WSB Valencia 2003

 

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WSB with Full Hospitality and Paddock passes.
click small picture for bigger image

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could go to the first WSB race in Valencia Col” I said casually one evening whilst watching Suzi Perry jumping in and out of a helicopter on BBC’s Treasure Hunt. “Maybe we could” Col replied from the kitchen. His voice was unruffled; it was as casual a remark as… ‘Just popping down the shops’… “Right, yeah, course we can” I mocked, a large grin spreading across my face “And maybe I’ll get the chance to meet Suzi Perry, and James Toesland will finally get on the podium!” I added.

Then I started to think… it wasn’t that far fetched to imagine James getting on the podium, in fact I would be rather disappointed if he didn’t. As for meeting Suzi, that was just one of those ‘Admiration’ type wants. A year ago, I didn’t even know whom James Toesland, Suzi Perry, or even Carl Foggerty was. I had always loved motorbikes, but my life had changed when Col moved to my hometown, and landed a job with Alphabet Motorsport Graphics. I was introduced to a side of motorbikes that I hadn’t even looked at before. Malcolm (Alphabet Boss Man) had very kindly offered Col any of the WSB freebee tickets that he was given (for sponsoring and being accountable for the graphics on hospitality units, trucks, and also bikes for: HMPlant, and FPRacing). So that was entrance covered. Only obstacle left was, money, flights, transport, accommodation and time off work.

“Could we afford to go? And would you be able to get time off work?” My tone of voice changing from ridicule to that of ‘Oooooh please! Let this be true’. “I can ask tomorrow, and with the amount of overtime I have been doing lately, I think we could stretch to it”.

Before you could say ‘Bobs ya Uncle’ we had flights and car booked, full hospitality tickets with paddock passes from FPR, a Hotel for a week; courtesy of my parents time share with RCI, and bags packed. I won’t relay some of the names I was called by my mates in Sun up Ladies bike club when they heard the news, but I softened the jealousy with promises of as many autographs as I could get.

Onto the Easy Jet plane armed with MCN WSB Pullout, and a Cheshire cat grin that staid for the whole weekend. We’d already met several other WSB fans on their own way to Spain for the event, and this helped to build the atmosphere for the whole experience. Arriving in Alicante safely and starting the long road journey to the circuit was enjoyable on the very clean, almost empty Spanish toll roads. Fiona from FPR met us at the gate in Valencia with our passes, hospitality tickets and a presentation folder containing a map of the circuit and introduction letters from Carl Fogarty. Col went to park the car and Fiona led me off to the hospitality unit, she was very eager that we had lunch after our long journey. I must say I was in shock. This was just a bit too much to be real. This time last year: I owned a rusty car, and lived a simple life pottering about in my garden, painting ceramics, writing short stories and having coffee mornings at my friends. Now: I had a sports bike and was on the management team of Go Star Racing; I was the founder of Sun Up Lady bikers, and we had a membership of 14; and here I was: clutching my personal presentation folder, about to have lunch in Carl Fogarty’s hospitality unit with his friends, family, team mates, and other guests, in Spain, to witness the first two races of the 12-round series, World Superbike season. And just in case I happen to have a spare brain cell in my head that could instigate intelligent conversation, I was led to the hospitality unit and wowed with the high chrome stools around small round tables; every refreshment on offer, chilled and brewed; snacks and fruit filled baskets; flowers and guest information boards. Not to mention Michaela (Carls wife) and the kids, and other very important guests relaxing.

Now I know we are all human, but there’s something weird in me that makes me go goose bumpy when I am around people who don’t have to worry about who put £10 on the electricity key. I was also there representing Alphabet Motorsport Graphics, so falling over the carpeting because I was too clumsy wouldn’t go down too well. Fiona kindly led me to a table shared with two marketing guys that even though I asked their names twice, I have no idea what they are now… What a great reporter I would make… Col arrived shortly after and we chose from the lavish menu. I felt like I had travelled through a different dimension, as the waitress removed the thick linen material serviette from my wine glass, unfolded it, and placed it across my lap. On offer today; Chicken & wild mushroom terrine with a pear & apricot marmalade; Seared Tuna with sweet soy dressing & cucumber & colrabi pickle… and that was just the starters! Spinach & Ricotta & Mushroom Lasagne; Beef Bourguignon; Roast Salmon with lemon butter; fine green beans & cherry tomatoes; chive cream potatoes and finally Panna cotta chocolate cream or lemon snow cassis strips… After lunch, we took off to the HMPlant hospitality unit. Col had received a call from Colin Wright a few days before we had flown, with a request for some graphics that had been over looked. I’d been fortunate enough to receive hospitality from GSE Racing last year at Silverstone, and their self-service hospitality had a very comfortable atmosphere about it and I started to loosen up. The fact that I had downed two glasses of red wine with my gorgeous meal also reassured me. So without my guard up, you can imagine how stupid my next encounter must have seemed to onlookers.

