When as always I tripped over the bulging massive MotoGP bag at the top of the stairs, woke up in the night worried once again I was travelling to Japan without a visa, could still smell the wood preservative on my hands and double checked with my next door neighbour he would deliver my wife’s birthday present I knew my favourite trip of the year was about to start.
Three grands prix in the space of two hectic weeks on the other side of the world in Japan, Australia and Malaysia embracing so very different cultures, contrasting weather and food. Three totally different race tracks in Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang which so often produced the new World Champion although not this time round.
Packing enough underpants and work shirts was always a problem to see you through the first two weeks before the welcome laundry service at the hotel in Kuala Lumpur.Hence the bulging MotoGP bag although the problem was if you flew in with all your colleagues picking out your bag on the carousel among 100 similar others was nightmare. In over 30 visits to Japan I never had a visa and every time I approached immigration I got that dreaded feeling that everybody was watching me and I would be refused entry and sent home but it never happened. When you are away from home for three weeks on the other side of the World important matters have to be attended to before you go and when you are away. I always had to spray the wooden garden furniture with preservative the week before I departed because I left in the autumn and returned at the start of winter with those horrible dark nights. My hands still smelt as I boarded that first flight to Tokyo. I was always away for my wife’s birthday at the end of October. Cards and presents had to be hidden and in one case a new bike delivered by my next door neighbour on the right day.
The unbelievable Motegi complex is in the middle of nowhere and until the last couple years we used to stay at one of the many golf courses in the area. At night we were the only people there in the middle of the pitch black Japanese countryside and it reminded so much of the film, The Shining .My so called ‘friends’ used to warn me as we went to bed that Jack Nicholson would be breaking down my bedroom door in the middle of the night to announce I’m home. That warning plus a couple earth tremors certainly didn’t help sleep despite the jet lag.
Straight onto Phillip Island which was such a contrast. We always stayed in the main town Cowes named after the town in the Isle of Wight where I spent many a childhood holiday. I loved the fish and chips and especially the local pub where we learnt so much about Australian beer, life on Phillip Island, cricket and a betting system called Pokies.
We would often fly out of Melbourne on the Sunday/early Monday morning to Kuala Lumpur after the race. After two weeks on the road that first swim at the hotel near the airport was pure heaven. It was a break of a couple of days to get the laundry done and sample the delights of the food and markets in sprawling KL while dodging those tropical storms. Negotiating over the price in the markets was a real art which I never quite mastered and so I took Casey Stoner along on one occasion to stand in for me. As expected he was brilliant.
I was ready to go home at the end of three incredible weeks that for me personally was the perfect illustration why I love MotoGP so much both on and off the track. Of course I’m envious of all those flying out this week but at least I’m home for my wife’s birthday and I will not be tripping over at the top of the stairs.