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MotoGP: 'There is nothing better than seeing it in real ife'

2018-06-22 16:00

Angus Powers

Image: Supplied

MotoGP fans will tell you that TV coverage of their sport has never been better. In fact, the on-screen integration of incredible camera angles and detailed, real-time rider and bike data must make MotoGP one of the best live sports broadcast offerings in the world. 

But as good as MotoGP is on TV, to watch it live is simply sublime. Here’s why.

1.The passion

Apart from the main grandstand on the start-finish straight, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya features a number of huge stands that shovel fans up into the sky for spectacular views of the best corners.

READ: MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa to part ways with Honda

On race day, it’s a sea of red and luminous yellow as supporters of local hero Marc Marquez try to outdo the universally popular Italian, Valentino Rossi.

 

                                                                     Image: Angus Powers

The grass banks lining the circuit are also packed with fans, many of whom follow the MotoGP circuit around Europe on their own motorcycles, camping at the racetracks. 

Sure, MotoGP supporters are fanatics, but their enthusiasm is built on a deep respect for the sport and the racers. And although any given viewing position is just one spot on a track that is 4.6km long, the fans engage with the entire event, regardless of personal affiliation.

                                                                    Image: Angus Powers

The fans stand and acknowledge all the racers on the warm-up lap, they applaud the race start, and they rise to salute any rider who is ferried past on the back of a marshal’s scooter after crashing out.

And at the end of the grand prix, thousands of fans stream to the pit area to acclaim their heroes during the podium ceremony. It’s all a far cry from watching live sport in South Africa, where people head to the carpark before the final whistle is even blown.

2.The context

The 2018 Catalunya Grand Prix neatly encapsulated the past, present and future of motorcycle grand prix racing. Spanish riders dominated the race, finishing 1-2 and taking another four of the 14 finisher’s spots.

                                                                        Image: Angus Powers

But it wasn’t always like that. Exactly fifty years ago Salvador Cañellas was the first Spaniard to ever win a grand prix when he took the chequered flag at the 1968 125cc Spanish GP. 

The future however is electric, with the MotoE World Cup series being launched next year. Doing 0-100km/h in three seconds and hitting 250km/h, the MotoE bike is no slouch.

3.The sound and fury

The TV perspective offers a lot to viewers but in many ways it completely fails to capture the essence of motorsport. Spectating at a motor race is a visceral experience: the sound is an aural assault on your brain and you feel the speed in your gut. 

MotoGP on TV has the dreamlike quality of a gamer’s world: slick, polished, and mostly without consequence. MotoGP live is raw and relentless, with terrifying risks never far away.

Whatever the class, the noise is overwhelming. Moto3 is like the buzzing of a million insane hornets. Moto2 winds up to a banshee shriek, and MotoGP itself lets rip with a pure, full-throated, demented howl as it attempts to warp the space-time continuum. 

The speed, of course, is profound. At the Catalunya Grand Prix, Andrea Dovizioso topped out at 348.8km/h on his Ducati which, in a straight line, is hands down the fastest bike on the grid.

Not even Formula 1 cars hit that kind of speed in a race. Nowadays, tyres are so grippy that riders can get their elbows on the tarmac through the turns yet in a crash all they have is the relatively primitive protection of helmets, leathers and airbag support for the shoulders and neck.

To take you trackside to absorb all of this is beyond the power of TV. Or words.

4. Behind the scenes

The MotoGP paddock is petrolhead heaven. The paddock is packed with team trucks that expand to be fully two storeys high and sponsor bases which look more like permanent buildings than the mobile headquarters they are.

                                                                                 Image: Angus Powers

(What truly boggles the mind is that these massive rigs are loaded onto aeroplanes to be flown around the world to accompany the rest of the MotoGP circus.) The Michelin hangar heaves with team mechanics ferrying tyres to and fro, and around every corner are pit-lane secrets, paddock girls and the chance of a selfie with a racer buzzing past on a scooter.

5.Valentino Rossi

No-one is ever bigger than his sport, but Valentino Rossi comes close. Only at the truck of the nine-time world champion do the fans wait patiently from dawn to dusk for a glimpse of greatness.

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Rossi is the only active rider to run a development academy for young riders as well as his own Moto3 team. And not only does Rossi bring his own merchandise mega-store to every track (the rest of the riders have to make do with stalls) but he owns the merchandising rights for 11 of the 26 riders on the MotoGP grid too. And through it all, the Italian has managed to remain accessible, genuine and quirky. On TV, Rossi might seem revered but in reality it’s clear he is loved. 

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