From the moment the late great John Brown returned to the Motor Cycle News office to eulogise about the new Mugello circuit to a young rookie reporter I wanted to visit the spiritual home of MotoGP. JB had just witnessed the classic 1976 battle between Barry Sheene and Phil Read in those Tuscan Hills that was decided by one tenth of a second and I made my first visit six years later – I was not disappointed although there was one slight inconvenience, if you will excuse the pun.
However glamorous your job may seem from the outside it’s still the basics that matter. Flying all over the world commentating on World Championship Motorsport may have seemed the perfect way to earn a living, but scrape the surface and it’s those basics that kept a predominately male group of travelling souls ticking over.
Topics of conversations varied especially when you were on those long flyaway trips. Football and the opposite sex were high on the agenda on flights to the far flung corners of the old British Empire as long as I can remember. That probably does not come as the greatest surprise to those long suffering loved ones back home who maintained regular life ready for our return with bags of laundry and excuses of jet lag when a meal out was suggested – After all give us a break, we have been eating out every night for the last three weeks talking about football and the opposite sex!
Occasionally conversations did vary to a more practical level touching on how bad would the traffic be into the circuit, what time was lunch and the most importantly the availability of the nearest loo to our commentary position. Four hours of live television, punctuated with the need to consume vast quantiles of bottled water, caused their own special problems especially to somebody in the grey hair age range.
Even the most modern of circuits have caused some tricky moments. This weekend’s venue Mugello, the Ferrari F1 test track and magnificent home of the Italian MotoGP race, always had facilities to die for apart from a good old fashioned sit down loo. A hole in the ground is a hole in the ground despite being surrounded by gleaming while marble and bright lights. The search for a proper sit down job became the focus of our investigative powers. Two were eventually discovered. The first in the medical centre and the second behind the commentary boxes on the second floor of the paddock complex. The only problem was the one behind the commentary box had no lock because it was a disabled toilet. A nameless colleague from the BBC was caught in a compromising position by the cleaner while sampling its delights. He’d devised an intricate locking method of wrapping his belt round the door handle combined with a broom handle but it failed miserably in his hour of need.
Imagine our celebrations when we arrived at our favourite grand prix a few years ago to discover our predicament and discomfort was over with the arrival of proper sit down loos. Still the marble and the bright lights, but to be enjoyed sitting down. We could get back to talking about the opposite sex and football once again.