MotoGP 2011: The good old days are here today

All too often you hear people complaining about the state of motorsports. They state that it’s too expensive, there’s no fan community left, the racing is too safe, too boring, etc., wishing for a “simpler time.” They can never nail down the exact “simpler time,” but it existed at some point. Some say it was the ‘20s , or the ‘60s, or ‘80s, and then some just pick one year randomly and stick with that, say 1996. However, if you want to enjoy motorsports at its best from a racing and social angle, there is no better place than the MotoGP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

MotoGP is the major league of motorcycle racing. Here, a who’s who of manufacturers and riders compete with some of the most technologically advanced motorcycles on the planet. However, unlike F1, NASCAR or Indy racing, the bikes are closely related to what you can buy at a dealership. They may not be identical, or the same models, but there is much more similarity than say a Fusion NASCAR car than a stock Fusion on the showroom floor.

But MotoGP is not only about the bikes, but the riders and the community as well. The race brought in bikers from all across the country to Indianapolis. For two days, the main road was closed down to allow motorcyclists to park and socialize. Here you could see large cruisers next to the fastest of superbikes while their owners traded stories. It got a bit rowdy at times, and there was a healthy amount of obnoxious engine revving, but for the most part it was a big party.

Come race day, everybody suits up (albeit with little to no safety gear for some ridiculous reason), and heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You may be familiar with this the track from its most popular event, the Indy 500, but it has a road course as well. Plus, since MotoGP isn’t incredibly popular, you have more freedom to move around and see the various attractions available. It feels much less constricting than an event like the Indy 500, where you are shoulder to shoulder to someone while breathing in the smell of cheap beer and perspiration.

Not to mention, tickets are also much cheaper as well, so you can view multiple races during the weekend. MotoGP is the main event, but there are other motorcycle races as well, like the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 event. This race features nearly identical, Vance and Hines-modified Harley XR1200s. It’s much cheaper to field a team, so there are more participants, and some of them even have a job on the side to be able to go racing. Just like the good old days. Plus, because the bikes are nearly the same, the racing is close and fierce. It’s all up to the rider to bring their bike to the front, so there is a lot of passing and bumping. The upside is that you can’t buy a win. For example, the winner of the first race was Tyler O’Hara, a 23-year-old with no formal sponsors who funded his bike with his own money and the help of his friends.

This is just the type of racing that many believe has gone away, but lo and behold it’s still here (and on Harley Davidsons), but the racing in MotoGP is just as authentic as well. First you hear the GP bikes as they come hurtling down the stretch on their way into the corners sounding like demonic chainsaws. Then you see the riders on top of the bikes like jockeys on a horse moving their bikes down the track as fast as possible. You see these racers moving and hustling these bikes into the corner as they slide knees to get through as cleanly as possible. You see them crouch behind the windscreen to pick up that extra mile per hour on the straight. And you see moments of frustration as riders get cut off or the bike isn’t performing up to spec. The result is that the riders become more personable since you see and almost feel the effort they need to put in to extract that extra little bit of speed.

The racing is also fierce. In most corners, riders are mere inches away from each other while nearly flat on the asphalt at ludicrous speeds. Here, even with highly questionable asphalt a condition, racing in the midfield was incredibly exciting. For instance, American Ben Spies was able to get back from nearly being pushed off the track on the second lap to 10th place, all the way up to a 3rd place finish, on his Yamaha bike. However, the race was absolutely dominated by the two Honda bikes, with the win going to championship leader Casey Stoner.

Race series of old were categorized by people racing each other not for the meager purses, but large amounts of pride. They sacrificed their bodies and their own funds in order to get just a small taste of winning. Their efforts were rewarded by a fanatic fan base that, although small, followed them to event after event. The MotoGP weekend exemplifies this past spirit today, especially in some of the minor races like the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 event. Don’t go to YouTube and look up old motorcycle races. Get to any motorcycle event that you can.


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