Randy Mamola Calls For Compulsory Rider Meetings In MotoGP

The 2011 MotoGP season has been among the most controversy-filled seasons in recent memory. While the races themselves have been far from memorable, the off-track rhetoric - fueled in part by a few on-track clashes - has been scintillating, with barely a week going by without riders accusing each other of a wide spectrum of misdemeanors and various crimes. But the rhetoric has generated much heat and little or no light: once the riders return to the track, the arguments and incidents continue unabated.

To put an end to this situation, former 500cc rider and legendary founder of the Riders for Health charity Randy Mamola has called for MotoGP to institute a compulsory riders' meeting at the start of every race event. At that meeting, the riders would be able to talk through the issues that are worrying them and confront each other about their behavior on track, and do it behind closed doors and away from the glare of the media, Mamola suggested. Only by having such meetings - similar to the compulsory driver meetings held in Formula One - will the riders be able to clear the air and leave their disagreements behind them, freeing them up to focus on the racing, instead of on who said what about whom.

"We really need a compulsory riders briefing in this paddock," Mamola told MotoMatters.com at Assen. "If the riders can talk these things through behind closed doors, then there'll be less bitching in public," Mamola said. The main aim of holding such meetings was to get the riders to talk, and to actually listen to each other, instead of communicating via journalists and on-track gestures.

Mamola used Casey Stoner's antics aimed at riders who follow him as an example: "Look at Casey giving people the finger on the track. That kind of thing makes the championship look bad, and it doesn't make any difference, when those guys have their helmets on, they don't care if he's giving them the finger," Mamola said. "If Casey had to walk into a room and face these guys every Thursday, he wouldn't be doing that." That would be a two-way street, Mamola added. "If those riders who are trying to catch a tow off Casey had to sit and look him in the eye while Casey explained why he thought it was dangerous, they'd listen. But if he just flips them the bird while they've got their helmets on, they're just going to ignore him."

Mamola drew a similar parallel with Marco Simoncelli. So many riders had been accusing Simoncelli of being dangerous, Mamola said, yet Simonceli was still making the same mistakes over and over. This caused Jorge Lorenzo to say that Simoncelli just never learned. But if Simoncelli had to face his peers every Thursday before the race, things might be different. "Look at Simoncelli," Mamola said. "You could see after the crash he looked like a kicked puppy, but the other guys don't see that. If he has to go to a rider meeting on Thursday, walk into the room and own up to making a mistake, the other guys can see from his face how he feels about it."

The meeting should be run by and for the riders, Mamola emphasized, though that would not exclude them taking others along for support. "The meeting should be just for the riders," Mamola said, "but team managers, whatever, they can go along too as long as they keep their mouths shut. This is about getting the riders to talk to each other."

The need for a riders meeting is pressing. The only place riders currently meet is in the Safety Commission, but attendance there is usually sparse. "There's usually five, six guys there," Nicky Hayden said during his press debrief, the rest choosing to stay away. The Safety Commission has a specific role, that of improving safety for the riders at the tracks they race at. A compulsory rider meeting would have a much broader remit, and be a place where riders could unburden themselves of anything they had to say, on whatever subject, Mamola explained.

The riders themselves are far from enthusiastic about such a meeting, however. They already have a very full schedule on a race weekend, and adding another hour or so on Thursday would not be popular. However, if the riders can be persuaded of the benefits of such a meeting, then perhaps it could yet be organized. It would also need the blessing of the organizers, the most obvious body to facilitate such a meeting being Race Direction. With Paul Butler stepping down at the end of this year, and current MotoGP Technical Director Mike Webb taking his place, the 2012 season would be the perfect time to introduce such a briefing.

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Comments

It never occurred to me that they didn't have one.

It is surely worth a try. It is only right and proper that the riders air their grievances face to face rather than through the press. I can't imagine it will take a whole hour, usually.

I would suggest Randy chair the meeting, as well.

I totally agree that Randy should run the meeting. He would be perfect for that position. He could also call out what the problem is like he just did in the article. I just saw the Senna movie and the Drivers meeting scene was amazing.

With the racing being, uh, a bit stale this year, is Dorna necessarily SO disappointed about all of the off/on-track confrontations and media wars?...

As others have posted- I am very surprised that a rider's meeting does not already happen. Someone have a logical reason why?

