8 hours at a MotoGP: The story of six people

Six completely different people who completely unaware of they were part of a 90,000 cast of the British MotoGP at Donington Park in 2007

The British GP is made up of a variety of different characters all with their own different stories to tell.

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The Grid Girl

Kimberly Thurman

Kim is a model. Her agency has booked her to be one of two grid girls for the works Kawasaki team. At 5'11" she's taller than all the racers on the grid. She's here to provide the glamour and the sex-appeal that is considered de rigueur in motorsport. She's not a bike enthusiast but she concedes, after two MotoGPs, that bikes have an attraction.

9.00am: I'm in Kawasaki's team truck doing last minute make-up. Along with Anna (the other pit girl) I left home at 6.30am to beat the traffic, we still caught it and we only just made it in time. I do enjoy this work, although obviously this rain and cold isn't so good. We're paid not to wear too much, so it's a cold day for us today. But we get Kawasaki umbrellas and we're lucky as Kawasaki allow us to wear these tops with long sleeves - better than for some of the girls, poor things.

11.00am: Right now we have 10 minutes for a warm-up here in the Kawasaki hospitality - with this rain I can't wait to thaw myself out a bit over a coffee! It's bloody freezing out here today. Oh well. We have set times when we do a pit walk and then there's being on the grid with the riders, after that the day's mostly a matter of walking around posing for lots of photos, usually with the public. Sometimes you get the odd strange comment, but the spectators are a great bunch here today.

1.00pm: I'm just off the grid and the noise is incredible! I did MotoGP last year too, here at Donington, so I know the form. I find the noise of the bikes quite exciting. It sure beats standing around at exhibition halls - not that I do them. Too boring. On the grid before the start I was standing with Randy De Puniet. I don't have to do anything except stand there, smiling. Always smiling. It aches after a while. And I hope no one takes photos from the wrong angle. Occasionally photographers can get cheeky and try taking photos up my skirt, but I'm more concerned about them taking photos up my nose, that is a wrong angle for me! Anyway, today we've got shorts on so I'm okay.

3.00pm: It's almost all over for us now. We had a laugh, Anna's rider Anthony (West) embarrassed her by running over to the pit wall for a wee just before the start. The pit wall! Not the most private place in the world. So we're heading over to the hospitality unit now for the unveiling of a road bike. More standing and smiling.

5.00pm: I'm getting in my car and about to head on home. It's been a long day, longer because of the weather. The Visordown guys were having a laugh with me about my career being over at 30 - much like the racers. To be honest, with the sort of modelling I do, even in six years I'll be in a different category - probably 'sofas with children', they certainly wouldn't want me on a GP grid! Sofas - that's scary. I have a degree in fashion marketing but I don't know if I could go back to a 9-5 now. Go back? I've never even had a full time job! Modelling started for me as I finished my degree. The money is good, and it's nice work. Salary wise, it depends how hard you work, it's better paid than normal work and you don't have to work every day. But after this, I don't know what I'll do.

The Journalist

Michel Turco

Michel is a journalist with French motorcycle weekly 'Moto Revue'. A former teacher he's now into his 17th year of covering grands prix for the magazine. With 14 pages to fill, Sunday is the culmination of four intense days at the track and the day when Michel has to create the bulk of his copy. He's got a heavy workload on his hands.

9.00am: I'm having a coffee and some breakfast. You have to get a good breakfast because once the day starts there's not enough time to eat. And tonight I work late. We arrived at 7.30am to avoid the jams. I'm clearing work emails from yesterday right now - follow-ups to articles about Anthony West I wrote last night. With Anthony he's a new rider and of course he took the place of a French rider at Kawasaki so we explained how he arrived here, and how he rides. I write update stories for the Moto Revue website as well. And I'm also doing translations for the team press releases from Team Konica Honda. It's a very busy day, and it's only just begun.

11.00am: The 250s are getting ready to start. I'll watch all the races from in the pressroom as with the broadcast screens and the data screens - they show rider positions, lap times and more - I've got the best chance of following the events. It's the great irony - come all the way here to the actual race, and watch it on TV.

1.00pm: Right now I'm full of emotion because I want the French riders to do well! Work-wise, this is just the same as the start of the 250 race. Press room. Monitors. I'm watching our French riders though, Randy and Sylvain. Like it is for the English with their riders, we're keen to support, our own.  Come on, guys!

