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Tuesday 12th July 2011


PH2: MOTO GP - GOING DUTCH

PH flies Plummet Airways To Assen with Steve Parrish

Your pilot today is Captain Parrish
Your pilot today is Captain Parrish
So here we are, somewhere over the North Sea in a single-engined aircraft being flown by a legendary practical joker. I remember first seeing Steve Parrish at the Racing and Sporting Motorcycle Show in London around 1978. My all time hero Mike Hailwood was there, but the thing I remember best is that Parrish was running a vegetable shop. A natural thing for Barry Sheene's team mate to be doing.

Pride of the Plummet Airways fleet
Pride of the Plummet Airways fleet
Parrish lives between the Isle of Man and Hertfordshire, where he keeps his Cessna 182 aeroplane. You can tell you've got the right house because a pair of stone pigs are shagging on the front lawn and the doorbell is a tit.

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.

Assen - home to the Dutch Moto GP
Assen - home to the Dutch Moto GP
Now this is how to get about. An hour and a half from take off at Chez Parrish we are coming in to land at Groningen Airport which is only 20 minutes or so from Assen and the famous venue for the Assen TT. Or the Dutch round of the Moto GP championship. Parrish has been flying since 1991 and has thousands of hours experience, commuting between races and nipping back to the Isle of Man.

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.

The Parrish/Cox double act
The Parrish/Cox double act
The Parrish/Cox double act has been running for almost a decade so it's not surprising it's well polished. Until you see their place of work. It's a tiny room (insert suitably eccentric Cox metaphor) with a couple of computer screens on which the pair see a selection of camera angles. 'The trick,' explains Parrish, 'is to only commentate on what the viewers are looking at on their screens. In fact, having a birds-eye view of the whole circuit is dangerous because it encourages you to start describing stuff than no one but you can see.'

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.

Ducati's 'Palace of Versaille'...
Ducati's 'Palace of Versaille'...
I try to photograph Simoncelli's thatch but I don't have the right lens. It's massive. Crutchlow is here despite the massive collar bone carnage. 'Cal's got massive balls,' says Parrish. 'If anyone is going to ride after that, it's him.' What's more Crutchlow puts up a mighty performance in practice.

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 there's not much to see off track.
...but there's not much to see off track.
I think the Rossi era might be coming to an end. He's still unfeasibly quick, but the bike's not right, he's won so much, he's been injured. Maybe the planets are no longer aligned correctly. Whatever, I don't want him to do a Schumacher and put a scratch in a great record. Mind you, he's way above Schuey in all areas. Sense of humour (MS hasn't got one as anyone in F1 will tell you), fun, sportsmanship and fashion sense.

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.







Author: Yonah