Cast your eye on MotoGP in a new way

When you think of MotoGP racing, you generally think of chicos with screeching exhausts and hotly wound beeps. Not really the image of a rocking concert. Well, Felix Sabates, perhaps the best known of…

Cast your eye on MotoGP in a new way

When you think of MotoGP racing, you generally think of chicos with screeching exhausts and hotly wound beeps. Not really the image of a rocking concert.

Well, Felix Sabates, perhaps the best known of the 51 American riders who participated in the sport over the years, will be one of the acts on Nov. 25 at FedEx Field, providing that’s what they’ll be doing on the stage designed to look like a compact street racing circuit (with a steering wheel). It’s his first appearance in a MotoGP race, and his first at a track in America.

Sabates, 27, has been champing at the bit to get to that point. He rode bikes in the professional Grand Prix of America from 2006-09, winning once and finishing second, fourth and seventh in the series. (He is one of the most conservative riders on the circuit, riding more than 500 miles in practice and qualifying. He takes a very conservative, discipline approach to the sport.) He qualified fastest for last year’s Grand Prix of Puerto Rico, but was not allowed to race because he wasn’t over the weight limit.

That’s when he hired a coach, Vincenzo Mocco, to change his techniques in the riding and off-road competition. Mocco is best known for his expertise in training the stars of the MotoGP class.

Sabates approached Mocco via Twitter. Mocco said he could not immediately coach Sabates, but that he would get back to him. A month later, Sabates and Mocco met for the first time, at Mocco’s home in Italy.

Sabates had watched a news story about the Dominator MotoGP Zorro One All-Terrain Racing bike to see what it might be like. That is one of Mocco’s pieces. If Sabates was interested, he would have to race an actual bike, not just ride on one of Mocco’s designs. Sabates also wants to get the certification to race a Japanese-made Suzuki 250, another rider-donated bike. Mocco agreed.

Two weeks later, Sabates made Mocco’s prediction: the two would race at Pennsylvania’s Lansdowne Speedway at the same time.

Sabates was still in that SkyDome in Toronto at this time last year when he got the call for an exhibition MotoGP race in North America, something he had been hoping for his entire career. Although he had won a 250cc world championship in 2009, he never got a chance to drive one of those small machines in testing.

Now, it’s real, and he’s preparing to race with the bonus that it’s a $350,000 event, and maybe his first MotoGP win.

Sabates hails from Liberty, Pa., population 4,000 and double that in competition. His other passions include soccer and rock-and-roll.

“Rock is my first love,” he says. “Actually, I have really always liked rock and roll.”

Before seeing Sabates at FedEx Field on Nov. 25, ride along with his story. Read more about him in the December issue of the Tribune.

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