John

But do we actually want to reduce the amount of drama between the races? After all, this has been pretty much the most entertaining part of the season so far.
And added publicity is probably good for the sport overall, because as they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity.

I'll stand corrected, but I haven't seen Casey flip anyone the bird, I've seen him shake his fist, gesture with his hand (all fingers pointing up) but I have never seen him give the bird. I think that is a little inflammatory itself coming from Mamola. I'm sure he wouldn't have used this example last year.

They ate out of the same hospitality tent for the last 4 years.. do you think it didn't occur to Randy to walk over to Casey and tell him he `is making the championship look bad'. Funny how it's coming out now that Casey has moved on. No problem saying to his face???.... I don't think so! Me thinks Randy is just jealous that Casey was getting more tows on the Ducati than he does!

Perhaps if Randy had to front up to a panel of his peers and stand by his statements..

I echo some of the comments above about the current paddock politics tending to spice up an otherwise dull championship.

Me personally, I can watch one guy go around a track balls-out all day long, but for the casual observer and potential new fans all they are really seeing at the moment is a small field and a processional race, with 30-60sec gaps between groups at times.

With Simoncelli putting his own stamp on the championship this year - that is, affecting the points Lorenzo & Pedrosa have earnt for a start, there are only a couple of remote possibilities to make this championship race come back to life, or else Stoner will likely just skip away to an early parade in October.

As for Stoner shaking his fist, or laying one on RDP for a rookie move - so be it. It may be unprofessional, but it has created alot of publicity and that is good for the sport. The real issue I guess is when those casual fans decide to tune in to see this Stoner vs Rossi debate play out on track, they instead see 30+secs between them, and lining up at #3 and #11 on the grid was as close of a battle as they had all weekend.

For this to work, the riders will have to be both supportive and convinced that it is worth their time to attend, or else it will just be in the same breath as the current safety meetings, with a small handful of guys actually interested in sounding out their thoughts, and if compulsory, the rest just waiting for permission to leave.

Compulsory rider meeting to discuss what ? Rules of engagagement with your on track enemy in any particular corner. Which rider will be elected to chair such a meeting ? Who will be assigned to draw up the meetings agenda or is Randy suggesting that they all spend an hour or so prior to each race 'bonding' with one another.
Nicky Hayden for councillor/moderator would be a good pick.
Valentino Rossi for media spokesperson and Casey Stoner to call meetings adjournment at his sole discression... Immediately,I presume.
Pointless. Race direction are there to enforce rules and fair play on the day.

Some pairs of over-sized gloves and 3min rounds... sort it out in the room and shake hands afterwards. Stoner v Rossi, Lorenzo v Simoncelli... could be fun.

I like your thinking - let's take it one step further. Tag team wrestling, like the good ol' days of Hulk Hogan and Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake. Or Sumo suits, everyone loves sumo suits :P

Spain v Italy, USA v The World, Asia-Pac v EU, Stoner & Lorenzo v Rossi & Simoncelli...

If they televised it, they could also solve the sponsorship funding dilemma.

Anybody watching Assen would have seen Stoner give Spies a tap on the shoulder to attract his attention that was an exact replay of the one he gave de Puniet - followed by a 'congratulations' handshake rather than an 'eff off, you mug' gesture. Spies didn't seem to mind the tap at all..

Maybe they can work a rider's code: a tap on the shoulder for 'well done', a smack over the helmet for 'wake up, dozy', frantic pointing behind for 'Simoncelli is coming, abandon ship!' etc.

Just what the riders need, a meeting so they can share their feelings. After they're through with the Super Sic type issues and the towing type issues, they can move on to the "how it feels to always be in the last row at the start issues" and the "people are always passing me issues" and the "how come I'm not on an A-team issues". There will definately be a need for a meeting monitor as someone will be certain to talk out of turn and someone will be sure to say something mean. Someone will have to be responsable for issuing time-outs. Randy, stick to your charity work, OK?

Well perhaps there does need to be a scheduled one off air clearing meeting of them all for an hour. Otherwise a normal 15 - 30 min briefing as happens at every race meeting I've ever attended (usually one each day of a meeting) to update riders on conditions / changes, procedures specific to this venue etc. The likes of which caught Biaggi out so badly at Monza.

