MotoGP at Indy: Thursday

The power is still out at my house and there’s no good estimate on when it’ll be back up, which sucks for a whole long list of reasons, but among them is that I can’t get the digital pictures from this past weekend uploaded to share with everybody. (Or even get a good look at them on anything other than the tiny camera screen.) I contemplated waiting to write this until I could post the digital photos as well, but with no known time frame for that, oh well.

There are WAY too many pics to upload them all to Flickr, and way too many on Flickr to blog here, so I’m just hitting the highlights. Go to my GP Flickr set to see ‘em all. I’ve left descriptions of everything, but feel free to ask questions either there or here in the comments if there’s any confusion.

I’ll also say that Dys will eventually be doing a companion piece about her own impressions of the GP, so of course I’ll link it when she’s done. But until she has a working computer again, don’t hold your breath!

**UPDATE:  The digitals are ready, so I’ve added a few here!  Woohoo!  Un-update.**

So, with that in mind, here’s the TB take on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

*****

The first thing I noticed about the GP race was when we were coming into Indianapolis for the first time, coming around I-465, and we passed by a Red Bull Indianapolis GP billboard along the side of the highway. It was before you get to the airport, so all of the hordes of fans flying in and driving to Indianapolis Motor Speedway (hereafter just referred to as IMS) wouldn’t see it. But anybody driving in from the south or west would…like, say, Nicky Hayden and all of his hordes of family, friends, and fans coming up from Owensboro, Kentucky just a few hours away

The billboards featured Hayden’s teammate, Spanish rider Dani Pedrosa, the man whose aggressive and boneheaded maneuver in Portugal in 2006 in the next-to-last race of the year almost cost Hayden the 2006 world championship. I immediately started cursing up a storm. Dys actually pulled out her voice recorder and recorded some of the end of my rant. We’ll have to see if we can convert it to .mp3 and upload it sometime. All I can really remember is spewing a cloud of profanity and, in the midst of it, wondering aloud if they’d thrown up a New England Patriots billboard right alongside the Indy Colts’ stadium while they were at it.

Whew. That one still makes me mad.

Anyway.

For many reasons too boring to get into, we didn’t make it to the track in time to see the rider Q&A’s. I was a little bummed about it, but it didn’t bother me too much. Hell, I was about to attend my first GP race after following the sport for five years, it was hard to knock me off my cloud for much of anything.

We pulled into the track at about 3pm, following the directions that IMS mailed us along with our parking pass. We figured that it would be best to just go ahead and park where we usually would to get our bearings, so we headed to Parking Lot 2. The nice fellow waved us on up ahead and we got out of the car and headed to Gate 6, right across the street.

Only Gate 6 wasn’t open. For the paddock walk, only gates 2 and 7 were open. Which meant we had quite an amount of hoofing just to get into the track, go through tunnel 7 underneath the straightaway, then all the way back down the straightaway to get back to the paddocks near the Learjet Pagoda. (Why not open gate 6 instead of gate 7 anyway? Then you could walk through tunnel 6 and be right there. Oh well.)

The first thing we saw walking through the paddock row was the victory podium in the corner, where two of the Red Bull girls were standing by the actual Grand Prix winner’s trophy so that guys could line up to have their picture taken with all three. Dys asked if I wanted in; I demurred. I did manage to take a picture of the Indy bricks as I walked by, though.

There was quite a throng of people already milling around the pits. There was a small barricade about twenty feet from the actual garages, and everyone was allowed to congregate between there and the pit wall. (Unless you had a Super Cool Person pass, I guess, because we did occasionally see people walking inside the barricade.) Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo’s Fiat Yamahas were in the first set of garages, and Rossi’s garage was an absolute swarm of people. It appeared that they were gathered in hopes of catching a glimpse of the man and, if possible, an autograph. No chance there, at least at that time – I’m pretty sure a press conference was going on at the time. Both of Rossi’s bikes, and one each of Yamaha riders Colin Edwards and James Toseland, were actually wheeled out and parked halfway between the garages and the barricade. We managed to elbow our way near to the front of the barricade and snap some mediocre shots of Rossi’s bikes.

Then we moved down and caught Colin’s bike. Notice the “Texas Tornado” graphic behind the seat. Colin is actually almost exactly the same age I am, and is out there racing. Not only that, but he seems like a genuinely cool and funny guy. I like him.

Not long after we photographed these, they wheeled Rossi’s bikes back into the garage. Glad we got ‘em when we did!

