Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A great weekend at the World GP Legends at Jerez

The World GP Legends event at Jerez promised fans a great line up of past world champions, a huge range of legendary racing grand prix motorcycles, great bike related entertainment, racing and the chance to get up close to your past heroes.  

Did it deliver?  Yes is the short answer.

I arrive late Friday afternoon and picked up my tickets and headed in for 15 minutes, well that was the plan.  Before getting through the gates I was like a kid at Christmas with several Yamaha RD500’s (I’m an ex RD500 owner!) and an RG250 Suzuki parked up at the gates.   Given the superb array of ex works machinery on display my planned 15 minutes turned into an hour at least!  Gazing at the Yamaha TZ500’s, Kawasaki KR500, Suzuki RG500 from several eras, Cagiva 500, etc.
    
And of course seeing the likes of Fast Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardener, Graham Crosby, Christian Sarron and Phil Read further delayed me from making my way into Jerez for the evening.

My respect for Phil Read, 8 times Motorcycle Racing World Champion, ramped up another few notches seeing him here racing in full leathers on a very early (no wide powerbands in those days) Suzuki RG500 in 38C degrees of heat (and remember that’s in the shade!).  Top man.

I dragged myself away before that night’s bands came on stage and headed into Jerez to book into my hotel.  You don’t need much dragging into Jerez, it’s a superb place which I have visited on many occasions for the MotoGP, Easter Parades and it’s famous Jerez Horse Feria.    

I headed into town for refreshments – it was still in the 30’s after all and I was in sherry town.  

First port of call the Gorilla bar and then on to the Plaza Esteve, home to the famous neon lit building.  And of course while in Jerez it was time for a Fino, the very dry refreshing sherry which is served very cold - superb on a hot night!

Saturday morning and it was back up the track for qualifying and the first race.  A great deal of the pleasure in an event like this is simply wandering around the pits and looking at the superbly maintained historic bikes on show.  There were hundreds of amazing machines everywhere you turned from 50cc up to the big stuff – For example the Suzuki RG680 bikes being ridden by Stavros Parrish. Hope he’d not entered it as a 500!

The ‘legends’ were very accessible to the crowds and making a real effort to be at the front of the garages and in set areas of the pits at set times to sign autographs, pose for the inevitable selfies, etc.  All in all a good do.

Bonnie Tyler came on stage and did her warm up (not sure that’s the right phrase as it was again about 38C!). 'Holding Out for Hero' saw a bit of a crowd quickly gathering and shouting for more, prompting her classic response – “I’m on later tonight don’t get too pissed!”.

On the afternoon there was the first big race - The Race of Legends.  This was a little of a let down for me initially, and I guess I had set my expectations way way too high.  My dreamy visions of a repeat of past memories like a classic Le Mans type 500GP with riders fighting angry two strokes, elbow to elbow, Sarron sliding off into the distance, Schwantz all crossed up, etc was not quite there.  I guess ‘wrestling’ came to mind.  It was a great show, with plenty overtaking at most corners, all the right noises and smells and good for the crowd.  The race was won by Gardener, from De Radigues and Schwantz.    

For the rest of the day I did some shopping at the many great trade stands, mingled with the heroes of my past.  Reading the press over the past few years I’m not the only one who feels Marc Marquez is the only one who can be compared to Fast Freddie.  Prior to Marquez I’d never seen anyone control a bike with both wheels sliding like Freddie! 

Click this link to see over 100 photos from the World GP Legends weekend in Jerez

Then day turned to evening and I headed to the bar where I met up with two great guys from the North of Spain for a few beers.  They had driven through the night from A Coruña in Galicia on the north coast of Spain to get here for this event.  A testament to its pulling power, and more so they were having a great time.  Helped a little by the fact the event was serving their local excellent Estrella Galicia beer!

We took in the stunt show where I learned front forks and wheel appear to be old school!  Incredible talent.

Then we were joined by two new friends over from Australia for several more Estrella’s while the concert got into full swing with James Toseland doing a very enthusiastic and lengthy set.  Great music.

Again the legends were making a great effort and Wayne Gardener, Tetsuya Harada and Kevin Schwantz and others were present with the fans taking in the concert.  This is an event where it is billed that you can get up close to the riders of the past and it delivered in heaps. 

I spoke to Wayne Gardener about the racing and he was great at explaining the situation, stating the obvious which I had missed.  The riders are on irreplaceable and old machines which were designed to run for a race at a time 30 years back.  The bikes need a little more respect these days.  You also need to take into account the bikes being ridden by Phil Read, Graham Crosby and Steve Parrish are about 1976, De Radigues XR88 RG500 Suzuki is about 1998 and the Yamaha of Niggi Schmassmann was running carbon brakes.  Good points.

On came Bonnie Tyler for a great set and the evening temperatures turned a little cooler.  At the end of the evening it was a short walk to the gates where it was easy to grab a taxi into town.

Up Sunday and the weather had turned out nice again! Hot Hot Hot!  Arrived at the track to a very pleasing crowd.  The Spanish love their bike racing and it was good to see such a good turnout.

Another great day up at the circuit, with more of everything.  Two more opportunities to see the Legends out on track racing and some very spirited racing in the smaller categories. 

More opportunities to meet the World's best motorcycle racers of years gone by.

More great bikes from my past including TZ250, the tandem twin Kawasakis, an Exactweld and a Bimota. Superb to see, hear and smell!

I also took in the impressive Trials show before heading off home. 

All in all a great weekend.  Did it deliver on its promises?

Chance to see, hear and smell lots of epic past Grand Prix Racing Bikes – Yes
Chance to see, meet and get up close to your Bike Racing heroes of the past – Yes  
Chance to see the old bikes racing – Yes
Plenty of off track entertainment – Yes

Would I attend the next one – Yes!


Hopefully this is the first of many such events.  Wayne Gardener’s enthusiasm and hard work in putting this together with a good team, was clearly on show all weekend.  I was pleased to see it succeed so well.  Hopefully its success will encourage Honda to bring a few bikes along to future events.  

Any lessons learnt? - Looking at the sweat pouring from Wayne in his full racing leathers I think he learned from this event Jerez is pretty warm in June!  

I look forward to the next one!  

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