Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Two wheels...and a motor

 Two wheels and a motor

It's hard to live here in Italy and not see news about things with motors and wheels, especially MOTOGP and F1. When Ferrari or Ducati win it's on the national TV news, same as a national team win in soccer.

Zio Lorenzo's #20 in this photo from Laguna Seca's corkscrew

MOTOGP is free on TV here most Sundays. Zio Lorenzo takes some interest in watching since he's got a bit of experience with two-wheelers and motors. He's also been watching the docu-series about MOTOGP via one of the streaming services.

First up, there seems to be way-too-many "Little League fathers" in the sport these days. We're not talking about Valentino Rossi's dad, he was a competitive racer on the GP circuit and didn't seem to be super-involved in his son's career once he hit the big-time. These dads seem to be either wannabee racers who never hit the big-time or just dads hoping to cash-in on their son's career. They dress up in team livery and sometimes have titles like "assistant" though on the series it looks like the teams at-best just put up with them and hope they stay outta the way.

Too many of the racers in the series seem more interested in pleasing Daddy than anything else. Few of these guys seem very happy with their place in the sport as Daddy is never satisfied. Zio Lorenzo doesn't remember so many of these characters around the sport when he was involved but maybe his memory is faulty?

Second, it seems that way-too-many crashes happen. Zio Lorenzo gets the idea of going too fast in practice, falling off and then backing off a bit the next time round, but he read somewhere that Honda's Marc Marquez crashed 26 times on one season!

Twenty-six crashes in a career Zio can understand...but in one season? How can that be true? But Mr. Marquez currently has a recurrence of he double-vision he suffered from a nasty crash earlier in his career. How many times can you get away with crashing before something really, really bad is the result? Dead, in a wheelchair or with permanent double-vision and brain damage?

In recent years the track run-off areas have been paved over instead of being dirt or grass. Racers can go off the actual racing surface with no problem as long as the stewards don't issue a warning about "coloring outside the lines" and perhaps a long-lap penalty if they keep it up. But there's little risk of crashing so they push even harder with crashes in practice not a big deal as there seems to always be a spare bike at-the-ready along with a new racing suit and helmet when it's time for the actual race.

So perhaps 26 crashes in one season is not a big deal? Unless you bang your head or break some bones and miss a race or two. But how many times can you bang your head before you see double all the time or can't remember what day it is?

Has the sport's zeal for safety actually created a more dangerous situation? Huge boxing gloves protected boxers in the ring from damaging their hands but at the expense of massive blows to the head and the resulting brain-damage, back in the day called being "punch-drunk". NFL players are suffering the same problems as massive men collide time after time, "protected" by huge pads and plastic helmets which seem to incentivize ever-increasing size and speed of the players and the huge collisions the fans seem to love.

When Zio raced, you weren't likely going to benefit from going off the racing surface, though he'll admit Valentino Rossi went off the track in Laguna's corkscrew to pass rival Casey Stoner...and got away with it. But it was rare vs these days when more-often-than-not you see the racers riding onto the red/white striped borders and beyond...with no issues.

But somehow they still crash...often. How many crashes can you have before the law-of-averages, despite the airbag racing suits, gravel traps, air fences and other "safety" measures sends you to the hospital emergency room..only to come out in a wheelchair, cast or coffin or with permanent brain damage?

Sometimes "progress" is mistaken for...progress? Time for a rethink?

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