How deceitful and hypocritical can people get? If you want to know the answer for it, we suggest you take a look at the MotoGP paddock. It is now very well documented that in the March of this year Japan was rocked by an earthquake and a resultant tsunami that destroyed not just the physical infrastructure of Japan but also the lives of millions. Even today there are videos being posted on You Tube and these were made by those who were caught in the devastation and died but the cameras (only some) survived to tell the tale of what happened in Japan. If you have not already seen those scary videos we suggest that you head over to You Tube and do a search for these videos. Even those who survived the tsunami and the earthquake have been rendered homeless and though alive, have lost everything, including families. There are heart rending and gut wrenching tales that can bring tears to even those who are insensitive to others’ suffering. One of the results of this tsunami and earthquake was the over heating of the Daichi Fukushima nuclear reactor and this threatened to become a full fledged melt down bringing fears of radiation that would be worse than those that happened after an accident in Chernobyl in the erstwhile Soviet Union. The other development which will be of interest to you and me is the postponement of the Japanese MotoGP race from its scheduled date in April, 2011. The postponement was indefinite and it was said that after seeing how things progress in Japan if possible another date would be chosen for the MotoGP race. The MotoGP paddock was not one to left out. Every race in May and June saw several riders, team members and officials carrying placards that said “Japan, We are with you”. Even the fans carried banners while some of the riders also pasted stickers proclaiming the same on their steeds. We all prayed 1) for the recovery of the Japanese people and as racing enthusiasts 2) for an alternate date to hold the Japanese MotoGP race. Needless to say the second was only an add on, the first being the priority.
It is well known that the Japanese are assiduous and diligent people who know their region and themselves better than anyone else. They are always in some state of preparation for natural disasters given the fact they are in an earthquake prone region and that volcanoes exist pretty to all the Japanese isles and that most of these volcanoes are active. It only needs a volcano to erupt for earthquakes and tsunamis to follow. They have risen from many tragedies in the past and are a very resilient people who strive to bring everything to normalcy at the fastest speed possible. Let us say this, the Japanese are better at handling natural disasters than any other country. The Daichi Fukushima reactor too was worked on and still being worked on and the levels of atmospheric radiation have been brought down drastically even as per the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Twin ring Motegi circuit is approximately 130 kilometres from Daichi where the Fukushima reactor is. Initially the radiation levels at the twin ring circuit were high. The circuit is called twin ring because it has two kinds of tracks. The first is usual twisty track that is used for MotoGP and Formula1 racing and the second is an oval track with a banking (the sort that are used in America, Indianapolis being a prime example, for Indy Racing and NASCAR Racing). The track is owned entirely by Honda, who use both circuits for extensive testing of their products before they are released into the market. This just one of the two tracks that Honda owns, the other being the famed Suzuka that still hosts the Japanese Formula1 GP. We have just said that the Japanese are a disciplined and resilient people and proof of that came when an announcement was made in June that atmospheric radiation was coming down. Honda to instill confidence in the world actually started repairing the track in June itself and after that test riders regularly rode/drove Honda vehicles at Motegi.
By August it seemed that Japan had recovered sufficiently to put the tragedy behind it and look to rebuilding its future. The Japanese have since then been doing exactly that. In the meanwhile they received great support from other countries in the form of charitable aid, but most importantly there were people working in certain organizations such as the Red Cross who went into areas where radiation levels were pretty high. They stayed in Japan, worked with the local communities and ate the same food that ravaged people were eating. Other technical people even went to the core of Fukushima reactor to help in solving the problem. They had the necessary clothes and gear to protect themselves from the extremely high levels of radiation but nevertheless they were likely to be and were exposed to some atmospheric radiation near the site of the nuclear reactor. These people did not hold placards or banners that said “Japan we are with you”. They were actually in Japan, with the Japanese people and they played an important part in Japan’s recovery process.
When it was obvious that things were settling down the FIM announced in conjunction with Dorna that the MotoGP race would be held in Japan on the 2nd of October, 2011 if there were no problems. For some time there was silence in the paddock and as the date started drawing closer, the rumblings began. The first of the lot who started talking about exposure to radiation and safety was defending MotoGP champion J-Lo (no, not her) or Jorge Lorenzo. He kept saying that it would not be safe and he did not want to go there since he wanted to live for a long time etc. Then came Casey Stoner, who in his brusque and forthright Australian style, declared that nothing and really nothing could take him to Japan. He said “How will it help the Japanese people if I go there? What good will it do to them? Therefore, I am not going, that is it”. Here one must wonder how the banners, placards and all the other such things were helping Japan. If this is not hypocrisy than what is? The other people in the paddock were supposed to have expressed their dislike for the idea of going to Motegi and parleys between riders and Dorna and FIM started. It is to be considered that three out of the four manufacturers in MotoGP are Japanese and in Moto2 all engines are supplied by a Japanese company called Honda and that next year when the 125cc class will be scrapped in favour of a four stroke 250cc class called Moto3, the European manufacturers will cease to exist on the grid.
