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Lapping the grand finale, with the professionals

Sabyasachi Biswas | Updated on November 20, 2014

Baby champ: Reigning champion Marc Marquez feels that the upcoming seasons will be interesting with new regulations and more manufacturers

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Witnessing the end of a phenomenal MotoGP season in Valencia

The press stand at Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, or Circuit Ricardo Tormo at Valencia is situated just above the pits, and across the pits is the starting grid. If you’ve been to a race track before and seen these machines in action, live, then you know you need earplugs, because these areas are the loudest ones. The sound of the engines, even while idling, can be deafening. Sure, while watching this on the telly, a motorcycle enthusiast may call the sounds from the racetrack as pure music – at close quarters, the sheer decibel level is overwhelming.

Faster, fastest

MotoGP is much like Formula One – these machines fly by at speeds in excess of 300kmph on straights. In both MotoGP and F1, drivers and riders face extreme physical stress and both are indeed the pinnacles of engineering. Only, in MotoGP, the risk is higher and the rider has to be more involved with the machine as it goes around every corner. If you watch a fast rider in slow motion going around the corner, you’d see the rear wheel first lift up as the brakes come down hard. Next, you’ll see the rider deliberately sliding the rear wheel and if you’ve a good angle, you can notice the counter-steer on the handlebars too. And if you’re watching Marc Marquez, you’ll see not just his knees but also his elbows scrape the ground as he goes around a fast corner.

People have been racing motorcycles from 1906, but only in 1949 was the governing body for motorcycle races, FIM (Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme) founded. From the first Grand Prix at Isle of Man in 1949, until today, FIM has regulated the races for safety, fairness and more.

Speedy weekend

Saturdays are usually the days for qualifying – based on the performance in the qualifying laps, it is decided who starts from where on the grid. Believe it or not, the race for clinching the pole position is at times more intense than the race for a podium position. Standing above the pits you can see technicians and riders work in tandem to make sure the bikes are running fine and the teams try their best to make both riders and machines go faster. A tyre change takes place in under 30 seconds or so. If a rider comes into the pit to swap bikes during qualifying or free practice, the switch takes a few seconds.

And yet, it’s on the Sundays when all hell breaks loose in the stands. In Valencia, the season finale for the 2014 MotoGP, all three classes of racing saw intense action. The most intense was probably the Moto3 division, the 250cc class. This season, the race for the Moto3 world championship was open until the very last race. In motorsports, the word spectacular is overused, but the battle between KTM’s Jack Miller and Honda’s Alex Marquez was simply spectacular. The Ricardo Tormo circuit of Valencia, where the season finale took place two weekends ago, erupted as the Spanish homeboy Alex (also the younger brother of Marc Marquez) crossed the finish line first.

The 600cc Moto2 division too was quite intense (although Esteve ‘Tito’ Rabat had already become the champion, based on points). Rabat and Swiss rider Thomas Luthi battled each other until the last corner of the last lap, and almost every one of the 1,97,000 spectators was on the edge until they crossed the chequered flag.

But it’s at 2 p.m., when the lights go out for the premier class, and the noise (from both fans and the machines) is at its peak. From our vantage point in the Grand Stand, we could see sections of the other stands, colour coded. A sizeable chunk of the stands, discernible from across the circuit, was the Marquez fans’ area. A slightly bigger chunk was draped in bright fluorescent yellow – the Rossi people. And this being Valencia, an equally large section of the stands was full of Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo’s fans dressed in black and blue.

With each overtake, a section of the crowd would either cheer (read scream) fanatically, or let out a rather loud and collective groan. But Mexican waves go up and down uninterrupted, irrespective of whom you’re supporting.

We were not disappointed by the riders either. Even though 7 times world champion Valentino Rossi started from pole position and reigning champion Marc Marquez took off from the third row, the legend and the rising star put up a fascinating battle, keeping every spectator on the edge, right until the point where Marquez crossed the chequered flag and beat Rossi to it.

The next lap

The 2014 MotoGP is over, and several records have been shattered. At the Honda Racing Corporation press conference, both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez were asked, if the new regulations would affect their performances in any way. Dani, a rider who pays more attention to technicality (he’s touted to have the best bike and chassis of the entire lot) said that the move from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres looks promising, without giving any further details. Marquez, on the other hand, thinks that the addition of more manufacturers in the upcoming season would make the competition more intense. But will that affect his title? He laughs and just says, “No”.

The writer was in Valencia on Honda’s invitation

Published on November 20, 2014

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