As for middle fingered gestures and arm thumps, well that's all part of the gladitorial nature of our sport which enhances the spectacle. Please don't sanitise it any more than it already is - the fun factor is rapidly diminishing. Many will remember that Rossi has flicked a few birds in his time as well as giving Biaggi a Mosquito bite on the nose! Great side show drama.

It seems to me that calling for a riders briefing is just a knee jerk reaction to the Simoncelli issue. It will be well attended whilst there is a hot topic such as this and will then fizzle out.
Surely the only issues that are important are those that relate to safety? Many of the riders evidently see Simoncelli's riding as a safety problem and I'm sure Stoner's concern at being followed during practice sessions is the same. If the Safety Commission meetings aren't getting this done why does anyone think that a different forum will? Oh, and having a free-for-all "discussion" amongst riders sounds like a recipe for anarchy and what's the point in that unless it's televised.....

I can't see this working...

Scenario 1

Simoncelli (in an out of character moment) knocks off Pedrosa in a dangerous pass. He then claims he can't make it to the meeting because he has a cold / hurt his finger / previous appointment with his hairdresser.

Scenario 2

Simoncelli (in an out of character moment) knocks Lorenzo off in a first lap incident due to cold tyres. The two both meet off camera at the riders meeting and start exchanging insults; without the media present to force them to keep some degree of cool, things result in a Rossi and Biaggi mosquito bite type incident. What happens then? Are we going to see riders banned for an off track brawl?

The elite participants of any sport are not supposed to like one another, that's why they are the elite. The competitive attitude is what sport is all about. Rossi and Stoner are never going to be mates whilst they are still racing and it's unlikely that they will be afterwards. Trying to get all of the riders together for a group hug to talk about feelings is a complete non-starter. They won't even get together to talk about safety on a regular basis! Forcing them to go will result in everyone sat down with their arms folded like a bunch of kids waiting for the bell, desperate to get out of class.

Scenario 3

Randy Mamola: "Anybody have anything they'd like to talk about?"
Riders (collectively in a bored tone) "No!"

It's only because we are having so few exciting races that any of this is being aired at the moment. If people could do their talking on the track in wheel to wheel racing, then there wouldn't be all the pent up frustrations. As it is, one rider usually dominates and all the others blame it on vastly superior equipment, better set up etc which causes more resentment.

Get rid of the fuel limits and get Bridgestone to supply some tyres that aren't as good on lap 20 as they are on lap 2

Bloody prima donna's,

Most motorcycle races, at least what i have participated in, motorcross, enduro and rally raid, involved riders briefings, which had to be attended.

This is much like flying for the military, except there you also had the obligatory debrief. Its easy to endanger someone's life if you only have to face them in the sky or on the track, once out of plane or off the bike face to face then people do get some form of respect for eachother.

It seems like the vurtual world is taking over. People dont need human interaction and start to live in thier own little world.

ps drop the stoner v rossi v lorenzo v whatever. he would do this he would do that. pfffff kindergarten level.

I think they should televise the meeting rather than the race.

At least we'll be able to see 17 of them in relatively close proximity for a period of more than 30 seconds after the start.

I think they should get R Lee Ermey to moderate the meeting; he made such a good counsellor on that Geico commercial. He can throw a box of tissues at them and call them jackwagons.

The last thing I want to see in GP racing is the corporate-enforced, sanitized comments you get from the NFL nowadays. Everything is so politically correct, and whenever someone does actually express their feelings, they immediately apologize and say they didn't mean it. It's nice to see athletes with a little personality.

"The last thing I want to see in GP racing is the corporate-enforced, sanitized comments". Too late. Valentino in particular is the master of corporate-speak. Much as I used to admire him, I don't believe a word he says these days, such is the level of manipulation he practices as a matter of course.
Where is the open, direct Vali of the 250 era??? Gone, in the face of sponsorships with too many Euros attached. (Sigh)
And those that speak their minds are pilloried for doing so.

They all communicate differently some can, some not so well, but all have there own agenda first and everything else comes second.. Some are just a bit more considerate to those that pay the money so we can all watch it.. It's possible to do that without selling out, selling short is another thing altogether..

It's impressive to me that so many commenters presume to know more about the MotoGP rider experience than Randy Mamola. Surely there are more than 151 GP starts shared amongst the people offering their opinion here? No? Oh...

