MotoGP at Indy – Friday afternoon

This is part of a series, and is also documented in my Flickr set and my YouTube channel. Go there if you’d like to learn more!

So, when last we left them, Our Hero and Heroine were done photographing the first MotoGP practice on Friday morning, and suddenly realizing that they were hungry and had been far too long without a bathroom break.

The plan for the afternoon was to just hang out in our seats in Penthouse B. It seemed like a good idea for a number of reasons: first, to figure out where our seats were before the crowds got bigger on Saturday and Sunday; second, to see how the view from our seats would be so we could decide where we wanted to do more photography; and lastly, because we were wet and (in theory) our seats would be covered. Check, check, and check. So we hauled our gear back across the infield, through tunnel 6 under the front straight as the 250cc bikes whizzed over our heads, and back out onto the outer concourse.

Something I should have pointed out by now is that I walk back and forth across the campus where I work on a daily basis, lugging a messenger bag that weighs anywhere from 10-50 pounds depending on the crap I’m hauling on a given day. So while I was a little footsore from all the standing around we were doing instead of sitting on our butts like I normally would, I could hump the backpack full of camera gear, the plastic bag with all our goodies from the Yamaha tent hanging from my belt, a pile of AA batteries, film canisters, and camera memory cards in the cargo pockets of my shorts, and so forth without complaining (much, except some bitching about how the shoulder straps came across my shoulders). Dys, on the other hand, doesn’t usually do that kind of walking. So she was pretty damned worn out, but to her credit, she never complained, even in all the rain. I just wanted to point that out to everybody and say, kickass, babe!

Anyway, we made it back to the outer concourse and decided to grab something to eat. Our plan originally had been to stock the cooler with water bottles and PBJ’s, but we decided to plan to eat at the track on Friday before we made too many plans as far as hauling the cooler around, where to put it in our seats, etc. We were just hoping it wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg.

And really, it didn’t. Sure, it was a little on the expensive side, with a Powerade for Dys going for $3, a “Brickyard Burger” (no cheese) at $4 (I think), and so forth, it sure wasn’t a stopover at McD’s, but it wasn’t the highway robbery I was afraid of, either. The biggest items of interest were the alcoholic beverages for $6 – not bad for an event like this, really, and I’m glad they weren’t cheaper or there’d be lots more drunks about – and as Dys pointed out, cigarettes. Neither of us could remember the last time we’d ever been to a sporting event where they actually sold cigarettes at the concession stands. Amusing…almost.

So we grabbed our lunch-for-two-for-$12 and began the process of finding our seats. It quickly became clear that we’d stopped and bought our lunch a bit early – we walked past several more concession stands that were open, and meanwhile I was trying to walk while carrying a heavy backpack, holding a tray of food in one hand, and trying to cover the cup of fries from the occasional drips of rain from the stands overhead with the other hand. Finally we found our section, and the stairs leading thereto. Stairs are another one of those things I do every day carrying a heavy pack – Dys, not so much, and she has her dad’s bad knees to boot. So that was a little bit laborious, but we made it up to our seats, where

WOW. We have great seats. (Those of you who’ve looked at the Flickr set probably know this by now.) We were in the front row of Penthouse B, so to our left we could see all the way down the front straight. Right in front of us was the exit to pit lane, and to our right was Turn 1, so right in front of us was where riders were braking hard to make Turn 1. Exactly as I’d planned, since I thought there might be a fair bit of passing on the brakes right at the end of the straight. But what we didn’t know was that we also had a great view of turns 3 and 4 as well (turn 2 was a bit obscured by the Red Bull tent near Ducati Island), and to top it all off, great views of two of the huge jumbotron boards. Far in the distance, we had a slight gap in which we could see riders coming into Turn 6, and a bit of a wider gap between a jumbotron and the Learjet Pagoda where we could see them going between (I think) turns 7 and 8.

There were a few couples sitting behind us who turned out to be really nice folks from Owensboro, Kentucky, home of Nicky and the Hayden clan. One of them turned out to be a smoker, too, which kinda bit. But oh well. Otherwise they were awesome.

