THE PAIN GAME HARD AS NAILS

Mo­togp’s mid-sea­son break gives rid­ers a chance to heal their bat­tered bodies be­fore rac­ing re­sumes next week. But how tough are to­day’s well-pro­tected rac­ers com­pared to the he­roes of old?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Feature - By Mat Ox­ley MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR @MCNNEWS mo­tor­cy­cle­news

Mo­togp racer: surely the dream job of ev­ery keen mo­tor­cy­clist: “Money for noth­ing and chicks for free”. But in re­al­ity it’s not like that in the slight­est. Mo­togp stars might get to ride the best mo­tor­cy­cles in the world and most of them get paid very well to do it, but the price they pay is con­stant pain, all through their ca­reers and into old age. When you see Cal Crutchlow chat­ting on the grid, try­ing to look happy, he’s prob­a­bly hurt­ing all over. Bri­tain’s most suc­cess­ful racer since Barry Sheene crashes more than most. “I’ve al­ways been a crasher and that’s the way it is,” he says bluntly.

Right now Crutchlow will be re­lax­ing some­where nice, nurs­ing his wounds and get­ting ready for the sec­ond half of the sea­son. He has al­ready jumped off 11 times this year, keep­ing the Clin­ica Mo­bile doc­tors very busy.

“As a racer you’re never fit, you al­ways have some sort of in­jury,” adds the 31-year-old. “In ev­ery­day life I have a sore shoulder be­cause there’s arthri­tis in it be­cause it’s been dis­lo­cated and it’s been bro­ken. My knees also kill me and my arms too; they’re a problem for a lot of us.”

So how does he cope with the con­stant pain? “You just have to get on with it and do what you’ve got to do.”

Fall­ing off mo­tor­cy­cles has al­ways hurt and prob­a­bly al­ways will. But times do change. GP rac­ing in the 1950s and 1960s was very dif­fer­ent to mod­ern-day rac­ing. Now the tracks are safer, the bikes safer, the rid­ing gear and med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties bet­ter.

The irony is that the safer Grand Prix rac­ing be­comes, the more of­ten the rid­ers fall off. Last year there were more than a thou­sand ac­ci­dents dur­ing the Mo­togp sea­son – a first in Grand Prix history – which only goes to show how hard rid­ers will try when they know they are un-

‘Last year there were more than 1000 ac­ci­dents in the GP sea­son’

likely to get killed or se­ri­ously in­jured. Then again, Shoya Tomizawa, Marco Si­mon­celli, Luis Salom…

In the early days of GP rac­ing, your first crash could be your last be­cause most tracks were bor­dered by houses, walls, trees and a few hay­bales, if you were lucky. Sev­eral deaths per sea­son was the norm, which is why 15-times world cham­pion Gi­a­como Agostini will never for­get those days.

“Once I saw flags waved and hay­bales scat­tered ev­ery­where,” he re­calls. “As I rode past I saw a head on one side of the road and a body on the other. It was not easy, rac­ing like this. At that time we only dreamed of cov­er­ing the trees with hay­bales, we didn’t even ask for the trees to be cut down. We couldn’t even imag­ine tracks with run-off ar­eas, leathers with ar­mour and airbags…”

Ago and Sheene started the move­ment to im­prove safety, which even now is an on­go­ing cam­paign. But rid­ers still get hurt be­cause they’re al­ways push­ing over the edge. And when they do go over that edge and get hurt, it’s their job to keep rid­ing through the pain.

His crash in FP2 at Sach­sen­ring in 2013 was the worst Cal Crutchlow can re­mem­ber R AC E DAY De­spite the trauma of the week­end, he fin­ished sec­ond to Marc Mar­quez! PRAC­TICE

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