My tummy did a funny little flip-flop on Saturday morning, as I watched motorcycles whizz by. We were all heading to the same destination. I had recovered from my 10-hour flight from Delhi to Valencia via mad Paris, not counting the 4-hour wait at Charles de Gaulle. I craned my neck, straining to see ahead, waiting, as the road twisted and turned and finally opened out into the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo.
The sun was shining; there was no hint of rain – not a single drop, just a few fluffy clouds in the sky. I entered the main gates and heard it – that familiar sound that always makes me want to do a happy bunny hop. The motorcycles blasted past – I couldn’t see them, but I could hear them. The roar reverberated through my spine – comforting sounds that make me smile. I was home.
This was it, my first MotoGP race. I stood for a minute and looked around – taking it all in, unbelieving. I pinched myself once, and then a few more times for good measure. This really was happening.
It was an unbelievable moment that began when I got a press release from WSBK announcing the initiation of the Eni – Energy for Success press awards. I submitted a piece I wrote for this blog – Speed and Strength, an article on Joan Lascorz. I never expected to be nominated, much less win the award in the ‘under 36’ category. But then, three weeks ago, I got an email. I had won. It didn’t sink in – not as I applied for my visa, not as I got my visa or bought my plane tickets. It didn’t even sink in as I boarded the flight and then checked in at the hotel in Valencia.
As I stood there, past the main gate, in the circuit, it still hadn’t sunk in. I walked into the Paddock area searching for the Pramac Racing Team’s hospitality area. This was it, the moment I had been waiting for, the moment I found incredibly hard to believe. I watched as Hector Barbera whizzed by, stopping for a moment to take pictures with fans. I watched Dani Pedrosa go by on a scooty. I saw people going by carrying tyres, racing suits and helmets. I was here. I couldn’t believe it.
Then, an hour later, they called my name, as I sat in the front row at the Pramac Racing hospitality area. The tears started and then, just as quickly, it disappeared. I grasped the trophy: the Eni – Energy for Success press award for the best article in the under 36 category and smiled for the camera. I was overwhelmed. I shared the stage with three others: respected journalist Paolo Gozzi, the super-cool photographer and owner of Dromo Circuit Design Jarno Zaffelli and 20-year-old Francesco Talanti from Florence, a MotoGP enthusiast. A special posthumous award was also given to honour Ansa Joseph Massa, a brilliant sports journalist who passed away a few years ago.
Later, I watched the Qualifying over a delightful lunch full of pasta, champagne and an incredible tiramisu, courtesy Pramac Racing team. We talked racing, circuits, F1, MotoGP, in a way I have always wanted to. I watched the riders fly by on television, but to the resounding roar of the motorcycles that rang through the Paddock. I visited the Pramac Racing box and rubbed shoulders with the team as they discussed the Qualifying with Hector Barbera and peeked into the Ducati garage where Valentino Rossi was surrounded by the press. I waited with Vale fans for him to come out, watched Nicky Hayden and later Vale pose for photographs and sign autographs.
But words seem so trite as I try and describe that moment as I stood there with the prize – so brief and fleeting, yet one that will stay with me forever. It was an incredible honour, a moment that I relive again and again, even now, sitting here in New Delhi writing for this website.
I still wonder if it was all just a dream. I look through my photographs, just to assure myself that it was real. Then, I smile and tell myself: Dreams do come true.
This is part 1 of a series of three articles on the final MotoGP race of the season, at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo.
All photographs © Riding Fast And Flying Low