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They've done it again! This time our intrepid roving reporters, Dave and Wes Booth, rub shoulders in the MotoGP paddock with some of the world's top stars, test the Carrera hospitality suite, and Wes even scores a pillion ride on the back of Lucio Checanello's pit scooter!

Wes inroduces himself to the legendry Randy Mamola.

Our journey to LeMans began on Thursday morning when we caught an early flight to Charles De Gaul airport in Paris. I have made this trip several times before so I knew “the ropes” . We land at terminal 3 and have to make our way over to terminal 2 to pick up our hire car. It's then straight out into the cut and thrust of the Paris Periferique. God I’m good! Three hours later we were at our home for the weekend.

We were staying at a very traditional French home of Madeline and Jacques Leret in Arnarge. We had stayed here before and were thrilled to see our hosts again. Our luggage was deposited in our room and we went “post haste” to the circuit. This being Thursday, not much was happening and teams were still in the process of setting up their respective workshops and hospitality units. Luckily for us though, several food hostelries were trading, and Wes and I tucked into large croque monsieurs and beers. We stayed looking around and checking out the goings on for a couple of hours, then decided it was time for a wash and brush up back at our digs.

Wes and I had brought along with us our Roby shirts, our Chaz shirts and our ubiquitous NSR-WORLD shirts. We had worn the latter on the outward journey and also kept them on at the track. I must say that they lend a very professional air to proceedings!

Although it was fine and sunny in the UK it was cold and damp here in France. Little did I realise then that LeMans was to suffer its worse rainfall for decades. On Friday it rained on and off all day, on Saturday it absolutely lashed it down with a generous helping of Thunder and Lightning thrown in for good measure. Sunday’s race warm up was delayed by over an hour due to fog around the circuit. Who says that global warming is not having an effect? Weather like this!!!!! Hell it’s May! It should be warm and sunny. Needless to say that my shorts stayed tucked up neatly in my suitcase all weekend.

Friday was spent entirely walking in the paddock, and for this report I had decided to photograph as many faces as was permissible. I had taken snaps of the various teams and machines in the past. Wes and I had our Chaz Davies team shirts on and went in search of our lone British contingent in the 250 class.

Peter Davies and Wes...
Peter Davies and Wes.

We had a good chat with Chaz’s dad Peter and he told us that Chaz’s regular team mate was injured and that the KTM rider Anthony West would be substituting for Martin Cardenas. Chaz let it been known that he was quietly confident of a good performance at this track due to its stop start nature and that sheer horse power is not a critical factor. This is important for riders on kit machines which are always outclassed by the factory bikes on longer circuits.

As Wes and I made our way around the pit lane area, Wes nudged me and said that amongst a group of Bridgestone Jap technicians was the ex 125 rider Masao Azuma. Yes! It was, I pointed my camera in his direction and he was surprised to be recognised. He very willingly posed for my snap. Azuma was a brilliant wet weather rider and I for one was sorry when he retired from competitive racing.
I spotted “the Doctor” loitering around his motor home and I threw myself in his direction before he had chance to evade us. With fumbling hands I got out the picture of Wes and him that I had taken previously and thrust a marker pen into his hand and asked him to sign the picture for me.
He did this for us and I also managed to photograph him just as he disappeared into his motor home. I am having this photo mounted into a classy frame and it is going onto Wes’s bedroom wall. How many other people have a genuine signed picture of
Rossi and their son complete with autograph? Yeah! I am gloating, no! That’s the wrong word, it should read PROUD!

Now! One of the pit garages that I was intrigued with was the Zonchen team. These are a team of Chinese riders that have been given wild card rides. Wes and I asked to look around and were pleasantly surprised by a bow and a warm welcome. Inside this tented area were the two bikes which were being worked upon, and also their hospitality zone. People were being entertained with food and drinks right alongside the working mechanics, how bizarre!

I was looking forward to visiting the WCM area to meet up with Jake again. I last saw him washing down exhaust pipes at the Czech round in Brno. I caught up with him still washing, but this time he was cleaning an air box (the photo looks like he is cooking in a kitchen).

We had a lengthy chat and whilst we were gossiping, in walked James Ellison one of the team riders. I asked James about the strange patch that is always on his temple. He told me that it is a Titanium patch to aid healing. He first used one on an old injury and it cleared up quicker than was expected, and so he wears a patch on his temple now for good fortune rather than any healing remedy.

The things Dave has to endure?!...

As you are probably aware all three races were exciting, with Tom Luthi running away with the lead in the 125 event.

My fancied rider Matia Passini was out of action with a broken wrist sustained during the wet weather qualifying action the previous day. I asked him why he was not using his old racing number 54, this year. In previous years I have seen him with this number printed onto his clothing and caps.

