Sunday, November 13, 2005

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It …

Finally, some news out of France that doesn’t contain images of scum throwing petrol bombs at the police. Hard to believe, no?

For the last 2 nights, Bercy Palais Omnisports has played host to the Supercross Championship, with American Andrew Short taking first spot over both days. The final day is today, Sunday 13th, and I expect that young Mr Short will be crowed 'King Of Bercy' for the 5th time.

As in 2004, I returned to the 45,000-seat Palais Omnisports for this year's event. Noise, dirt and high-flying bikes - all that jazz. Unless you're lucky enough to get a green photographers bib, which allows you access to the track, you have to be content with a seat in the photographers balcony. No bad thing in 2004 as the bikes would come whipping around a corner to your left, shoot up a dirt jump, become airborne and be parallel with you at a height of 4 meters. Just enough time to get some outstanding images before they headed back to earth.

On the opening night, Friday, I requested a seat in the balcony and to reserve my green bib, trackside, for Sunday's event. En route to the photographers balcony, I noticed a change; no bar in the press room. Bugger. I fancied a beer before things got underway. Never mind. I settled down into the same seat as last year with a good view down the track to my left. Bugger number 2. Some bright spark had changed the track layout. There was no more 'dirt jump', guaranteed to throw bikes at the press. Instead, the jump had been replaced by 15 moguls - one meter high, teeth shakers. Unless you were in the front row of the balcony (like my good self), you couldn't see a thing. However thanks to the live TV coverage and the giant screens slung from the roof, at least the 10,000 people in the portion of the stand directly behind me managed to follow proceedings.

What was wrong with last year's layout? I must put in a request with the Press Office to interview the course designer (if the spoil-sport is there, naturally). The images I got from the balcony on Friday aren’t worth displaying. I deleted them. How can I send such poor quality stuff to the agency in New York? My inspiration had been sapped. I went looking elsewhere.

In the paddock I found bikes, riders, mechanics and fans alike. Some interesting stuff to be had here. I had a few words with an exhausted looking Andrew Short and joked with a security guard who (wouldn’t you know it) let me go through a side door and stand in the tunnel section of the track. Be prepared for lots of noise and chunks of flying dirt coming towards you at great speed.

It was exactly that. Within minutes, my kit was covered in a thick layer of soil and an hour later, back in my neighbourhood bar, I was still picking lumps out of my scalp.

The ideas was to get some good 'wide' coverage on the Friday, including head-on jumps, corners and paddock action, then close-up track stuff on Sunday. With the best of both nights put together I might have something worth wiring to the States. As it happens, Friday was a bit of a washout but I'll go back today, pick up my bib and get as close to these bikes as my bottle permits …




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