This weekend’s Phillip Island GP will be the last opportunity for Aussies to see the 800cc bikes as next year the litre bikes return. Which got me thinking about when the last race of the 990cc era was held and who actually won it?
Our friends at Google provided all the answers of course. The last race of the 990 era was 2006 and it was won by a wildcard rider – none other than Troy Bayliss at Valencia in front of 129,000 fans. It’s a bit embarrassing that I didn’t recall that as I have a signed Bayliss memorabilia print on my office wall!
My train of thought then led to some consideration of what I actually go to the MotoGP for. Having been several times over the years, I think that it’s important to not kid yourself and to understand that in going to the GP you are attending a really big Spanish corporation’s (Dorna) money making event – don’t kid yourself that it’s anything like going to a club meeting or even a Superbike race. You are buying a highly packaged entertainment product and it’s going to cost you a bundle! Given Phillip Island’s notoriously fickle weather (yes I have been there when hypothermia was genuinely on the cards), what is it that draws me back to the event?
So when I think about it, I approach the GP with three main aims and anything else is a bonus – like the handful of decent pics I might manage to take.
My aims you ask?
Firstly, to watch the races – particularly the main event, however, without a doubt it’s the 600’s that have provided the excitement this year. Well actually, it’s a bit more than just watching the races – it’s about soaking up the atmosphere, the smell of racing fuel, the sounds of high performance engines and the sights at this incredibly scenic track by the sea. All the better for having your partner, offspring and / or mates there to share the experience with. It’s kind of hard to describe – you have to have been there to appreciate it – get my point?
Secondly, to check out all the gear, equipment displays and new models at the trackside expo. This activity leads to literally ‘rubbing shoulders’ with like- minded motorcyclists and some great chance conversations with fellow enthusiasts and vendors. Maybe I will buy an event poster to be framed and adorn my office wall at some stage, or maybe just a pin or a stubbie holder as a memento. Again, you can’t do all this this from home, no matter how big your plasma screen or home theater system is – you have to actually be there.
Thirdly, something that I really enjoy, is wandering about and checking out the motorcycle parking areas for exotica and bike mods that take my fancy. This can be really entertaining and rewarding. For example I had forgotten just how good a round case GT 750 Ducati looks and sounds, but seeing one pull into the parking area really brought back some priceless memories of my time aboard my mate Andy’s GT750 back in the 1970’s. And yes, he had a bugger of a time starting it after he stalled it, those damn Del Orto pumper carbs! You know that you can’t get that experience sitting on the sofa at home can you. The friendly ‘fellas helping manage the parking even give each rider a little square of flat plywood to stop the bike’s side stand from sinking into the grass – a nice touch.
The last time I attended was in 2008. I can’t remember why we missed 2009 and Mrs Tarsnakes and I were in the USA this time last year so missed the 2010 race. 2008 was the first time that I’d been trackside for the Saturday qualifying session and I absolutely loved the skill and cat and mouse tactics of it all. So this year we are just heading down for the day on Saturday for all the trackside experiences and then will actually watch the race at home on Sunday. Why because LEAVING Phillip Island after the races on Sunday is a real bastard – there is no other term for it. The traffic is a nightmare getting off the Island and some of the riders are just absolute kamikazes. Having said that, seeing crowds of friendly people lining the roadsides along the exits and all the way back along the South Gippsland Hwy – watching all the motorcycles and waving is a great feeling.
This is the GP run to the Island from Cranbourne on the Saturday morning of the GP weekend, not actually leaving – but it’s much the same chaos.
OK, I’d better get the camera, the thermals and the wet weather gear ready. It’s going to be cool with a possibility of showers at PI on Saturday (‘fickle’ is the PC way of describing the Island weather).
I just hope that Casey doesn’t bin it. Oh, and don’t forget some extra earplugs, gee those bikes are loud when you’re trackside!