Analysis

Reading The Tea Leaves: How Serious Is Valentino Rossi's Injury?

When Valentino Rossi crashed his motocross bike while training last Thursday, he triggered a wave of speculation on just how serious his injuries were. It was clear that there was reason for concern, as the Italian had been taken straight from the motocross track at Cavallara to the emergency room at Rimini hospital. The fact that he was kept in overnight made it even more worrying.

Initial reports from local newspapers and websites validated such concerns. There were reports that Rossi had fractured one or more ribs, that he had injured his shoulder, even that he had taken a blow to the head and had picked up a concussion as a result.

That presented the Movistar Yamaha team with a serious problem. One which they have handled with considerable subtlety and expertise, it has to be said. Their first and major priority was to control the narrative around Rossi's injury, giving the media the information they wanted, while keeping their options open.

However, despite their careful information strategy, if you read between the lines, there was clearly more going on than met the eye. In all of their press releases, Yamaha were treading a fine line between being as honest as possible about Rossi's injuries, while leaving underlying questions unanswered.

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Nicky Hayden Retrospective Part 2: The Winding Road To The Top

As a tribute to Nicky Hayden, who tragically died last week, succumbing to the injuries sustained in a cycling accident, we have been running a series of three articles over the past couple of days, by WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast member Steve English. You can read his tribute to Nicky here, and the first part on Hayden's early years in racing here.

The final part of Steve's tribute to Nicky Hayden examines the American's path through racing, from flat track to road racing, and his success in the AMA series. The lessons learned there, and the determination and talent he showed would eventually take Hayden to MotoGP. Written before Hayden's tragic death, the quotes from Nicky and from his father Earl are both still in the present tense. But Hayden's story is such a powerful one, it deserves to be heard as it was told.

The winding road to the top for a champion

The choices we make can have consequences for years. Nicky Hayden's choices as a teenager led him on a path to a world championship

In all walks of life the decisions that you make at an early age can have untold consequences in later life. Whether it's the college you decide to attend or your first job there are certain moments that become cornerstones of your life. For most people the choices can be corrected over the passing of time but for a motorcycle racer with a short career they can have huge consequences.

The pressure on young shoulders once racing transitions from a hobby to a career are huge. Families stake their financial future on a child in the hope rather than expectation it will all work out. In the current economic climate this risk is huge but it has always been the case. The Hayden family rolled the dice on their sons' racing careers and with a world championship trophy on the mantle back home in Owensboro, Kentucky it has worked out well for Nicky Hayden.

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2017 Donington Park WorldSBK Round Up: Kawasaki's 100th, A Streak Broken, And Silly Season Stirs

The WorldSBK paddock and the racing community came together at Donington Park to pay tribute to Nicky Hayden but after two great races in the Superbike class, a Supersport race that saw great battles and a Supersport 300 race that saw a three rider scrap for the win, it was the racing that paid the biggest tribute to The Kentucky Kid.

The weekend started and ended on an emotional note but it was Kawasaki that took the spoils with a dominant weekend that saw the Japanese marque claim Superbike, Superstock and Supersport honors. With victories for Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea the manufacturer also clocked up their 100th victory in WorldSBK.

In parc ferme after the race the release of emotion was clear to see with both riders enjoying the moment with the team. The celebratory mood started with Rea giving his son, Jake, a lift into the closed area on the tank of his ZX10-RR and from that point onwards it was clear how much the win meant for the world champion.

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Nicky Hayden Retrospective Part 1: A Journey Through His Past

As a tribute to Nicky Hayden, who tragically died last week, succumbing to the injuries sustained in a cycling accident, we will be running a series of three articles over the next couple of days, by WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast member Steve English.

After Steve's tribute to Nicky Hayden posted earlier, the second article is part one of a long look back at Nicky's early years, and the passion for racing he developed in childhood. It explains some of the motivation which drove the American to such great heights of success. Written before Hayden's tragic death, the quotes from Nicky and from his father Earl are both still in the present tense. But Hayden's story is such a powerful one, it deserves to be heard as it was told.

Nicky Hayden, a journey through his past

Growing up in Kentucky Nicky Hayden was a motorcycle racing protegé from an early age but winning hasn't come easy to the Hayden family

Over the last 15 years Nicky Hayden has become on of the most recognisable faces in the motorcycle racing world. He's morphed from the Kentucky Kid to an old hand of the paddock and now the Kentucky Legend.

But where did that legendary status come from? Hard work, dedication and an insatiable love of racing are the traits that have made Hayden famous but the cornerstone has always been family and loyalty.

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A Tribute To Nicky Hayden, By Steve English

As a tribute to Nicky Hayden, who tragically died last week, succumbing to the injuries sustained in a cycling accident, we will be running a series of three articles over the next couple of days, by WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast member Steve English.

The first piece is Steve's moving tribute and memories of Hayden from working with him in both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks.