As I followed Col through the HMPlant hospitality unit, most tables were empty, a very tanned young lady with long dark hair occupied one. She had her back to us, and as I walked past, being a woman, I just had to look. “OOOooh MY GOD!!! It’s SUZI PERRY!!!” and believe me, that’s the volume that the words sprang from my mouth. I must say that she either gets that a lot, or she is as cool as a cucumber. Of course, I apologised immediately and then the conversation just flowed. After that, I am afraid that I didn’t even notice who got what in the qualifying practice. Although I do remember sitting in the East grandstand, with the wind howling around us, and Corsa and Hayden alternating practice, with huge 2ft long flames billowing out the back of that famous exhaust system. Tail riders dodged kebabing as they roared around the track. My knowledge of rider and bike is limited to 6, not a brilliant amount of factual information but enough to keep me happy with who is where in which part of what. Valencia circuit offered good visibility, as we sat in the East section, but Col decided that the best place to watch the two main races, and tomorrows Super Pole (‘Soup a Polo’ to the Spanish), was definitely in the West grandstand, the highest place to view the 9 left and 5 right corners. Having finished all the work that needed doing, we bid our farewells and left for an affordable one-night stop over in the area. Ashley from GSE had recommended a place at the top of the hill.

Day 2 and the sun had come out to witness Superpole. Again the FPR hospitality was fantastic, and another 3-course meal supplied by Edwards catering (they also supply Jordan Formula One) but this time our company was the delightful Mike Nicks; Media Ideas, and covering the event for Motorcycle News Sport. We sat and leisurely ate our way through Goats cheese on bruschetta (basically cheese on toast done really fancy) with salad selections, followed by a choice of Lamb & Apricot Stew, with Garlic mash potatoes with chives or Red Pepper and Pesto Pasta. The deserts again tasted at fancy as they sounded, and I chose Semi Fredo with blackcurrant syrup. Washed down with 2 glasses of Jacobs Creak red wine. We had planned to do the pitlane walk for paddock holders after lunch, as I had several autographs to attain, this seemed the most appropriate time to ask for them, although disappointment followed. The Spanish only speaking gate guards didn’t want to let us through, and when we finally found an entrance that would allow our particular pass to enter, the half hour slot had vanished. I was so disappointed. Bottom lip trailing on the floor we started the long walk around to the West Grandstand, mopeds screamed past us, but I didn’t think Neil Hodgson would appreciate being dragged off a moped so that I could get an autograph, so decided against that plan of action. The long up hill walk around to the West side was definitely worth the effort, as the whole course was totally visible from this side.

Although the number one spot was marked and attained by Neil, the rest of the front row, had onlookers chatting and wondering. James Toesland got 2nd position on the grid (that was a big Woo Hoo, almost as good as meeting Suzi Perry) followed by Neil’s teammate Xaus and then the big surprise Troy Corsa. Foggy had done it, he had built a super bike from scratch and now it would be sitting on front row for the start of the WSB 2003. Neil was still running the fastest, and was the favourite to win the two races, but the opposition for the 2nd and 3rd places was fast and furious. Race day was looming, and you could tell by the atmosphere that everyone was itching to get started.

Day 3, and this was my personal favourite day. Unfortunately we arrived too late for the pitlane walk as our hotel for the remainder of the stay is situated 80k away, but we had prime positions for RACE 1. I held my breath as James took lead position for the first few laps, but then Xaus and Neil showed what they had under their leathers and created a gap that would only be shortened by a radical mistake. It was a battle between Walker and Toesland for 3rd, and I won’t deny wishing that Xaus would make an error so that we could have 3 Brits on the podium, but Xaus held his line with perfection and deserved the 2nd place he achieved. Tragedy struck Troy Corsa, and a problem with a flat tyre caused him to take a tumble in lap 9. James Haydon however did finish the first race, and everyone was now aware that Foggy wasn’t just mucking about, he had a serious team out there, and teething problems could always be ironed out.

Back to the hospitality unit, and shock. The unit was brimming with guests, I had overlooked how much busier it would be on race day. Content with sitting on the stools watching the 600 racing on a wide screen and chatting with Troy about his unfortunate end in the first race was far more important than trying to gain a table, so we had a late lunch. Our final company for dinner consisted of two freelance writers who were covering the event for Top Gear. They unfortunately had to rush from lunch to get prime positions for Race 2. We had decided to watch the second race from the hospitality unit on the big wide screen, in order to gain a better position at the press conference after the race. We’d been unable to see anything because of the crowds after the first race, and the benefits of the unit were very appreciated.
Once again Neil and Xaus lead the race, and it was almost an action replay of the first. Walker and Toesland battled again, and this time James Toesland got the podium place. GSE must have been very proud that they had both their riders on the podium, one in each race. Troy Corsa finished, but unfortunately James Haydon didn’t. FPR have proved their abilities and are in the points, and that is an amazing achievement for something that was only made in clay, this time last year. If they have achieved this much in such a short period of time, then I would anticipate only greater moments to follow.

After the press release, and plenty of laughing and chatting with Suzi, the riders, and team members from GSE & FPR we said our goodbyes and thanks for hospitality to the teams and left the circuit. An amazing experience to witness from another country, and one I would love to repeat.

By Michelle Pye

 

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