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MotoGP Feature: Ride The Lightning

“I'm not retiring from life, I'm not 60 or 70 years old. I've still got a lot of challenges ahead, a lot of life. There's a very good chance I could end up racing V8 [cars] in Australia” - Casey Stoner.
Red Bull has offered this exclusive extract from a forthcoming MotoGP feature to be published in the next edition of its 'Red Bulletin' magazine…

Words Nicolas Stecher

MotoGP is the third-largest televised sport in the world after football and Formula One. Nearly one billion people tune in to watch every race. It is the fastest sport on two wheels and the most perilous. At the Red Bull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, California, riders, fans and followers explain why MotoGP is so beguiling.

Mobs of MotoGP fans froth in a sea of bright shorts and ubiquitous Oakley sunglasses. The sun is beaming down on the wide open expanse of black asphalt at the heart the track, bathing everything in a hot, white light and casting sharp, dark angles everywhere. Exposed flesh is reddened by the scorn of the California sun.

Across the small foothills that surround Laguna Seca and separate it from Monterey, a thick fog blankets the city's residents, keeping them cool. There is no such mercy here, only the scorching breath of a hot wind to abate the heat.

Pushing through the sweaty din of the pitlane, a small army of guards lining the entrances to the private garages offers a moment's respite. The security is tight, as if approaching the hangar to Air Force One; interlopers are not only unwelcome, but looked upon with the suspicion of corporate spies. Given the rumoured €25 million annual budget of each factory team, this seems appropriate.

After badges are waved and security is cleared, the dark entrance of a garage greets you with a blast of industrial-strength air conditioning. It is not just a shift in temperature, but a shift in time and space. As loud and chaotic as it is out in the paddock, inside the garages it is starkly quiet, eerily calm. All preparation, all engineering, is complete. Now there is time for only one thing: to take these thoroughbred bikes out on the practice track and test their mettle.

In the corner of this garage for the LCR Honda team, rider Stefan Bradl sits huddled over, listening to his chief engineer repeat directions to him in a calm and measured voice. The German rider has the hyper-focused look of a prizefighter, nodding his head absentmindedly with a thousand-yard stare on his face.

If an engineer approached to hand him boxing gloves and a gumshield it wouldn't seem the least bit inappropriate. Sure he's listening, but it's clear a single focus is congealing in his mind, making any new suggestions superfluous.

One by one, engines begin sparking to life in garages all around. The ambient volume rises from football game car park to opening-band riffage. A vacuum cleaner-like starter is rolled from the edge of the garage and placed under the rear wheel of Bradl's bike. Airport-strength earmuffs are passed around. Bradl stands, fits the helmet over his head and throws a leg over the bike.

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