We wandered on along, shooting pictures wherever we felt like it. Dys loves this one of the Rizla Suzuki garage, with Vermeulen and Capirossi’s faces juxtaposed with their respective flags.

Of course we also had to get some shots of the #69 Repsol Honda piloted by the Kentucky Kid himself, Nicky Hayden. Both Dys and I are more or less evenly split between being Rossi fans or Hayden fans. I think I’m 51% Rossi and 49% Hayden, and Dys is the other way. But whatever.

It’s depressing how poorly the Repsol bikes photograph. Repsol runs 125cc, 250cc, and MotoGP bikes with the same color scheme, and let me tell you, in each case the orange is blaze, blaze, blaze orange. As in, hunter’s orange, see it coming from a mile away orange. But every photo I’ve ever seen looks just like this one – I guess on film the orange just washes out.

On occasion, one of the 125cc or 250cc motorcycles would be started and revved for a few minutes. This would become a running joke through the entire weekend, because the procedure was: 1) start engine 2) crewmember rev engine once every 2 seconds for at least 1-2 minutes. Do you know what a chainsaw sounds like? Well, imagine a very big and angry chainsaw. Now imagine some hockey-masked guy revving the chainsaw. *Vrrm* (pause) *Vrrm* (pause) *Vrrm* (pause). Now multiply that by the thirty-odd 125cc bikes and twenty-odd 250cc bikes, a random selection of which was generally revving at odd intervals, and that’s what the entire weekend sounded like. Seriously. Dys began to make jokes about it, something like “Hell, I could have that guy’s job but I’d be afraid I’d throw out my revving wrist.”

Here’s a photo of one 250cc crewmember exercising his revving wrist.

Well, then somebody cranked and revved Sylvain Guintoli’s MotoGP Ducati and holy shit. I didn’t bring my hearing protection to the pit walk, b’gawd! I think I saw about 30% of the people nearby actually flinch every time it was revved. Folks, when they tell you GP bikes are louder than demons, they ain’t kiddin’. Whoa.

Along about that time Aaron Colton and Christian Pfeiffer brought their motorcycle stunt show to pit road to entertain the folks there for the paddock walk. I’d seen Pfeiffer in YouTube videos for years by now, and the things the man can do with a motorcycle are phenomenal. Colton was good, but nothing like Pfeiffer. Have YOU ever seen a guy going in a circle on a motorcycle with no hands on the handlebars, dragging the fingertips of one hand on the ground?

Meanwhile, as we were all being distracted by the stunt riders, who the hell should go a buzzin’ by on a pit scooter than Valentino Rossi himself! He was riding along with a crew member and checking out the track. Dys didn’t get the best shots of him; this is the clearest one. But in the blurry one before this one, you could see the goofy grin on his face. Whatta character.

Toseland and Lorenzo also buzzed by on scooters, but they were riding bitch behind their crew members. What’s up with that?!? You can also see the Red Bull graphics with Pedrosa’s (Repsol #2) picture on them in the background. Yeah, the same image that pissed me the hell off on a billboard also lined the walls all the way around the track. Grrr. At least Nicky’s picture was on the tickets themselves, the bridges, etc.

Shortly thereafter, James Toseland (Yamaha racer and classically trained pianist) began to play with his band, which was being shown on the jumbotrons around the track. Dys and I decided to go hit the vendor booths while there was still a light crowd. Our review: The Honda tent, while large, was not very impressive at all. Ducati Island was clearly the coolest. Those people know how to live, with potted fake plants and everything (on Saturday there was even a band!). Their shop was also definitely cool, even though we didn’t buy anything.

The main vendor walk behind the paddock was crowded with shops, with people like Scorpion and Arai and Vanson and Joe Rocket selling helmets and leathers alongside general t-shirt vendors, guys selling autographed memorabilia and so forth. We of course couldn’t resist a sign that said “Hayden Bros: Since 1978” and lo and behold, who was working the booth? Earl and Rose Hayden themselves, parents of 2006 world champ Nicky Hayden (and his professional motorcycle racing brothers Tommy and Roger Lee).

It only took about sixty seconds to determine that the Haydens are among the nicest and most down-to-earth folks on Earth. Earl, a guy I’ve seen on TV hundreds of times holding a stopwatch and watching his boys race, said hello, chatted for a minute, and pointed out some obviously used and/or autographed t-shirts and gear. “Yeah, Rose just went through Nicky’s truck and his bus after Misano [the most recent race] and cleaned all this stuff out.” Does the thought of a professional athlete’s mother cleaning his motor home and getting rid of all the “junk” sound as funny to you as it does to me?

