“Muc’ Off”, he answered, when I first asked Charlie what he cleaned his motorbikes with! I thought he was being particularly rude, until he produced the aerosol can!! Before I met him I didn‘t know my apex from my elbow when it came to motorbikes. I probably still don’t, but I’ve picked up some terminology over the years. I’ve also grown to look forward to the MotoGP season each year, mostly watching it on TV. But in August 2016 we went to see live racing at Brno in the Czech Republic. And this blog is a bit about MotoGP and our trip to Brno and what we saw.
So what is MotoGP? Well, it’s those motorboke races where the riders hang on for dear life as they go around corners at breakneck speeds. Borrowing from Wikipedia for a short explanation, Grand Prix motorcycle racing " is the premier class of motorcycle races held on circuits sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM). The foundation of the FIM as the international governing body for motorcycle sport in 1949 provided the opportunity to coordinate rules and regulations in order that selected events could count towards official World Championships. It is the oldest established motorsport world championship. The current top division is known as MotoGP since 2002.”
The 2016 MotoGP season comprised 18 Grands Prix, with 12 held in Europe, 2 in Asia, 2 in the Americas, and 1 each in Australia and the Middle East. So, we chose Brno in the Czech Republic as it would be mid-way through the championship, is close enough to us and would allow us also take in the beautiful city of Prague.
Motor racing has taken place in Brno since 1930 and up until 1982 they would race through the villages and the city on a road track. A new circuit was built during the 1980s with the aim of attracting Formula 1 to the former Czechoslovakia and in 1987 it played host to the FIM Czech Grand Prix.
The Velvet Revolution in 1989 effectively led to the collapse of Communism in Czechoslovakia and its break up into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Prague as the capital of the latter has taken its place amongst the most popular destinations to visit in Europe and it’s easy to see why. Small wonder that its historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
We booked the trip through TD Active holidays which included three nights (Fri-Sun) in Prague with transfers and entry tickets to Brno for the practice sessions on Saturday and the actual races on Sunday. We’d also have a bit of time on Friday night and Monday morning for Prague city sightseeing before our flight home to Dublin on Monday afternoon.
Trip Itinerary - Day by day
Day 1 - Travel to Czech Republic, Hotel & Prague Sightseeing
Afternoon Friday 19 Aug 2016
So, on that Friday afternoon, we left Dublin for Prague on Aer Lingus EI644 at 11:45. After a smooth flight lasting about 2 ½ hours we landed mid-afternoon; thankful that there is only a +1 hour time difference between Dublin and Prague. This would allow us the full evening to sight-see. We were met by the local travel representative in the arrivals area of the airport before being transferred to our hotel.
The hotel for our 3-night stay was the Clarion Congress Hotel. Our first impressions were good; a nice, big, business-class hotel:
So that first evening, which was warm and balmy, we took the clean Metro into central Prague (6 stops from Vysocanska to Namesti Republiky metro station) where we had a memorable meal in the beautiful Bellevue Restaurant. Every detail of the restaurant was class and I’d highly recommend it for a special meal albeit a tad pricey. In 2016 it was located in a great position near the famous Charles Bridge and I understand that since then it has moved to a nearby street but the food is still great. Of course I had to take a photo of Charles on his namesake bridge. And the views of the bridge all lit up were just gorgeous.
We also got to see the nearby Old Town Square and astronomical clock. Of course we had to wait for the hourly clock strike when a procession of the Twelve Apostles sets in motion. The city was bustling with people but the atmosphere was chilled. What a beautiful, historic city Prague is?!
Day 2 - Qualifying
Full Day – Saturday 20 Aug 2016
Today we were bussed to Brno (250 km from Prague) for all the action of the qualifying races. Guided transfers by coach to and from the track were included in the package.
Charlie had warned me about the size of the crowds ….and he wasn’t wrong. Traffic nearing the circuit was moving slow for miles….but it gave me time to see our fellow moto fans, including those who had customised car number plates celebrating Valentino Rossi (one of the all-time great riders).
Popular with both fans and riders, the circuit is built in a natural bowl which is banked in places to offer spectators an excellent view. Brno constantly changes in elevation as it sweeps across forested hillsides and its fast undulating corners test rider talent and engineering to the limit. We were wondering if there was going to be some sort of riot when we saw the number of little pick-axes and garden spades being confiscated at the entrance.
But we soon realised that the fans only had motorbikes on their minds…and the purpose of the pickaxes was to dig a hole on the sloping hillsides to settle their camping chairs!! 😂
The weather was warm and sunny and I revelled in the Festival-like atmosphere. Traders were selling everything from a needle to an anchor. Lots of motor-biking gear but lots of other bits and bobs as well like t-shirts and such. I grabbed a few souvenir t-shirts as gifts with prices similar to home.
We got a great spot on the hill with a bend to our right to see all the riders. Charlie was happy snapping photos. Soon the bikes were roaring past and boy did they roar! It was surreal to see all those riders I had been watching on tv zip past me.
