Qatar Special - MotoGP Round one at Doha

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April 15th 2010
Published: April 15th 2010
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By a quirk of fate, a visiting Couchsurfer last month mentioned that the World MotoGP - the 2 wheeled version of Formula One - was kicking off in Doha, the capital of nearby Qatar in April. Cool!

We’d never considered watching a MotoGP live, but we never expected to be so close and with fares to Qatar as low as $NZ100 one way, we (Pete!) set about scheming how to get us there for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It has recently amused me that the aviation code for Doha International Airport, is DOH, - and how appropriate in booking our flights. First I booked to watch the racing during the day and head home that night. THEN I realise it’s a night race - the only one for the year, DOH!

So I rebook the flights to suit the race start/finish times as shown on the internet, THEN find out the race doesn’t start until 11pm Saturday (the end of the Middle East weekend) DOH!

So after leading a trail of destruction in the online booking sites, we got there. Fancy a race starting at 11pm, who’d have thought it, humph.

Doha, the capital of Qatar, probably the richest country in the world, is a beautiful city. You cannot help but be impressed with the expanse of green grass and gardens in what is essentially a desert. Jude couldn’t resist diving on the grass for a “fix” - it even smelt great after 9 months in Bahrain!

The architecture, both old and new is also stunning with each new sky scraper outdoing the next one in its verve.

The Losail Racing Circuit is also something else - around 27 km further north up the coast from Doha, set in typical desert setting, it was built in under a year by 1000 workers at a cost of $US58 million. I wonder if they would put a price in for Transmission Gully? Opening in 2004 and measuring 5.38 kilometres long, it is surrounded by artificial grass to reduce sand blowing on the track, - which would be interesting at 345 km/hr.

A few years later, the Prime Ministers suggested they light the track and all the run-off areas, to allow night racing -providing both a unique spectacle and avoiding the daytime temps of 38C + for competitors and spectators alike.

The 11pm start time also suits prime time Euro TV, so the dollar or should I say Euro, talks.

After settling into our 3 star hotel, we went walk about to find some lunch, so headed for the Corniche. No restaurants there - just a very basic local café with sheesha, (Flavoured smoking pipes) so after wandering along to view the fish caught by local fishermen, we hailed a cab and headed for some food, then later headed out to check out the track and collect our tickets.

Getting to the track is another story with no bus or shuttle service, but taxis are quite cheap at $NZ24 each way.
Access to the stands is primarily by spiral driveways which could take a car - works real good.

There was 2 days of practise and testing in the three bike classes - 125cc, Moto2 (600cc Honda engines) and the Big Boys - MotoGP. Unfortunately, with the moving target of the starting time, Jude was unable to see the actual races, so we made the most of having a look around, checked out the souvenir tents, took the mandatory photo’s and with Jude sporting a very spunky KTM Shirt, we headed out for dinner at the 5 star Movenpick. Yum.

Now is a good time to point out that Doha is not an inexpensive place to stay and dine! We secured a basic but comfy Hotel room for sub $100. We could have had 2 nights accommodation for the cost of the Movenpick buffet and 3 beers! Alcohol is very restricted here and local expats can buy drinks to consume at home by applying for and buying, a licence. Otherwise only 5 star hotels are allowed bars. And at $15 a pint of Heinie even my thirst was somewhat dampened!

Still we had a fun time! The Carvery Chef commenting on my Honda pit shirt, asked if I was a team mechanic! Me? Nah Mate, just a rider - I was meaning on the road, but the look on his face said “No wonder Honda haven’t won a race for a while “ LOL

Next day, we headed out in search of Brunch and some shopping. I had read that as well as a good fleet of taxis and limo’s, it is not unusual for locals to toot and flash their lights at you, offering a ride. Yeah right. True! It happened many times, and we did graciously accept such one offer from a Lexus driving Arabian Gent who as well as taking us to the huge new mall, complete with ice rink skating, took us on an Arabian ‘tiki tour’. The hospitality was fabulous. It turned out our host owned the Hotel we were staying in!

He took us to a still-under-construction Villa development on the water, called The Pearl, where you can park your super yacht next to your luxurious Villa. WOW - talk about amazing. Talk about ostentatious. You know you’ve made it when your building complex includes a Maserati, Ferrari and Rolls Royce Dealership! Apparently Michael Schumacher has a pad there.

