MXGP Insider No.34 presented by Kawasaki – Eastern European Motocross
Welcome to our web-exclusive weekly column: Transmoto’s MXGP Insider, presented by Kawasaki.
The Grand Prix series is going old school over the next month, with the next three Grand Prix’s being run in Latvia, Russia and the Czech Republic. Of course, all these countries are places you just had to visit in the 1970’s if you were a true adventurer.
Since the fall of the Berlin wall in the 1980’s, places like Czech Republic and Russia have become more of a tourist destination than many years ago, but there still remains some of that feeling of the unknown.
I know my visits to all three countries have not always brought happy memories, with a large portion of Russian vodka and Pilsner Urquell beer from the Czech Republic resulting in late nights and terrible headaches. However, the Motocross is often brilliant, and I guess that’s what counts, right?
From the mid-1940’s Latvia was subject to Soviet economic control and saw considerable Russification of its peoples, but Latvian culture and infrastructures survived that. During the period of Soviet liberalisation under Mikhail Gorbachev, Latvia once again took a path towards independence which eventually succeeded in August 1991 and was recognised by Russia the following month. Since then, under restored independence, Latvia has become a member of the United Nations, entered NATO and joined the European Union.
The Grand Prix of Latvia is a must for any true Motocross fans. Firstly, the city of Riga is one of the most beautiful I have ever visited, with great food, beer and beautiful women making it a really enjoyable weekend. Did I mention the Kegums circuit? It’s brilliant. Real motocross at its best as the leading Grand Prix riders cut through the natural terrain circuit, which is a mix of sand and dirt.
My first visit to Czech Republic was in 1987 when Wayne Gardner was the man in the World Road Racing Championships. Visiting Prague and Brno for the RR GP was a blast, but my most recent visits have obviously been for Grand Prix Motocross and the Loket circuit in the Western border of the country. It’s often called the most old school circuit on the calendar, and for good reason. Its rock hard, pretty narrow and the spectators are usually old men dressed in gum boots and national dress. I loved the place until a night out with a fellow journalist where I was drugged, robbed and left on the street. Great story to tell friends, but not so much fun at the time.
Russia, I’ve had the pleasure to visit just once, back in 2002 when Dorna controlled the FIM World Motocross Championships. Despite a brilliant weekend in Moscow, the races were littered with problems. A lack of medical staff, poor internet and heavy security didn’t make it one of my favorites races of all time. Along with the difficulties of getting a visa and all the paper work required, I made my decision not to visit Russia this year. What the Russian Grand Prix will bring in 10 days time? Anyone can guess, but that magical old school feeling will surely be a major part of the weekend.