MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Bike racers were never choirboys
Just in case you think motorcycle racers used to be different, here’s something I wrote back in 2003
“This is bike racing, not classical music,” opined former 250cc world champion Max Biaggi after Doriano Romboni accused him of dirty tricks on the last lap of the 1994 250cc German Grand Prix.
Pretty obvious, really, because there’s not a half-successful racer in the world who doesn’t get up to some kind of mischief in his quest for glory.
Interestingly, while researching this story I quickly realised that it’s only retired riders who will talk openly about this kind of stuff – the guys who are still racing don’t want to admit what they get up to.
There are many dirty tricks of the track, starting with the standard stuff that everyone does – like gently moving a rival off line when braking into a corner, or easing an opponent away from the grippy line mid-turn. Then there’s the rougher tactics – like shutting the throttle halfway through a corner to force someone into taking drastic avoiding action, thus losing them vital time. And then there’s the serious stuff – like running a rival onto the grass at high speed, or deliberately colliding with them, or hitting their kill switch, or shutting their throttle or punching or kicking them.
Even legends like ‘King’ Kenny Roberts and Mick Doohan happily admit to getting dirty. It’s just what goes on – it’s a war out there. Like it or not, bike racing is a ferocious game of testosterone-charged heavyweight boxing with high-powered engines attached. Maybe it would be cool if it was nice and gentlemanly but that’s not how it works. Even back in the so-called chivalrous days of the 1950s and 1960s there were tales of nefarious happenings, like racers in their pudding-basin helmets spitting at each other during races. And if these revelations make you watch bike racing with a more cynical eye, so be it. If you want peace and love, you’d better go elsewhere.
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.