3.00pm: I'm really juggling work at the moment. We have two French riders in the 125 that we need to follow. But today Valentino did not finish on the podium so the press conference for him is now in a few minutes and I need to be there for his comments on the MotoGP. Then I have top think about the article I am to write. I was surprised to see Valentino beaten again by Stoner, so maybe we'll see this race as a turning point in the season.  That's how I'm going to write my story now.

5.00pm: The pressroom and the team trucks are leaving, the paddock is emptying, and I've still got a good five hours work ahead of me. Merde! With 14 pages to fill I'll be writing about 8,000 words in total. Most of it will be on the MotoGP, we only do a couple of pages on the 125s and 250s. So I'll be lucky to finish by 10pm. I'll fly out tomorrow. Then I've got two days at home before it all starts again with Assen.

The Racer

Colin Edwards

Colin is a professional motorcycle racer. Twice World champion in World Superbikes, this was his fifth year in MotoGP. He's yet to make a lasting impression on the class and with age and indifferent results counting against him he’s come to Donington with his place in the works Yamaha squad, and his future career, very much in question. The heat is on.

9.00am: I've had a shower, got all my gear and taken it over to the works truck and spent a while sitting in the truck with the iPod cranking out Merle Haggard, just gathering my thoughts. Now I'm at the back of the garage with Daniele (Romagnoli) my crew chief going over last minute checks. We're on pole, yet really for me everything is the same as at Catalunya or anywhere else we've been. Michelin has given us something that's allowing us to pull a little trick out of the bag. Here we are five seconds a lap quicker. Usually we're looking for two or three tenths - so five seconds is a really big deal.

11.00am: I'm sitting here in the office next to hospitality eating a bowl of pasta, focussing on getting my food down and having it digested before I ride. There are some folks in hospitality, some friends, so I'll check in on them and see that they're having a good time. I don't spend time visualising the race, that's a waste of time - I've heard of people doing it, but I've won two World Championships without doing it, so whatever I do works pretty good. But yeah, you gotta have a plan. The whole day 9am, 11am, right now - I'm in a mode. I can't explain it, it's just a mode you get into, where you stay focused the whole day. But now I'm going back to the motorhome for a little nap. It's part of my routine.

1.00pm: I'm just back from the warm-up lap. I've been making sure I've got the tyres scuffed and that they've generated enough heat. In dry races you have to make sure the carbon brakes are up to temperature too, but with this rain we're using steel discs so that's not a problem. The media attention before the race on the grid has no effect on me - I'm in the mode. Sometimes, like today, you can even have fun with it, especially if you're feeling good. The lights will change any second. I'm not nervous. No way. I've been motocrossing since I was four years old, sitting on the grid with 30 other guys. Going headlong into eight feet of space in that first turn. What we're doing here is easy. You've got space around you, you're not rubbing elbows. This is a walk in the park compared to a motocross start. So I don't have any nervous tension. A couple of deep breaths now to get the blood circulating and I'm waiting for the lights to go out. I'm ready.

3.00pm: We got a second place - awesome! I'm in debrief now. We're into debrief almost straight after the race, but having been on the podium and doing the press conferences it comes a bit later today. I've told them what's gone on. We're in there, the crew chief, the suspension guy, the electronics guy, the Yamaha Japanese technicians, up to eight of us, and all separate to Valentino's crew. Dani Romagnali's my crew chief. I'm talking mostly with him, but I'll also talk to Jeremy Burgess (Vale's chief) as well and likewise Vale often talks to Dani - just to compare notes. The race went real well. I got the holeshot for once and it looked okay. Nothing was a problem until Casey cleared off. I got to half race distance and the best I could do on my tyres were mid 43s. But Stoner was taking a second out of that. No way could I match him.

5.00pm: I've got my fourth beer in hand. I'm relaxing. Nothing seems to satisfy like a beer after a hard day's work so this is me. It's like a normal day, the work's done, I'm done. 'The mode' left me at the chequered flag, now I'm back to reality, back to being me. I've got Hopper and his mate Alex Hoffman here, we're shooting shit about the racing and just stuff. We usually stay the Sunday night, maybe go get a meal with Hopper.  But this Sunday we have to leave tonight as we're going to Wimbledon on Monday, we got some tickets for centre court from the BBC guys. So we're staying in Bromley. Can't see me doing the driving, though.