Qualifying Day Brno 2016
I was gobsmacked by the noise! And the sheer number of fans….mostly male. Pop-up vans were doing a roaring trade in burgers and hotdogs and plenty of Pilsner Czech beer was a welcome refreshment. I staggered home that evening….not because of any over-indulgence in the said beer…but I lightly twisted my ankle in one of the afore-mentioned pot holes dug for the camping chairs!
Day 3 - Race Day
Full Day – Sunday 21st August 2016
Today, after a good breakfast, we made our way again to Brno from our hotel; this time for all the action of the Czech MotoGP race day. The traffic was even slower today but everyone was excited to see the race action.
The weather today was bucketing down rain …so we took shelter where and whenever we could. Luckily we had come prepared. But just in time for the big race, Moto GP, which was the third race, the sun popped out.
The race itself was super-exciting. Cal Crutchlow became Great Britain's first premier class winner since Barry Sheene 35 years before as the LCR Honda rider clinched his maiden MotoGP triumph at Brno. On a wet track, Crutchlow gambled with hard tyres front and rear and it proved a masterstroke as the 30-year-old began to cut his way through the field. Most of the riders opted for soft wets but as a dry line began to appear in the final third of the race, they suddenly found themselves struggling to maintain their pace.
Petrucci, Baz, Marquez, Rossi (above)
Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi also made a shrewd choice as he fitted a hard Michelin rear and the Italian also came on strong in the last part of the race, forcing his way through to second position. Rossi (my hero in case you hadn’t guessed) finished 7.2 seconds behind Crutchlow at the end as the nine-time world champion moved ahead of team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in the championship standings, who endured a nightmare race, pitting twice and languishing at the rear outside the points.
Title leader Marc Marquez finished on the rostrum in third on the Repsol Honda with another resilient performance to keep any damage to his championship advantage to a minimum, with Rossi only closing the deficit by four points.
Behind the top three, French rider Loris Baz also stormed through at the end to nick fourth place on the Avintia Ducati ahead of team-mate Hector Barbera. Northern Ireland's Eugene Laverty rode an excellent race to finish sixth on the Aspar Ducati ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Ducati), while Austrian GP winner Andrea Iannone somehow limped over the line in eighth.
We watched them all do the victory lap. And Rossi even did a wheelie right in front of us which Charlie captured on his camera!!
The final result for the top 8 was as follows:
We left the circuit late that evening after the presentations on the podium. Tired but happy. 😊
Day 4 – More sightseeing and the return Home
Morning & Afternoon – Monday 22 Aug 2016
Time for a bit of relaxation and a spot of sightseeing. We headed back into the old town where we admired the stunning architecture and did a bit of people-watching as we drank tea (Charlie) and coffee (Me) in the Old Town Square.
All too soon it was time to transfer to the airport for our flight home. Prague airport is easy to navigate. Aer Lingus EI 645 was on time at 15:55 and got us home to Dublin at 17:30….just in time for our tea!
I loved it! And would definitely recommend to non-bikers like me. Just be sure to avoid potholes!!
Practical Information for this holiday
Czech Koruna (CZK, Kc)
Ireland/UK Time +1 hour
A valid passport is required for this holiday. EU citizens do not need a visa, however non-EU citizens should check requirements.
Flight Duration from Dublin, Ireland
Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Summers are warm and can be damp (as we found out!) and winters are quite cold, though snow is rare. May and September have the most pleasant weather.
Food & Drink
Typical Czech dishes are chlebicek (Canapé white bread), brambora (Sandwiches with grated potatoes), gnocchi (bread or potato dumplings), Prague ham & sauerkraut (plate of meat, sauce and sauerkraut), goulash (beef stew, onions and peppers). In every restaurant you can order a beer or liquor. In Prague there are a large number of breweries, one of the most famous is the Pilsner Urquell. The liquor Becherovka is one of the most popular, made with herbs and alcohol and has a bittersweet taste.
Average Prices for Region (2016)
Bucket List Items Ticked Off in the above Blog post
Number 28 - Entertainment/ Sporting Event - Go to a MotoGP Race
Number 34 (5) - Food & Drink - Regional Drinks - Drink Czech Beer in Czech Republic
Number 38 - Memorable Restaurant - Bellevue Restaurant, Prague
Number 57 - 4/7- Continents - Europe
Number 58 (4) - Countries - Czech Republic (Czechia)
Number 59 (15) - Hotels - Clarion Congress Hotel, Prague
Number 60 (18) - Cities - Prague, Czech Republic
Number 76 (15) - UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Historic Centre of Prague
Other Blog Posts
Blog 11 - Sydney, Australia
Blog 12 - Hong Kong, China
Blog 17 - Beijing, Xi'an & Shanghai, China
Blog 19 - California, USA
Blog 20 - Florida Seaplane Adventure
Have you been to Prague? Or do you like MotoGP? Tell me about your experience in the comments section below.
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My name is Mary and this is my bucket list blog ...having survived a near-death experience. I hope it encourages you to "live your best life". See how I'm completing my own bucket list items. And let me know how you're getting on with yours!