Pedrosa crosses finish line.
"Take these earplugs, you'll need 'em." a Tissot rep tells me as we head trackside at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, also known as the Brickyard. The high-pitched sound we're approaching is coming from the 1000cc engines warming up inside of MotoGP race bikes. They're about to head out for a Saturday morning practice session - an important process that allows for suspension tweaks and proper tire selection - before afternoon qualification begins to decide starting grid position. The bikes begin to head onto track, as they scream by at over 200mph, I put the earplugs in.
MotoGP is an international sport, boasting riders from many nationalities and tracks the world over. The sport's inaugural season in 1949 saw the likes of Mondial, Moto Guzzi and MV Agusta competing for constructors' championships. A far cry from the bikes seen today, built by brands like Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. These bikes are purpose built race machines, very much unlike what you'll find on your local show floor. Each one is tailored to its rider and tweaked for track and surface.
The engineering employed is on full display with a brief walk through the pit section, where you'll see the riders engaged in full discussion with their race teams, while engineers have the bikes in various states of disassembly to make the afore mentioned tweaks. The whole scene is a spectacle of skill and precision fully appreciated by observing the riders on track, and the fractions of seconds that separate them. Speaking of fractions of seconds, the timing for these races is handled by equipment built by Tissot. An impressive array of hardware, software, servers and timing officials (trained by Tissot) all sit along the start finish line, in the tower flanking the home straight. A combo of high speed cameras and sensor equipment in the bikes and on track ensure exceedingly accurate and precise results.
Saturday afternoon arrives and the riders head out to take part in the qualification process. Here the riders are chasing one thing, quickest lap time. The hour long process allows the riders to enter and exit the track to make any adjustments. Once the hour is up, their fastest lap time will dictate their starting position for Sunday's race. A top three time will land you on the coveted front row of the grid. Sounds like a simple enough process, but it proved to be the most dramatic period of the weekend seeing the crashes of 3 riders.
One of the injured riders was the defending world champion, Casey Stoner. Another was 2006 world champion, and Tissot brand ambassador, Nicky Hayden of the Ducati team (his teammate is 9-time world champ, Valentino Rossi). Stoner tore a ligament in is ankle, but was able to race on Sunday (finishing 4th), but Hayden suffered a broken hand and, more seriously, a concussion. He was unable to race on Sunday, but I did get a chance to chat with him about the season and his long time relationship with Tissot (more on that later).
Nicky Hayden pre-crash.
We head into Sunday with the starting positions set, but another round of practice precedes the big race for final adjustments and tire decisions. Pre-race could be mistaken for a club scene, complete with loud music courtesy of the Red Bull VIP area, models in full brand garb and plenty of cold drinks. The vibe continues right up to the beginning of the race, the whole calamity following the riders right onto the starting grid. An odd mix when you throw in the large swaths of engineers, reporters and photographers.
The race begins with a fury of screaming engines all heading for the first corner jostling for best position. The excitement lasts for a few laps, seeing a lead change and one blown engine. After that, the riders seem to settle in and about 40 minutes later the race finishes much as it started. The top three qualifiers are the top three finishers (Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso). Next stop, Czech GP at Brno (1st and 2nd went to Pedrosa and Lorenzo, again).
The race about to begin.
The experience of attending a MotoGP race is an exhilarating one, something even a fair weathered racing fan would appreciate. It does seem a few teams enjoy a rather significant advantage given the redundant results observed. Maybe it's the engineers, maybe it's the riders, but I believe a broader fan base would be achieved with a more competitive field.
So, what did Nicky have to say to us? Well, he's disappointed with this season thus far, being just outside the reach of the championship race, but he is happy with his relationship with Tissot. "I enjoy the process of developing my fake watch every year", he tells me, referring to his new limited edition T-Race fake watch for 2012, "It's red, like my bike". Considering replica watches are gifted to the rider landing pole position each race, he has quite a collection. "I enjoy watches, I have many" he admits, giving me the impression that, despite his position as ambassador, he has a genuine interest in watches. A refreshing sentiment and a fitting end to an enjoyable weekend at the races courtesy of Tissot.
View more pics from the weekend below to see what it's like to be a part of the action. Top tip if you plan on attending? Invest in some ear plugs.Automotive Tissot Most Valuable Piece Top Athletes Opt for the replica Rolex Sky Dweller 10812