Does it feel like it's been a long time since MotoGP bikes roared in competition? Does it feel like a long time since we saw a grand prix in Austria?
It's true on both counts. The last time the world championship made a stop in Spielberg, Austria, the track was called the A-1 Ring, the year, was 1997, and I can attest that's a long time ago because I happened to be there. At the time, I didn't now I was witnessing the last world championship motorcycle road race in Austria for 19 years.
There wasn't much drama in the 500 cc race that day, as Mick Doohan won by an astounding 22 seconds. By far the best race of the day was the 125 cc class, where Noboru Ueda edged a promising new kid named Valentino Rossi by 0.004 seconds.
While I went to the track that day, my wife and my sister remained at the house where we were staying, but they watched on local television. When I returned, my wife asked, "Who is that kid who finished second in the first race? He looks like he's 10 years old!"
"Some say he could be the next big star in motorcycle racing," I replied. Of course that turned out to be an understatement. Rossi went on to win 11 of the 15 races in the 125 cc class that year and earn his first world championship. The rest is history.
Here's to the end of long pauses, whether the third of a minute of silence after Doohan's screaming two-stroke crossed the finish line before the next bike arrived, or the four weeks since the German Grand Prix or the 19 years since Spielberg heard the roar of world championship motorcycles. To get you ready for the return to racing, here's an Alpinestars video in which Dani Pedrosa describes the current iteration of the Red Bull Ring turn by turn.
Who are you putting your money on this weekend?