AUTOHebdo’s choice to open its pages to MotoGP is ultimately an obvious one, as there are so many of us in our wonderful community to admire the tightrope walkers of the Continental Circus. When the invitation came, I didn’t have to force myself to agree to spend the day on Saturday at Le Mans.
The environment is also perfect and gives me a good basis for comparison, since I had the opportunity to attend 14 editions of 24H from the pits, as well as several dozen GT, Proto, Historic events,… Invariably on the other hand, car events .
Emotions are still high when you enter this Eden Motorsport Park, which is a 24 hour circuit. If the setting is familiar to me, I don’t recognize its surroundings. Technopark and the adjacent car parks are full of motorbikes, as are the terraces of good places like the Helmet or the Aux Ports du Circuit. On the other hand, no hostility from the bikers to the few cars trying to make their way to the north and south entrances. Any attempt to stop to let a motorcycle pass is even acknowledged with a foot gesture. The good manners of so many cashiers should be an inspiration.
As always, passing checkpoints is done with absolute professionalism and good humor. Regardless of the number of laps, Le Mans remains the land of motorsport enthusiasts, and the teams on the track are the benchmark in terms of organization.
Entering the MotoGP paddock, a moment of dismay when our passes were rejected. Don’t panic, you just need to go through the Info Point to sign the disclaimer imposed by the MotoGP promoter, DORNA. No one knows where this place is, so we have to wander a little before we find it in a small algeca near the Moto E paddock. To damage the image of the discipline, to be positive for Covid 19… Classic, but if it goes without saying , it’s better to say it and make a commitment.
A very Anglo-Saxon rigor, but a completely Spanish environment, the nationality of almost all DORNA teams. On the other hand, if the media pass is activated, it’s MotoGP all included! No need for a vest or an extra wristband, everything is open to us with a smile, from the edges of the track to the official buildings and hospitality. After all, if the competition has nothing to be ashamed of, they may not be afraid of being bad mouthed.
And on the track? A giant slap in the face seeing a weak Moto3 for the first time. The corners taken by the pilots in the “S” Garage Bleu defy all laws of gravity. The noise of the engines is destabilizing, but the sight is incredible. We decided to show off our precious sesame by heading to the edge of the track at the Dunlop Chicane to see the MotoGP races in qualifying. Time to pass the exit from the stands, the session starts and we are grazed by cars accelerating at a speed of 300 km/h.
I’ve seen a lot, but nothing compares to the sight of these human-sized rockets on the runway. Then I wonder what might be going through the minds of the pilots as they emerge from the shelter of their bubble, still tilted in the Dunlop curve, to land a braking alien and lay low to the ground to approach the left side of the pun. After passing the turn, the motorcycle immediately leaned to the right, the rider pressed his knees to the ground, swallowed the vibrator and galloped furiously towards the bridge. I’m sorry, but it’s pretty damn beautiful!!!
Circles follow each other, and we analyze the trajectories with amazement in this ultra-technical series. It is not surprising to mention Fabio Quartararo, whose management is characterized by incredible sophistication and precision. The Ducati has it more ferocious, less fluid, but the timer proves them right. One explanation could be the fact that Italians always ride in packs, sharing aspirations, while Quartarara is more often solo. No analysis, a simple visual observation that I will not fail to ask for clarification from our MotoGP professionals.
After the session, we go down to look into the pits. From finishing the garages to equipping the teams, everything is of the highest standard. However, we are a long way from the wealth of F1 and its innate propensity for mismanagement. It’s beautiful, clean and functional, with motorcycles placed like jewels on a pedestal, working most of the time to a very rock soundtrack and with a smile.
Brackets on Moto3 tire sizes… Someone is really going to have to explain to me how the riders can take such corners with such great climbs! At the end of the pit lane, we join our friends from Canal+, who gather the impressions of the drivers. Pekka Bagnaia and Jack Miller interrupt each interview with a greeting to the public, and despite the disappointment of the first empty grid of French riders, communication with MotoGP fans is complete.
The success of a sporting event is also judged by the enthusiasm of the public, and on the Le Mans side it’s a real party. Everywhere sound animation and giant screens do not leave joy. Claude Michy and his team know how to entertain, and the attendance records set this year are no accident, but a just reward for their efforts.
The dress code runs the gamut from Bermuda/shirtless to full skin and I feel a bit silly in my jacket, but no one seems to mind. Valentino Rossi’s favorite fluorescent yellow remains the dominant color, a testament to the incredible popularity of ‘Dotore’ and the huge void it leaves in the heart of its community. Fortunately, Zarco’s 5 and Quartararo’s 20 reduced the points to 46 for Vale, with a special mention for the reigning champion who seems to be the unanimous choice. He drinks (a little), he laughs (without moderation) and his rooms without aggression, without hate songs, without fights. We will be happy that our sport escaped the worst troubles.
Moto2, in turn, takes to the track to the nearest second and offers us a good benchmark for the Moto E race that is to follow. Chilled by the complete lack of emotion that Formula E conveys to me, I was curious to see what the bike had done with this electric technology that was destined to become the norm. And this, frankly, is a very pleasant surprise! The motorcycles are beautiful, they handle very well, and the whistle that the machines make is unpleasant. It’s impressive, and if I can never live without the noise of a heat engine, I feel ready to accept a fair mix of the two technologies. The motorcycle, the more spectacular of the small categories, is perhaps better equipped than the car in this virtuous transition.
Before we leave, we cross the paddock one last time and it’s important to compare it to Formula 1 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If everything is very high-quality, at the level of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we remain in MotoGP very clearly below the standards of Formula 1. We know that most of the revenue comes from TV rights and partners. Since MotoGP has nothing to envy Formula 1 on these two points, and 2-wheeled machines are much cheaper than single-seaters, the question arises about the redistribution and use of the resulting profits. Liberty Media and the FIA will surely learn good lessons from DORNA.
When I leave the track, I know I’ll be back. I’ll pick a few friends who are interested in learning about these hilarious crazies, and I’ll wear a polo shirt with a 5 or 20 stamp on it. I, on the other hand, will arrive on a motorcycle.
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