That MotoGP Magic.

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I have a confession to make: Last week, I didn’t want to watch the 1st Argentine MotoGP.

I cannot really explain why. I was updated of the free practice and qualifying times through Twitter, but I just felt no zest, no sense of urgency nor excitement to actually watch the races. It was strange. Why was this happening?

So I made a “deal” with the MotoGP gods: If our home telly was free during the races, then I’d watch; if it wasn’t, then I’ll just (maybe) catch the repeat. As it turned out, the TV was free, and I did get to watch all three classes. In the end, I’m glad I did, because they all reminded me of why I am a MotoGP fan.

You see, I never expected to fall in love with MotoGP—but I totally and unequivocally did.

Many moons ago, I used to fume and seethe whenever I catch the MotoGP races on TV, mainly because they happened to be broadcast on the same channel as the Football and therefore, I cannot wait for them to be over and done with so I can watch my precious matches. While I was already an avid fan of F1 for many years, during that time I just cannot understand the fuss about motorbike racing.

“What is so fantastic about this stuff?” I’d wonder.

“Surely, driving a racecar is so much cooler and more exciting.”

I shrugged and thought to myself that I would never become a fan of motorbike racing. Four wheels all the way, baby!

However, I ended up eating a huge slice of humble pie. All thanks to a certain wee rider named Dani Pedrosa.

It was simply through serendipity that I got to know him: One day, I was flicking through the cable sports channels when I chanced upon a segment of a programme (I couldn’t even remember the name of it now) where the presenters were gushing about a certain Spanish motorbike racer named Dani Pedrosa. “He’s such a precocious rider! The next big thing in MotoGP!”, they excitedly proclaimed.  Long story short, I decided to see for myself what they were exalting and checked out a 250cc race one weekend on TV. I was nothing short of gobsmacked. Pedrosa rode the bike like he stole it and schooled the entire grid like nobody’s business. Boy, was he worth the hype and more. I finally saw with my own eyes what the big deal was. I dove headfirst into MotoGP Fandom and never looked back.

I followed Pedrosa into the MotoGP premier class in 2006. I was already aware of the legend of Valentino Rossi way before that but I only cared about supporting wee Dani. It was a curious sort of season, with Dani registering some notable records and yes, very nearly destroying his teammate’s championship hopes by that controversial move in Estoril. Going into more details on what I have experienced would be incredibly long, but yes, eight years, 4 teammates, numerous injuries and 3 different engines later—I’m still here, a full-fledged, ride-or-die Pedrosa fan.

Even the lower classes (previously the 125cc and 250cc classes, now known as Moto3 and Moto2) are nothing to be scoffed at, as the likes of Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and reigning Champion Marc Marquez are all distinguished alumni and some of the best battles and on-track scraps can be found there. If you want a glimpse of true grit and balls-to-the-wall action, check out Moto3 and Moto2. That’s where the future stars of premier class racing is honing their craft and you shall not be disappointed.

MotoGP has the drama (Rider rivalries! Team bickerings! Tyre issues!), the comedy (Rider bloopers! Awkward interviews! Behind the scenes shenanigans!), the art (They’re more than bikes, they’re sculptures! Look at the way they ride the bikes like it’s a dance!), the science (Just look at them lean angles!) and more. I’ve watched pure genius on track, questionable moves, wince-inducing crashes and even some deaths. There’s a certain passion in motorbike fans that’s just distinct from racecar fans–It’s infectious, delightful and all-consuming. See for yourself how packed and well-attended the MotoGP races are. You just never know what you’ll get to see and experience that day. And that’s where the magic lies.

F1 may be my First Motorsport Love, but MotoGP stole my heart in ways that are difficult to express.

Asking me to choose between F1 and MotoGP is like asking a mother to pick a favourite child. If F1 is the “cool” child, the one who’s always trying to reinvent itself, then MotoGP is the “devil-may-care, badass, wild child”. Perhaps this F1 vs MotoGP thing should be reserved for another article altogether. All I can say for now is that I’m just glad there’s enough capacity in my heart to love both racing series at the same time.

I have been to a few F1 races already but I have yet to go to my first-ever MotoGP race. I am determined to make it happen soon. Also, I’m still holding out hope that I would be able to learn how to ride a motorcycle and be able to own one.  See how much this series has infiltrated my life already?

So, what happened pre-Argentine MotoGP? That was merely a blip. It was me, not MotoGP that needed a reboot/attitude adjustment. My sincere apologies for ever doubting you, MotoGP.

This unlikely love story has a long way to go yet, and I’m quite excited to see how it will continue to develop. Here’s to unexpected loves and the thrill of unpredictability.

And if you’re still a non-believer, then just watch a race, give it a try and let its magic work on you. You’re welcome.