While Earl posed for pictures with other patrons (we didn’t do so – it seemed a little intrusive, although Earl clearly didn’t mind), we went inside to look at the other t-shirts and, while there, spoke to Rose for about fifteen or twenty minutes. Had a very pleasant conversation, actually. In and amongst it we mentioned my cursing fit when I saw the Pedrosa billboard. She got a hard look in her eyes and agreed, saying it had made her crowd pretty angry as well. I made a comment that Dys and I had been repeating to each other as we walked around, that hopefully (as it was rumored) that all this Nicky/Honda gear would soon be obsolete anyway. She didn’t say a word or crack a smile. Folks, Rose Hayden is not one to give away a secret. [The day after the race, the rumors were confirmed: Nicky Hayden will leave Honda to ride for Ducati next season. So maybe next year we’ll buy some red gear at Ducati Island!]

Afterward we went to the “Official Nicky Hayden Store” (how official is it, when the “other” one is being run by your parents, I wonder?!?) and Dys bought a Nicky lanyard for her ticket holder. We looked hard at an orange Nicky backpack for our son, but decided to wait a bit on it. Then we headed across the infield to the far corner where the Yamaha tents were to see if we could check out the Rossi gear, only to find that their store wasn’t open. We ogled some tricked-out R1’s for a few minutes and then finally left the track at about 6:30, having spent about 3 hours just bumming around and having fun.

We went back to our hotel and immediately decided to try to reserve rooms for next year’s race (which has been scheduled for the end of August rather than mid-September). Nope. Already booked solid. Crap! We then spent about 45 minutes as Dys drove us around the little suburb town outside Indy trying to find a restaurant that wasn’t an Appleby’s before finally giving in and going back to the Appleby’s after all. We had a nice dinner (I had ribs, yummy) and Dys splurged on a few strawberry banana daquiris which got her A+ review. Then we went back to the hotel and hit the rack, with my cell phone alarm set to get us up at 5:45am for an early start to our full day at the track on Friday.

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6 Responses

  1. Cool pictures. Too bad about the power. I guess it makes you want to stay at work longer, huh?

    Kinda but not really…

  2. Sorry your power is still out. How much longer do they think it will be? Some of my friends in Texas (near Houston) reckon it could be up to 3 weeks! Yikes!

    I enjoyed your write up. I have heard about the noise before! I’d love to go to one of the superbike rounds or one of the Formula 1 races one day.

    I understand the GP bikes are MUCH louder than the Superbikes. I can’t compare to F1.

    The British MotoGP round is at Donington Park, but I know they do several World Superbike rounds in Britain – one at Donington and one at Brands Hatch. I don’t know where British Superbike runs – surely at Silverstone, etc? And there’s always the Isle of Man for you folks on that side of the pond…

  3. Hey, you’re forgetting that I live in Northern Ireland- the home of motorcycle road racing!!! 😀 You guys should come and visit some time- the North West 200 is legendary!

    I think there are superbike rounds at both Donnington and Silverstone. I will ask the man later when I get home, he will know!

    Trip to Ireland to see motorcycle racing? Don’t tempt me, my finances can’t take it! 😀

  4. […] I’ve gone back and added one picture to the Thursday at Indy post – that’s all it really needed.  Now to work on Friday morning’s post! […]

  5. […] and other states of existence   [Note: You can go back and read what happened on Thursday here.  Every pic links to a larger version, so click on the pics if you want a closer look!  And as […]

  6. T.B.,

    I am a graphic artist specializing in Moto GP and road racing art, and just happened upon your posts today. I drove up to the Indy race from Florida and saw that same Pedrosa (‘Pedrobot’) promo billboard you mentioned, and I thought the same thing about insulting/irritating the Haydens. I talked to Rose’s little sister (and a few other aunts/uncles/cousins) at the Red Bull setup inside turn 10 and they seem a tad p.o.’ed about those promo materials (including ticket printing-etc.) featuring Dani. Great pics btw, & I have heard we Americans get access to the pit areas a lot easier than in Europe. I do one of the event designs for Indy’s Moto Gp and Laguna’s round, and really enjoy the atmosphere at the events. Thanks for your article, interesting to see some common perspectives. Good on ya, see you trackside.

    Brian, I just looked at your web site and I am SERIOUSLY impressed with your artwork! Especially the stuff for Laguna 2006/2007 – beautiful, beautiful work.

    We hope to be staked out inside Turn 6a again this year on Friday afternoon and/or Saturday morning – hope to see you there!

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