After a beaut brekkie, and traipsing the shops, we picked up an extra spare battery for the Nikon, then back to the Hotel to chill, before dropping Jude at the airport for the 22 minute flight home, checking in 2 hours early of course!

Next day I had to change hotels, and with a 12pm checkout I used the spare time to background a story KiwiRider magazine had asked me to write about the Doha visit. Moved hotel, got all ready and started heading out to the track around 3.30pm.

Arriving at 4pm, the place was deserted. By practice start time of 6pm, a few hundred had joined me. At 11pm, tens of thousands had joined us and I had the best seat in the house.

The 125’s were fun to watch with a swarm of 2 strokes chasing each other closely for a Spanish 1-2-3 finish to the delight of their many flag waving supporters.

Next the Moto2 Class debuted here, with Honda 600 motors, a control tyre and a raft of frame suppliers.

45 starters on the grid made for an interesting first few corners. I began counting how many bikes came past each 5 laps or so.

41. Then 38, then 34! Just 32 bikes eventually finished, a measure of the carnage. A popular Japanese win, with Spain and France 2nd and 3rd respectively.

11pm and the Big Boys - the crowd is hyped. One wave from Rossi on the warm up lap and they went wild.

Those bikes sound as horny as hell, loud, and rough. The race was spent on our feet, the atmosphere was crazy. Unbelievably there were no programmes available, but everyone knew these Guys. Then with Stoner out for a duck, - it was ‘game on’.

You couldn’t write a better race story with a Rossi (Yamaha), Lorenzo (Yamaha), and Dovizioso (Honda) podium. GP Rookie Spies coming 5th was impressive too.

To be honest you would probably see more of the race on TV, despite the big screen track coverage and replays, and in spite of being able to see the first 2 corners from my spot, but being there was worth every second of tension, WOW.

Strangely there were less a dozen spectator bikes there. In NZ or Oz there would’ve been maybe 500+.

I shared a cab back to town with 3 Filipino lads who were buzzing with Rossi’s win. I asked them what they rode.
“Us ride? We wish!” What a great day and a great experience - worth every Riyal!

Getting home to the hotel and getting food sorted (Don’t you love 24 hour delivery) mean't lights out at 3am!

My flight the next day was 7.30pm, so I had a day to explore Doha. I wandered down to the nearby Souq, which is really neat, as in neat and tidy, really authentic, and fun to explore.

Old fashion stores have everything from spices to linen and cloth, hardware, toys, caged birds, the lot! What really tickled me, was seeing an army of old Arab Men trundling to and fro with a fleet of wheel barrows, mostly lined with cardboard or cloth to keep the barrow clean.

They appeared to be delivering stuff from one shop to the next and deliveries from suppliers and to customer’s cars. The barrows also seemed to double as a place to sit,or snooze as the need arose, lol

Doha has a lovely waterfront, dominated by the fishing boats and the Museum of Islamic Arts which is built out over the water. Seeing the contemporary skyscrapers and Parliament buildings as a backdrop to the fishing dows was a great contrast.

Next was a cheap cab ride to another swish new Mall, complete with painted sky ceiling, a canal running through it and even some gondoliers on which you can take a ride!

Soon enough it was time to hit the airport, and zip home to Bahrain.

What a fantastic weekend and a great experience! Doha is really impressive, certainly worth a visit.

Additional photos below
Photos: 48, Displayed: 28


BMW cars, KTM and Ducati bikes on displayBMW cars, KTM and Ducati bikes on display
BMW cars, KTM and Ducati bikes on display

3 Spiral walkways provided walking access to the grandstands
Traffic Cops packing heatTraffic Cops packing heat
Traffic Cops packing heat

A cabbie later told me, when these Guys write you a ticket, if you argue, the fine goes up with everyword! 6000 Riyals for running a red light - thats 3 months salary for a Cabbie

30th December 2010
Great skyline!

yea doha is beautiful
15th March 2011

name of hotel
Great story. You covered all the bases. I'm going there in July and would like to know the name and contact details of that hotel you stayed at for under $100. Happy trails.

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