After some excavation the trusty BMW started first time, not ridden in a month or so, probably the longest I have ever gone without being in the saddle. I rode it last night across the Williamsburg bridge dodging yawning potholes and drivers blinded by the low light. It felt so damn good. Whatever else goes on, motorcycling proved it’s ability to provide me with peace, a little thrill and a deep exhalation. As soon as the helmet is on and the clutch released, that first ‘over the shoulder’ check is the start of something meaningful to me.
I’m moving to India.
Back in the pit box, Laverty pushes back to first place some twenty something laps into the race. Guintoli close behind. Marco Melandri, the legend, Sykes the legend, both behind. Laverty is going to do it.
From silence to a few nervous squeals to a roar. The room erupts. The man at the centre, grey hair is the team manager for Aprilia. The team members turn to one another and the passengers like me look at one another in delight. This is a privilege, this is amazing.
Let me distract you. I forgot to mention the safety car. My clients whom I now believe are going to take me captive and make me do bad things (they have been so nice I owe them my life) have booked me a ride.
'Strap in, fast please' comes the command, the last thing I hear from my driver before we squeal out of the pits. I'm thrust into the seat, flung around like a fool and holding my hands out imagining I am riding. I must have looked about 10 years old.
The corckscrew approaches, wow, it’s blind, steep, fast, pushing you into the seat and whoosh you are sliding out the other side.
ENI, I’m ready, what do I need to do…
At the grid I am grabbed by the elbow by a glamorous Russian sounding woman who tells me I must go with her. I do as I am told and whilst I can’t figure out how a Russian PR for Honda has done it, or why, it appears I am actually going to watch the race here in the Aprilia pit box, she evaporates and I take my place at the back of the room.
I had prepared to be beside the track. The pit during a race is a special place. You keep away, leave it to the professionals. I stood very still, fearful I would trip over a tire warmer, lean on something expensive and carbon or ask a dumb question. Again it was silent, another tier of conversation was happening all around me on headphones, another language being spoken, tensions I could not see or feel.
Laverty holds pole, Sykes is pinned into second and Guintoli is not far behind, the race is on. Suddenly I am at the epicentre of a very exciting day. Thank you ENI, thank you, you have my loyalty forever. And thank you glamorous Russian lady, whomever you were.
The legendary Laguna Seca corkscrew. Just imagine the demands on the riders, what their line of sight can be and how difficult it must be to adjust your critical body position through this and stay on line.
The next day, race day is warm and clear. Perfect Monterey fall weather I’m told. We arrive at the circuit and it’s clear this will be special. My hosts ENI are making me feel like a king. I am ushered early into the Aprilia pitbox and allowed to see the bikes.
Lines of tires like battery chickens are wired up with all sorts of arcane data written on them. Laverty’s bike is exposed, naked, all carbon, perfect and high tech. It’s quiet, not frantic, these guys know what they are doing. This is the bike that went on to win…