The 2008 Red Bull Indianapolis GP

I wanted to make one final post on my trip to the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix for two reasons: first, to provide an index to all of the posts so folks coming around later (including myself) can find them easily; and second, to sum up with my general impressions.

So, first things first: Here’s an index to the posts.

The preliminary posts

We’re back!

Working on it

Empowered

Flickr begged for help

The GP!

Thursday afternoon

Friday morning

Friday afternoon

Saturday morning

Saturday afternoon

Sunday morning

Sunday afternoon and the aftermath

***

And now, for my final thoughts, as of a few weeks later…

It was, without a doubt, one of the best weekends I can remember. Even including the damned hurricane.

I’ve driven through Indianapolis a number of times, and although I didn’t know it, I’ve been less than ten miles from the speedway before. I now know why it’s considered a haven of racing in America. First off, the place is enormous – I remember as a child thinking that what is now called Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina was almost unbelievably large, but at a guess I’d say that IMS is half again bigger than Charlotte. There were also clearly “Indy fans” who would come to anything that IMS put in front of them. I’ve never seen such a thing before, but it was damned cool.

I could understand why they felt that way, though. Not only was every single IMS person I met at the track both pleasant, friendly, and helpful, but IMS management apparently knows how to work the strings. The local media saturated the airwaves and newsstands with coverage of this new and strange motorcycle-racing animal, drumming up all kinds of two-wheeled excitement in a four-wheeled town. I wouldn’t know from experience, but apparently even the airport got in on the act. The only gripe I had about the whole event (aside from the weather) was the traffic control on the way out after the race on Sunday, and that was minor. Other than that, IMS put on the best show they possibly could, under ridiculously bad weather conditions. Those people know how to put on a race.

I grew up going back and forth to NASCAR races in places like Martinsville and Charlotte, but I’ve never seen anything quite like a MotoGP race up close and personal. In the early 80s, NASCAR was still really accessible, so in fact you could (and I did) walk right up to the trailers holding the race cars, and the crews would actually invite the kids in to look at the cars themselves. The GP paddock isn’t quite that open, but you can get so much closer to the actual racing than you could in NASCAR that it’s astounding. I remember seeing Richard Petty through the window web in Charlotte, but only during the cautions. At speed, you couldn’t really see a man inside the machine. In GP racing, the man is right there, and you really can just look at them and see who’s riding relaxed, or tentatively, or angrily. Everyone should see it at least once.

The sound of a real life MotoGP bike at 30 paces is unreal. Whether accelerating out of the corner or roaring at full bore down a straight, it’s like the roar of some wild animal-god. Combined with the palpable excitement in the air from everyone present and the sound becomes almost orgiastic. And neither the sound nor the crackling ecstasy come adequately through a television screen. I’ve watched motorcycle racing for years, and I thought watching them on television was awesome, but I am a new convert. Yes, the view on television is probably still better, but the experience as a whole just doesn’t compare.

There were motorcycles everywhere, of all makes and models. I saw semi-rare Ducatis and KTMs and Aprilias that I’d only seen in magazine photos riding down the street side-by-side with 1970’s-model Hondas and raked-out Harley choppers. Filling the parking lots, filling the campgrounds, and I never heard a cross word about “damn bikers.” As a motorcyclist, no matter what bike you ride sooner or later you understand that you’re being lumped together with a whole lot of others, and not in a nice way. You yourself may not be a squid or a 1%’er, but eventually someone will treat you as one. For this weekend, though, everything was beautiful.

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been around such a large crowd of such happy people. Even knowing that we were likely to be inundated by rain and buffeted by winds, motorcyclists and racing fans from all over the world braved it anyway to attend the first Grand Prix motorcycle race on US soil outside of California. I felt as though we all were partaking of the wonder of the moment, being a part of something that we’d waited a long time for. A special “first” that we all hoped would not be a “last.” IMS supposedly never releases attendance figures, but they made an exception this time. According to them, almost 31,000 people attended on Friday; 52,000 on Saturday, and 91,000 on Sunday. Even knowing that the remnants of a hurricane were bearing down right at the moment of the main event, nearly a hundred thousand people showed up. That feeling of something new and long-awaited seemed to suffuse everyone I came across, and I can’t recall seeing an angry fan.

(Hell, I never even saw a drunk fan, even though IMS sold alcohol and they’d let you bring in anything as long as it wasn’t glass. Dys said she saw two – one of them she saw twice. Having attended my share of NASCAR races, the lack of inebriation was a mild surprise.)

Dys almost backed out at the last minute due to her work situation, but in the end she decided to tough it out, and I can’t even tell you all how glad I am that she did. Being there alone with just a camera and a notebook just would never have compared to the dozens and dozens of times that we leaned over and said, “Did you see that?!?” Or “Here comes Rossi!” Or “Geez, Spies is hanging almost completely off of that thing!” There’s just nothing like sharing something exciting and new with your favorite person, and I’m thrilled that I had mine right there with me.

In the end, even though it was an expensive trip and we were in the midst of talking about how we were going to engage in some belt-tightening, Dys and I both agreed wholeheartedly…and I immediately reserved tickets and a hotel room for next year’s race. Come hell, heat, or hurricanes, I’ll be back in Indianapolis next August for the return of the Grand Prix. And just knowing that day will come makes me smile.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Maybe I’ll see ya there next year!

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4 Responses

  1. Neat! You went to a race?

    Most of the NASCAR fans can identify with drinking a beer AND driving a car…I think it is a little harder to do while having only one hand one the bike.

    (Just kidding NASCAR fans…I am guilty of Stereotyping)

    You would think, but I HAVE a few times seen a guy riding a motorcycle and talking on a cell phone at the same time. That takes a special amount of coordination…and stupidity.

    Were you being a smartass about the “went to a race” or were you asking about my attending NASCAR races? (I hope the former, because that was a good jab if it was. 😉 ) Yeah, I attended a handful of races as a kid. My dad has all the good “drunk guy” stories, though, because as a kid I was completely oblivious – I was busy watching the fast cars go by!

  2. Very informative, your are. The big one (IMS) is indeed spectacular. I am so jealous of you that I could just spit…lol Maybe someday…

    As long as you don’t spit on me, it’s all good!

    Glad you enjoyed it. I actually received an email from IMS the other day inviting me to answer a survey about the event. The questions were very well thought-out, I believe, and I think it just goes to show how professional IMS is and how committed they are to putting out the best racing they can. I’m very encouraged for next year. Hope you can make it out!

  3. I totally missed your question in your reply!

    That was SO an attempt at sarcasm about “going to a race”! It is hard to pull off sarcasm in a comment box.

    🙂

    Hehehe. In that case, well done, sir!

  4. […] year, you’ll remember (and for those who don’t, here’s the link to my sum-up post on the whole experience), we had awesome frickin’ seats right at the exit […]

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