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MotoGP riders raise funds for charity

SPAIN | Sunday, 11 November 2007 | Views [2764] | Comments [1]

Anthony West signing the book.

Anthony West signing the book.

Fast bikes, gorgeous women, colour, glitz and glamour. It's no wonder sports celebs can earn a reputation for living in the fast lane, distanced from real life and real people in their luxury european hideaways and multi-million dollar helicopters and private jets. So what do you think are the chances of getting a few MotoGP riders to support a little-known charity that will probably never impact their life?

We found out, and were very suprised with the result...

The Valencia MotoGP being the last in the season, fans and riders alike flock to this seaside Spanish principality to ward off the early winter blues and see out the end of a season's racing (though with Casey triumphing all year it was more like a constant procession and game of Follow the Leader). We made our usual mad dash from the office on the wednesday and spent the first couple of days settling the guests into hotels around Valencia and gearing up for the race weekend (parties, transport, chaperoning, and generally being the instant expert that everyone expects).

At all GPs we kick off the weekend with a huge party for all the guests and sometimes we run a charity fundraiser or auction in conjunction with the party. Down Syndrome Ireland is run by a couple of salt-of-the-earth men and women who just love their bikes and bike racing, so it was a perfect fit.

On Thursday and Friday before the race I had the chance to trawl through the paddock and ask riders to sign various items that were to go up for auction. Among other things, I took around the 2006 year in review book written by MotoGP commentator, Julian Ryder. Most riders stop to sign autographs at the best of times (with one notable exception being Casey Stoner) but there are times during race weekend when the focus is at utlimate extremes and there's every justification for a rider or team manager to politely refuse - for the moment. So it comes down to luck and timing (the latter depending of course on the former).

After nabbing Julian Ryder and Randy Mamola (a GP legend), I was lucky enough to pin down Mattia Passini (125 world champ) and his teammate Joan Olive. Colin Edwards strolled by at just the right time for me to blurt out "Colin, could you please sign this book for charity Down Syndrome Ireland?" and thrust a permanent marker into his hand before he disappeared into a press van. Wandering between race team trucks I came out into the main drag and bumped almost literally into Alex Criville and luckily had the pen handy. Then it was time for a bit more of a strategic approach: start at the end of the line and work back. In this way I met Kawasaki rider and Aussie, Anthony West (who admits to "just being an idiot riding around on a motorbike; I still don't get it when people ask me for my autograph"); and fellow Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet. Japanese and friendliest-guy-in-the-paddock, Shinya Nakano was next, before we then stalked down Suzuki rider, Chris Vermeulen.

Fellow Suzuki rider, John Hopkins was sharing the garage with Vermeulen, but there was no sign of the American. After waiting patiently for about 15 minutes we realised there'd be no chance of pinning him in the book. So I asked a team member if he could take the book inside the garage and find John and ask him to sign it (expecting the guy to spit out something in Spanish or French or... whatever language would have the best impact for "piss off!") but the friendly soul returned a few minutes later with a gorgeous thick black signature across the full-page photo I'd selected of John doing a triumphant wheelstand. "That's gotta be worth 100 euro right there" I said.

With the riders disappearing onto the circuit at various times during the day for warm up and practice sessions, time was running short. But we still hadn't pinned the star of the paddock: Valentino Rossi. Although the book was feeling weightier in my hands already, we just had to meet Valentino and get his signature on his page. Retracing our steps we managed to come by fellow Italian, Loris Capirossi, gentleman personified - which eased our anxiety somewhat - but the greediness was starting to take over. I decided to go back to Valentino's Yamaha truck one last time and BINGO! Valentino was leaving his garage with a smile on his face - a good sign! At the right place at the right time, I asked Vale if he could sign the book for charity and he gave us a big fat signature which instantly doubled the value of the book - not only in terms of funds to be raised but the overall picture of generosity and goodwill of these superstars. I thanked him several times over and drove straight to the fundraising party.

You'll be pleased to know that the book raised over 1550 euro itself, with more than 6000 euro in total raised for DSI during the evening.

Tags: people



Im so proud of you bro! xo

  rebecca collins Feb 23, 2008 9:41 PM

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