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?
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