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Farewell, MotoGP 2011: Spectacular Spies, Stoner the “Stealer”, Celebrating Super Sic.

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Riders of all classes, led by ex-champ Kevin Scwantz, line up at the grid to pay tribute to Marco Simoncelli.

To say that the ultimate race weekend of MotoGP 2011 was emotional would be the understatement of the year.

For the first time in several years of following MotoGP, I’ve to say that it was the most difficult season-ender to sit through, as we racing fans not only have to bid our final farewell to the racing hurricane that was Marco Simoncelli, but also to the era of 125cc and 800cc spec motorbikes.

Here’s a fantastic tribute to the man they called Super Sic: Riders of all classes participated in a tribute lap around the Valencia circuit, spearheaded by former champion Kevin Scwhantz, who wore Marco’s no.58:

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On to the racing: Terol was crowned the last 125cc Champion, and although Bradl suffered a crash early on in the Moto2 race, the result was moot and academic, as the withdrawal of his closest rival, Marc Marquez due to injury, meant that the German was the new Moto2 Champion.

A lot of the fans, me included, assumed that already-crowned MotoGP Champion Casey Stoner would ride off into the sunset by himself for the main race, and while he did take an unsurprising early lead, the main talking point during the 1st half of the race was the dramatic T1 crash that took out Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista, LCR’s Randy De Puniet, and Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi. Fans of The Doctor can only look on in dismay as they abandoned hopes of a decent finish to quite a dismal season for the icon. C’est la vie.

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However, during the 2nd part of the race, the trifecta of Honda (Stoner in 1st, Dovisiozo in 2nd, Pedrosa in 3rd) was shattered by a charging Ben Spies of Yamaha, as he broke free from the shackles of 4th to overtake the 2 battling Hondas and, shocker of the day, managed to catch the seemingly cruising Stoner to take the race lead as the number of laps remaining continue to dwindle. Viewers were left at the edge of their seats as we all await on whether Spies can reach the chequered flag first and what Stoner can come up with. Remarkably, the 2011 Champion brandished his mettle as he beat the Yamaha to the line by a mere 0.015 second-photo finish! Quite a crazy end to a season of undeniable rollercoaster-type highs and lows.

Interestingly, Casey Stoner now holds the record of winning the first and last races of the 800cc era (2007-2011) in MotoGP. Show-off.

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To break up all the drama, have a photo of Ben Spies “planking” atop his Yamaha:

Spies making productive use of his downtime. Hmm.

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Until next season then, fellow crazy fans. Meanwhile, may we all live our lives as if we are racing without fear or regrets.

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The Bouncebackable Dictionary: DEMI-ALIEN.

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DEMI-ALIEN:
1 A highly-skilled MotoGP rider who is capable of winning but has yet to prove that he can battle long-term with the Recognized Aliens (i.e. Valention Rossi,  Casey Stoner,  Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa) of MotoGP.
2. A potential MotoGP Alien-in-the-making.

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E.g. Ben Spies is a very good rider, but being pipped by Casey Stoner on the line last week in Valencia showed that he needs to up his game and is still lingering in the demi-alien territory.

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Random Photos of the Day: Handbags at Le Mans

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“Bish, you don’t block my way and get away with it!”

Warm-Up Lap: Randy De Puniet unknowingly blocks Casey Stoner on his hot lap. Stoner goes ballistic and rides up to de Puniet and lands a punch on his arm. Seriously, Casey, do you lie awake in bed at night and think of ways to make other riders dislike you even more?

P.S. Apparently, both riders have already “kissed and made up” (minus the “kissing” part). Still doesn’t make Stoner’s actions excusable, though. 


Race: With barely 10 laps to go, 2nd placer Dani Pedrosa was hunted down by Marco Simoncelli, but as the wee Spaniard reclaimed 2nd spot, the brash Italian rider cut his bike’s front end going into a corner, causing Pedrosa to crash out. Simoncelli’s antics resulted in a ride-through penalty but it was the Spaniard who suffered more, as he not only lost precious Championship points but also broke his right collarbone.  Poor Dani, he just can’t catch a break, can’t he?

So, what can we conclude from all of this?

1. Randy de Puniet will now be a card-carrying member of the “We Don’t Like Casey Stoner Club”, along with Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama.

2. Jorge Lorenzo will now join forces with his ex-nemesis Dani Pedrosa to start the “We Don’t Like Marco Simoncelli Club”.

3. Valentino Rossi is secretly seething that he’s not involved in any of the recent dramas.

4. I may be more emotionally-involved with MotoGP than F1 this season.




			

Keep Calm and Race On: 10 Reasons Why The Jerez MotoGP Rocked.

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Let me get this out of the way: If you missed this race then you should bitch-slap yourself. Repeatedly.

