What would you rather be, the fastest rider in the world, or the World Champion? Because those two things don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Joan Mir reminded us of that last year, when he won the MotoGP World Championship after only standing on top of the podium once. He was rarely the fastest man, but his consistency prevailed and he became World Champ. This is a common phenomenon that tends to happen when the fast riders lack consistency and/or crash. And if you’re a bike racing fan you won’t need me to tell you that plenty of the fastest definitely have an affinity with the kitty litter. Let’s call them fast crashers.
And it’s nothing new. Cast your mind back (if you can) to the 80s and 90s when the likes of Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz were giving it big licks on the GP scene. I’ve picked those two names on purpose. They were both really fast in the late 80s/early 90s. And, to be fair, both world champions. For the most part, there wasn’t a great deal of difference between the pace of the two Americans. Rainey though, won three world championships (’90, ’91, ’92), and Schwantz only won one (’93). Why? Because Schwantz was one of many fast crashers, known for his ‘win it or bin it’ riding style. It’s probably why so many people loved him, but it’s also why his compatriot and bitter rival won two more world titles than him. Being a fast crasher might win you fans, but it doesn’t win you trophies.
The here and now
And contemporary bike racing is just as rife with fast crashers as it’s ever been. Take the Suzuki MotoGP pairing of Joan Mir and Alex Rins. Last year Mir proved that all you have to do to win a championship is be consistently there-or-there-abouts. This year, his teammate Rins has tends to be the faster rider. But he’s also tends to crash. At the time of writing, the Spaniard’s lobbed it in the last four MotoGP races. And that’s not the type of behaviour Suzuki expect from a factory rider; they prefer World Champions to fast crashers.
But to be fair, at least he hasn’t thrown a nailed-on championship win down the swanny at the eleventh hour. No, the most infuriating performance award goes to Sam Lowes. I’ve lost count of the amount of championships the lad would have won if he’d have learnt to stop crashing. He’s as fast as they come, but Jesus Christ, he’s one of the biggest crashers going. He threw the 2020 Moto2 World Championship away with a few rounds to go by lobbing it on the floor. And after an incredible start to 2021, it looks like he’s up to his old tricks again. Do we need to get some Velcro attached to his seat or something? Because I’m sure I’m not the only one that would dearly love to see Sam win the championship. Lord knows he’s fast enough, he just needs to find a cure for his crashers disease.
But maybe the sport needs it. If the fastest rider always won and never crashed, it would be a bit boring, wouldn’t it. I mean, just look at World Superbikes. No, as much as we all hate seeing our favourite racers crash, it’s part of racing, just like winning. And when you’re giving it everything you’ve got, trying your nuts off, you’re never far away from crashing. That said, if you want to be a world champion, it helps if you can avoid the gravel at all costs.
Who’s your favourite ‘fast crasher’?