When my alarm went off at 5am yesterday, I was almost ready to pull my eyeballs out of my head, put them in a glass, and go back to sleep, but the pull of spending a day surrounded by motorbikes, leather and a few Moto GP bodies was enough to rouse me from my pit of feathers.
After setting off to Northwich in bright sunshine on Saturday morning, I was stupid enough to bring with me only ‘summer clothes’ which meant that at 6am, I was walking through the Thundersprint paddock in shorts, knee high socks and a vest top, with my friends waterproof jacket wrapped around me like a blanket. The clouds looked full of water and the looks of disgust were starting…
Those smirks turned into horror from the people on the sidelines when I decided it would be a good idea to jump on a sidecar and ask an old bloke to take me for a spin, handbags, daisy dukes and being on all fours at the side of a motorbike was never going to be a good combination… yes, my bum was on full view, and sadly for the people within viewing distance, I don’t have a very good bum. I may have lost 2 stone, but I’ve still got a long way to go yet!
Anyway, after that debacle it was time to do some ‘actual’ work, and this weekend – rather than donning the orange overalls and collecting strewn cars, bikes and racing drivers, I was chaperone to Cal Crutchlow – the UK’s only hope in the 2011 Moto GP season – and we had a track to walk….
I collected Cal and his mates, BBC Sport’s Matt Roberts & Steve Parrish, and we went for a walk around the car park *ahem* I mean track. I always forget that the word ‘sprint’ tends to translate into ‘the fastest time around a small course’ in the world of motor racing, so when it was my turn to show him the route to take, his guess was as good as mine… somehow we worked it out, although that could have been down to a group of other ‘seasoned’ racers walking the track in front of us. Either way, it’s all about safety first, and track walks are imperative to the Bike Police who run the show.
After that, myself, Cal, his lovely girlfriend Lucy, Matt & Steve as well as a brilliant group of people from Huddersfield (Horray for Yorkshire) and a few of the other ‘minders’, headed to the ‘snap wagon’ to use our breakfast vouchers, only to be informed by Cruella De Ville that we couldn’t use them on her van. Excellent – our vouchers were handed out beside said food outlet, it was in the racers paddock, but the van we could actually use them on, was about half a mile up the road – that’s organisation for you.
With a hole in our pockets but food in our bellys, it was time to whisk Cal off for a quick change before his practise laps around the car park circuit, then another quick change and a mission up to Wigan Yamaha – who supplied his bike for the weekend – to sign a few autographs, drink some coffee, eat a load of biscuits and generally hang out. I was genuinely amazed at how long it took us to get from one place to the next – everyone wanted to shake his hand, have their photo with him and get an autograph. It was quite a privilege to spend a day with someone that thousands of people respect so much, and despite the head, the crowds and the lack of free time, Cal had time for every single person who wanted to speak to him.
Public appearances over with, I had 45 minutes to myself to get some lunch and make sure Cal’s bike was down at the head of the Cavalcade – which turned into a mission within itself – you wouldn’t believe how many people will see a motorbike being pushed towards them and stare at it as if to question whether we will haul a heavy machine around them and their ice cream cone, or whether they should waddle out of the way…. Luckily that’s where my ridiculously loud and broad Barnsley accent and the Yamaha’s cute little horn came into play… folk soon shifted when I yelled “Excuse me, no brakes!” Brilliant.
Once we’d sent the boys on their way behind my new hero Sammy Miller (it was his 80th birthday don’t ‘ya know) myself and the girls headed back to Matt Roberts’ motorhome to be serenaded by one of his guitar-playing mates – who was surprisingly good – and eat blue Doritos, which are clearly the best flavour of all of them.
Next up was a half hour signing with a motor racing travel company before a long walk with the rest of the team to the commentary box for pre-race interviews. Sat in the middle of the track with thousands members of the public on all sides, it would clearly fall on me to need to go to the loo, and look, there’s one RIGHT IN THE CENTRE of the track, so that every single person, on each side can see you go in and think ‘oh, that girls probably having a wee right now.’ It was mortifying, but luckily Steve Parrish took Cal for a ride around the car park in a shopping trolley, so I seized my moment and ducked into the Thunderbucket. After all, everyone had already got a good view of my undercarriage after my foray into sidecar racing earlier, so I didn’t have much pride left.
With interviews out of the way it was time (at last) to get on with some serious racing; our ‘team’ of Cal, Steve and Matt, as well as Moto 2’s Scott Reading and 125’s Danny Webb all made our way to the start line for three laps around the course – the boys went easy at first, but by the second lap things were getting competitive and the boys were pushing as hard as they could, but alas, it was none of our Moto GP boys who won and instead a local lad walked away with the glory. Nevertheless Matt Roberts was our winner, for a Thundersprint virgin, he impressed us all with his efforts and charm.
In all, I had a fabulous day and met some wonderful people that I hope to see again in the near future. There was no pretentiousness from the people I spend the day with – despite them being at the top of their game when it comes to Motorcycling, each person was fabulously down to earth and cemented my desire to work in motorsport in the future. Don’t get me wrong, writing about Katie Price’s love life and organising events at a local Office Park is great fun… but there’s nothing like the smell of petrol to get your engine going in a morning.
Oh, and that dreamboat Sebastian Vettel won the F1. Again. Can’t ague with that – what a great day for motor racing.