Spain is a country that is absolutely loco over bike racing, and I’m pleased to report that the riders did not disappoint the faithful apostles that trekked to Jerez and dutifully donned their raincoats for the drizzly race:

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THAT Rossi-Stoner on-track tussle: The moment that racing fans will discuss, analyze, and fight over for the next four weeks. In typical Rossi fashion, he attempted to overtake Stoner on turn 1, but forgetting that he’s not riding a reliable Yamaha anymore but a temperamental Ducati, lost the front and took Stoner down with him in a tangled heap. Both riders had the agility and presence of mind to get back on their bikes to rejoin the race, but the marshals seemed to have given more assistance to Rossi (as proven by the 2nd photo) which cost Stoner precious time and eventually, the race. Small wonder that the gregarious Aussie was pissed.

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Marco Simoncelli’s jaw-dropping pass on Casey Stoner to take the race lead, and his surprising crash/retirement: The afro-haired Italian was most certainly the surprise package of the race. I was too busy keeping my eye on Stoner and Lorenzo’s cat-and-mouse chase that I’ve only noticed Simoncelli’s amazing charge when he boldly overtook Stoner’s dominant factory Honda for the lead, much to the astonishment of practically everyone bar his mother. Shame his amazing charge was halted by his crash. Post-race, Simoncelli also bemoaned the lack of assistance by track marshals. What does a rider have to do to get help, change their name to Valentino Rossi?

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The Battle for 2nd between Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies: They are my top 2 favorite riders in MotoGP, and when things started to heat up between the two on-track, I fought the urge to bite all my nails and almost had one eye closed throughout the tussle. I know both riders are generally “decent” and will not maliciously attack the opponent, but with a damp track and adrenaline coursing through their veins, anything can happen. Spies eventually got the better of Pedrosa and stole 2nd, but mysteriously crashed out a few minutes later which gifted the struggling wee Spaniard the 2nd spot.

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Rain–the Great Equalizer: No question about it, the rain dictated the tempo of the race and wrecked havoc with some of the riders’ fates. After Championship leader Stoner retired, race leader Simoncelli followed, then Randy de Puniet, and then Spies, and then Colin Edwards, who was poised to take the last podium position, bit the dust. Tough luck, mate.

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Dani Pedrosa doing a wheelie as he crossed the Finish Line: Seeing the likes of Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner performing the wheelie to celebrate victories is hardly surprising, but Pedrosa has always been unusually reserved when it comes to celebrations, so seeing him loosen up in front of his home fans was certainly a pleasant surprise. Must have been a massive relief for him to survive that crazy race!

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Post-race: Local hombre and race winner Jorge Lorenzo being labeled as Australian by one TV network. Um, que?! Geography fail. Either that or the tech dude is one big Casey Stoner fan. No wonder Jorge looked confused in the photo.

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Who’s That Dude with the Hombres? If you’ve told me last Friday that Nicky Hayden of Ducati will share the podium with Lorenzo and Pedrosa come raceday, I would have shamelessly laughed in your face, paused to take a breath, and then laughed madly again. However, the gritty American proved that the Ducati can be tamed and that he can calm down long enough to survive the onslaught of slides and crashes. I make fun of him a lot, but I’ll give him credit for this one–Well played, Haystack!

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The King and His Boys: King Juan Carlos of Spain is a massive bike racing fan, and he’s not afraid to flaunt it. His delight at having two Spaniards top the race was quite obvious, as he looked every inch like the proud father (or should that be grandfather?) while he fawned over Lorenzo and Pedrosa before and during the awarding ceremonies. Good thing the two hombres kept calm and raced on– now that’s what being obedient constituents are about! P.S. The boys also behaved themselves and shook hands willingly, no more need for the King’s intervention!

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Post-race: Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner’s face-to-face (or should that be helmet-to-face?) encounter about THAT crash: Apparently, Stoner was not visibly miffed with Rossi, but still managed to edge in the dig “Obviously your ambition outweighed your talent” after Valentino apologized. Meeooww! I want to take that words and put it into a t-shirt. Surely, that comment will live in infamy, Casey.

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Feast your eyes on seventy-five seconds of non-stop racing action from the weekend:

Sadly, we now we have to live with four weeks of MotoGP hiatus. Why must the racing gods be so cruel, at times?

Hurry back, MotoGP!

Random Photo of the Day: MotoGP Goes National Geographic

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Pic from motogpisforlulz

 

Ever wonder what the animal counterparts of the Class of 2010 MotoGP riders will look like? Well, wonder no more.

You know what I’d really pay good money for? Having all those animals ride the 800cc bikes for 1 race. I bet my life’s savings that it would be nothing short of EPIC.