Hopeful About the Valencia MotoGP Finale

A short time ago I stood on the tarmac at Losail with my buddy Tony Goldsmith and said, “Before we know it, we’ll be at Valencia and another season will have come and gone.” It only seems a short time ago of course, as that was in April. But in a couple of days we’ll be together again and wondering where the year went.

Valencia is one of the race weekends I usually quite look forward to. Not only is it the final round of the season, bringing closure to the year and often settling one or more world championship contests, but it’s a really fun track to work at for photography.

Its stadium design means it is contained in a relatively small area and thus is accessible in a way some tracks simply aren’t, Indy and Silverstone being the two most obvious examples of circuits that are spread out across vast areas. Valencia has many really nice vantage points at turns where the riders get into interesting situations, another quality of which some circuits lack more than a couple instances.

Valencia has a good pit lane, being the only one I can think of that is truly not flat. Other pit lanes have have a slight grade, but Valencia’s is noticeably higher at the entrance than it is at the exit, which it gets away with by being quite long. You can stand at one end and look back at the other and really get a sense that you’re looking up or downhill.

You can also shoot down on top of the bikes and mechanics at Valencia because there are seats directly over the pit lane. Other circuits allow this through windows, while at Valencia you can look directly down which leads to some unique view of the bikes.

But this year is really different from previous years in terms of my feelings as I fly from California toward Spain. Since the Thursday press conference at Sepang, the world of MotoGP has changed dramatically, and so dramatically that it’s been difficult to think about anything related to the Valencia MotoGP round other than the Rossi-Marquez-Lorenzo conflict.

I won’t go into all the details, as David Emmett has discussed these in detail better than I would’ve. But I can write about how all of this nonsense since Sepang has changed my attitude about going to the final round of 2015.

As disappointing as so much of the Sepang-related news has been, it’s also really a drag that other news has been lost in the furor related to 46-93-99.

For example, this will be Nicky Hayden’s final MotoGP appearance. The Kentucky Kid heads to World Superbike next season after riding in the premier class since 2003 when he joined Repsol Honda as Valentino Rossi’s teammate. The event is surely on Hayden’s mind, but I’ve not seen much talk of it elsewhere amid all the 46-93-99 noise.

There is also a Moto3 title to settle, something that has received at least a bit of attention. I suspect this is largely because the Moto3 conclusion has the potential to be another tale of failure and disappointment, two qualities always good for Internet traffic. If Miguel Oliveira claims the Moto3 title, I expect the headlines will be more focussed on Danny Kent’s meltdown than the fantastic comeback of Oliveira. Pretty cynical, huh? Well, spending a few hours on the Internet will do that to you, especially lately.

Valencia will also be Bridgestone’s final MotoGP race. A book should probably be written on the tire company’s technological contribution to motorbike racing. Even without competition from Michelin or Dunlop, Bridgestone advanced tire technology to an amazing level. Again, Bridgestone is thinking about this and planing the corporate farewell festivities, but I haven’t thought about it much.

There are surely lots of other stories happening related to the final round of 2015 that I don’t know about because all I see online is Rossi said this and Marquez said that, followed by some of the most ill-mannered fan behavior to date – which is saying something!

The operator of one European website received death threats from the Rossi fans for the heinous crime of simply reporting Mike Webb’s explanation of why Rossi was awarded the three penalty points. Among the many reasonable Rossi fans who appreciate motorcycle racing and Rossi’s achievement therein, those who support their guy with such zeal that they make death threats are perhaps the worst side of MotoGP. This isn’t soccer, after all. MotoGP is supposed to be, well, better than that.

Even if one gives in to the vortex to controversy and pettiness of the 46-93-99 failure, which in my view is chiefly a failure of the protagonists to conduct themselves in a professional manner, what is Valencia likely to deliver that isn’t anti-climactic and disappointing? If it’s a normal MotoGP race, or even an exciting one within the ‘normal’ realm of what normal meant before Phillip Island (when Rossi first brought Marquez’ motivation and character into question and thus started the trouble), that level of exciting won’t match the soap opera drama that has preceded it.

The only way Valencia can live up to its preamble is by descending further into failure with more off track hysteria and more on track misbehavior. To reach a crescendo within its current theme, we’ll need fisticuffs in the stairway and fairing bashing on track, both of which will take us farther from the level of professionalism we have every right to expect from the top level of a sport.

So it is not with the same hopeful expectation that I fly to Valencia. In fact my main hope is that my worries about what might happen will be disappointed – that the main characters in the previously sordid tale will come to their senses and act with decorum and responsibility, restoring our ability to respect their talents as athletes and sportsmen. A normal MotoGP race sounds like a pretty good thing. I hope to get a few photos in focus, and to come out the other side of the weekend feeling good about MotoGP again.