Their mechanics are no less obsessed with what they do, most of them only get to return home for about six weeks in a year. And then there’s the team managers, the PR people, the cooks and the gofers, the medics and the media, the hangers-on and the floozies, a few thousand people in all. And the whole lot of them are stress monkeys. As Randy Mamola said recently, if a bunch of Martians started monitoring bike racing from space, they’d worry for humanity.
It’s my job as a journalist to wander through the paddock and make sense of the madness. But like life itself, it doesn’t quite work out like that. “The more I see, the more I know, the more I know, the less I understand,” sang that geezer from The Jam and he was pretty damn right. However, we have some fun along the way, trying to suss out this travelling circus of semi-lunatics.
The cleverest people in the GP paddock are the team managers…You’ve got to get up early in the morning to catch out a manager, way too early for me.
Some years ago I worked for ‘King’ Kenny Roberts’ Marlboro Yamaha team, so it was my job to speak to Wayne Rainey and John Kocinski each time they got off their motorcycles. When Kocinski wasn’t downright rude he was often hilarious, although he probably didn’t realise it. Spitting venom one Sunday morning at Circuit Paul Ricard after pre-race warm-up, he snarled at me, “I could do more with the turd that was floating in my toilet bowl this morning than with that motorcycle”.
I had hazy visions of the former 250 world champion, later World Superbike champ, lining up on the grid while the commentator shrieked, “And heeeere’s the little s**t on a big pile of s**t”. I hear that Little John has become a real-estate magnate, selling multi-million-dollar plots of land in Beverley Hills to Hollywood stars like Eddie Murphy. Congratulations, mate, I always knew you’d make a really good estate agent.