Every year, riders make their pilgrimage to Monterey, California to admire some of the fastest, most advanced motorcycles in the world. This special event is the Redbull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme and the American Motorcycle Association collaborate yearly to create this awe-inspiring event. The weekend drew over 137,000 attendees who watched races varying from the main event of FIM Moto GP, to all the AMA class races, to even an electric motorcycle race.
DAY 1: The three-day event began on Friday; ushered in by me rising at an hour I’d particularly not like to remember. As I approached the raceway I heard that special sound, the low yet screaming thunder of highly modified 1000cc motorcycle engines speeding around the track, posting blistering lap times. This was only their first practice session yet they were already close to race speeds and times. For a good hour I was entranced by the sights and sounds: the fluid motion of riders sliding off the bike and leaning, their knee making contact, then the gunshot of noise that emerged as riders grabbed a handful of throttle and raced out of corners.
Later in the day as I walked around the grounds I spotted a group of three Kawasaki ZRX1200Rs. These bikes have a special place in my heart since my dad owns a 2000 ZRX1100. While I admired the bikes, one of the owners appeared. As we talked he said how happy he was to have broken the 10,000-mile mark on the ride up to Monterey from the Los Angeles area.
DAY 2: Saturday began as Friday did with an early rise. Moto GP qualifying was on the horizon. Positioned at the famous Corkscrew turns, I got to see that art and beauty that is knee dragging, close up in my LCD screen. The session ended with Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo beating out his Australian rival Casey Stoner to secure the pole position for Sunday’s race.
I spent Saturday evening down on Cannery Row, the street of shops and restaurants that borders the Monterey Bay. The street was blocked off to traffic so that bikes, new and old, could be gathered and parked along the sidewalk. A few special bikes I will remember. The first was a Ducati SportClassic 1000 Biposto, better described by its license plate “Moto Oro.” Another intriguing find was a Honda CB750; an early to mid 70’s model year, café racer seat, and a heat wrapped, straight-pipe 4-1 exhaust system.
DAY 3: A quick testimonial for Bridgestone got me a free premium paddock pass. Elated, I was now able to access the private team tent and get closer to the riders’ paddock pit boxes. With the beautiful pass around my neck, I made my way to my grandstand seat and enjoyed the ear-piercing sound that is Moto GP.
As the riders crossed the line on the final lap, I made my quick move back to the paddock in an attempt to use my pass to its fullest. While waiting near the tents, Vice President of HRC, Shuhei Nakamoto, as well as GP racer Stefan Bradl, walked by. I was happy to have Bradl sign my pass and was surprised by how personable he was.
With the races all over, I packed up my camera. The weekend was now only a memory, the most vivid takeaways the images on my screen and the penmanship on my pass.
Story and photography by Braulio Negreira