Jerez, Motorcycle Grand Prix Weekend, 2001

Via Flickr:
The streets are packed with people. The curbs are packed with motorcycles. THe big show has come to town and brought the circus with it - riders from all over the continent celebrating life on two wheels. I saw them on the way down from Sevilla, nearly all sportbikes, nearly all in head to toe leather, the anti-Daytona, the anti-Sturgis. A beautiful thing.

And then in the night comes a gasoline-fueled scream. The unmistakable sound of a sportbike revved to the redline and beyond. Ripping canvas. No, that metaphor doesn't do the sound justice. It's the wail of a metal banshee in falsetto, assaulting the senses like nothing else. The unseen bike is popping off the rev limiter repeatedly and then the air is filled with acrid smoke. A burnout.

No sooner does the first bike stop it's wailing when a second commences. BwaaaaaahhhHHHHH-Pop-POP-POP!!!! Again and again. I'm drawn to the commotion - it's just a block away. A great big crowd has gathered, people covering their ears and noses from the sensory barrage.

I soon find out that this isn't even the main course. Just beyond, they've closed down a street block, lined it with chain link fence and hay bales placed in black plastic bags. Beyond the chain links are bleachers, where people are watching a parade of hooligans navigate this impromptu course on all manner of vehicles - sportbikes, Gold Wings, scooters, quads - each doing a wheelie or a stoppie or a burnout or simply French-kissing the rev limiter for a lap.

The air is filled with smoke. My nostrils are filled with the stench of spent fuel and burnt rubber, and my ears are taking a beating, but I've somehow snuck my way into the course, crouching by the hay bales and shooting what I can. These are my people - my two-wheeled, sport-biked, leather-clad, hooligan brothers, celebrating the motorcycle in a unique way. This is Jerez.

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