In The Paddock

Michael Scott | September 12, 2017

COLUMN

The Three Rs: Racing, Respect, And Running ‘Em Off The Track

Guys you meet in the bars are a notoriously unreliable source of information and opinion. Legendarily so.

This case was a little different. These guys included two grand prix winners, one of them a world champion. Along with them, at least one national champion and several lap-record holders. And all but one of them disagreed with me.

They all thought that Marc Marquez needs to be taught a good lesson, a basic grounding in the three “Rs”—Real Respect for other Riders.

We were talking about recent races, in particular the Austrian GP, and Marquez’s desperate last-corner attack on leader Dovi—a  moment that will surely be replayed for years to come. But just in case you haven’t seen the clip recently, here’s a quick rewind.

In The Paddock - Michael Scott

Dovi had the corner, the second and tighter of two right-handers ending the Red Bull Ring lap, the last lap. Marquez wanted it badly. So much so that he pushed past inside Dovi. Got ahead, for a few feet, but ran wide onto the painted curb, then used his transcendental sideways skills to avoid crashing.

Had the triple champ’s rival been a lesser rider, he might have fallen for it. Or fallen, anyway. Maybe both of them. Or maybe Marquez would have bounced off the Ducati before it skittered away, and won the race. Doubtless his preferred option.

I was there, and when he spoke afterwards, his no longer quite so choirboyish face glowing with elation. “This is MotoGP,” he said. “I had to try. Or I would not have slept quiet tonight. And next time I will try it again.” All the while Dovi looking like a disapproving schoolmaster, but so pleased with winning that he couldn’t really be cross.

And I agreed with Marc. He had to try. That’s what he’s like; that’s what racing is like. And nobody got hurt. It was pretty close, mind—he could easily have taken both of them down. That he didn’t was to a large extent because Dovi is very, very clever, and anticipated perfectly. Anyway, this MotoGP, and the margins are very small; between safety and disaster as well as between lap times.

I thought it had been a great ride from both of them, and that Marquez had done the right thing.

The GP winners at the table were the underrated Alan North, whose career was cut short by injury, and 1980 350 World Champion Jon Ekerold, the last-ever privateer to beat factory teams (his account of how he did it is a minor classic of racing literature: if you haven’t yet read “The Privateer” you should do so at once).

Both came from an era of tough racing, when riders would support their obsession in between GPs at money-making races, often on rudimentary and very dangerous street circuits, on two-strokes that were prone to seizing unexpectedly. And Ekerold had a reputation as the hardest of the hard men.

In such a way, riding his private Bimota Yamaha like a demon, he snatched the title from Anton Mang’s factory Kawasaki on the last lap of the Nürburgring, by just 1.25 seconds. Before the race, he had told the annual Motocourse, “…crashing here is of little consequence. I just have to beat Toni”.

But the pair led the chorus of shocked admonishment. Marquez’s move—the words echoed round the table—had been outrageous. The same comment came from almost all: “You have to have respect for the other riders.”

This rocked me back a bit. Respect? But this is grand prix racing. You don’t go there to respect your rivals, you go there to beat the hell out of them, surely? Starting with your teammate, and working outwards.

That’s certainly what the fans go there to see. It’s not exactly blood lust. Nobody in his right mind wants to see riders get hurt. But we want to see a proper fight.

There was another echo: Rossi versus Gibernau at the last corner at Jerez. Rossi made a very similar move, and took Gibernau by surprise; hit him, bounced off and admitted later that he probably wouldn’t have made the corner otherwise. Gibernau was punted off the track, and though he didn’t fall he was very clear that he had been robbed by unfair tactics.

And you know what? Nobody paid any mind to him. Rossi was the hero of the day.

It was the same a few years later when Marquez did something similar to Lorenzo at the same corner. Lorenzo made no secret of his disapproval, and his view that Marquez should be punished. And everyone made fun of him for it.

Working on the basis of believing the last person I spoke to, I must now obviously change my mind. Naughty Marc. Sort yourself out boy, before there is some blood shed.

And yet… CN

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Michael Scott | MotoGP Editor Scott has been covering MotoGP since long before it was MotoGP. Remember two-strokes? Scott does. He’s also a best-selling author of biographies on the lives of legendary racers such as Wayne Rainey and Barry Sheene.

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