As the orange ball of the sun rose majestically, lighting up the sky revealing the hills surrounding the Jerez de la Frontera-Angel Nieto circuit on Sunday, there was an eerie silence. It was 7.32 am on the morning of the Red Bull Grand Prix of Spain and never had the absence of those passionate and dedicated fans of this incredible sport been more poignant.
Who would ever forget arriving at the Jerez circuit in the darkness around 7 am to avoid the traffic problems the 100,000 plus crowd would always create? Slowly and gloriously the sky would start to lighten in the East accompanied by a cacophony of excitement, anticipation and partying in the darkness beyond.
From the media centre balcony, I would peer through the darkness across the paddock, which was already a hive of frenzied activity, to the far end of the circuit and the hillside surrounding the stadium section of this legendary venue overlooking the Angel Nieto and Peluqui right-hand corners.
As the sun slowly rose layer by layer of the hillside that the darkness had hidden was revealed. There were thousands of fans jammed or in some cases hanging onto the hillside and having the time of their lives. Music blared, dancing if you could find the space, banners fluttered, air horns trumpeted, and beer flowed warmed by the sunshine. All roads in Europe led south in the first week of May. This was Jerez, the start of the European MotoGP™ season and like all special days it had to be celebrated in true style. And it was.
If ever a single place typified what MotoGP™ was all about this is surely it. A barren hillside in Andalucia, a clear illustration of just why MotoGP™ is so way ahead of any other World Championship Motorsport series. Those fans on the Jerez hillside just summed up how we all feel about MotoGP™. The passion, excitement, pure joy and patriotism just erupts after a long winter and after watching the start of the season on screens a long way from home in Qatar, Argentina and Austin.
A hillside that was so capable of sucking a Spanish rider to victory and there has been plenty of them. A hillside that was not always the best behaved. Climbing over the barriers in 1996 to celebrate an Alex Criville victory over Mick Doohan when it was announced the battle was over but there was still a lap to go. A few plastic bottles did fly from their massed ranks when the World 500cc Champion Kenny Roberts retired in front of them.
The saddest aspect for those absent fans surely must be the performance being put on by the riders in the opening four rounds in all three classes. It is a remarkable show and both the riders, and the fans deserve each other. Hopefully, the long wait is almost over, and they will return before the end of the season. In the meantime, the riders just keep producing the goods. Last year I attended a football play off final at the legendary Wembley Stadium in London. A crowd of around 250 permitted in a stadium that seats 90,000 made for one of the most surreal sporting events I have ever visited. Hopefully, the end of such experiences is just a few laps away.
There may have been silence on the hillsides and grandstands surrounding Jerez on Sunday but if you had cocked an ear, you may have caught the sound of celebration on the wind thousands of kilometres away at Townville on the Queensland coast of Australia. What a win for Jack Miller in the MotoGP™ race. Spanish or not Jack and those fans would have celebrated together.
Be patient, those days will return. The wait will be worth it, the riders have made sure of that.