We’ve all been there; the ‘armchair expert’ who thinks they know better than the riders or the commentators. Some have progressed and have actually attended a GP race, perhaps Silverstone or Donington, and this is often where realism will slap them (me) in the face. Because as good as some of the television coverage and home entertainment systems have become over the years, there can never, ever, ever be a similar experience to witnessing the actual lean angles, noise and outrageous performance which these 250+bhp animals can achieve.
Believe me, even the teenagers whipping around on the Moto3 bikes will get your attention but when the big boys come out to play then you'll really understand why you're watching the elite manhandling millions of pounds worth of technology like they're on a BMX.
And this is why you should sign up and get to a race. This season. Book it now. Well, after reading the rest of this.
Now, here’s the important bit; if it’s your first or tenth time don’t automatically assume that the race closest to your house is strictly the one to choose because the MotoGP World Championship heads into Europe this weekend for the fourth round, at Jerez and it starts a sequence where 10 of the next 11 races are being held in Europe. How’s that for choice? The full calendar can be found here.
So give it some thought, how about spending more than one day at a circuit and exploring some of the local area and its roads - Silverstone, Assen, Brno or Le Mans. All and more are within a few hours ride having crossed the Channel and all of them don’t have an M25, surely a bonus. We’re all motorcycle riders; it’s what we like to do best so how about grabbing your passport then stuffing your favourite pair of y-fronts (or female alternative) and a toothbrush into a rucksack/pannier/saddlebag/top box and get out onto the European roads.
Here’s our tip. With the fifth round of the Championship taking place over the weekend of the 15th - 18th May at Le Mans’ iconic 2.6 mile Bugatti Circuit deep in the Pays de la Loire Region, you’ve got glorious roads, plenty of incredible places to stay and eat and it’s within 4 hours of Calais, 3 from Cherbourg, 2h30m from St Malo and only 2 from Caen.
We took the overnight crossing with Britany Ferries from Portsmouth to Caen, go to bed in one of their cabins as soon as you board and arrive in France early the next morning, having had breakfast aboard, ready to hit the road. The motorways in France barely have anything on them except toll booths and it’s only a few Euro’s for some very well-maintained roads where 130kph (80mph) is the speed limit. If you’ve got the time and possibly a suitably-intelligent sat nav (such as the TomTom Rider) then avoid paying to use the main roads and wind your way down to central France.
To be within striking distance of the circuit i.e. a 30 minute ride, yet far enough away to be, well, far enough away then head for the small yet stereotypically French market town of La Chartre-sur-le-Loir and get booked into the Hotel de France.
Built in 1905 this 22-room, ivy-clad, bike-friendly hotel has motorsport running through its veins with a rich history associated to the Le Mans 24 hour race particularly through the 60’s and 70’s. Earlier this year a beautiful and well-applauded recent refurbishment was completed which has retained and even emphasised some of the history and natural French-ness. And if you mix in the outstanding local food, a warm and welcoming team plus all the local amenities this place has to offer then if it’s good enough for the President of France, President Kennedy’s family, Steve McQueen, Sir Stirling Moss OBE and Derek Bell then, for B&B from €66 per night, it’s good enough for us.
The hotel offers secure covered parking and can easily arrange your own bespoke tour around the local area. With so many Chateaux’s to explore, idyllic roads to ride and even wine-tastings to get involved in, there’s no end of activities. They’ll even come to the rescue within a 100 miles radius if you breakdown and have their own very French Citroen H Van to transport you locally!
Le Mans’ general admission tickets on race day are available from £55, compared to Silverstone’s £75. Fine, you might spend the extra £20 on fuel but it’ll be worth it.
In fact, whilst we visited recently, the Mayor agreed to give the hotel’s owner, Martin Overington (a Ducati 996SPS owner no less), permission to use the local camping facilities for motorsport weekends which of course includes the forthcoming MotoGP weekend, Le Mans 24 Hour, Le Mans Classic and Moto24 throughout the summer.
The secure and gated camp site overlooks the River Loir and is only a 5-minute walk or 8-minute stumble from the hotel and Bike Social profile holders are entitled to these very special rates when booking through Speed Chills.
Rates start from £163 per person based upon 4 people sharing a pitch with electrical hook-up for 2 nights and channel crossing via Dover/Calais. Prices INCLUDE General Admission tickets, circuit shuttle service/parking at the circuit and breakfast at the Hotel de France. The unique Bike Social discount code, quote BS10, gets you £10 off when making your on-line or telephone booking.
Of course it needn’t be just one race you visit, there’s plenty to choose from. Italy at the end of May then The Netherlands and Barcelona in June...