First Person/Opinion by Michael Gougis
“I could see the food I wanted,” my wife Sandy told me, “but I wasn’t allowed to go over there and get it.”
Sandy had decided she wanted to see her first MotoGP race. I was covering the season-opener in Portugal, so we went the civilian route for her and bought a ticket for a grandstand seat, just like anyone else could purchase. (Tip: If you’re going to see a race at Portimao, get seats overlooking Turn Three. If something is going to happen, it will happen there. Sandy learned lots of colorful Portuguese words from the fans incensed when Marc Marquez took out local hero Miguel Oliveira!)
Her grandstand ticket allowed her access to her grandstand – and that was it. She entered her grandstand directly from the parking lot, and she was stuck with the food in her section, the drinks in her section. She couldn’t wander the paddock, couldn’t see any of the motorcycles when they were in the garages. She couldn’t get anywhere near the riders. She couldn’t roam the trackside. The merchandise booths actually were set up outside of the circuit, because there literally wasn’t a common space inside the track where all ticket holders would be able to shop for hats, shirts and other stuff from their favorite riders!
This is not unusual any more in many forms of motorsport. Last time I was at Valencia for MotoGP, it felt like someone was scanning my pass every 10 feet. It was always, you can go here, you can’t go there, you could go here if you had this pass but you don’t …
That has never been my experience at a MotoAmerica round.
Look, at any commercial event, you will have some experiences that are limited to certain pass holders. But at a MotoAmerica round, you don’t need special tickets just to wander the midway and peruse the booths where the food and souvenirs are sold. You might pay for a grandstand seat, but there’s always a bit of fence to stand at and watch the bikes go blasting past for the general admission folks. Just before Turn Five at Laguna Seca has always been one of my favorite bits of fence for up-close viewing, and the hillside between turns One and Two offers a panoramic view of most of the track. Both are free with general admission.
I’ve usually been free to watch the teams working on the bikes at their trucks, from a couple of feet away, which is awesome. Other than the racing, the other reason we’re all there is that we like cool bikes, and seeing them up close is amazing. Watching a team rebuild a wrecked bike in time to make a restart is pure theater. And I’ve had many conversations with riders wandering through the paddock, because racers are usually more than happy to talk to anybody.
For me, it’s very cool to stand at the base of the podium post-race and watch dedicated, driven, bad-ass road racing warriors break down in tears of joy, overcome by what they’ve accomplished.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that one of the rewards of attending a MotoAmerica round is that you get to see so much more of the entire process of racing than you may get to see elsewhere. You get to see the machines up close, the people who make the machines work doing their magic, and you get to meet the riders who do things on motorcycles that leave us mere mortals just shaking our heads in astonishment.
I love racing. And I really appreciate the opportunity to see it up close, from start to finish, from before the lights go out to after the last checkered flag is thrown.
If that sounds good to you, when MotoAmerica is in town, go, and have fun!