When you’re racing a motorbike the plan is to get in front of as many people as you can. That’s the same whatever level you’re racing at. In fact the plan is to get in front of them all, if possible. But is the plan to get in front of them all by any means necessary? Even if it means doing a bit of dangerous riding?
When it comes to overtaking your opponents in motorcycle racing, there’s a fine line between what might be considered dangerous riding, and a firm (but fair) overtake. Bike racing doesn’t usually give us fans much to argue about, because the general idea of it all, is fairly simple; that is whoever crosses the finish line first, is the winner. But every now and then, there are ‘racing incidents’ that do tend to divide opinion.
A lot of the time, when it’s not 100% clear-cut as to who is at fault, we tend to take the view that the rider we like best is the innocent party. But that’s not always true.
And whilst a lot (most, in fact) of these ‘racing incidents’ definitely are caused by one guilty party, and usually end up with one or more riders on the floor, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re against the rules.
You can’t use any means necessary to get yourself in front of the opposition, Dick Dastardly style, but being forceful is definitely a part of racing. And being able to pull off a forceful move, without it being a dangerous one (or at least without it being picked up as a dangerous one), is one of the things that separates the good riders from the great riders.
What is considered dangerous riding isn’t really black and white. There are certain things that are 100% dangerous, which you wouldn’t need to even think about consulting the rulebook about. Like Romano Fenati’s performance at Aragon in 2018, for example. At the same time, there are incidents that you might need to watch from four or five camera angles, before you can decide whether or not somebody’s broken the rules.
Speaking of the rules, let’s have a look at what the MotoGP rulebook says about dangerous riding:
1.21.2 Behaviour During Practice and Race
Riders must ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit-lane. Any infringement of this rule may be penalised by the FIM MotoGP Stewards.
If you look at the rulebook for most other international and national level motorcycle racing competitions, they’ll say something similar to that. Or at least something as vague as that. No rulebook can legislate for every single situation possible.
Instead, there tend to be a few guidelines that stewards and race direction follow, when they’re deciding who’s to blame for a racing incident, if anyone. And of course whether or not any penalties ought to be dished out.
For example, if you wipe someone out, trying to make a pass, you’ll get in trouble for it if race direction reckon you’d have been unlikely to make the apex of the turn. They’ll say you’ve gone in too hot, you were out of control, and someone’s ended up on the floor because of your dangerous riding.
Likewise, if you try and pass someone from miles back, and take their line away without giving them any warning, race direction will probably take a dim view of it. Because you’re alright throwing block passes about, left, right and centre, but if people start crashing because of them, you’ll be getting ride-throughs, long-laps, and maybe even disqualified, if you’re not careful. The trick with a block pass is to do it somewhere they can see you coming; otherwise they’ll hit you and you’ll both end up on the deck.
But the thing is, whether a close pass is actually a bit of a naughty one, or whether a big first corner pile-up is any one riders fault, is usually fairly difficult to say. Because the rules, when it comes to ‘dangerous riding’, aren’t black and white.
So let’s keep watching people crash and arguing about who’s fault we think it is. Let’s all have different opinions about what you should and shouldn’t be able to get away with on a race track.
I know what I think. I think a few hard moves every now and then is one of the things that makes motorcycle racing more exciting then car racing; amongst other things of course. Accidents happen, it’s part of the sport.
But I also know that not everyone see’s it like that. But that’s fine. It’d be boring if we all had the same opinion, all the time, wouldn’t it?