Years ago, my kids bought a video game for their Sega console titled “Road Rash”. It featured motorcycle racers elbowing, kicking and punching each other as they worked their way through the race. At the time, I told them nothing like that would ever happen in the real world.
At Suzuka this weekend, Yamaha’s Max Biaggi and Honda’s Valentino Rossi played their own version of “Road Rash”. The villain was Biaggi, who displayed conduct that was not only unsportsmanlike, but highly dangerous. Forcing Rossi to the dirt at the exit of a corner while both were accelerating hard (and Rossi was gaining the upper hand), Biaggi could have caused Rossi to crash and be hurt, or even killed. One report indicates Biaggi could clearly be seen with his elbow extended toward Rossi, hanging off the seat to nudge him.
To Rossi’s credit, he kept his cool, and eventually passed Biaggi (giving him the middle finger salute at 130 miles per hour with knee on the ground). Rossi went on to win Honda’s 500th GP race in grand style.
At the same time, I lost a lot of respect for Biaggi, and gained quite a bit for Rossi. I was reminded of one of Ricky Carmichael’s Anaheim Supercross races against Jeremy McGrath earlier this year. Carmichael accidentally bumped McGrath exiting a whoop section, and passed him, but Carmichael deliberately let McGrath pass him back in the next corner. Carmichael gained some good racing karma, and Rossi did the same this weekend. Carmichael went on to dominate the supercross season, and Rossi’s opening race bodes well for Honda and his chances this year, as well.
As for Yamaha’s Noriyuki Haga, he was probably the fastest rider on the track during the first one third of the race, before crashing out. Haga will be heard from before this season is over, and will stand at the top of the podium at least once.