Perky Pedrosa lights up Silverstone
Twenty-four years is a long time to play bridesmaid and not bride but this weekend Silverstone will step up to take centre stage from Donington and once again be the main focus for British Motorsport as MotoGP rolls into town.
The last time motorcycling's premier class was here, Kylie and Jason got hitched in Neighbours, Madonna's Papa Don't Preach was at the top of the charts and Wayne Gardner was beating Randy Mamola, Niall Mackenzie and Ron Haslam to top spot in the race. Most of the riders taking part in this weekend's event were not even born then!
After more than a year of preparations and more than £7m of investment, the new-look circuit, which I was fortunate to take a tour around (see video below), will open its doors to over 100,000 people, all keen to cheer on the best bikers in the world.
There has already been lots of activity here. Every year before the British MotoGP takes place, Riders for Health, which aims to provide reliable transport to aid workers in Africa, hosts a charity day called Day of Champions, raising thousands of pounds by auctioning all sorts of rider merchandise and memorabilia.
Our very own Steve Parrish and Matt Roberts took to the stage several times to entertain the crowd. Then in the afternoon it was time for the real money-making to begin with Valentino Rossi paintings and Dani Pedrosa's boots just some of the items going under the hammer.
It was just before he took to the stage that I met up with Pedrosa, who won at Mugello last time out. Now, I have to be honest with you, Pedrosa has a reputation of being a little sullen and has always shied away from the media. He does not have the natural charisma that someone like Valentino Rossi or Jorge Lorenzo has. Nevertheless, he is undoubtedly one of the best riders in the world, preferring to do his talking on the track.
However, the Pedrosa I met was a changed man. As he stepped out of his car to make his way to the room where he would scribble his autograph on a whole array of motorcycling memorabilia, he was smiling, seemingly very happy to be at Silverstone. Gone were the troubled looks of Qatar and Jerez. Standing beside me was a man who looked like he could win his first ever MotoGP world championship and had every faith in the Honda RC212V.
We chatted together quite happily as we made our way on to the stage to auction two visors and a pair boots that he used at Jerez. Then it was show time. The diminutive Spaniard took to the stage like a real pro, cracking jokes (albeit Spanish ones!) and smiling for his fans. Was this really the same man who looked like he was ready to throw his helmet at his team during round one of the championship?
Something has definitely changed in the 24-year-old. Could it be that, after a win that elevated him to second place in the standings, he feels like he is actually at one with his team and his bike? Is it because Rossi is sidelined through injury and the other riders feel they are free to race their own races? Maybe doing something for charity makes him feel good? Who knows? But I certainly like the new Pedrosa.
At the end of our interview, I even plucked up the courage to ask if he was thinking about the possibility of back-to-back wins in the premier class for the first time. As he was whisked off by his manager and PR people, he looked back at me and I'm sure I saw a little wink. Maybe it was just the sun in his eyes but Pedrosa really does look as though he believes he can have a big impact on the championship this season.