There’s not much to get excited about in the second half of February. If you’re in most of the Northern Hemisphere, it’s cold; football is over, if you’re that kind of person; there’s hockey and basketball and soccer, sure, but all of that’s just waiting around and tying up narrative loose ends; the grotesque excess of awards shows has Twitter at full buzz; there are no holidays off.
But there is a magical place that exists around this time every year that suspends reality for a few hours on Sunday and takes you away to bring out the best in motorsports. Thousands of people flock to the seaside to attend and see the world’s best on one of racing’s most picturesque venues. Here, the sands are just that little bit whiter, the grass a little bit greener, the ocean a little bit bluer. Competitors must contend with seagulls as much as each other. You can soak in the history even as you watch it happen in real time on television. It’s the antidote to your winter bunker mentality blues.
Yes, the World Superbike Championship was back at Phillip Island this weekend. Were you expecting something else?
Five wins on the trot, three of them from pole. Slashed and burned history books. A locked contract until the end of 2016. Cheerful oppression and the dawn of a new age. The buzz of the world’s media and fans frothing at the mouth for more. It’s all happening right now, right as you read this. And you already know what it means.
But the world keeps turning even while you move out of your dorm room. Things happen even while man sets foot on the moon. Life goes on elsewhere even when Columbus lands in America. There are plenty of people aiming for a big splash into adult life. There are countless thousands dreaming of the stars. There are plenty of explorers who aren’t there yet and never will be. But that won’t stop them from trying to move up.
It’s like having three feet: One foot firmly planted in the future, one stubbornly rooted in the present, and one ghost foot from your past as bonus ballast. It’s easy to stand by idle. But the world keeps turning, even when you’re stuck. Victories still happen elsewhere. Contracts still get locked. It still moves. But that won’t stop Jonathan Rea from trying to move to MotoGP.
Looks unremarkable, right? It should. Podium ceremonies are customary at the end of most motorsports events outside the US – check the Daytona 500 for Victory Lane-as-American exceptionalism – and this image from Sunday’s FIM Supersport World Championship race in Australia is no different. Three men mount the rostrum, three men receive modest trophies and a bouquet of flowers, three men pop expensive champagne bottles once the winner’s national anthem is played. A team owner laughs, soaking up the victory. A cameraman catches it for posterity. Across the road, someone takes a photo to summarize the weekend.
What’s so strange about this podium is who’s on it. To the right, Italian Raffaele de Rosa, wearing leathers for a team he no longer rides for; to the left, journeyman Scot Kev Coghlan, still winless; and in the center, the most remarkable story of the weekend. But this is World Supersport at the Australian Grand Prix in 2014. This is life at its most whimsical. This is life at the top of the bottom of the world.