MotoGP Jerez from the fences

Sampling a race day in Andalucia

T-minus 15 minutes until race start and managing to ride side saddle on the back of an LCR scooter, we pottered our way through the swarm of men and women exploring the MotoGP paddock. As I approached the service road entrance, the populated roads dispersed and I was on my way. For a moment do me a favour and picture an ocean, with loud crushing waves but swap the blue with a mix of red and yellow. That was awaiting my arrival at turn two, a crowd of thundering MotoGP enthusiasts.

It was the perfect 26 degree day with not a cloud to be seen and although every rider had previously expressed their preference for cooler conditions, the skies were clear and race almost underway. I quickly crouched down at turn two (after receiving valuable advice from surrounding photographers whom recall being yelled at by Spanish fans) and prepared myself for the first European race of the season. Standing at the end of the corner it feels as though you are the target as the bikes come straight for you but quickly slide into the corner, taking off into the distance. The race was now underway and my journey around the track to watch the spectacle had begun.

Like a game of cat and mouse I jumped back on the scooter and made my way around the circuit facing the issue of no screens and Spanish commentary (side note: my Spanish is limited to ‘Hola’ and ‘Adios” so this was the beginning of a mighty challenge to keep up). My key to understanding what was going on was through the echo of sounds coming from the grandstands, cheering for riders who were dominating and sympathy for those who had crashed. As Cal Crutchlow disappeared from fourth I knew something had gone wrong. Soon, following a period of silence I heard a different kind of cheer, it had an encouraging ‘air’ about it and soon, in last position – having started from Pole – Crutchlow rode by. A silly mistake at turn one and the front end had checked out. After a weekend where he had expressed such confidence “we are up for the challenge and have to aim high” it was sad to see him out of the game.

After managing to visit majority of the circuit and little action taking place, I concluded my journey at turn nine with eight laps to go with little understanding of what was going on. The crowd were brought to their feet and roared with fury. Something big had just happened. To my left they had propped up a large screen and I along with the entire chaos behind me witnessed Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso collide and write themselves out of podium contention. I turned around in the direction of the fans to observe the degree of emotion manifesting. It soon became an eruption of disappointment and sympathy. All three riders were focused on “consistency and rhythm” over the weekend but were unfortunately unable to avoid that nasty crash. It was a surprising turn of events for the riders after a confidence filling first half of the race. Ultimately today was not to be their day.

During Saturday’s qualifying press conference Johann Zarco referred to being on the podium by saying “it’s is the most beautiful place you can be on a Sunday” and just like that, Marc Marquez, Johann Zarco and Andrea Iannone found themselves in that place of elation. Watching on the service roads I understood why they deserved to stand on those top steps, they looked focused, had a hypnotic rhythm about them, some fortune on their side and fought till the very end to shake that champagne in all their glory.

Photos by CormacGP

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