from opposite ends of the globe and working for completely different organizations.

After we checked in to the Hotel la Cueva near the circuit, a few of the boys went to the track to check out the Formula 1 test that was going on. Since one of Sylvain Guintoli's mechanics had previously worked for the Scuderia Toro Rosso (Red Bull's second F1 Team), they were treated to an intimate behind the scenes look at how the cars go to together, and what it's like in a Formula 1 garage. Suffice it to say, there are no photos of that ever having happened, hahaha. I stayed at the hotel and worked out for what felt like the first time in years. It was nice, and I built up quite an appetite. We treated ourselves to a wonderful dinner at Venta Esteban's (you'll remember this from Hayden's MTV movie special) and if there's one thing I can recommend about the place, it's the Sopa del Mar. It's fantastic, maybe the best I've ever had.

Early the next morning we headed in to Jerez' industrial area, where we were due to shoot a tv spot with Toni Elias and also take some promotional photos for Alice. Once we'd parked our rentavans, our newly painted semi-trucks rolled up and I was absolutely blown away by what is to be my new home at the racetrack this year. We had some custom-fabbed trailers made that are high tech and full of neat features that will really help showcase our commitment to the World Championship and also make it easier for us to conduct our business in the most professional manner. The lower sections of my trailer have sliding loading bays so that the bikes can be mounted without their flight containers and then travel comfortably and safely beneath the upper hold. The top section is where I spend most of my time at the track, and it will be filled with the numerous flight containers that hold all our spares for the Ducs. The paint is great, and it really makes me feel proud to know that I'm working out of a special truck with areas and features designed around me that will help make my job easier. Once we're back at the European races, I want to make a more complete post about our trucks with more photos and detailed information, but for now you'll all have to wait.

Here you can see the hydraulic lift gate being used to unload one of the flight containers holding one of the GP8's. Later, the gate will be closed and an upper hatch will open to my area with a trick ladder leading from the ground up to the portal.

And for you DRZ 400SM riders, here's what your clutch looks like, hahaha. Note: you may not want to get dirt, dust, and debris in there . . .

Once we had some of our bikes and supplies tucked away in one of the storefronts, we started converting the bodywork over from our Preseason Black (which looked gorgeous this year) to the new red and white motif of Alice, the Italian telecommunications giant. Meanwhile, Felix converted our riders over from their Preseason Black jersey's into our new Team uniforms. Other than the pants having a distinctly "Italian" cut, they're quite nice and will be worn proudly.

The day turned out to be longer than anyone thought, the hours rolling by as the shooters did their thing. Everyone watched "the action" patiently and it was neat because we got to see a different kind of profession at work, from the cameraman who also managed his own lighting, to the Spanish TV crew that showed up later to film a television commercial with Toni.

This tall, leggy blonde (half American and half Italian) was known as "the action", and she's the main face of Alice's advertising campaigns. I don't even remember her name, hahaha. I should mention that this was on Valentine's Day, and throughout the night the guys on the Team would text or call their wives and girlfriends. Just because we're running around racing motorcycles doesn't mean we don't have to take care of things on the homefront!

Without skipping a beat, we hit the track early the following morning because there were still a lot of final details to iron out and this was the first time we were assembling the "full garage" this year. The box design is a bit different from last year, with slightly more signage and panels. I didn't think it was going to take the Team so long, but it was a full day before we were satisfied with how everything looked and worked. Testing is normally quite tiring for everyone, because the riding times are longer than normal and you have to be ready for anything all the time. You're constantly working on the bike, trying to find any edge or make the rider more comfortable, and then there's the new pieces that the Factories want to test, and new tires that you have to alter the chassis for. It's a great way to collect data, but it makes for some long evenings because the bikes don't stop until 6PM and then you've got to change engines and get the bike sorted for the next day.

Thomas looks a little tired here, the result of two nights that went past 1AM. This is the level of the series, but it's the same everywhere. No matter what the level of the competition, or the level of the rider, there are people out there who stay up working overnight just to know that they did their best. Just ask your local club rider how many late night's he's had getting ready for a race, and even better, ask one of your friends who simply rides trackdays how many times he's been up late getting his bike just right. I don't know what it is, but there's something about the balance of working on the bikes in the quiet and calm of the night that offsets working on them in the heat and crush of noise during the day. This must be Saturday, because we officially unveiled the new look on Sunday for the BMW 40 minute timed shoot-out.

Jerez will always be characterized by the spaceship restaurant that overlooks the start/finish straight.

Boo-Yah! The new look is IN! This was up in that restaurant shown earlier.

Without consulting my notes, the main thing I remember about the weekend is that it was cold, wet, and windy. The conditions would change rapidly and my boys had some trouble finding their way. Not too much trouble, as Sylvain Guintoli #50 managed to log a great time during the shoot-out which was good enough for a top ten spot. It was a promising way to start things off, even if our times haven't been at the sharp end during the preseason. I don't just want to be running around collecting minor points, though, I want to take it to some of the Factory riders! I don't see any reason why we can't put the stomp on some of these guys, because we have a great bike, great tires, and two riders who can shine when the moment is right. Not to mention, everyone on the team is HUNGRY - for results, hahaha.

I think it's important to keep things light, especially on the long days. Sergio and I are going to bring it gangsta-style this season. At least, that's what I keep telling him.

As we were packing up the garage on Monday night, some of the 125 and 250 Teams rolled in. I spotted one of these cute, little Aprilias and wished it luck this year. Now that Stevie has had a year to see the tracks and the lifestyle out here, this is his year to get it on and throw down something to make KRSR proud. The 'Priller is a great little bike, beautiful in its simplicity and focus, and I sure wouldn't mind having one in my garage! Did I ever mention that I used to drive a '79 Cadillac Seville in the same color as the blue/green/aquajade of this tail-section?

The next morning, the Team flew out to Madrid and we separated to make all our connecting flights. Some went back to Italy, via Milano, others headed to Galicia and Bilbao. I went with Raul and Felix to Barcelona, but our flight was delayed a little bit.

It wasn't a big problem, just another facet of traveling. I like watching all the planes, and all the people moving about. Everyone has a place to go, somewhere to be. We're all on a mission, some for work, others for love, and almost (if not all) under the same spell that says there's a better tomorrow waiting for us. I hope.

Thanks for watching , everyone. I'll be back tomorrow with some scenes from Qatar as we get ready for the main event, the first race of the season!