MotoGP at Indy: Friday Morning

[Note: You can go back and read what happened on Thursday here.  And as always, more pics are at my Flickr set.]

My alarm clock was set for a ridiculously early time on Friday morning – but I woke up even earlier. My eyes snapped open at 4:51 and, despite some attempts (some more halfhearted than others) I never got back to sleep – and not because of the road noise from the interstate right outside my window.

So, as one might expect, I was antsy to get the hell out of the hotel and get to the track. I was up and showered before 6. To her credit, my normally-nocturnal wife was also awake (not just eyes-open, but actually awake, which she’ll gladly tell you is unusual for her at that time of morning!) and watching the weather forecast, which looked dismal for the entire weekend. It was raining that morning, had rained overnight, and it was at this point that we first began to hear the rumblings that the main remants of the hurricane would pass right over Indy on Sunday afternoon, right about when the GP race was due to start. That one won’t make you too happy.

Anyway, I waited somewhat patiently for Dys to take her shower and we went downstairs to have our continental breakfast in the hotel. Doughnuts and some sausage links, not-too-cold OJ and apple juice, but we were glad to have it. Then we went upstairs, loaded Dys’s purse and the backpack that we were using to carry most of the stuff, and prepared to leave. My shoulders were already sore from hauling the backpack around the track for three hours the previous day, but I was prepared to soldier on. The bikes were going to take the track that day, b’gawd, and if I had to haul a walk-in freezer on my back, I was gonna be there!!

As we got off the interstate and drove in toward IMS, we passed by the same Hardee’s/Red Burrito restaurant we’d seen the day before. We’d been puzzled by the “Red Burrito” part – what the heck is it? A chain that’s sharing Hardee’s space? Something else? Dey ain’t got dem where we come from. Anyway, this morning Dys wisecracked: “You want some Red Burrito for breakfast?” And I answered: “You want some red diarrhea for lunch? I think eating unfamiliar Mexican food ain’t a bright idea when you’re gonna be spending 8 hours with only port-a-potties and stadium bathrooms.” She laughed her ass off, and made me repeat my crack for the voice recorder. (We seriously need to figure out how to upload audio.)

The public gates opened at 7, and we got there at just before 8. About an hour later than I’d intended, but in the end it made absolutely zero difference. And I was a lot more patient about it than I normally would have been, I think. We showed our tickets (hanging from our spiffy lanyards) to the nice guy at Gate 6 – which was open that day, woo! – and waltzed on into the infield. As we’d agreed the previous evening, we immediately made a beeline to the far side of the track, the infield along the back straight, to hit the Yamaha display and tents and see if we could pick up some Rossi gear. Their shop hadn’t been open the previous night, but surely it would be this morning!

Well, yes and no. The shop was open, but a lightning strike the night before had thrown out their routers and they couldn’t actually run the shop. So they kept everyone out of the actual shop area until they could get everything up and running again. Except there were a few people already in there – people who were already inside before they started blocking the entrance? I didn’t catch that whole story, Dys can probably flesh it out. She held our place in line while I waltzed around looking at all the Yamahas on display. While Dys dutifully waited, I ooh’ed and aah’ed over the 250 Supermoto and the FZ1 (one of the serious contender’s for “TB’s Next Bike”), and especially over the (replica?) of Rossi’s #46 Fiat Yamaha M1 that was on an elevated stand on the opposite side of the tent. I took many a photo of it. Hey, the store wasn’t open; I had time.

Here’s the view Rossi gets when he’s in full tuck. I wasn’t paying attention to the guy in front, but I love how he looks all goggle-eyed: “HOLY SHIT! It’s the #46 PLATE! I’M NOT WORTHY!!”

Finally I joined Dys in line and we waited for a few more minutes. It had already been half an hour. Suddenly we heard a noise like the Angry Mosquitoes from Hell were attacking the far side of the tent: the 125cc’s were on the track! My impatience level started to climb. Not much, but a bit. The Yamaha guys guarding the gates, becoming embarrassed themselves as their people struggled to find a solution, grabbed a few “Yamalube” t-shirts and gave them to the couple ahead of us who had waited even longer. Finally two of the people who were already “inside” finished a transaction and left, so they let in the couple ahead of us. Shortly thereafter, they gave us a couple of t-shirts as well and let us in. We beelined for the Rossi merch, and came away with a fair handful of stuff. We grabbed one of these jerseys for our son, and one of these for yours truly. I also bought a cap like this one, and Dys talked me into buying another t-shirt for myself that I can’t find a picture of. (But she’s promised to model it at some point for the blog, so that’ll be even better. *wolf whistle*) And of course we each wanted a Rossi lanyard for our tickets. We were lucky on the latter, they only had about three left and we grabbed two of them.

We then paused for just a minute so that Dys could admire the Rossi bike on the pedestal (and we could take a few pics with it) and so I could show her the FZ1 and a couple of other bikes I thought were cool. Like a new R6, vroom vroom.

