As some may or may not know I have been lucky enough to be selected as the color commentator for BEIN Sports coverage of our National Series here in America, MotoAmerica. I have been in this hot seat before but on a limited basis as I was filling in for people if they couldn’t make it. My role has mostly been on pit lane but even that has been sometime now. It isn’t an easy job for me but it’s one I take a lot of pride in, and I thank BEIN and MotoAmerica for the chance. I have been in this paddock for nearly 25 years now (yikes) and feel very invested in getting our series back to something that it resembled when riders actually made a living at it. It’s going to take time, but I believe for the first time in many years, we are finally on the right path. There is much that we still need but there are a lot of things that MotoAmerica has done to get our series pointed in the right direction. More aligned rules packages that are common worldwide, back to 9 races for 2016 with more planned for 2017, and of course LIVE Commercial free TV. To be on the biggest soccer network worldwide can only expose our sport more. The fact that MotoAmerica has worked hand in hand with Dorna so everyone can find all their racing on one network is a huge bonus. Some Sundays you won’t have to leave the couch to watch any combination of Moto GP, WSBK or MotoAmerica – that seems like a good deal to me.
I was hired to go to COTA to commentate on Moto GP with Greg White. At 5pm on Friday we found out that we would be also handling the talking duties for MotoAmerica. There was some stress there because we hadn’t really done the rounds in the MA paddock so we stayed at the track till 9pm Friday talking to as many riders and teams as possible. We were back at the track early the next morning doing more of the same. When I did this job before I hadn’t really transitioned from racer to announcer yet so it was strange for me to talk with guys that I used to have to line up against. I saw them as competitors so I wasn’t comfortable walking into their pit space to ask questions – it was awkward honestly. It was even harder if I had some “history” with them. That said though, they were all great with me, every one of them. I never walked away from a podium interview feeling like there was any uneasiness, which was very cool.
Now I want to do the best job I can and I believe the only way to do it is to get to know all the riders, we HAVE to sell personalities. It is fun to walk around and meet all the new faces, I remember being in their shoes. Seeing the “tv” guys coming over to my pit was a big deal. Learning how to handle any situation be it good or bad was important and hopefully I can pass some of that along to some of these young kids. We don’t need robots, we need riders who can tell the stories of what we are watching and what they are going through. Some (ok most) of the Supercross interviews are just brutal to watch. You do have to plug your sponsors but your audience really wants to know what its like to battle with the guys you were just racing against.
I am lucky to work with Greg. There is nobody that does his homework more than him. He is at the track at 7am getting info and pulling stories in case we have a red flag or some other delay. Usually he is the last one leaving also, finding out what happened during the day so it can be added to the broadcast the next day. It was strange for me at Road Atlanta, as we had 2.5hrs on air with only 2 races to cover that went about 40 minutes each. That is a lot of talking and we worried about what would talk about. But we both ran through it like we do at most of our dinners. Just two friends talking about the series and hopefully letting the audience know what is going on throughout the paddock.
Our racing this year has been really good. Obviously with Toni Elias coming in as a replacement rider for Jake Lewis and winning 3 of the first 4 races that was big news. Both the Yamaha guys have had their struggles early on but got back on track at Race 2 in Atlanta. Roger Hayden hasn’t won a race, yet he leads the point standing and its really only a matter of time till he get his first win of 2016. Garrett Gerloff has dominated 600 Supersport so far with 3 dominant wins. Great to see a another new face in Valentin Debese from France running close. JD Beach has had some early struggles but has been piling up early season points and will win his share.
The racing in 600 and 1000 Superstock has been our closes racing so far though. 3 different winners in 4 races in 1000 Superstock on 3 different brands, outstanding!!!! Bobby Fong, Josh Herrin and Claudio Corti will be battling all year as well as a host of others that have been in the battle. Hopefully we will see more of those battles on our telecasts and maybe as the series evolves both Superstock classes can have their own races again. KTM 390 Cup series doesn’t look like it will disappoint this year either. This is where our future National and World Champs are honing their skills and I am looking to see how this season plays out for them.
Last thing I wanted to chat about was how Josh Hayes handled himself after his incident with Cameron Beuabier during Race 1 in Atlanta. Yamaha has to be so happy having two great Champions who handle themselves so well. Everyone in the paddock knows Josh didn’t do anything malicious. Its racing and things happen sometimes. When you have two guys so close in speed there will be contact sometimes. I am so over all this “incident between rider # and rider # is under review”. We can all see what is bad and good and I applaud MA for staying out of governing something that was a simple mistake in judgement. I will keep my Dovi and Iannone comments to myself but you probably can guess how I feel about it. At all my STAR schools I repeatedly talk about everyone not taking the same line. There is no ONE line. Call it what you want, the “fast line”, “race line” or “safe line”. It all alters all the time depending on bike, tires, rider or weather conditions. When Josh gave his answer about what happened between him and Cameron I was wondering how many STAR students thought about what they heard after they have been in one of my classes on lines. His quote “its what happens when you get two riders with two different riding styles on the same bike” Two Champions, two ways of doing something. Learn from that.
Closing this down, thank you all for all the great and encouraging words after our first two telecasts. Yes, there will be mistakes but know that everyone at BEIN Sports are doing more to help our series then you know. All the staff at MotoAmerica are trying really hard to bring us a quality product that we can air and make your Sundays a little more enjoyable. As for myself and Greg, we are far from perfect but we will give you the best we can because we want this to work just as bad as every young kid that sees himself trying to make a future for him or herself in this great sport.