We also had a great big fucking girder right in front of one of our two seats. (This picture was actually taken on Saturday.)

On Friday, no big deal. Our row was pretty much empty, so we just slid down a little bit and took photos as the 250cc session ended and the first 125cc qualifying session ran along. The track was still seriously wet, and we expected to see lots of crashes on the brakes as riders tipped into Turn 1. It ended up that that didn’t happen with the smaller bikes…but we did see several of the 125 boys highside on the gas as they exited Turn 1 and accelerated toward Turn 2. Interesting.

To show how hard it was raining, here’s a shot of one of the 250cc riders pulling into his garage. (Notice the plastic rain jacket over his leathers.)

Dys’s tiredness finally caught up to her during the 125cc practice. I had to do this. I knew it was dangerous, I told the people sitting behind me in the stands that I was taking my life into my hands, but I had to do it.

Yep. Out like a light. She snoozed like that for probably about 15 minutes or so. I thought it was hysterical, personally. (I’m not that crazy – I got her permission to post it before I uploaded! And by the way, thanks for being a good sport, babe.)

In between practices, the jumbotrons would show pictures of riders in the various classes, schedules of events, video of prizes being awarded and so forth, and occasionally put up “questions” the likes of which their guest services contractor was supposed to be able to ask. One of the questions was “Why do MotoGP riders have pucks in their suits?” [Meaning knee pucks.] I turned to Dys and said, “Well, first they tried baseballs and footballs…”

There was also occasionally music being played over the stadium sound system, and Dys was particularly impressed with the mix of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and “Need You Tonight” by INXS. I agreed that it was well done – it was so subtle (at least over the not-ideal-sound speaker system combined with the constant revving of the 2-strokes) that Dys had to point it out to me before I could pick it out. Very nice.

The MotoGP bikes took their second practice from 1:55 to 2:55pm, and we excitedly put our techniques learned this morning from the Colorado fellow (thanks again, guy, whoever you are!) to good use, snapping lots of good photos of the guys coming into 1. We did see a few guys blow the entrance to 1, standing the bike up and running off the motorcycle course onto the main oval. Of course, the main guys we saw doing it were the ones we most wanted to win: Hayden and Rossi. “No problem,” I told Dys. “If they’re running in too hot, it just shows they’re trying hard.” I hoped.

This is Dys’s favorite picture that she took from the entire weekend: Valentino Rossi on the brakes for Turn 1, just as he passed beneath us. I love the reflection and the motion blur.

I spent a lot of time trying to shoot the bikes going away from us. Here’s Rossi going through turn 1.

Another awesome reflection: Pedrosa on the brakes

We also ended up seeing precisely one crash on the brakes, as Sylvain Guintoli lowsided right in front of us, sliding past 1 and plowing a few divots in the grass between the motorcycle course and the oval.

I also shot a brief YouTube video of the bikes going by beneath us. This gives you a pretty good idea of the view from our seats.

After the MotoGP practice session ended at 3pm, we were wet, tired, and sore. There was still almost an hour of 250cc qualifying, not to mention two hours of Red Bull Rookies Cup practice and qualifying yet to come, but Dys suggested that we go ahead and leave and get some rest, and I agreed, less reluctantly than I might have thought. Our only regret was not taking a photo of me at the track wearing the t-shirt I had on, which was a shirt for Bike Night at the little sportsman’s (mostly hunting) club I belonged to when we lived in the Midwest, the club that my father-in-law is still occasionally president of. Oh well.

We had no problems getting out of the parking lot, even though it was mostly grass and it was a little muddy in places. We headed out of the city and out to the little ‘burb where our hotel was, stopping by the local Wal-Mart to drop off our film at the 1-hour photo. As Dys said, no need in keeping on spending money on the film if the photos weren’t turning out worth a crap. While there, we popped the camera card into one of the readers just to get a glimpse at what I’d been able to get with the digital so far, and we were quite pleased. So we left to buy some paper towels, paper plates, and so forth, along with some microwavable dinners to heat up in the microwave in our room. (We’d blown a buttload of cash on t-shirts and stuff earlier in the day, but spending $20 on dinner two nights in a row? No way!)

