Riders for Health raised a remarkable $228,296 for motorcycle-related work in Africa at its annual Day of Champions in Britain. It’s a bumper year for Riders, since Stanford University and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced long-term research and funding partnerships with MotoGP’s official charity.The world motorcycle community will always be crucial to Riders, so a smooth move to Silverstone after 18 years at Donington was vital. Operations Director Ngwarati Mashonga [#1276] said: “It was good working with Silverstone.”Co-founder Randy Mamola [# 1532-33] thanked fans, “from the bottom of my heart.”The absence of Valentino Rossi – who suffered a broken leg at Mugello – was palpable. During the world famous MotoGP auction, a Team Fiat Yamaha manager revealed shocking thefts from Rossi’s office. Heartless burglars “stole” the #46 doormat and somehow it turned up onstage where pundits Toby Moody and Julian Ryder auctioned it for $962. Hardly dirt cheap.
Then came a phone call from Italy. Valentino Rossi rang saying, “I’m fine, I sleep through the night.” Ryder suggested painkillers helped, and teased Rossi that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky at Silverstone. Rossi, who has suffered more than one soggy fall at Donington said it is, “Unbelievable that it never rains at Silverstone!’ (Rain at the end of Friday’s MotoGP practice put the lie to that!) Approximately 2000 auction goers screamed best wishes to Rossi, as his first-ever donation of a helmet earned $7400 for Africa.No one substituted for Rossi at Silverstone. However, James Toseland, who left MotoGP for World Superbike, got the best laugh of the day. Singing with his band Crash (rocking better than ever), Toseland commiserated with fans who had no British rider to back in MotoGP: “I did my best. I even offered to pay for the damage, if there was any!” Many of the home fans are hoping Toseland can land a third World Superbike crown and return to MotoGP.Jorge Lorenzo [#1675-1694] admits Rossi is a legend, but that didn’t stop him from extending his season points lead at Silverstone. Lorenzo walked onstage like he owned it, and joked about exploring Lords Cricket Ground with Nicky Hayden: “On TV you can see me trying to “crick.” Ever the philosopher, Jorge auctioned a helmet replete with quotations on “the evolution of man.” Later, the future MotoGP World Champion went walkabout in front of the stage, tossing Fiat caps to the crowd [# 1693]. It was like Jorge already knew he would win Silverstone a few days later.Ducati Corse’s Nicky Hayden was a big hit. Ryder asked if his improved performance is due to “putting your race face on more.” Nicky said, “You’re entitled to your own theory, but I don’t think so.” The message was that changes to the bike are at root.As for Silverstone, Nicky said: “I like fast tracks.” His fourth-place finish on Sunday (just pipped by Ben Spies, who donated a helmet) showed it’s true.Colin Edwards, Spies’ Tech 3 teammate, didn’t fare as well on Sunday. But fans loved it when the Texan walked onstage, joking with Julian and Toby like a wise-cracking cowboy out of Lonesome Dove. Always generous to Riders, Colin donated a set of racing leathers.Mugello winner Dani Pedrosa [#1639-40] mounted the stage with an unmistakable cowboy, er… gaucho swagger. The 108-pound Spanish Honda rider exuded confidence, although a Saturday crash depleted his stamina for Sunday’s fight against Lorenzo.Rizla Suzuki was out in strength. Team boss Paul Denning and rookie Alvaro Bautista joked that Loris Capirossi was just “a 37-year-old kid.” Denning said whoever bid highest on their VIP pit package, would have a chance to redecorate Loris’ motorhome. No wonder it fetched $3848.Red Dwarf actor Danny John-Jules earned laughter and cheers, auctioning his pink ‘Cat’ helmet [#1658]. Attending with his three kids, he said a new series begins shooting in early 2011.Sidecar racers like Gordon Noble raised cash for Africa by taxi-ing fans around the Stowe Circuit [#1365-72]. Gary Rothwell and others awed folks with great stunts. Julian Ryder chatted with 125 and Moto2 racers in his cozy onstage “living room,” graced with a portrait of beloved pal Toby Moody over the fireplace.We were happy to see Jim and Shirley Schwantz, who auctioned two Team Lucky Strike Suzuki jackets liberated from the attic of their famous champion son Kevin.DoC Silverstone was a big success, and to this observer it appears the paddock could easily accommodate more fans next year. Motorcyclists could not wish for a better charity than Riders, which puts their money on the ground so efficiently in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, the Gambia.Deputy operations director Kayode Ajayi and business analyst Vinay Nagaraju [#1303] chatted with me about Riders’ unique support from the racing community. Some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are utterly dependent on a few fickle funders. Riders stays true to its two-wheeled mission due to biker support. Learn more about how Riders reached 10 million people – and its plans to reach many more – on Twitter, You Tube and www.riders.org.