Sunday, 23 June 2013
The ability to walk along the pit lane and look into the garages and perhaps spy one of your racing heroes is everyone’s dream. And it is that dream that drives the most frequent of all questions to be asked of me. “Can I buy a pit lane pass?” The short dream crushing answer is… “No!”
There is only one way to live your dream of wandering up and down the pit lane and that is to be an invited guest and be given a pit lane pass by one of the teams or by one of the team sponsors. This holds true for MotoGP and F1.
“But I have seen loads of people walking along the pit lane” says you. Well yes you have, however the pit lane walk you have witnessed is not the result of buying a pit lane pass but the result of buying a rather expensive VIP package which is sold by the race series organisers. For MotoGP it is called the VIP Village and for F1 it is called the Paddock Club.
These VIP packages are based around a luxury air conditioned lounge and dining area. This lounge can be situated over the team garages overlooking the pit lane and start finish straight. It should be noted that being on top of the garages means it is impossible to see into the garages. You will be treated to free food and wine during your stay. The good news is that on Saturday and Sunday you will enjoy a 20 minute escorted walk along the pit lane. It’s not the glamorous experience you may expect as you will be doing it with several hundred other VIPs. Don’t expect to see any of your heroes. They will either be busy at the back of the garage or undertaking special sponsor duties. Still some nice brolly dolly may hand you posters of the missing drivers / riders. You may also get a 20 minute escorted paddock tour except that it’s not a true paddock tour. It’s just a walk along the back of team garages where the team trucks are located. If you are lucky you may see drivers / riders whizzing about on scooters.
When it comes to watching the race, you have the choice of watching from a temporary grandstand somewhere at the end of the pit lane or watch from a narrow terrace that runs along the length of the lounge and pit lane. You have to stand up and elbow your way in to watch the start. After the start most VIP guests retreat to the lounge once more to continue drinking only to return to watch the final lap and maybe witness the podium celebrations, assuming they can see the podium.
So how much will you pay for the VIP experience? For MotoGP it will set you back about £900 each and for F1 about £2700.00 each. If someone buys you the experience you will love it. If you must pay for it yourself I’m sure you will enjoy it but don’t expect too much from it.
So, if you cannot justify such expenditure, is there any other way you can get on that Pit Lane? Yes there is. A few circuits host ‘Free Pit Lane Walks’.
Free Pit Lane Walks are open to all race ticket holders (normally you must have purchased a 3 day ticket). The walks are usually held on Thursday or Friday evening. Being free they are well attended. On the F1 Free Pit Lane Walks the drivers turn up to meet the fans and to sign autographs. On the MotoGP Free Pit Lane Walks the riders seldom make an appearance. So you have to make do with just walking along the pit lane and looking into the garages. But it’s free and no better or worse than the £900 VIP experience.
The Monza pit lane walk is so chaotic and crowded that it is best avoided. I refuse to go and so should you. However I know where you are guaranteed to meet the drivers during the Monza weekend. Before I share that knowledge you must book with us!
The Catalunya circuit be it MotoGP or F1 is much better organised but very busy. Don’t expect a cosy chat with the drivers, it’s very much a crush in front of the Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull garages and a need for sharp elbows is very much essential. On previous years MotoExpress guests have had their pictures taken with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. However, if you don’t fancy being crushed then head for the garages of the less popular teams.
Monaco is also a bit of crush when on the Pit Lane but as it’s the most expensive Grand Prix the free pit lane walk is less frenetic and the fans tend to be a little older, more polite and courteous. When you exit the pit lane you find yourself on the track itself and will no doubt be surprised to find bars, tables with umbrellas and chairs which makes for a wonderful relaxed atmosphere. You will also come across drivers.
Abu Dhabi’s pit lane walk is a wonderful relaxing affair. You really do feel special. You have plenty of space to wander around and ample time to look into all the garages. You can also walk onto the track along the start / finish straight. Here the drivers appear at published timed intervals and fans form an orderly queue for autographs. Quite frankly Abu Dhabi is nothing short of superb.