Archive - May 2008 - Race Story
The three painted lines marking the spot where MotoGP line up on the grid cram a lot of tension into a tiny space. After rolling out of the pits, and round the track for the sighting lap, the riders are in their element doing something they know and understand, riding a powerful motorcycle around a race track. But that release from pre-race tension is all too brief, for it is the prelude to the worst 15 minutes of a rider's life. Once they round the final corner and roll up to their starting position, they are trapped once again inside those few lines of paint, forced to stand idle while the clock ticks away the endless seconds before the race actually starts.
Then, once the bustle of the grid is brought to an end by the 1 minute board, and the bikes head off round the track for the warm up lap, the riders know that things are about to get worse. As they return to the confinement of those three stripes of paint, that sickening feeling in the pit of their stomach intensifies. For though they know they will only be held in that painted prison for a few seconds, restrained by just a red light, they have just long enough to ponder the fact that what they do next is irreversible. No room for error, no second chances, and no quarter given when the flag drops, but until then, motorcycle racers, people who are fundamentally defined by what they do, can do nothing. Just wait. And worry.
The MotoGP series, especially in the shape of Dorna, the marketing body behind MotoGP, loves to compare itself with Formula One and other four-wheeled racing series, the comparisons always coming out in MotoGP's favor. And it is true that there is usually more passing in a single MotoGP race than there is in a season of Formula One. Dorna is always delighted to point out that if it's excitement you're after, then MotoGP is very much the place to be.
The Shanghai International Circuit is a strange place. It is, to paraphrase Dickens, the best of tracks and the worst of tracks. For like so much of the building going on due to China's rise as a global superpower, the facilities are quite simply remarkable. The pit garages are spacious and clean, the paddock buildings are beautifully laid out, complete with garden and water village, and the press room looks like it could be used by NASA to monitor space shuttle flights. The trackside facilities truly are second to none.