Then we darted out the side into the rain and there they were – the 125cc bikes were whizzing down the back straight, right there. We could walk almost right up to the fence, and the guys were zipping by not 50 feet away. We were seriously psyched up and started trying to take pictures of them flying by. Nope. Couldn’t get them into the frame no matter what we tried! And that was the little bikes. Then we saw a couple of guys doing practice starts (riders in MotoGP and most motorcycle roadracing have standing starts, launching from a full stop. So at the end of each practice the riders typically find a straight section of track, come to a stop, and rev up and take off as though they were starting the race to test their bike, their tires, and the grip of the racetrack.), which meant: Session is over. The GP bikes were next!! And we were right by the track!! We quickly slid our butts over underneath the opened and raised tailgate of one of the Yamaha demo squad tractor-trailers, checked our film and battery situations, and waited for the big guys.
We didn’t have to wait long. The demonic roar of an 800cc MotoGP bike heralded the blink-and-you-missed-it arrival of the Big Boys themselves. WOOHOO! We cheered and hollered as they went by, taking horrifically bad pictures because we were too excited. One of the Yamaha tent folks had come out to watch, and I turned to him and said “Damn, man, it doesn’t get any better than this. I’ve got a boner already.” He laughed. I actually called my parents back at my house to scream excitedly into the phone to my dad so he could hear how close we were and how loud they were. (Too bad my mom answered the phone instead. She was much less impressed.)

We stood there taking pictures for some time before deciding to ease down the straight a bit. We stopped for a while underneath a Capcom tent (apparently Capcom is making the next MotoGP video game?) to keep the rain off the camera lenses, but then the rain slackened a bit again and Dys suggested that we go to the point she spotted just before Turn 10, where there was a small gap with no fencing, just a short concrete wall on the inside of the turn. We managed to get spots right along the barricade there and started trying to shoot the riders braking and leaning into Turn 10, with decidedly poor results.

At that point a semi-professional photographer (he spent some time talking with Dys, he turns out to be a guy from Colorado who has followed the GPs on and off for a few years as a hobby and gotten some of his shots published) saw our struggles and gave us several pointers. “Pick your spot just ahead of you, and focus on that,” he said, “Then pick up the rider as they come toward you, track them as they come along, and then snap the shot where you focused.” Hell, what do you know, it worked! Well, it worked better for Dys than me. The digital I was using only had an autofocus, so I had to find something to focus on (like the curbing or the edge of a water puddle on the track), then hold my finger on the shutter button as I waited for the next rider to show up, track them through, and then take the shot. I basically did this for the next three days, so my clicker finger got a thorough workout from holding that half-pressure.

Here’s Rossi on the brakes for Turn 10:

I love this shot of Colin Edwards at the same spot.

We hung out at Turn 10 for a while, saying goodbye to the Colorado fellow and passing along his advice to a few other amateur photographers who were having the same trouble, before moving on down the back straight to the other side of the bridge. While I set up near one of the TV cameras, I looked over my shoulder and said to Dys, “You know, the stairway coming down from the bridge would be a good place – above the fenceline.” She agreed, and set up for a few moments at that point, trying not to be in the way of people coming into the track while trying to take pictures that didn’t have people’s heads in them.

I grabbed a spot next to her and got a good shot of Edwards. It looks like he’s gesturing to the crowd, but I’m pretty sure he’d just pulled a tear-off sheet from his visor. (Riders don’t exactly have windshield wipers for their helmets to clean off rain or bug guts, so they put on little thin sheets of cellophane which are torn off one at a time when they get too dirty.)

We then edged along the straight right up to the exit of Turn 9, taking up a spot along the edge of one of the motorcycle parking lots where we could shoot the riders exiting turn 9. We weren’t here very long when the hour-and-a-half of MotoGP practice ended, and a few of the riders used the back straight to do their practice starts. (Pardon our yelling during the video.) We got some good pictures of Nicky Hayden doing a practice start as well.

At that point, we finally caught our breath for the first time we could remember. It had been raining off and on the whole time, but I’d barely noticed either that or the fact that I hadn’t eaten or gone to the bathroom in about five hours. We decided to take care of those needs and find our seats for the afternoon sessions.

Friday’s notes to be continued!

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4 Responses

  1. Wow! I don’t think I’ve done as much this year as you’ve done (so far) during that weekend. Great pics, excellent story. Can’t wait for the next installment.

    It was a busy damned weekend. And the funniest part of that is yet to come.

  2. Fantastic, love the pics and the commentary!

    That boner issue- it doesn’t sound like it’s going to go away on it’s own- you should really get it checked out… 😛

    I did get it checked out. 😉

  3. Holy Crap! I just creamed my pants. I wish I could have been there! I’m actually trying to get my next bike which is going to be an R6. When is the next race?

    I sat on a new R6 at the Yamaha tent on Saturday, actually. Nice.

    The next race is this weekend, at Motegi in Japan. Rossi needs to finish third or better to clinch the championship, even if Stoner wins. We’ll see how it goes!

    The next race in Indy is next August 30th. Tickets will be on sale PDQ!

  4. […] when last we left them, Our Hero and Heroine were done photographing the first MotoGP practice on Friday morning, and […]

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