What Randy seems to be attempting to address is that the lack of communication between the riders is contributing to negative riding and bad attitudes on the track and in the paddock. The best way to address this kind of behavior is to sit down in a room and talk it out. Part of the problem is that riders don't talk to one another if there is an issue and it gets blown out of proportion. None of this prevents riders from expressing their feelings to the camera or press (BTW: except for Colin Edwards, if you think any of the opinions for the camera or press are unvarnished then you're an idiot). Instead, it enables them to express their feelings towards each other, which makes people feel better when they have to work together, even if they don't like one another. Those feelings might be 'go suck eggs', but shared directly they are better than the endless eye rolling and cold-shouldering that you see in the paddock.

They aren't going to share a group hug.

Bringing team principals to the meeting is not a good idea. It should be riders only, along with one or two disciplinary race officials. What happens in the room stays in the room. They do it in F1. They even do it in NASCAR, a (miserably lame) series where confrontation is more frequent and driver antagonism more direct.

I didn't realize that GP experience was necessary to know how human beings relate to each other, rider or not. It's a work/competitive environment, which we all likely have experience in, whether or not that experience is in GP racing is irrelevant.

The riders don't need someone to be their Daddy and make them talk to each other. They are men; if they have a problem then they should take it upon themselves to do what they think is right. Forcing these guys to talk face to face won't solve anything; they will say the right things to get out of the meeting and continue to think what they think outside of it. If they truly want to resolve a conflict, no one can force them to do so; if Sic wants to clear the air with Lorenzo, he'll do it man-to-man. If everyone wants Sic to chill out and stop crashing everyone, does he really need a rider's meeting to learn that? Seems like pretty common knowledge if you ask me. A rider's meeting would serve no other purpose than to give a private forum to the same things they already say in public. Redundant.

Not so simple Ghostdog. To mediate anything one needs to come from a position of trusted authority and experience to have the respect or mana to control such a potentially volatile environment. Mamola fits that remit, as would quite a few others. We are talking about aggressive highly competitive young men engaged in a fortnightly battle in which their lives are quite simply, at many times during a race, in the hands of their counterparts. This is not some Ricky Gervais office pantomime with paper clips being flicked at each other and staplers drawn from mock holsters.

I am all for them sitting down and airing their grievances - not every meeting, but a couple of times a year. If one or two need to be told to pull their heads in a little, so be it - collectively opinions weigh more heavily. I've been the broken boned on track victim of a move very similair to Sic on Pedrosa and was none too happy about it.

I disagree that the GP experience is irrelevant. We are only having a discussion on this board because Mamola said there needs to be a rider meeting. If, for example, I said the same thing, then everyone would just ignore it out of hand. So his opinion matters, at least to some. Also, experience interacting in this type of high-risk, high pressure environment is fairly limited. People write books about it. If a former rider sees people acting immaturely and suggests that putting them in room together would help, then I would give that considerable weight. But that's me.

I do agree that riders don't need someone to be their Daddy. They are adults, but I'm not sure they are men, mostly because some of them don't act like it (especially Simoncelli). Sitting everyone down in a room and maturely explaining the rules, giving air for grievances and setting standards may not make a difference. But it may, and for that reason I think they should do it.

It's very much about attitude. If the riders come to the meeting and expect, "this is bullshit", then it will be bullshit. If they come to the meeting with the expectation that their issues will be carefully considered, addressed privately, away from the media and their inflammatory voices, then it will add value. Yeah someone will always be unhappy, but this is racing, so someone is always unhappy anyway.

Didn't Rossi go and apologise to Stoner immediately after the crash at Jerez? All I seem to remember was a lot of people criticizing him for not taking his helmet off and allowing the press to follow him. There is nothing stopping any of the riders talking to one another at any time if they want to.

If I have a problem with someone at work, I will talk to them one on one - I certainly won't raise it in front of everyone else. If I don't feel the need to talk to them about it; then I'm either not sorry or I don't care what they think. Forced apologies help no-one.

Nothing is stopping Simoncelli going to see Pedrosa or Lorenzo to apologise for his mistakes; he could do it off camera away from the media. If he isn't prepared to do it on his own - how is trying to force him to do going to help?

Randy is an icon but my experience is that riders meetings are boring and a waste of time - 95% of the time. Even more so at the MotoGP level.

For the remaining 5% of the time, when a need arises, call a mandatory rider meeting and read them the riot act if neccessary.