PH2: MOTO GP - GOING DUTCH
PH flies Plummet Airways To Assen with Steve Parrish
Your pilot today is Captain Parrish
Charlie Cox is also along for the ride. There are times when watching Moto GP on the telly when Charlie has come up with one 'third armpit' once too often, but I wouldn't want him replaced because most of the time he's right on the pace. In person he really is funny. Great company, too, but for most of the flight he's fast asleep in the back. Parrish never misses an opportunity for a laugh so his Cessna is part of Plummet Airways - "The Fastest Way To Heaven". You even get an in-flight meal in a special Plummet Airways box. And it's a damned sight better than the fodder you have to buy on Ryanair. Except that on the last flight the passengers were given long stringy snacks covered in chocolate. 'Chocolate coated dried worms,' explains Captain Parrish.
I'm on a bit of a budget so have brought a tent from Argos. The set up at Assen is fantastic. Without any planning or booking of pitches I rock up at a campsite about a 10 minute walk from the circuit and cough €20 for one night camping. There's a bus from Assen train station (two hours from Schiphol airport) that takes you right to the track. Obviously you'd come by bike, but rocking up on foot is pretty easy. Try doing that at Silverstone.
Sadly, Moto GP has an atmosphere backstage that is worryingly close to F1. Escaping from Colditz would be a stroll compared to getting past Bernie's defences. Here, too, your media pass is scanned as you come in and out of the paddock. Actually, there's not a hell of a lot to see. You can't get into the garages unless you know someone and you don't see Rossi, Lorenzo or any of the other riders strolling about the place. It's motorhome to bike, bike to motorhome. Seemingly using some secret tunnel.
I think I'm the only Brit in the campsite. And the only person who knows that there was some music produced after 1980. I must be getting old but I can't see the point of revving your bike's engine at 2.00am in the morning. On the stand, against the limiter. What's wrong with going out street racing like people once used to do at bike races? When I used to go to Brands to watch blokes like Sheene and Parrish I used to fall off my bike on the way home, not blow it up in the campsite.
Parrish and Cox are brilliant company. Both nuts about road bikes and into their cars as well. Brundle is the same. Down to earth, enthusiastic. Murray Walker, too. An utter gent. Breakfast in the Ducati hospitality suite. It does make you laugh when you read about the desire to cut costs in racing. This edifice is almost as big as Red Bull's Palace of Versailles in the F1 paddock. Kevin Schwantz is having a bacon sarnie at the next table. Another God and, like Crutchlow, the owner of an unfeasibly large set of knackers. It's surprising they fit under the table.
But as ever with Moto GP it is worth eating chocolate worms, riding a bicycle to get here, being kept awake by German heavy metal fans, just to watch riding Gods like Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner pitch a Moto GP bike on its side at a ridiculous angle, in the wet mind, and fire it out of a corner.