No, no, no, no… no. It can’t possibly be true, there has to be some kind mistake. There is no way that I’m old enough to have owned and ridden a bike featuring in a classic bike show when it was brand new!
Unfortunately the evidence was right there before me, an Aprilia RS250 in Rossi livery looking just as gorgeous as I remember. Even worse there were two Ducati 748’s, the ‘baby’ sister to my all-time favourite bike the Ducati 916.
God, I loved my RS125. A full Grand Prix replica and sister model to the RS250 on display. It was just an absolute blast to ride, light enough to be thrown into any corner and – as long as you kept the revs in the powerband – accelerate out the other side with a massive smile on your face. Being a 125 it would be obliterated in straight line speed and acceleration, but in corners it was unbeatable.
That’s why I was at Silverstone and the Day of Champions. The big annual fundraiser for Two Wheels for Life. A charity that provides vehicles, training and maintenance to a fleet of bikes throughout Africa that allows doctors and nurses to massively increase the reach of their rounds, and hugely cut down the time needed to transport samples, medications and all the other logistical nightmares of running a medical service without a mature infrastructure.
The first bike started with an alarmingly loud ‘baarrrpp’. Others soon followed. The air suddenly dense with the smell of two-stroke and deafeningly loud open bikes and full race exhausts of old GP500 Suzuki’s, BAS’s and Nortons. These bikes were loud in a way that you felt throughout your body and gut as well through the ears.
Later I had a go on the Michael Dunlop TT Simulator. I was the only person on board, and was wearing shorts that offered zero grip against the plastic bench seating. I found myself hanging on as the ride pitched me up and down, side-to-side as an FPV video of one of his laps played on screen. Thanks to my slippery shorts, I think I got a much more realistic representation than you’d usually get.
The highlight of the day was the big rider auction. Here all the big stars would come out on stage to speak to the fans and auction-off gear and memorabilia.
All the premier class riders were there along with some of the more well-known faces from Moto2 and Moto3. Some of the lots were incredible. Such as the chance to ride the new MotoE bike for 3 laps of the circuit, or grid passes for all three races. But the star of the show was Valentino Rossi. The money paid for his lots were mind boggling. £5k for a selfie, £7.1k for replica helmet. Then coming off the stage to pose for photos with a young girl he’d seen in the crowd wearing full Rossi leathers.
Highlights included a lovely moment with Maverick Vinales signing a kids t-shirt and then giving him the baseball cap he’d been wearing, and Jack Miller’s reaction to being asked if he’d be satisfied with a repeat of the last race. Unfortunately he’d crashed out of that race, and it was the race before that where he’d finished on the podium.
The day also gave the opportunity to explore some of the other attractions for the race weekend before they’d become crazily busy on qualifying and race days. KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha and Triumph all had stands with their latest models on show, with Yamaha also showing off Rossi’s 2018 M1 and one of the BSB Superbikes. In photos and TV the bikes always look so solid, but its only when you get so close that you can see how thin the carbon fibre fairings are and how stripped down parts like the tail units are compared to road bikes.