If you were watching the Moto3 race from Qatar last weekend, you’ll have seen the crash between Jeremy Alcoba and John McPhee. But in case you haven’t, I’ll tell you what happened. Alcoba clipped the back of Darryn Binder’s bike, hit the deck and sent his bike flying into McPhees head… knocking the Scotsman off. It was a racing incident, although McPhee clearly thought otherwise. In a fit of rage, he stormed over to an apologetic looking Alcoba and proceeded to swing a couple of windmill like arms and the odd kick at his opponent. He’ll pay a €1,000 fine and start the next GP from the pitlane. And he’s obviously very sorry about the whole thing. But what’s the big deal? Are these gravel trap punch-ups really bad for the sport? 44T investigates…
Wanting to kick the shit out of someone that’s just knocked you off your bike isn’t a new thing. There’s been fisticuffs in racing way before Alcoba and McPhee kicked off. And every corner of motorsport, in every corner of the world. In such an adrenaline fuelled sport where most of the protagonists are blokes, what do you think is going to happen?
Obviously though, we live in the 21st century so anything that might upset or offend anyone else is not allowed. That’s why if you twat someone in the gravel trap after they knock you off, you’re going to be the one that pays the price, whatever level you’re racing at. It might be a ban from future events. It might be a monetary fine. They might dock you points or make you start from the back of the grid at the next round. All that, when all you did was express your feeling through the medium of a clenched fist.
The people in charge will argue that these gravel trap punch-ups do nothing but bring the sport into disrepute. I can see why they can’t be seen to be encouraging this kind of behaviour; it’s not very sportsmanlike, but so what? It might not be sportsmanlike, but these sportsmen are only human, after all. Perhaps the odd scrap is the perfect way to remind us that our racing heroes are only humans, like the rest of us.
Perhaps I could swallow the ‘bringing the sport into disrepute’ argument if it made people turn their TVs off. But it doesn’t. It does the opposite. The fans love a bit of it. You’re adding even more excitement into what is already an exciting sport. But as well as that, you’re adding a twist. A plotline. A new talking point. And that can only be good for ‘the sport’, can’t it?
And let’s face it, what harm can it really do? Punching someone in the head when they’re wearing a full face racing helmet is hardly going to do any lasting damage is it? Even if you took a running jump and stuck a flying nut on them, you’d probably both just end up falling over and giving everyone a good laugh. There really is no harm in it.
Some racers might have sponsors with particular values and principles that don’t line up with the idea of them beating up a fellow competitor. And that’s fine. But that is an issue between a rider and his own personal or team sponsor. Because if a rider does something a sponsor doesn’t like, it’d be nothing new for the sponsor to either pull out completely, or impose their own sanctions. Most sponsors, I would wager, would be glad of the air time. Or they would if they got any. Unfortunately though, more often than not the TV crews seem reluctant to let us see the full fight play out. And if you ask me, that’s a crying shame.
So should we allow it? Would it be a good thing if gravel trap punch-ups weren’t so ill-received by the powers that be? Do you want to see racers wear their hearts on their sleeves once again, and deal with their adversaries like grown men? Even if it is only like pissed-up grown men in a pub carpark. Because although it might be an unpopular opinion with some, I definitely do. If I was in charge, I’d scrap the fines for scrapping racers and tell the TV people to give the gravel trap punch-ups the airtime they deserve. It’d likely upset a few people but oh well. They’ll just have to deal with it or switch back to the Antiques Roadshow, and leave the racing for the rest of us.
Who’s with me?