The Need for Speed

31 Jan 2005

It was a perfect Sunday morning in Valencia, the sky so obnoxiously bright and blue that I could finally understand why those moaning Brits on reality shows always migrate without job prospects or knowledge of basic Spanish. We were crammed on a train platform with thousands of locals, all headed to the track for the Motorcycle Grand Prix.

It's a whole other entry altogether to explain how my ridiculous obsession with MotoGP began, but after seeing Dead Lenin on Red Square there obviously was a void to fill. I began watching the races with Gareth out of pure politeness, but within a few weeks I became Miss Tragic Bike Geek and convinced him that we HAD to go to Spain to see a race FOR REAL, otherwise I would become very difficult to live with.

image from

Valencia was the final race of a cracking season. Italian superfreak Valentino Rossi had already secured the title at Phillip Island a few weeks before, but now the Spanish fans were out to see if their local heroes could save face. We were but two pale and pasty foreigners amongst a manic crowd of over 200,000. Just imagine the craziness of a rock festival, but bigger and louder. The air swirled with dust and smoke and the smell of petrol and spicy sausages. Security guards patted people down and confiscated beer bottles and jars of olives.

I'll never forget the roar roar ROAR of the bikes as they hammered past our corner for the first time. You could feel your lungs rattle against your ribcage. It was quite primal. It could warm the loins of an elderly nun. Ooh yes. We jumped around and screamed and took shitty photos and joined in with the Mexican waves. They're just so 80s, don't you know, but you can't just sit there when 200,000 people are getting into it.

Rossi was the eventual winner and Australia's Troy Bayliss romped home in third place. Only then could I tear my eyes from the action to take a loo break. There were half a dozen blokes in the ladies bathroom, leather pants round their ankles with the stall doors open. They cheered and waved their willes, apparently unable to decipher the triangle/upside-down-triangle symbols on the doors.