New kids in the paddock, 2003: exclusive MotoGP motorhome tour


Mat Oxley wrote this story a while back, when Nicky Hayden, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards arrived in the MotoGP paddock, like a breath of fresh air..

Nicky Hayden from 2003

A young Nicky Hayden with Repsol Honda crew chief Pete Benson

Breathe in and reeelaaax… Time to head back into the primal-screaming MotoGP paddock, where Machiavelli would find the going tough and where trophy girlfriends paddle ankle deep in testosterone as they prowl from pit lane to VIP hospitality suite. But we’re giving all that a wide berth today. Instead we’re wandering along the millionaire’s row of motorhomes at Mugello, looking for some nice people to hang out with.

They do exist in MotoGP, believe me, and the good guy count has blown up this year, thanks to the arrival of three new riders: Troy Bayliss, Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden. These three former superbike stars are the total opposite of the biggest ‘stronzo’ (Italian for something we shouldn’t mention here) on the MotoGP grid, who I won’t name. Oh, okay, I’ll give you a clue, he wears a goatee.

I mean, Bayliss, Edwards and Hayden actually treat people like me as fellow human beings, rather than some kind of untouchables.

Bayliss is a genuinely normal bloke with a very abnormal talent for thrashing a motorcycle half to death.

Anyway, let’s kick things off by knocking on the door of the Bayliss motorhome. Inside the Aussie’s wagon it’s kiddie chaos – kids Mitchell and Abbey are larking around with Jeremy McWilliams’ two boys and some other random paddock urchins. “Hey Mitchell, it’s a disaster in here, can you tidy up some of those Gameboy things,” pleads Bayliss, quite reasonably, considering this is only minutes after he’s dumped his Desmosedici out of sixth place in the Italian GP.

Bayliss is super cool. He’s got fewer airs and graces than the paddock toilet attendant – a genuinely normal bloke with a very abnormal talent for thrashing a motorcycle half to death. But boy can he be intense, with big burning eyes just like Mick Doohan’s. In fact that’s Bayliss – he’s Micky D with a big cheesy grin. Most of the time.

At the 2003 German GP Bayliss went skinhead purely to cheer up a pissed-off Ducati cook who’d had his head shaved, against his will, by fellow team members. His rock-solid attitude may have something to do with the fact that he understands the realities of life – he spray painted motors for a living until his late twenties. Of course, he’s got his quirks, like he gets a bit dark when things aren’t going right and he’s one of those riders who hates talking about bike set-up, because he’s paranoid about his rivals discovering his secrets.

Tech chats with Bayliss tend to go like this: “Troy, what have you been working on?” “The bike, mate.” “What areas exactly?” “All of it.” “Front or rear?” “Ah Jeez, the front.” “Suspension, tyres, what?” “Ah, just the whole front, mate.”

Troy Bayliss alongside Colin Edwards in practice ahead of the 2003 Rio GP

Bayliss alongside Edwards in practice for the 2003 Rio GP

Getty Images

When it comes to talking about his motorcycle, Edwards is the opposite. He’s happy to get involved in deep technical chats, while wife Alyssia changes baby Gracie’s nappies on the next couch in their motorhome. And no one knows how to get their point across better. This is how he describes what it’s like to ride his Aprilia MotoGP bike, “You take a bull, you cut off its balls, you dangle them in front of its face, then you climb on its back”.

Related article

Just like his former World Supers rival Bayliss, Edwards seems unlikely to let himself become a MotoGP arse. Most importantly, he does like a beer or five when he’s not riding. At the 2002 Valencia GP (shortly after he had wrapped up his second WSB title) he spent most of his time in Rossi’s Nastro Azzurro hospitality unit, taking full advantage of the sponsor’s product and talking with anyone who happened by. Again, that isn’t normal practice in GP racing. Bayliss likes a drink too – he’ll even sink a couple of glasses of wine the night before practice. “Just to help me sleep, mate.”

I don’t really know Hayden that well but he’s having fun, which is the main thing. He greets people with a hip hop handshake and a “How you doin’, dude?”, says “Dang!” a lot and reckons everyone in the paddock is cool, with one exception. “I haven’t had a problem with anyone, other than Biaggi,” says Hayden. “He thinks it’s funny, when I don’t know the tracks, to come past real close to me.”

In fact, Hayden has had a problem with someone else in the paddock. Me. I gave the guy a bit of a scare a few weeks back; not my fault really, more the fact that I was going out with a girl called Nicky. You see, she was in a group email I’d sent, at least I thought I’d sent it to her, but I must’ve been half asleep when I hit the send button, because the message went to Nicky Hayden, not Nicky Waters. Oh, the dangers of modern technology, like a USAF ‘smart’ bomb gone awry.

So what was in the email? Hmmm, it was an invite to a music festival, which me and a few friends were planning to attend. The email went something like this: ‘Hey Nicky, fancy getting messed up in a field in Wales in August?’. I explained the ghastly error to Nicky the next time I saw him. He laughed. Nervously.

You can find this and 54 other stories in the Kindle version of Mat Oxley’s The Fast Stuff

Read now

You may also like