I've always been a fan of racing and from my earliest memories all I can remember is watching racing and loving it. From when I started watching motorcycle racing, I was drawn towards Flat Track racers from the United States. Perhaps it was because the risks they take are so similar to Road Racing in Ireland, or just their style on a bike. There was always an attraction for me towards Flat Trackers and as a child the riders I admired were Americans who grew up on the dirt. Whether it was hearing stories of Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer or watching Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz, the Americans held a certain mystique for me.

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2017 Donington Park WorldSBK Race 1 Notes: Weird Crashes And Tough Performances

Notes and quotes on the first WorldSBK race from our man on the ground at Donington Park:

On a day when Nicky Hayden wasn't far from anyone's minds the WorldSBK paddock paid tribute to The Kentucky Kid. With a minute's silence, tribute videos and the Stars and Stripes fluttering in the breeze as fans lined Donington Park the American flag it was the racing that truly honored Hayden.

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2017 Le Mans Sunday Round Up: An Age Of Champions

It sucks being the best rider in the world. Just as you believe you have everything under control and can dominate your rivals, along comes some jumped up kid with ideas above his station, determined to administer a king-sized kicking to your behind. That kid has answers to all the tricks you learned to use to beat your rivals, and now you have to reinvent yourself, push harder than you wanted just to stay in the game.

Back in 1998, for example, a cocky Italian swaggered into the 500cc class and threatened the supremacy of Mick Doohan. Doohan finished Max Biaggi off at the end of that year, but he had to dig deep. After Doohan retired, another cocky Italian took his place to rough Biaggi up, just as the Roman Emperor thought he owned the premier class. After a string of titles, Valentino Rossi, the cocky Italian in question, found himself facing a couple of rookies giving him real trouble. Casey Stoner beat him at the second time of asking in 2007, then Jorge Lorenzo took the fight to him inside Rossi's own team, getting the better of him in 2010.

Just as Lorenzo was settling in to take what he considered as his rightful place atop the MotoGP pile, along came a cheeky-faced Spanish youngster on a record-breaking spree, winning his second race and the title at his first attempt. After winning two titles in a row, then an impressive third last year, Marc Márquez suddenly finds himself grappling with an improbably fast Yamaha rider with steel in his soul and the name of a warrior (albeit a fictional one). And in addition to Maverick Viñales, Márquez has to contend with Johann Zarco, who has sprung from Moto2 like a jack-in-the-box, scaring the living daylights out of the regulars.

This is the circle of racing. Every racing series is in a state of permanent revolution, where the newcomers dream up new ways of usurping the established riders, and the old guard have to adapt or die. The moment you get comfortable is the moment your era has passed. The ultimate reward for being top dog is to ride around with a massive target on your back.

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2017 Le Mans MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Zarco's Brilliance, Rossi's Non-Retirement, And Miller's Mental Fortitude

It has been a tough weekend for a lot of people at Le Mans. The weather has done just about everything to confound and perplex the riders, conditions changing every session. Friday went from wettish to very wet, Saturday went from drying to almost completely dry. There hasn't been a single session of stable weather with a consistent and unchanging track.

That has caused a lot of problems, especially in MotoGP, shaking up the qualifying system based around the combined times through all three free practice sessions. For the fans, though, it's been fantastic, producing two of the most exciting qualifying sessions we have seen for a while. Tricky conditions in free practice put Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and local hero Johann Zarco into Q1, producing fireworks in the battle for who gets through to Q2. Then, in Q2, the battle happened all over again, this time in a straight up slugfest for the front row. That went right down to the wire, the first three safe only once the dust had settled.

The weather reignited the debate over MotoGP's qualifying system, a common complaint among several riders, and also a regular topic at the Safety Commission, the meeting where riders and organizers gather to discuss how to make racing safer. Andrea Dovizioso voiced the concern on Saturday, despite having made it through Q1 and into Q2. "It’s really stressful, these rules for everybody because every practice has to be a qualifying," the Ducati rider said. "You have to be in the top 10 because the weather can change."

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2017 Le Mans MotoGP Friday Round Up: Wasted Day In The Wet, And Tire Wars Revisited

"A wasted day, again at Le Mans," was Cal Crutchlow's verdict on the first day of practice at the French circuit. He had a point: the first session of practice started wet but dried out towards the end, though the track was never really fully dry. FP2 started completely wet, with plenty of rain, but again the rain stopped and the track improved a little. At no time did the track ever really become consistently one thing or another. And with dry weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday, there was not much to learn.

"It’s just a joke," Crutchlow complained. "I don’t know why we come here again at this time of the year. First of all, obviously I really believe we should have a race in France, I like coming to France, the fans are completely mad and I have a good rapport with them. But I don’t know why we come here and I don’t know why we come here now. No idea. Every year, I can’t tell you a year I’ve raced in MotoGP where it’s been sunny all weekend, I don’t think."

Naturally, this kicked off a heated debate among the various nationalities of journalists over whose country has the worst weather, with Silverstone and Assen the candidates giving Le Mans a proper run for their money. Crutchlow remained firm. "I love Le Mans, the history is superb, bike racing at Le Mans is massive as well as car racing. But the circuit’s no good. It’s stop-start and the time of the year’s always raining." It isn't 'always' raining at Le Mans, of course. But it feels like it does.

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