I've been absent for a while so I'm way late reporting on our COTA experience. And trust me, the weather was just frigging stupid on Saturday so it was a miracle they got in what they did for practice and qualifying. But overall, it was just plain astounding. Not at all like on TV, it's mind blowing! To see just how close the three levels actually are in lap times is something you just can't get a handle on on the tube, especially Moto2.
Our trip didn't start out so great, storms had re-routed and delayed and finally postponed our arrival in Austin until very late Friday, when we were supposed to get there Thursday afternoon in time for the Hayden appreciation/memorial show...damn! Never arrived until after 6 Friday night so missed the action on the track (practice) and autograph sessions. Not that we had much chance of getting anywhere near Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez (x2), Crutchlow et al anyway. But some of the guests at our hotel did manage a few sigs and photo ops. The Lorenzo faithful were certainly out in full force, and they wasted no time in voicing their displeasure towards our #93 hero, even to the point of being what I would call extremely rude and crass (that's another story).
Saturday morning was kind of iffy looking as we left on the bus for the track, and it soon dropped down on us in steady rain. Once we headed for the gates it really opened up in a full on downpour and we were stuck under a tent awning in what can only be described as a hair raising storm...lightning, driving rain and wind, and even better, tornado warnings just 50 miles north of us. The COTA people that were at the gate kept insisting we go back to our vehicles...how the f**k do you do that when you don't have one??? so after 2 hours of that crap they finally let us into the mezzanine/grandstand area, but wouldn't let us out to get over to the VIP center so about 1500 of us were stuck in the damn hallway. Not that it mattered, there was noting happening on the track anyway, but our breakfast and the coffee pots were waiting for us on the other side of the front straight. . Finally got over there at about 10:45 just in time to grab a quick bite of breakfast and a hot drink to warm our sopping souls.
Once the rains finally stopped long enough to dry out the track (about 1:30) things did get rolling but with the ever present threat of more rain we never did get over to our seat on corner 15 that day. So we watched from the VIP seats which was conveniently only 50 or so feet from the complimentary open bar. Silver lining? Oh yeah! Qualifying had to be juggled and adjusted for time constraints and various considerations, but at the end of it all, everything seemed to fit in as most of us expected, with the top runners in their pretty much forecast positions in all 3 categories.
Sunday the sun came out, and once the chill and damp disappeared, we found our way down to the seating on corner 15. Man, great spot for seeing the action in one of the prime sections of the track.
But as you all know, it wasn't to be a great day for pretty much anyone riding a Honda. Suzuki went down first in Moto3 right in our view path on corner 12, Have no idea what went sideways for Alex Marques in Moto2, but one mid race lap he was leading handily and a lap later he was in 10th. WTF? GP was a very exciting start with Marquez steadily stretching his lead well into the mid race point, but somewhere in the first half, Lorenzo disappeared into the pits (mechanical trouble we heard later), then Crutchlow went down before entering the turns of 12 thru 16, and then Marquez tucked the front at the exact same spot a couple laps later. I personally think he pushed too hard but he categorically denied that afterwards. We did get to see both of them go down from where we sat, but the jeers and hoots from the Rossi fans towards Marc was something I don't really cotton to. Hate the guy's success all you want but it was a low class display IMO. Nobody gave Cal the raspberries when he crashed.
But hey, people will be people after all. I did here some very loud complaints about the track surface and pavement texture. Apparently they had diamond cut the surface and it was very abrasive, many of the riders complained openly about it. And there was also mention of a huge bump early on the back section of the course. I spoke with a spectator that had done track days there and he agreed totally.
The finish was very exciting and it actually did my heart good to see Rins take the center podium spot. He ran hard to get past Rossi who basically ran a perfect race, very calculating and solid like the cagey old veteran dog he is. We did head for the pits afterwards, but many of the riders (Marquez brothers, Crutchlow especially) were nowhere to be found. Not really a surprise there.
We did however, manage to find Nicky's bike on display, would have given just about anything to put my hand on the tank but just didn't have the gainers to try it so settled for a couple pictures.
I would like to go back once more, but even though the tour operators I booked through did a bang up job looking after us in spite of our travel issues, I'll look for alternative arrangements as it's very costly. The VIP pass was nice, but been there done that now (yeah, bought a Marquez t-shirt, and wouldn't you know, the friggin thing shrunk like crazy so now the missus has it LOL) so it's really kind of a frivolous extra. Overall though, one helluva great experience.
Duct tape can't fix stupid...but it sure helps muffle the sound
'03 SP2, '09 GL1800