Nostalgia in the air

Do you know what this is? If you’ve ever been on holiday to Portugal, there’s a fair chance you recognise it. It’s the lunar-like ceiling in Terminal 1 of Lisbon Airport – and the view I have writing this while awaiting my flight home from a truly scintillating Estoril Round of the World Superbike Championship.

Greg Haines writes from Lisbon Airport, Portugal

I’m not sure Portugal could have delivered much more than it did. Every one of the three World Superbike races was decided in the last few seconds. We had three head-to-heads and each of the title contenders went up against one another. How good is that? Race 1 saw Bautista slipstream Toprak to the line, using that lightweight advantage combined with Ducati horsepower which is just depressing for everybody else. The Sprint Race was Rea VS Toprak, with the World Champion pulling off that unbelievable save up the hill despite losing the race. The final encounter left Rea and Bautista to lock horns, with the Kawasaki man riding one of the best last corners in motorcycle racing history, smoking his rear tyre on the absolute edge of staying on the tarmac and flying to the moon and back – the holey surface he might have seen up there would have resembled this airport ceiling. It was a really incredible weekend of bike racing with drama and talking points from start to finish. With MotoGP going through a difficult patch with overtaking so difficult due to F1-like wings (creating so much downforce that braking distances are tiny) and the dirty air behind the bikes making it difficult to follow, it feels a bit like the 90s in that Superbikes are producing more exciting racing on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, though; just because I’m commentating in WorldSBK doesn’t mean I don’t want to see more overtaking-filled MotoGP races. The sport needs it.

Just adding to the feeling of nostalgia was the fact the Bayliss name was back at the sharp end of a race. This time it was Monaco-born son of triple World Superbike Champion Troy, Oli, who learned so much as he enjoyed fighting in the lead group of Sunday’s damp World Supersport race. Let’s have a bit more of that! Oli didn’t even get much meaningful pre-season testing after smashing his right ankle in a horrible highside at Portimao. As for Supersport 300, it was your usual nose-to-tail racing. I was pleased to see Samuel Di Sora winning for the first time this season. Some of the kids I’ve met in that category over the last few years have been very, very young (immature, quite frankly) for their age. That’s not the case with Sam; he and his girlfriend Marta are a really good couple, both driven and wanting to succeed in life. He’s not a big fan of being constantly on his mobile phone and prefers to focus on what he wants to succeed in life (he has ‘WORK’ tattooed on his left wrist). She is studying Mechanical Engineering at university. It’s nice to see a young couple knowing what they want as opposed to floating through life wondering what will happen next while wasting time on Instagram and Snapchat. Do I sound a bit old?

Off-track, perhaps the most amusing moment of the weekend was when Eurosport/Timeline TV colleague Ray Yates thought it would be funny to swap my commentary box chair with an identical one that had been left out in the pouring rain overnight. I should have clocked it sooner when James Toseland kept trying to record me, his excuse being ‘I’m just doing a video call’. I will retaliate…