Manuel Poggialli has taken this number from him he replied, because he is a more prominent rider he has first choice and has used this number in the past, and so he reclaimed it. Shit happens hey!

He is a very good looking lad and adorned in his designer style gear looked” very cool” indeed!

The 250 race was totally mesmerising with the lead group swapping places every few corners. Chaz got a crap start and lost quite a few places before the first corner, but I am sure that Wes’s and my shouts of encouragement on each lap helped him pull back his deficit!

Meanwhile back at the sharp end De Puniet and Pedrosa made it a thrilling last lap scrap, with the Spaniard winning by a “hairs breadth” much to the disappointment of the home crowd. Chaz came in a creditable 11th but his body language after the finish line showed that he was disappointed with this result. Corsi (on a works bike) had out-gunned him down the home straight and he was frustrated by his lack of power. Still, he beat Locatelli (on another works bike) and several other good riders. WELL DONE CHAZ!!!!!!!

Roby is now in the Moto GP class and although he has an old spec machine and is using the ill favoured Dunlop tyres, he gave it his all during qualifying.

Sadly he qualified on the last row. Never the less he got of to a blinding start and was mid pack as the group hit the chicane. Checca went down and took Roby with him, (this happened to Roby same corner, same lap last year) however, Roby kept the motor running and was able to restart, but was more than ½ a lap down.We shouted words of encouragement as he roared past our grandstand - the locals must have thought we were “loco” as they were all for Rossi or Sete.

Roby did what amounted to a time trial, and raced himself for 28 laps; he did however make it to the finish and scored a much deserved point. WELL DONE ROBY!!!!!

That’s the mundane part of the report out of the way, now it’s down to the serious stuff!

We had met up with Roby earlier in the day, and had discussed with him the meal that was planned for later on in the year. He has arranged for myself and family, along with six of his close friends, to be present at the gathering.

Jan my missus is not keen on us driving down to Italy to have a meal with a motor bike racer. Jeeezus! Roby is God-like to me!! Who would not relish the opportunity to share an evening with their idol? She thinks that stopping off for this meal will spoil our holiday; little does she realise that this is the reason that we are visiting Italy in the first place - the sight seeing and sunbathing come a very poor second!

Actually Roby is just a normal bloke. He is not big headed, and he doesn't act like a Prima Donna either. He is just a guy who is good at racing motor bikes. Three of his friends along with his dad were travelling up on the Saturday to stay overnight and watch the race on Sunday and I was to meet up with them later.

Meanwhile back in the paddock, Luchio Ceccenello came by on his scooter, he saw Wes and I and stopped to say hello, I was very surprised that he remembered us, for we had not spoken since the Brno round last August. During our conversation I asked him if it was possible for me to purchase a Carrera team shirt from him for Wes. He looked me in the eye and said NO! "You can have one for free!" was his reply. “Get on the back of my scooter” he told Wes, “we can drive over to the Carrera hospitality unit and sort you one out” .

Wes (as quick as a pickpocket in Prague) leapt aboard Luchio’s Motorino. They drove over to the far side of the paddock and left me puffing and panting as I gamely followed. By the time I arrived at the hospitality area Wes was ensconced inside with Luchio’s sister Elaina. She offered us Cokes and nibbles and made us both feel very welcome.

Luchio appeared with the WONDERFUL team shirt - brand new, still in the bag, WOW! Was I jealous? Elaina gave Wes a “goodie bag” also, and inside we found a team cap, a Carrera pen, a Carrera pencil, a team lanyard and a tin of strong mints with the Carrera logo on. I had to check the date…….was it 25th December?

Luchio had to leave to attend a business meeting and he told us that we could stay as long as we wanted. It was mentioned that Casey Stoner would be along later and we could meet him. The crew members started to lay all

the tables ready for the evening dinners and we felt a little uncomfortable just sitting there, so we said our farewells and left.

Early on the Sunday we had "hooked up” with Roby’s friends and father. it gave me a chance to practice my Italian. The Italian lads were sooooo laid back; they were not interested in the other racers or races, but had just come to see and support Roby. Valentino held no interest to them, he was just an other Italian. Same for Max! Max’s motor home was parked up next to Robys’ and each time he came and went I wanted to stop him and take his picture but these lads didn't even blink an eye!

That was it! The weekend had flown by, the races were over and it was time to hit the road for us, and head back to “Blighty” . I made sure that the engine was running selected first gear, said our Adieu’s, and put the pedal to the metal. Another spectacular adventure was over, but never to be forgotten.

I must stress if you only ever go to one GP, then make sure that it is LeMans. The food is excellent, the locals are friendly, and if you get the chance to visit LeMans, the old section of the town is architecturally stunning.


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