It was the Japanese MotoGP Grand Prix today – time differences mean it’ll already be all over by the time this post goes up, but for today’s Not a Book, I’m writing about Amazon’s Drive to Survive rival – which focuses on the world of grand prix motorcycle racing.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the motorbike racing world, MotoGP is the premiere category in motorbike racing. The riders ride purpose built, specially designed bikes – as opposed to World Superbikes where they race versions of production models. MotoGP weekends also include two feeder series, Moto 2 and Moto 3, with smaller bikes and developing riders – a bit like Formula one has F2 and F3, except that the paddocks are all more linked – some of the MotoGP teams have junior teams in the junior categories and some of the riders themselves own junior teams. The first season of MotoGP Unlimited follows the 2021 season, primarily looking at the MotoGP action, but the other categories feature where the action crosses over.
The big difference between the actual sports is that motorbike racing is much more dangerous than F1 is. Every year MotoGP has broken bones and injuries. In fact if you look across the three categories you’d probably say every weekend has a rider breaking something. There are a number of people in the paddock in wheelchairs as a result of bike crashes. And sadly sometimes people die – and I warn you that it happens in one of the junior categories in this season although you don’t see it happen, but you do very much see the effect it has on the riders.
Then I would say there are two big differences between the MotoGP Unlimited and Drive to Survive. The first is that while English is the first language of the paddock in F1, it is very much not in MotoGP. So the producers decided to let the riders speak which ever language they are most comfortable with – which means a lot of Spanish and Italian. Initially they released the series dubbed, but there was an outcry and they added a subtitles version (much better). This means you get a real sense of the riders and their personalities and the rivalries and friendships, which I don’t think you would have got if the producers had forced them to speak in English.
The second is that while Drive to Survive picks centres each episode around one story and follows it across a couple of races or even most of the season, Unlimited takes the season in chronological order. As someone who watches both sports all season long, I think the unlimited approach gives you more of a sense of what it actually felt like to follow along, whereas the DTS approach creates more drama and tension and gives you backstage shenanigans you don’t know about as the races are happening. Both approaches have their merits – DTS has come under fire for creating drama where there was none but it has also boosted F1’s profile enormously, made Daniel Ricciardo everyone’s second favourite driver, turned Günter Steiner into a meme and boosted Haas’s profile. I’m not sure Unlimited has done the same for MotoGP, but it’s only had one season yet so give it time.
I’m not sure it will convert fans the same way that Drive to Survive has, but if you’re a casual motor bike racing fan it’s definitely worth a look – and hopefully we’ll get a second season to see it get into its stride – MotoGP is struggling a little this year with how to deal with the retirement of charismatic sporting icon Valentino Rossi which could make for an interesting side story to the 2022 title fight.
Bonus photo: We went to the Silverstone race that features in the series – and here’s my best attempt at a photo of Valentino Rossi at the end of the race.
Happy Sunday everyone.