BBC BLOGS - Matt Roberts
« Previous | Main | Next »

Silverstone's silver lining

Post categories:

Matt Roberts | 12:38 UK time, Tuesday, 14 June 2011

It's 1830 BST on Sunday and I've been sat in the back of my brother's T-reg Fiesta for two hours already.

With the traffic log-jammed all the way back from the M1 to the Silverstone car park and barely enough petrol to keep the heaters going, the condensation running down the window is the only thing certain to be in motion around here for a while yet.

Through the misted glass, a trader packs up his sodden surplus stock of Cal Crutchlow t-shirts - evocative remnants of what we all hope will turn out to be the darkest chapter of a stellar MotoGP career for the talented 25-year-old.

The 2011 British Grand Prix was one to forget for Crutchlow and his fans but there were shafts of light for the bumper 72,500 home crowd, not least Bradley Smith's stunning charge from 28th on the grid to the podium in a Moto2 race that was briefly led by fellow Brit Scott Redding, who finished fifth.

Danny Kent, Taylor MacKenzie, Danny Webb and teenage wildcard John McPhee all scored points in a treacherous 125cc race, suggesting that the foundations are in place for the stunning new Silverstone circuit to eventually recreate those gloriously hazy summer days of the 1970s when Barry Sheene - Britain's last premier class winner - battled for victory with the legendary Kenny Roberts.

For a throwback to those men of steel from yesteryear, look no further than Colin Edwards. The Texan Tornado blew away the black cloud hanging over Crutchlow's Monster Tech3 garage with an incredible performance on Sunday, guiding his Yamaha YZR-M1 to third place just nine days after it threw him to the tarmac in Barcelona, smashing his collarbone into five pieces.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

When Edwards woke up in hospital the following morning with 15 screws in the bone, he immediately began planning his return to action. While his valiant attempt to make the grid in Spain was thwarted by medical staff, there was no doubt in his own mind that he would be making the trip to Silverstone.

Not only did Edwards keep his appointment on track but he insisted on being first up on stage at the Day of Champions auction on Thursday, an annual event held to raise money for the life-saving work of Riders for Health, the official charity of MotoGP.

His crash-damaged leathers from the French round raised an incredible £3,300 but unsurprisingly it was Valentino Rossi who had the fans digging deepest into their pockets. One plucky punter paid £4,700 to meet the seven-time world champion and have a picture taken that would later be turned into a painting.

Grid passes raised £2,200, trackside work experience with photographer Andrew Northcott fetched a further £2,000 whilst other signed memorabilia from all the MotoGP riders and British Moto2 and 125cc stars contributed to a sensational total of £63,830 raised in just four hours.

Adding to ticket prices on the day, British MotoGP fans handed over £194,577 to Riders for Health, which will go towards creating crucial transport infrastructures that facilitate life-saving healthcare in rural Africa.

It is this earnest passion and enthusiasm for MotoGP in the UK that makes the British Grand Prix one of the most eagerly anticipated on the calendar for all of the riders, because largely they are shown such respectful admiration - barring the mindless minority that decided to boo Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo onto the stage.
The source of spite for the yellow-clad few is their unbridled loyalty to Rossi.

The obsession of these most impassioned fans is astonishing even after all these years.
As well as the mind-boggling amounts of cash handed over for his signature - Yamaha and Ducati know all about that - I met fans over the course of the weekend who had named their children after him, others who had tattooed the Italian's various logos - and even his face - onto their bodies.

It is a global phenomenon he has dealt with throughout his career but I still find it difficult to imagine how I would react to an almost intrusive level of fanaticism. When I asked Rossi about it in a revealing interview for our programme on Sunday, he just shrugged. "More than strange, it is always a great pleasure," he replied with a trademark grin.

It is exactly that ability to charm and compliment his fans that makes him so appealing to them. As an interviewer, it is, in his words, always a great pleasure to spend time in his company. Off camera, he is as personable as he is on it, invariably thanking the crew for their time and happily taking time for any autographs before departing.

