The current racing climate, namely the battle between our headliners, Rossi, Marquez & Lorenzo, has really got me thinking about loyalty, rivalries and paying respect. Motor racing tends to ignite passion within riders and fans alike. But what exactly is it about motor sports that drive this? [Pun intended] As a massive MotoGP fan, it’s been incredibly interesting watching the riders on and off the track these past 12 months. We’ve seen some much needed displays of sportsmanship, and some down-right lack-lustre shows of disrespect.
Loyalty is a funny thing. People show their passion (and subsequent loyalty) towards just about anything and inevitably take sides. Big rivalries in Australia include Ford v Holden, Queensland v New South Wales and Hawthorne v Geelong. Around the world we have India vs Pakistan, Celtic v Rangers, Man United v Liverpool and Honda v Yamaha. Loyalty doesn’t stop at brands or teams. When you think of great sporting rivalries throughout history you also frequently think of the sportsmen involved; Senna v Prost, Schwantz v Rainey, Palmer vs Nicklaus and in recent history Federer v Nadal. I love that rivalries bring out the best of people. The competition is fierce; it brings celebrations to a fever pitch and makes winning all the sweeter, even if you are just a fan watching in the comfort of your own home. This said, rivalries can also bring out the worst both within competitors, but also their loyal fans.
So how does someone become ‘loyal’ to something? For many, it is simply where they were born or raised. For example, if you are born in Queensland, you support Queensland, no questions asked. For other people it is who your family supports. If your parents or siblings support a team or individual there is a fair chance you will grow up supporting them too.
Loyalty originates from a range of factors. In my experience, people develop loyalty based on how they view or perceive something, or as a result of their ‘connection’ with something. For me, I love an underdog. In my mind, I originally perceived the Aprilia brand as the underdog within the Australian market. I’m now a devout Aprilia fan. Originally a small, relatively unknown Italian brand, Aprilia made (and still make) fantastic machines. Sticking it to the larger manufacturers, both on and off the race track, they’ve continued to carve a niche market internationally since I originally started supporting them. Here’s hoping they perform in MotoGP this year! Charisma plays a big part too, in both brands and people…
Whether you love him or hate him, when Valentino Rossi arrived, he turned the racing scene on its head. Here was a rider that was not only winning races, but also with a flair and loveable presence that had never been seen before. People seem to connect with Rossi. They either decide to love him in spite of him being a lunatic, or hate him because he’s a lunatic. Either way, Valentino attracts supporters like few others. At MotoGP races it is amazing to see the masses of people wearing their VR46 livery cheering for him. Unfortunately, being so avidly devoted to something can also cloud judgment.
With the calamitous end to last year’s MotoGP season, the Rossi v Jorge Lorenzo rivalry was at an all-time high. After years of being Mr. Cool, Rossi finally cracked, making accusations towards the ‘Spanish mafia’ and becoming embroiled in a fierce contest with Marc Marquez at Sepang. The result was Marquez crashing out of the race and Rossi ultimately losing the world championship to Lorenzo, most notably due to his relegation to last on the grid for the final race. All 3 riders acted childishly, Marquez and Rossi on the track and Lorenzo by giving the thumbs down on the podium and by being Mr. Smug in general (I don’t know whether it’s just his face or that’s how he actually is…?). The only rider to gain any face from the whole incident was Dani Pedrosa. He showed class and civility when the others could only antagonise and bicker.
While I have my favorites, I pride myself for looking at things objectively and with a clear head. I can completely understand if someone simply likes one manufacturer or person more than another, hell I do. But unfortunately zealot views can distort a person’s reasoning and actions (or maybe its ignorance or stupidity?). There is friendly banter that we all love, but unfortunately internet forums have been frequently delving into Rossi or Lorenzo bashing (you can throw Marquez in there too). And this behavior has continued at the track, with fans disrespectfully booing riders and being plain ignorant of riders’ talents and abilities.
With the sad death of Luis Salom at the last GP, it was great to see Marquez and Rossi shake hands and (hopefully) put the past behind them.
After what transpired last year, it’s hard to see them being the great friends they once were, but being a good sportsperson doesn’t mean you have to love one another either. It was great to see them be respectful of Luis’ passing and seemingly realise, that it is a racing sport. The competition is great, but these are real lives that are on the line. I say, time to put differences aside and damn well enjoy it. Hopefully the fans can do the same.
P.s. Go Rossi!!!
Alright, enough serious talk. Until next time, keep it OnTheBackWheel!