The Organiser

Stuart Higgs

Stuart is the race organiser. Ordinarily he's running the British Superbikes series, but once a year he steps up for MotoGP. Stuart's the GP's clerk of the course, working under the fearsome uncompromising gaze of course director Paul Butler. With a worldwide television audience in the tens of millions he's under huge strain to ensure it runs on time.

9.00am: At 8.25 I was in a car on a track inspection with the race director. And at 8.55 the pit lane opened for the first warm up. Now I'm in the control room, pretty much for the rest of the day. I have 16 closed circuit camera monitors, broadcast feed, timing data and information, and the communications system which links me to the marshals and the medical team. Right now I'm going through last-minute checks to make sure all my staff are ready for the start procedures. It's a well rehearsed procedure we follow, scripted minute-by-minute. We have to be on time as there's a massive worldwide TV audience and so everything has to happen by certain times.

11.00am: The pit walk's just finished, the VIPs have returned to their gin palaces and the pit lane is now open for the 250GP. The action's about to begin. We're still following the script. With the races there are certain regulations, so they're even more scripted and it's essential that we follow exactly the procedure. You've got to balance the time schedule against sensible safety procedures but I'm very fortunate that the marshals are the same marshals I work with week-in week-out, so they also understand the pressures and know how to react to 99 out of 100 situations. The marshals I consider totally professional. They're unpaid but they act as if they're all on £100,000 a year each. They're fantastic and we're very lucky we have the same crew that come to each event.

1.00pm: This is the best moment of my year, when the red lights go out and the GP gets underway. The first corner is the most dangerous of the race, has the potential to cause the biggest problems and it being wet my heart is in my mouth. If we get through the first turn we should be home and dry, metaphorically speaking. We've never run a race in Britain under this wet race ruling so it's exciting knowing we're going with an open pitlane. We are going to make sure all the bike changes happen properly and there's no one in the pits who shouldn't be there. It's a very dangerous activity when 19 riders all come in to change bikes.

3.00pm: The 125s have about five laps to go now. We'd had some concerns before the race because of the MotoGP track invasion. As it turned out we cleared the track with only five seconds to spare. We were really looking forward to cheering on Bradley Smith, but his Saturday qualifying crash knocked the stuffing out of him. Despite running the race we're aware of how the race is panning out, too. We certainly know if a race is making history as we can watch the race on the broadcast screens. The 16 CCTV monitors are there to react to the individual incidents.

5.00pm: The R6 Cup's just finished without incident, so we're relaxing now. Next we're off to Knockhill for the BSB round and we've got a big street event in Glasgow before that. In the meantime we're not totally off the hook here. For judicial purposes we have to be on standby for the next hour should any protests be made following the races and only after that time's up can we confirm the results. There'll be some debriefs going on too, event manager meetings about any issues and improvements we can make for next year. Then pack up and go home. It's been a hell of a weekend. The weather meant we had 110 crashes in the GP classes which is a record of sorts. I knew we'd make the record books somehow! Not the best British GP ever, but not the worst. We had built in some contingency for the weather so we've stayed on programme all day.

The Mechanic

Jeremy 'Jez' Wilson

Jez is a mechanic with the works Rizla Suzuki team. Formerly a delivery driver and amateur racer he now works on John Hopkins' racers. In charge of tyres, fuelling and support to the team's technicians he also drives the team trucks to each race meeting. Jez's wife has just given birth to his first child, Lucy, so he's on his bike every night back home to Boston.

9.00am: I've been here since 6.45am. The first thing I did was to check the pressures on all of John's (Hopkins) tyres - with changes in barometric pressure you have to check they're right. Then I moved onto fuel control, making sure he's got the right fuel for warm-up - and we'll check his fuel consumption again, as the wet conditions will help confirm how much the Suzuki is drinking in these conditions. John's out in 20 minutes and most of my duties are done, so I'm here to help the mechanics should they need extra hands. For me there's more involved in practice and qualifying, to be honest. By race day we're settled.