Rossi fans at Silverstone

Rossi fans at Silverstone. Photo: Getty

The seductive twinkle in his eye also glistens with determination. While his powers may have diminished slightly since his all-conquering pomp in the mid-2000s, there is little doubt in my mind that there are more race wins and even titles left in this most audacious of world champions.

Going back to us Brits, of course, the pressure of a home Grand Prix resonates through the paddock and into the television compound. For this race, we decided to go fully live, without any pre-recorded links - other than the opening, which we filmed at the Day of Champions auction on Thursday and out in the campsites on Saturday morning - for the first time since Century TV took over production at the start of the season.

It was a technical challenge for the crew and also for me as the main anchor, made harder by the inclement weather - and I don't just mean at Silverstone. With rain halting the tennis at Queen's an hour before we went on air, a contingency plan began to form - the network would stay with us and show the 125cc race live in full.

That decision was confirmed during the MotoGP race, so director Rohan Browning and I hastily hatched an improvised plan for the half hour between the two races that would include reaction to the main event, build-up to 125s and a tricky handover to Sue Barker at Queen's, without the technical means for me or Sue to see or hear each other.

It didn't help that I lost audio talkback, but thankfully Sue and the team down at Queen's are supremely professional and they helped make it looks seamless. By the time we wrapped up just before 1530 BST, we had been on air for 178 minutes - easily the longest MotoGP show we have ever done on the BBC.

With rain also causing delays for the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix on the other side of the Atlantic, motorsport fans were treated to a total of seven hours of live coverage on network BBC in the same day - surely an all-time record.

My brother, his girlfriend, my wife and I listened to the brilliant 5live coverage from Montreal as we filtered out of the Silverstone car park, arriving home after a four-hour drive to make it to the local pub just in time for last orders and to watch highlights of Jenson Button's brilliant win on the news.

I reflected over a hard-earned pint that, if there is one thing Sunday had confirmed, we Brits know how to make the best out of a bad situation.

And that is exactly why I know we will see Crutchlow patched up and back on his bike at Assen in two weeks' time, ready to lead our nation's two-wheeled charge for glory again.


  • Comment number 1.

    Absolutely gutted for Crutchlow after that accident. I had high hopes for his chances at Silverstone.

    Lets hope him and Pedrosa are back for the next race as they are two quality riders.

    In regards to your comment about Button's race. Was world class mate watching it live was so nerve racking.

  • Comment number 2.

    Nice to see that even the great and good got stuck in the Silverstone gridlock.

    3 hours, a flat battery and the soggiest, most expensive burger in history ruined an otherwise brilliant weekend.

    I just hope someone will youtube Colin Edwards interview on stage on Saturday night...

  • Comment number 3.

    First ever MotoGP, shame about the weather. I have a 100% record of race day rain for all the motorsport events I have attended; probably a lesson in there somewhere.

    The main event was, in my opinion, pretty dull. After lap 10 there were no real battles on any part of the track :( Good to see Suzuki get a decent finish, it would be tremendous if they could consistently repeat a top 8 finish; and get a second bike on the team!!

    Really need Pedrosa back quick and for SiC to catch some good breaks.

    Echoing comments about Button, it really was good (and about time) that he didn't just drive well but demonstrated a real racers instinct.

    And to finish.......... way to go #38!

  • Comment number 4.

    I watched some of the coverage in the hope of someone having a bad crash but MotoGP is just so, so boring to watch even in the rain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Was my first MotoGP and it was brilliant! the atmosphere was great and watching the bikes up close was really something. The race could have been more interesting if Lorenzo and Simoncelli stayed on but once again the Moto2 was entertaining.

    I especially liked the interviews on the stage on saturday night, Colin Edwards was hilarious and catching a shirt thrown by Jorge was nice :) and getting a picture with you Matt :)

    #Flash this is Colins interview -

  • Comment number 6.

    Top words there Matt. As a graduate in English language and lingustics, and a also a friend of Bradley, that piece of text is first class. Capturing a day in difficult conditions, magnificently. All associated with Moto Gp - riders, organiser, but most of all fans, done themselves proud.