Another quality of the Japanese that we have not talked about is their pride. They are noble people who are proud of their achievements and the Japanese manufacturers wanted to show how well they have recovered. They were not going to take it kindly if the event was cancelled. Dorna and the FIM had no option but to go around. The Japanese in all fairness asked Dorna to commission an independent agency to tell the teams whether it was safe or not to go to Motegi. ARPA was commissioned and in its report it said that there was no danger of radiation and therefore it was safe to go to Japan. In all this the one thing that has come to the fore is not just the plain stupidity of Lorenzo and Stoner but the wiliness of Rossi. Rossi was waiting in the shadows hoping that Lorenzo and Stoner would succeed in getting the Japanese round cancelled. Soon he realized that was not to be because Lorenzo (under pressure from Yamaha) and Stoner (under pressure from Honda and also from each other since if one did not go the other went he could clinch very valuable points that could make the difference to their championship campaign) began to make conciliatory noises. Stoner said “I said what I said because it was that very day I came to know my wife was pregnant and I was concerned that she and the foetus could be affected by radiation but now I am a little more settled because of all the reports coming out of Japan”. (A paddock insider told us exclusively that Lorenzo wanted to say that his friend’s wife was pregnant and it would be bad for the friend, the wife and the foetus if Lorenzo went to Japan and so he said what he said in the heat of that moment and that it took very severe persuasion from the Yamaha PR personnel to get him to drop this idea).
So Rossi found that the two objects that were creating the shadows in which he was hiding had suddenly moved on and so he stood exposed. After having called Lorenzo and Stoner pussies (not what you are thinking, it was his idea of sissies) in the past, Valentino Rossi demonstrated that he was the biggest pussy of them all (not that meaning, we are a family safe website). Rossi does not give up easily, we know that. It takes something like the Ducati Desmosedici to tame him. He first suggested that Ducati should pull out completely since they were not a Japanese company and so need not have their arms twisted. Dorna and Carmelo Ezpeleta are not what they are for nothing and they found something else in contracts to twist collectively all the arms that were there in Ducati’s MotoGP team and also in its satellite teams. The result Ducati said they will go. Rossi still did not want to go and suggested that the venue be moved to Suzuka which is relatively less affected due to a greater distance from the reactor. Honda simply said that Suzuka was no longer homologated as per FIM and MotoGP norms and there was no question of shifting venues. So a kicking and screaming Valentino Rossi has decided to land in Motegi. Looks like a happy ending to a very sad story, right? Wrong.
We Indians know how to make noises of the wrong variety. Mahindra that runs a 125cc racing team under its own name has gone and offended not just the Japanese but also every self respecting Indian. After buying out Engines Engineering of Italy which had previously supplied 125cc motorcycles to the Chinese manufacturer Loncin and later till last year to an Italian consortium who raced under the Lambretta name, Mahindra decided to announce itself globally. To their credit the effort of Engines Engineering has improved tremendously once they started racing as Mahindra and their bikes have been scoring points which they never did when they were Loncin or Lambretta. Now Mahindra has undone all the good work and the good will by allowing the lily livered lot in their team to stay back in the comfort of their homes, while they were going to hire “local” people to do the work in the team. Team Manager Mufaddal Choonia has this to say. “It was difficult, but we felt it right to offer the choice to our team members and we have to respect their decisions,” said team manager Mufaddal Choonia. “While the information that Dorna has circulated has been very reassuring, it did not seem fair for us to force the guys to head out there if they had their own personal concerns. Of course, it will not make the weekend particularly easy. Mahindra Racing is a slick operation. Each man has his role and they all know the bike inside out. With the temporary staff members we shall do the best we can and hope to carry on the great progress we have made this season”. We hope that Mahindra in fairness to all will leave their motorcycles in Japan so that the radiation from them does not contaminate the sterile Europeans. As if this is not enough, Team JiR in Moto2 has also decided that they will allow their team to stay behind and that they will use the services of technicians from their chassis (TSR) and engine (Honda) makers both of whom are Japanese.
It is obvious that MotoGP comprises of stupid people who do not know that the frequent MRI scans that they go through are far more lethal in radiation terms. than what is now the level of radiation at Motegi. Only a few days ago the Indy Racing series staged its race despite small tremors (after shocks) being felt during the weekend and when cars were on the grid. Motorcycle sport carries the shadow of deadly risk, injury and death in its wake. One assumes that the riders are aware of that. Then why all this rubbish? It is perhaps a demonstration of the lack of feeling. Roger Waters (ex Pink Floyd) was given a small paragraph written by a prisoner undergoing torture in one of the South American countries and he made that the basis of his song “Each Small Candle”. It would not be out of place to quote the lines written by the unknown prisoner.
“Not the torturer shall scare me,
Nor the body’s final fall,
Not the barrels of death’s rifle,
Nor the shadows on the wall,
Not the night when to the ground, the last dim star of pain is hurled,
But the blind indifference of this merciless unfeeling world”.