11.00am: Chris (Vermuelen) had a crash in warm up, so his team are busy rebuilding his bike. The rider must have two bikes ready for him before the start. My rider's fine so I'm helping with cleaning up the fairings, washing any parts, cleaning and checking, getting replacements from the guys in stores. I've got the fuelling done too; over the last two days we've been charting fuel consumption, so today I've measured an exact amount to do the 30 race laps plus the three out and in laps. The tyres are sorted, double-checked and the Bridgestone logos done too.

1.00pm: The noise from the grid is terrific. Deafening. I'm in the garage, though, with John's spare bike. We've also got a spare set of wheels and tyres ready to go. If John comes in after his out-lap with a problem with a tyre we'll take the spare out to him. But he doesn't need it and the tech on the grid radioed us to put the wheels in the spare bike. Then if he has a problem on the warm-up lap he'll come into the pits. We have that spare bike warmed up already and he'd start from the pit lane. Tyre warmers off, second set of tyres on. As it is John has started the race on his number one bike with wets so we're putting slicks on his second bike in case with a drying track he pits later.

3.00pm: Right after the race I took the tank off John's bike and weighed it so the data guys could check the actual fuel consumption against the estimated. It was bang-on what I calculated. Then I took the wheels away so the tyres could be stripped by Bridgestone. We store the wheels in the truck without tyres on them. Once I get that done I'm into breaking down the pit and packing the trucks. We've done it so often it takes only two to three hours to knock everything down, so I've got another hour of this yet.

5.00pm: I've been lane splitting through the traffic on my bike, trying to get home for the night as my wife's just had our baby. So this week we got drivers in to drive out straight away for Assen, which is next weekend. Usually I do the driving. As the Assen race is on a Saturday we have to be there as soon as we can, as by Thursday it's all kicking off again. Still, I'll be flying out to Assen on Monday with the rest of the crew from East Midlands airport.

The Spectator

Steve Brown

Steve's a spectator. He's not been to a GP in over 15 years because of illness. His life has been blighted by a congenital heart defect but after two operations to replace his heart valve, at 34, he now has the chance of leading a normal life for the first time. He's camped at Donington with his mates Scott, Andy and Duncan, and he's loving every minute.

9.00am: We were going to pack our tent this morning so we could leave after the MotoGP but it was soaked from heavy overnight rain. So we're taking a chance and leaving it up. And we've figured that there'll be so much traffic that we'd never get out anyway, so we're going to take our time. So now we're at Craner Curves for the first warm up. Last time I was at a GP was 15 years ago or so. I remember seeing Eddie Lawson crash at the top of Craner and slide all the way down, then run back to the pit for a second bike! These four-strokes sound fit.

11.00am: I can't believe how quickly this morning has gone. It's starting to rain quite heavily now, it's not going to be good for the 250s. People have been putting their brollies up so we can't really see - we've been here since Friday and now we'll not even be able to see the racing, haha! We're going to move further up the hill by the trade tents, should be able to see from there. Then we'll pop back to exhibition halls for a bit of refreshment - you know, beer. And lots of it.

1.00pm: There's a Spitfire model on Craner, which is cordoned off to stop people climbing on it. I saw there were quite a few photographers inside the ropes so I joined them. I'm a very keen photographer and I've got a Canon digital SLR camera with a 400mm professional type lens - it's white, not black - so I blended in quite easily. I'm getting a good view and I'm not causing anyone any grief, I don't like to stand up and block anyone's view. I can't believe how fast these guys are going in the wet, it's unbelievable.


We're having a kip as it goes. We've been here since Friday at 7am and really not had much sleep. Last night we were watching James Toseland and his band playing. Had a few beers. The portaloos on the campsite weren't up to much so I took a dump in the real loos at the exhibition hall. And blocked it - it overflowed. I laughed but you could see the disappointment on the guys who were waiting!

5.00pm: We're in the car, just outside the circuit, waiting for the traffic to move. There's still a massive queue. But we don't care, we've had such a laugh - don't think I've ever laughed so much in all my life. It's been brilliant. I was chuffed with the photos I got too. With all that fencing I didn't think I'd get anything but I'm real happy - and I got a great Rossi practice crash sequence too. The most memorable thing? Probably the sound of Stoner's Ducati as he ran through Craner Curves. That's special.