By the time we were done shopping, it was time to get the pics back from the lab, so we went back and grabbed them and stood right outside the photo booth looking at some of them. There were lots of crap, but a lot of them looked really good! Dys was so excited I finally had to prod her to say “C’mon, let’s go back to the room to look at the rest of them!” So we did. We looked through the pics, getting even more stoked for the next day, ate our microwave dinners, and watched the weather forecast. It was looking more and more ominous for Sunday, but better for Saturday, so we decided to again attempt to find a great spot or two to photograph the GP practice in the morning and sit in our seats in the afternoon. We also excitedly opened our Rossi lanyards, and were disappointed to figure out that while they looked identical, they were not so. One had a nice stitched edge, and the other had something like a fused edge which left those little poky threads hanging out at odd places. We were not happy, but what could we do? They were already pretty much out at 8 am that morning; surely we couldn’t return it. I decided to suck it up and wear my “Inaugural Red Bull GP” lanyard for the rest of the weekend and let Dys wear both the Hayden and the good Rossi lanyards. Oh well.

I set my alarm for 5:40am, we turned out the lights, and…well, after that it’s none of your business now, is it? (Suzy, I’m looking in your direction!)

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7 Responses

  1. LOL, I just have a dirty mind!!!!!! 😀

    I’m so envious, despite the rain. It looks like you got great seats! It feels kind of surreal hearing all those names that are so familiar and seeing pics like that, it’s so much more “close” than seeing them on tv, even just reading your blog! Love it!

    If your mind is dirtier than mine, I’m frightened. It was funny, though!

    And I agree. All in all you probably get a better view on TV, but the experience was wholly different, and Dys and I had no reservations about saying “YES, we’ll do this again” even though it was really quite expensive. There’s just no substitute for the photo I have of Capirossi looking at the crowd as he goes by, with his eyes clearly visible through his visor – or of seeing Rossi go by so close you could yell to him…if he could possibly hear you over the rumble of his bike. For that matter, there’s nothing like having a motorcycle go by 100 feet below and in front of you and feeling your seat shake!

  2. Great pics and an excellent video pan, TB! Another great installment of ‘The Little (Tired, Wet) Photographers Who Could.’

    I must also compliment you on the very gentlemanly taking of the second best lanyard.

    And I did like your ‘how’d we get to pucks’ joke.

    Why thankya thankya! I may snag the good lanyard next year. We’ll see. 😉

  3. Well dah! I didn’t say you had to be a martyr!

  4. Aww! That video is precious. But if your adorable wife is anything like me…she’ll get ya back eventually. 😉

    I’m sure plans are already hatched and blueprints are being drawn.

  5. 4+4+3+3 (fries, hello) = $14
    …and he wonders why I’m still in charge of the bills. =D

    Had the adorable wife woke WHILE he was doing it, we would have had a shot of his bloody scalp too. 😉 That said, the minute I woke up, I said, “You took a picture of me sleeping, didn’t you?”

    Still… that was the BEST nap.

    I also don’t think the Stairs (with a capital S, I’m telling you) got nearly enough coverage here. I’m filing a protest.

    You were a lot happier afterward.

    I forgot that we actually took a pic of the stairs, but of all the pics I wanted to upload to Flickr, that one didn’t make the cut. Maybe when I have more room next month. I did end up discussing it in the drafts for future days…Sunday, maybe?

    For the record, there were six flights of stairs…a flight, a landing, another flight, change direction, a flight, landing, another flight, change direction, a flight, a landing, another flight, and you’re off.

  6. […] all of the parts together!  In the meantime, you can follow the lines backward by going to the Friday Afternoon post.  There are more photos available on my Flickr […]

  7. Wow. Posting covertly shot videos of one’s spouse elevates blogging to a new level. Must seriously consider this possibility 🙂

    Uh, I’m sorry, Matt?

    He’s at least less likely to smack you in a public place than my wife is… 😀

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