WHO IS WITHOUT SIN?

WHO IS WITHOUT SIN?

Mat Oxley

IHAVE BEEN READING KEITH RICHARDS' AUTOBIOGRAPHY, AND an excellent work it is. Large tracts of the tome deal with his time as a heroin addict, during which he brought the Stones to the brink of extinction on several occasions. Not long after Richards cleaned up, Ronnie Wood got into crack cocaine. Richards was so incensed at his colleague threatening the band's existence that he burst into Wood's hotel room and punched him out.

I was fascinated by Richards' blindness, his failure to even glimpse his own hypocrisy. Maybe it says something about the narrowness of vision required to make it to the top: always keep looking forward, never look to the side, never look backwards and, most of all, never look in the mirror.

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that Richards' disease has spread to MotoGP. So far this year we've heard Jorge Lorenzo, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa complaining about others riding dangerously, which is rather like listening to Richards complain about Woods' drug habit.

Quite simply, there's not a rider on the grid who hasn't pulled a dangerous move or two. The reality is that most are prepared to win by any means necessary while they're on their way to the top, but once there they want everyone to follow in an orderly fashion.

Thus Lorenzo didn't look good when he accused Marco Simoncelli of being a danger during a post-qualifying media conference at Estoril earlier this season (above). Simoncelli immediately reminded the reigning World Champion that a few years ago he'd been hit with a one-race ban for taking out a rival.

Likewise Pedrosa criticised Simoncelli for knocking him down at Le Mans in May, but in 2006 Pedrosa took out team-mate Nicky Hayden, nearly costing Hayden that year's MotoGP crown. Most famously of all, Stoner attacked Valentino Rossi after the Italian had torpedoed him at Jerez in April, but Stoner too has been guilty of similar crimes. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

All this hypocrisy prompted a bristling retort from Rossi, who called MotoGP's younger riders "pussies" and "children". He also opined that Stoner is still sore from defeat at the 2008 US GP, where the Italian unleashed his inner maniac on the Australian with devastating effect. Rossi didn't take Stoner down, but the ferocity of his attack did push him into a mistake that cost him the race.

"Stoner says I'm an impolite rider, he says it's scary to be on track with me. Why? Just because he lost the baffle at Laguna and he still can't accept it. Laguna was an epic race. Did Mick Doohan call Wayne Gardner impolite after their epic baffle at Phillip Island in 1990? No! Did Wayne Rainey call Kevin Schwantz a bastard at Suzuka in 1991? No this is racing!"

Rossi a keen student of racing history is correct, up to a point. Those famously hard racers of the early '90s usually kept their council and took their revenge at a later date, but Doohan did accuse Gardner of dangerous riding at Phillip Island, though some years later after they had both retired.

The other difference between then and now is how the authorities deal with such incidents. In past times riders were rarely penalised. Nowadays, with multi-angle TV coverage, health-andsafety paranoia and a media that seizes upon every episode, those in charge feel they must be seen to be doing something, which is why Simoncelli was penalised for his Le Mans indiscretion, even though his move was borderline at worst.

To be fair, Simoncelli is a bit of a maniac. Anyone who says "during the race you want to kill the other riders" needs to be watched carefully. But maybe he alone isn't to blame. The latest advances in MotoGP technology make it difficult to overtake, which is why the racing is often much less exciting than before. To make a pass, you have to be a very hard man. Simoncelli is that man, and even if I wouldn't want to share a race track with him, I do admire him for having a go when others would think twice.