I'm at the motorway services 20 minutes too early, but it gives me time to check the top up the oil level before Brian and Alex (K1300S) and David (K1200S bought 3 days earlier) arrive. We have been checking the weather forecast all week as we are off to Monza for the World Superbike race but will have to pass over one of 3 mountain passes/tunnels. Mt Blanc is the quickest, the Grand St Bernard is closest, but we have found a weather window after the previous days snow to cross using the Simplon.
A quick coffee and chat and we're off, but within 40 minutes or so we see that the signs for the Simplon are showing it is open but is illustrating an ice and sliding car symbol! We stop briefly at the end of the autoroute and decide to carry on regardless. As it's not raining then it shouldn't be snowing! The ascent of the Simplon is fine, snow asa we look around us but roads are fairly dry and allow David to explore the handling of his newly purchased K1200S. We stop at traffic lights in one of the many tunnels for roadworks and admire the view back down the valley. Directly above us melting snow is cascading over the tunnel wall to our side and I wish I had taken a picture, but too late, the lights change and we move on. Temperature on the computer shows 0.5degrees C but we're not too cold and enjoying the ride.
Stopped at the top to admire the view
Looking back down the valley towards the tunnels we've just passed through
David pleased with his K1200S
David and I need petrol and a little further on is Gondo and the Italian border so we stop and fill up here, then pause for coffee and croissants.
Here is the view behind the restaurant
Once across the border the road quality worsens until we join the autostrada and the GPS shows us we have another 1hr 53 to go to reach Monza. We had some directional problems just a few kms from the hotel as GPS systems don't recognise roadworks, and after a few off track diversions we finally arrived at the Hotel de Ville, which according to the reception manager when we booked, is only 20 minutes walk from the circuit!
This is a 4 star hotel chosen by Andy, who I've not mentioned yet as he's coming by car later this afternoon. I've given him loads of grief for not riding, but he was adamant that as the passes were not open to allow him to take an extended couple of days riding back home, then he was going to come down in the car and take advantage of the proximity of the hotel to the circuit. The hotel is obviously a favourite with the racing fraternity and "posh" enough for the dignitaries of the WSBK world, as we se that Paolo Flammini, CEO of Infront Motor Sports which owns the series, is stopping here too.
Dark wood bedroom furniture
From a distance these look real but are all painted!
A wall full of clocks
After a shower we met on the terrace for a beer or two before setting off for the track . For those who don't know Monza, it is set within the grounds of a walled park covering an area of 688 acres. We hadn't eaten yet, so we stopped for a bite to eat, then bodies nourished we headed for the track on what Brian reliably told us was the fastest path there, according to the map he then admitted he'd left at the restaurant. Never mind, his son Alex had a GPS function on his mobile and guided us in, but it seemed an awfully long walk, and certainly not the 20 minutes the receptionist had told us!
First stop the Parabolica
Last time I was in Monza I was on the inside of the track on the opposite side and had been amazed at the speed they arrive, and then carry on through this bend, now the speed is the same but there are stands erected on the other side.
We walked round the track looking for the best vantage points. David managed to get into the Ducati sponsored stand but the rest of us got headed off by the security guard so nipped onto the Sterligarda Yamaha stand instead. Ok for this afternoon, but tomorrow it's exclusively reserved and no chance to enter. There is a TV across from these stands which makes it a great spot to view, and I guess it's a criticism that there are so few stands round the circuit at which to see what's happening. We decided that whilst the Variante Ascari is a good spot which we can access, tomorrow we will head for the
After watching some of the Superpole qualifying and the Superstock practice and Superstock 600 race, we head back for the hotel. This time the walk seems even longer, which given we've gone to the far end of the track is obvious, but even so, I'm sure we added an unneccessary dogleg to get back and seemed to take an age before eventually arriving with sore feet, blisters, and feeling tired at the hotel.
Andy had been there an hour or so by the time we eventually arrived, having enjoyed a comfortable drive down. We met up on the terrace, drank a few beers, then found we had to walk another 15 minutes to eat, as the hotel restaurant was booked out! Sat outside on the terrace waiting for a table we discused the days events, devoured the nibbles the waiter proffered, and eventually were shown to our table and got to eat around 10.20pm.
Thanks to Brian for the wine, more chat, a slightly disappointing meal, and another walk back to retire for the evening, take a good nights sleep, and prepare ourselves for the racing tomorow.
TO BE CONTINUED