  • Comment number 7.

    Brilliant blog Matt, I always enjoy reading them!

    I did worry about Cal, but your words comforted me. I just remembered the 6th places JT got at Qatar, Mugello, Jerez and Catalunya, and the 3rd place in the in-season test, and how Donington caused that all to evaporate. I'm sure now Cal won't let that happen to him.

    Glad too that you alluded to the booing of other riders onto stage; anyone who is anyone can appreciate, marvel and applaud the genius of a man like Vale, but I wish that same appreciation could extend to his main rivals too.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'll echo earlier comments. Your blog was almost poetic, Matt.

    The British weather intervened again. My goodness I'd like to tow this country 600 miles south..! The other British complaint happened again too. The plucky British competitor stalled at the first hurdle. OK, that reads and feels bad, and Cal isn't what one would call "plucky". But it happened. It was shades of JT at Donington, only worse. JT got up to fall off again at the first corner in the race. What is that happens to British sporting professionals when there is a long time between successes..? I noticed Steve was desperate not for the us to expect too much of Crutchlow. Perhaps Cal expected so much personally, he forgot himself. For years the disease hit British tennis, and that sport isn't exactly smiling just yet. There's Murray and..! Well perhaps I'm showing my ignorance of that sport. Thankfully, in MotoGP, nowadays there's Crutchlow, and right behind him, and in the correct arena of motorcycling [not WSBK or BSBK], i.e. Moto2 and 125/Moto3 are up and coming stars Smith, Redding, Goghlan, Kent, Webb, Mackenzie and Stafford, with the occasional British wildcard thrown in. In a couple of years we could be hip deep in the lads.

    And finally, I really hope we get to see them grow on terrestrial TV, without adverts. Know what I mean, Matt..?

  • Comment number 9.

    Oops, forgot to mention the brilliance of Bradley Smith on Sunday. What a ride..! And Scott Redding's was none too shabby either. Well done to all the Brits, and of course, that blue stage comic, Colin. Get well soon, Cal.

  • Comment number 10.

    Really really badluck to Cal. He made double last year in Superbike. But he is a good lad and will come stronger for Assen. Good Luck Cal.

    BTW, where is the replay of MotoGP race on iPlayer? I wanna watch it once again. I can see only 125 and Moto2.

  • Comment number 11.

    Hats off to The GOATS of all Sports wrote: "...where is the replay of MotoGP race on iPlayer?"

    Just a change in the racing order, so MotoGP and the 125s are together in one long programme, with Moto2 on its own. Hope that helps.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for all the feedback folks.

    TheSecondStain - yes I think I know what you mean and I hope so too!

    NormalforNuneaton - may I suggest you might be watching it for the wrong reasons?

  • Comment number 13.

    First MotoGP for me this weekend and had a brilliant time, despite being freezing cold.
    Nice capture of the situation in the blog.
    I thoroughly enjoyed the Moto2 race, a superb ride by Bradley and Scott in difficult conditions, but I do echo the sentiment that the main event was a little flat after Lorenzo and Simoncelli hopped off.
    On this topic, as a Dovi fan, I wasn't too unhappy to see his main competitors leave him free to claim a good second, but the reaction of the people around me to Lorenzo's crash was quite disgusting.
    A lot of people cheered.
    While I don't have an awful lot of time for the guy, he's still a very good rider and any race without him in it is lessened by his absence.
    Cheering for a crash, especially before you can be sure that the rider is ok is just horrible.
    Well done also to Stoner. Quite right that Vale's fans should show his competitors some respect. Casey is a superb rider. And this is coming from someone who is firmly in the "Stoner is a spoiled child" camp.

  • Comment number 14.

    Just wish Simoncelli could finish a race - to finish first, first you must finish !

  • Comment number 15.

    Even in those conditions it was great to see the Brit spirit out in force (and some Brit beer as well!) Loved the whole weekend. 70k+ people out in those conditions says it all.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.