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GP Week : Issue 74
SPAIN is the heartland of modern motorcycle GP racing. It has been for quite a while now, and mostly racing is all the better for it. There's a fan base to rival Italy's F1 tifosi, a passion that grips the whole nation, and a selection of top- quality circuits on which to race in mainly good weather. Spain already had three GPs -- Jerez, Catalunya and Valencia, plus that just over the border in Portugal. For 2010 it has just acquired a record fourth race. The repeatedly defunct Hungarian round has been replaced by the spanking new and reportedly magnificent Motorland Aragon circuit. Then there's a rider training programme whose fruit is plain to see in the smaller classes, although Alex Criville remains the only national premier-class winner to date. So if grand prix racing can't thrive in Spain, then what will the rest of the world do? Is there a problem? There is. This time it's not anything to do with sponsors. Rather, it is to do with sponsors, but only as a consequence. The problem is with TVE, the national broadcasting network, which has some serious financial issues. Executives decided that something would have to be cut from the channels massive armoury of sports coverage -- and midway through last week came the announcement that it would be MotoGP. TVE will see out its contract over the next two years, although cutting back on the production. But while the rights were snapped up at once by Telecinco (Berlusconi's lot); it soon became clear that it was a cut-price deal, with at least some desperation behind it for Dorna. TVE's presence at a MotoGP race has to be seen to be believed. At every European track --and some foreign ones as well -- they erect a massive elevated glass-sided studio towering over the paddock. Their pundits (including Angel Nieto and Criville, below) can sometimes be seen pontificating to camera long after the races are over and darkness is falling. Since then, an internal battle at the station has seen much of elaborate support structure reinstated, including the four- strong commentary team; while Telecinco's insinuating offer to take over early has been spurned. Luckily for bike grand prix racing, in Spain and thus everywhere, the fans still have the power. The tottering of a TV giant for peripheral reasons will remain itself peripheral, as long as the stands stay packed at Jerez, Catalunya and the rest. Doesn't seem much danger of that not happening .. . MICHAEL SCOTT MotoGP Editor opinion Warning noises from Spanish TV FOR all my colleagues out in Australia already, complaining about jet-lag, Qantas food and deep vein thrombosis, let me fill you in on my weekend: I flew from Geneva, refueled in Bahrain, Colombo, Macau, Osaka, Petropavlovsk, Anchorage, Las Vegas, Montreal, Goose Bay, Shannon, Marrakech, and returned to Geneva -- all in the space of 57 hours and 54 minutes. It was a new world record for the class of plane I flew in -- a private jet with a take-off weight between 9,000 and 12,000kg. The pilot was Riccardo Mortara, the father of Italian GP2 driver and 2009 Macau Grand Prix winner Edoardo Mortara. We would have completed the 36,900km journey four hours faster had our plans not been screwed by a huge volcanic eruption in southern Iceland, where we had been scheduled to stop. Halfway between Canada and Iceland, we had to make a decision: divert to Ireland, and risk running out of fuel with just ocean below us, or pull a u-turn and head back to Canada. The latter was the only sane choice. Our unscheduled stop in Goose Bay, north of Newfoundland, provided a cosy cuppa as we waited for our plane to be refueled. The walls of the place were lined with photographs of Goose Bay's handling agents pictured with many celebrities: John Travolta, Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Nicolas Cage... too many to mention, in fact. If you're flying private from LAX to LHR, en route to a Leicester Square premiere, you're likely to pop by here. ADAM HAY- NICHOLLS GPWeek Editor So how wa manic ... 24