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GP Week : Issue 25
>>GPWEEKOPINION Like riding a bike… Will Buxton GPWeek Editor YOU stand there, helmet on, gloves pulled tight, and you wait ... your heartbeat pounding ever louder as your fingers start to tingle and your blood courses ever faster through your veins. Up until Friday, I’d never so much as sat on a motorbike, and yet here I was about to try trial biking. “Give it a go,” the good folk at Alpinestars had implored. “You’ll love it, and we promise you’ll be in good hands.” Those good hands belonged to 12-time trials bike world champion Dougie Lampkin. It was the equivalent of having your first driving lesson with Michael Schumacher. Epic. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous, so completely aware of the newness of what was about to happen to me. “Four wheels good, two wheels bad,” I’ve always said, for precision and balance have never been strong points of my physical armoury. And yet here I was, not on any old bike, but a bike with an ASBO. The raw aggression of the throttle meant a twist of a few millimetres saw the thing absolutely rocket away. I was scared. But, with Dougie’s advice replaying in my mind, and the steadying hand of the Alpinestars boys to get me upright and on my way, I was up and loving it ... Lo-ving it! Having had my confidence shaken by what we will loosely term as a ‘moment’ I decided against going into the actual competition side of things (one step at a time Will, one step at a time), and there was time to relax and watch the pros at work. And my god, they were incredible. As my adrenalin levels dropped and I began to realise how much I’d enjoyed my first ever bike ride, I began to reflect on the inaugural race at the Valencia Street Track and how, in many ways, the city’s first experience of F1, and my own exploits on Friday night, weren’t that far removed. That Valencia’s first Grand Prix was a success is not in doubt, but questions must be raised as to whether the place might have benefitted from another 12 months to prepare. While the track itself was pretty damn good, the operational infrastructure (access roads, sign posting, and the simple geography of the layout for fans and race workers alike) was severely below par and will need a major revamp before 2009. Being a first attempt, it was never going to be perfect – the race, or the bike ride. Sure we may have looked the part, but we weren’t up to the levels of those who have been doing it, and doing it well, for decades. Valencia had been smart and had been on fact finding missions to Monaco, the Dougie Lampkin of street circuits. The preparation had been right, and the advice had been heeded. But the operational aspects were always going to take time to work out. A stray spectator on track at the start of the second practice session was evidence there’s quite some way to go yet. I could jump off the bike after my first run, and decide not to carry on with the competition against those with more experience. Valencia couldn’t, and despite the niggles put on a terrific show. Nobody could have expected a perfect run on a first attempt. There may have been some rough edges and it might not have all gone totally to plan, but the experience was rewarding enough to make me optimistic about the future and, with a broad grin in place, left me looking forward to next time … two wheels and the track alike. 23 opinion