MotoGP season picking up speed
This weekend MotoGP is taking us to France and the historic Le Mans circuit, a place probably more famous for car racing than bikes. The good news is that after all the behind the scenes drama in Shanghai, Suzi Perry is much better and will be presenting our coverage from France.
We’d arrived in China for the last round and all was fine, but by race day Suzi was running a high temperature and had a nasty throat infection - so there was no possibility of her doing the show. It’s the first programme she’s ever missed through illness in her career at the BBC and she was really upset.
In her absence the rest of the team rallied round on Sunday morning to get us on air, we had just three hours to completely rewrite the show and get the necessary pictures to London.
Charlie Cox and Steve Parrish pre-recorded the opening few links before heading back to the commentary box and then Matt Roberts, our pit-lane reporter, did his first live gridwalk. The grid is a tough place to be, it’s always very busy with teams and camera crews and the guests aren’t always where you expect them to be. He coped really well, even if, as John Hopkins noted, he was just a little bit nervous!
It was pretty stressful all round but by the time we came off air I was hugely proud of what we’d achieved in difficult circumstances.
Back to this coming weekend and bike fans are in for a treat with three-and-a-half hours of bike racing on BBC TWO on Sunday. First up is MotoGP with all the usual build-up, the race and then the added bonus of MotoGP Extra (which is on BBC TWO rather than via the red button).
MotoGP Extra is our BBCi show which offers extended post race reaction, includes highlights of 125 and 250 races and a chance to hear from all the British riders. If you never seen it before it’s definitely worth staying tuned for.
Then it’s more bike action, this time closer to home in Northern Ireland - with highlights of last weekend’s NW200. And if that’s not enough don’t forget you can watch the MotoGP qualifying via the red button at 1245 BST on Saturday.
We’re about to start a really busy period of bike racing with seven races in the next 10 weeks, so the pressure is on the riders - especially with regard to injuries. Last season, Loris Capirossi’s title hope were wrecked with that huge crash in Catalunya.
Four races into the new season and Casey Stoner tops the championship standings. The young Aussie has stunned the paddock by wining three races so far. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that he would be leading Valentino by 15 points so early on. The new 800 Ducati is a fantastic bike and a huge credit must go to the small team in Bologna who have done an amazing job. The straight line speed of the bike is amazing to witness.
Things have also been looking good for Suzuki this season and we were delighted to see Hopkins get his first podium in Shanghai. He’s waited a long time for it and he was so pleased. His mechanics were very quiet on the plane home from China after a big night celebrating!
The disappointment so far has been with the Honda, and the riders all seem to be struggling with the new bike. As part of our build-up to the race on Sunday we have sent Steve to look at what the problems are. Meanwhile, Suzi has caught up with Nicky Hayden, the reigning world champion. He’s very frustrated at not being able to mount a proper defence of his title.
Looking ahead, it’s just over a month to the British Grand Prix at Donington Park on 24 June, and our preparations are already underway. We’ll have an extended build-up to the race and we’re delighted that Steve’s been given the chance to ride the Kawasaki race bike at the start of the weekend. He is still the only person - apart from the team riders - to have ridden an 800, when he did some laps of Jerez on the Suzuki, so it’ll be interesting to see how he feels the two bikes compare.