Motorcycle racing is about the closest thing I can think of to a modern-day gladiatorial contest.
Usually filled with self-assured maniacs of varying skills, racing brings an addictive, singular focus that’s impossible to replicate in the real world.
I’ve often said the only time I have absolutely nothing else on my mind is when I’m racing. It’s a glorious, Zen-like state where the world’s troubles melt away and all that matters are you and your motorcycle.
Until it doesn’t.
Recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend of riders having little or no regard for others when it all goes to crap, and bad sportsmanship creeping into racing the world over like it’s somehow in fashion.
There was a clip recently that really got me angry from the British Supersport race at Donington Park. It involved 2019 Australian Supersport Champion Tom Toparis and Ireland’s Korie McGreevy, the 2019 British Superstock 600cc Champion.
Toparis high-sided leading onto the front straight, launching himself into orbit with McGreevy given nowhere to go but over Toparis’ crashing Yamaha. Toparis was clearly hurt, as clearly as he didn’t high-side on purpose. You can see the clip of the Toparis crash in the video below:
BSS2020: Tom Toparis Big Highside – Donington Park
McGreevy’s reaction was disgraceful, throwing his arms in the air at Toparis and storming off like a three-year-old who’d been told he couldn’t watch cartoons that morning. He could have instead chosen to at least see if Toparis was okay, given his anger a chance to subside, but instead he showed the attitude of a child, not a professional athlete.
On a higher level, we can see Pol Espargaro’s petulant reaction on two fronts in Austria last week. The first being his seething response to the red flag of the atrocious accident involving Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco, and the second to his storming off after another collision in very similar circumstances to his Brno crash, this time with Red Bull KTM Tech3 rider, Miguel Oliveira.
You can understand Pol’s frustration at the red flag. He was leading for the first time on the KTM that he’d worked so hard to develop for years, and he wanted redemption after Brad Binder stole his thunder at Brno. But you can’t pout about it as if the red flag was directed at you when it had nothing to do with you. Would he have had the same reaction if it were his brother, Aleix, involved in that massive accident, rather than Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco? He was so pissed off, and with a tire that wasn’t behaving the way it should have at the restart, he was not even close to the same rider. The crash soon followed, his second in a row.
I totally understand that this is racing at the highest level, and there’s a huge amount at stake. But letting your emotions control you like that contributes to poor performance and makes you look bad. People remember that. Some may say they don’t care what others think. That’s fine, too. But deep down, you don’t like being known as “that guy.”
I’ve copped it in the absolute amateur ranks of club racing. Two weeks ago, I was in a Supersport race, had a good battle, came out on top and slowed on the cooldown lap to give the guy behind a fist bump. Not going to happen. Instead, the rider in question rode past and shook his head at me, again, like a child. This was club racing. It’s worth an Instagram post at best.
What this shows is some riders have a bit of growing up to do. I’m not, for one second, suggesting we all have to be buddy-buddy, that’d be stupid. After all, this is an extremely ego-driven sport, but being a man-child about it doesn’t do anyone any favors.
Motorcycle racing, particularly at an amateur club level, is all about having fun. It’s also a great way to show the rest of the people exactly how to act, because, as Kevin Schwantz says, “racing is about life on a scale that can be condensed into one turn.” It’s incredibly rewarding, frustrating, addicting. It’s life on nitrous.
It’s part of the reason Valentino Rossi is so popular. You never see him throw his toys out of the stroller if things don’t go his way—he just gets on with the job of being a racer and showing a bit of humility. That’s why people love him.
A perfect example of how to act when it all goes to crap is that of Adam Cianciarulo, who threw away a sure-fire win in the 2019 250 West SX Championship at the last race. Instead of being a child about it, he was gracious, admitting his mistake when I bet all he wanted to do was walk in front of a bus.
He came back swinging in the outdoors and smoked the championship. He gave a perfect example of a good sportsman who’d screwed up, endearing himself to more people as a result, and helping him onto his 450 career.
“That guy,” Mr. Cianciarulo was certainly not. So, don’t be that guy, in life or on the track.CN