MotoGP Brno 2016 Press Conference
Perhaps you watched the MotoGP Brno 2016 Press Conference live on motogp.com, or perhaps you read a summary of the quotations from the riders, or perhaps you don’t bother with Thursday press conferences at all. Unless there is an anticipated topic about which to ask the riders, these press conferences often have the feel of a predictable set piece in the weekend’s story. We know what each rider is probably going to say about the previous weekend, and we know what each rider will probably say about the coming race.
There’s always a chance that a journalist will ask a question the receives a remarkable answer, such as when David Emmett asked Valentino Rossi if he was going to end his working relationship with Jeremy Burgess. But those moments when everyone in the usually stuffy and crowded press conference room is suddenly rapt by what’s going on are rare.
Some photographers gather on either side of the seated journalists in the special Photographer Sections and click away from the oblique perspectives, while other photographers choose the head on approach and shoot from the back of the room, those on the TV platform being careful to move softly to avoid causing a vibration that will shake the video camera and make the TV crew glare at the offender.
Journalists sit in the chairs if they arrived early, or stand on the sidelines if they did not, and some ask questions, some take notes, some record the audio for later transcription or reference as they write their summaries, some just listen for one of those moments when there’s suddenly some real news to report.
Sometimes I go to the Thursday press conference, sometimes I don’t. When I do, one of the most interesting things to me is the opportunity to watch the riders interact before the show starts, as they arrive and find their seats.
The relationships between riders are fascinating to me, mainly because of their antithetical nature. Riders are, on one hand, part of the same elite group, subject to the same media scrutiny, judgment on social media, status as top athletes, and in other ways are apart from everyone else in the paddock or in the grandstands. On the other hand, they do battle on Sunday and each is set against every other member of their small group. Each wants to win, each wants to raise or hang on to his status as one of the top riders in that group.
While the battle takes place in earnest on Sunday, its preliminary action commences beforehand in sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle interactions at instances like the press conference. Some riders are always in battle mode, from maneuvering to see who will take his seat first to who will greet a colleague or wait to be greeted and so on. Other riders seem above such off-track strategies, content to let the hierarchy get sorted on the circuit.
So watching a top rider interact with the other riders selected for a given press conference can be very interesting. In general, but not always, the riders usually toward the middle or back of the grid, and thus not a threat to the top of the hierarchy, are greeted by all the others in a warm and gentlemanly manner. Sometimes jokes are exchanged, but usually at least there’s a handshake and a warm smile from the others.
It’s certainly the case that a rider’s actions on track follow him into the paddock and to the press conference. If you’re that guy out on track, you’ll feel the love off track, and shouldn’t expect handshakes and warm smiles in the press conference, should you make an unusual appearance there.
Sad to say, I’ve seen a top rider ignore a greeting from one rider only to smile and shake with another a moment later (not Scott Redding btw, though you may be able to guess which rider pictured above I’m referring to), and I’ve also seen riders who, in the midst of an on-going conflict, have managed to appear cordial and professional at the press conference.
Sometimes hard feelings are still too crisp not to affect the manners at the press conference. More than once we’ve seen barely contained hatred on the face of one rider for another, usually based on some on track maneuver that was dangerous or careless. Sometimes a rider’s inclusion in the press conference amounts to showing up to take his medicine, speak about a misstep, bury a mistake so that he and the rest of the paddock can move on.
Whatever the topics of discussion, the press conference is an opportunity to photograph the riders away from pit lane, where they are usually so focussed on their work we see only a small range of their expressions, dramatic as those may be. As the other riders speak, we see a different side of the riders who wait for their turns to address the crowd. While the press conference interactions can be fascinating, sometimes the photographs can be as well.
©2016 by Scott Jones / PhotoGP – All Rights Reserved
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