For years I have enjoyed the thrill of motorcycle racing. Up close and personal with the best riders the world has to offer.
Standing as a Flag Marshal at Australia’s race circuits as the rain, sun, sleet, wind, dust and arctic blasts thrash away at my very fibre.
Feeling the exhaust blast on my chest as their bikes disappear into the distance.
Being able to talk to internationally famous champion riders, such as Colin Edwards, Pierfranceso Chili, Carlos Checa, Loris Capirossi, and Marco Simoncelli before he was tragically killed.
Having a chinwag with the best Australia has produced, such as Troy Bayliss, Troy Corser, Josh Brookes and Andrew Pitt.
But there has always been one huge disappointment for me.
There’s one world champion rider you’ll never get close to.
No, try getting a minute of Casey Stoner’s time and you’ll quickly be dispatched with the wave of a hand as he barges past you staring at the ground.
No, our Stacey (he’s known amongst the troops as Stacey Moaner), will never have a second to spare for you. He’s too important.
Some say he’s shy, some say he’s always deep in thought. I say he’s simply rude.
What the riders of today need to remember is that there are a lot of people out there who make it possible for them to enjoy their chosen sport. Without the officials there are no race meetings. Without people willing to freeze their arses off in winter or turn blood red in the sun they don’t get to do what it is they do.
We marshals man our flagpoints no matter what the weather. And we do it for free.
Yes he has a dangerous job, as do all top level racers, and sometimes, no matter how skilled, a rider can come to grief and be seriously injured or killed. But they have long since weighed up the risk and reward, and have decided the compensation is worth the danger. Otherwise they wouldn’t do it.
At race meetings the officials are all volunteers. No-one is paid, no-one receives a reward. We do it for the love of the sport.
We stand there day after day just to be near these guys and take in their talent. And sometimes there’s the chance to have a brief chat with those greats of motorcycle racing.
Stacey is supposedly retiring at the end of the season.
As he counts the spoils from his years in the limelight I hope he spares a thought for the lonely guy holding a flag.