While the politicians continue to discuss, argue and make no decisions about Brexit, the MotoGP™ World Championship marches into Europe unabated at a legendary venue on Sunday that’s had its fair share of politics on and off the track over the last 32 years.
With spring slowly turning into summer, with longer days and warmer sunshine there is only one place to witness an international motorsport event at the beginning of May. For 32 years the pilgrimage to Southern Spain by hundreds of thousands of MotoGP™ fans has heralded the start of summer and the first round of the European season. The magnificent Jerez de la Frontera circuit has earned its place into the folklore of the sport and only the Cathedral in Assen of the current circuits has staged more Grands Prix in the 70-year history of the sport.
During those three decades, there have been some mighty battles and coming togethers around the 4.423km circuit. The infamous Turn 13 into the final straight almost on a yearly basis has provided us with pages of copy and air time. Doohan and Criville; Rossi and Gibernau; Marquez and Rossi and Lorenzo and Marquez to name but a few who have clashed, with the chequered flag in sight, round the corner now named after three times World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Five times World Champion Mick Doohan’s career came to a sad end in 1999 when he crashed between Turn 3 and 4 during practice. Who will forget Casey Stoner’s answer to Valentino Rossi when the nine times World Champion apologised after bringing the Australian down at Turn 1.
Jerez epitomises the very soul of MotoGP™ that no other international motorsport has a hope of matching. On-track action and controversy are a guaranteed part of the deal but it’s everything around it that makes it so special. The sunshine helps but I remember that first year in 1987, the party good time atmosphere that engulfed the whole area and especially El Puerto Sant Maria and the centre of Jerez. I was young enough to enjoy it back then and I’m reliably informed nothing much has changed, and I remember as we drove to the circuit on Sunday morning a couple of years ago hundreds of fans were still enjoying the party in the centre of Jerez.
I went to a couple of Formula One Grands Prix at Jerez and it was such a different place. Little atmosphere and a crowd quarter the size of its MotoGP™ equivalent. The major problem in those early days was the total traffic chaos. Once we had to abandon our car and walk the last mile into the circuit to make the Sunday morning warm-up. The story goes that Ron Dennis, the esteemed boss of the McLaren Formula One team, had a meeting organised with Honda at lunchtime on the MotoGP™ race day. He set off at 8.00 am and never actually made it to the circuit. Thankfully that chaos is very much a thing of the past although the crowds have no way diminished.
Alex Rins’ win at the previous round in Texas is just going to add to that atmosphere and noise plus increase the size of the crowd by as many as 20,000 patriotic fans. Thank goodness those traffic problems are a distant memory. We are on our way to Jerez – summer must have arrived.