Don't Cheek The Beak, Or Why Marco Simoncelli Has Been Called To Face Race Direction At Barcelona

I'm sure you're all familiar with the situation - after all, if you're reading a motorcycle racing website, the chances are good that you are no stranger to speed - you're out for a ride or a drive somewhere, and you get pulled over by the local constabulary. There are a number of responses to getting stopped by the long arm of the law: loudly protesting your innocence and shouting at the officer who stopped you; sullenly sitting on your bike and responding to all questions with little more than a Neanderthal grunt; or giving the good man or woman a welcoming smile, admitting your failings (whether you believe the charges to be just or not), claiming it to be totally out of character and promising never to let it happen again. And of the three possible responses, it is fairly obvious which one will receive the lightest sentence (and no, it's not the one where you tell the officer exactly what part of the male or female anatomy they most resemble).

So after all the talk of his dangerous riding, and the incident in which Marco Simoncelli collided with Dani Pedrosa, which Race Direction ruled was caused by Simoncelli, and judged to be "irresponsible riding" - an infraction according to Section 1.21 2) of the MotoGP regulations - the press release put out by the San Carlo Gresini Honda team was rather puzzling. In it, Simoncelli expressed his - undoubtedly sincere - regrets at Pedrosa's injury, but went on to complain that he felt he had done nothing wrong and had been treated unjustly. 

Simoncelli then went on to make the classic mistake that has landed so many people in much deeper trouble than they started off in: he attacked the judges. "I believe that my ride through was a result of all the talk over the past few days," Simoncelli said. In other words, he accused Race Direction of bowing to pressure from the riders gathered in the Safety Commission, and led by Jorge Lorenzo. He not only protested his innocence, he questioned the integrity of Race Direction.

Whoever is to blame for the crash at Le Mans, and whatever the rights or wrongs of the penalty awarded against Simoncelli, publicly arguing with Race Direction is not a smart move. Like an uncoming truck at a junction, they may not have right of way, but you'd have to be an idiot to pull out in front of them. 

What Simoncelli and his team should have done is taken a leaf out of the book of every crafty teenager on the planet. When being reprimanded for staying out all night without phoning home and turning up the next day with their clothes on back-to-front and reeking of drink, the wily teenager shows contrition under the scolding of their frantic parents, and then promises to mend their ways. Their next step is of course to go out on the very next night, and repeat the process all over again. If Simoncelli had expressed his regret about the situation, muttered platitudes about the penalty, and raved about how encouraging his strong pace was, the whole affair would have blown over. With six races coming up over the next eight weeks, the whole affair would have been forgotten in the hectic mid-season rush, in which the title race is sure to take shape.

But the move is far from clever from Race Direction either. Calling Simoncelli to account three weeks after the fact smacks of being heavily influenced by the intervening media coverage. The root cause of the problem lies not with Simoncelli's behavior, or the discussions in the Safety Commission, but the fact that the riders never really get together and talk, and Race Direction never make it clear to the riders what they will and will not accept. There is very little that MotoGP can learn from Formula  One - with the possible exception that switching to vastly inferior tires makes for much more exciting racing - but the compulsory driver briefings held by Formula One are a stroke of genius. Behind closed doors, the drivers can speak their minds, and the stewards can draw the necessary lines in the sand. That MotoGP does not have such meetings is a major failing, as it would allow grievances to be aired away from the intense scrutiny of the media.

The current - frankly overblown - media hullabaloo about rider behavior is the perfect opportunity to introduce such a measure. The riders are currently opposed to having such a meeting, as it would create yet more pressure on an already crowded schedule. However, given that everyone is voicing an opinion in one public forum or another, and a great many riders are calling for some kind of action to be taken - though few seem to be willing to offer specific suggestions - the time is ripe to hijack their goodwill and point it in the right direction. Paul Butler retires from his position as Race Director at the end of this year, handing over the reigns to the current Technical Director Mike Webb. As any departing director or interim manager knows, this is the best opportunity to take impopular decisions. People will bad-mouth you once you leave the sport anyway, blaming you for everything that goes wrong after you leave, and so this is a perfect opportunity to make some painful changes for the better. After all, if rider briefings are compulsory at track days and club race meetings, why aren't they compulsory at the very highest level of motorcycle road racing?



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Since I'd always assumed with a great degree of certainty that rider briefings happened in MotoGP, I'd never looked into confirming it. This seems insane to me. Every club-level race I've ever been to has them. I'd just assumed this was racing tradition and a part of every race meet held anywhere.

I agree, every club race and even track day has a riders meeting. WSB has them but I guess you can send a rep as the recent Biaggi-Monza incident shows. Unlike me and most of the readers here at MM the riders in MotoGP are never making a last minute jet change or running back from the Dunlop truck with freshly mounted tires so I'm sure they could and should find 1/2 hr to meet as a group and discuss issues like how strictly race control will be officiating at chicanes, unusual turns, etc.

I can't imaging the riders would not welcome a meeting with no press or recording allowed to let everyone speak frankly. Or maybe with things the way they are, especially with the antagonistic spanish and italian press, quote worthy sound bites would eventually get out.


Can't help thinking that all this noisy focus on Simoncelli will drown out Lorenzo, build his already booming fan base and allow crafty Rossi to take stabs at pesky rivals in the background. Marvellous stuff you just couldn't make up. What a scorcher of a season this is turning out to be.

It was probably influenced by by the recent talk about him. But he forgets that the recent talk about him was inspired by 7 years of careless riding that did not show a trend of reform. Technically correct or not, it was deserved. And you can bet that Rossi's (and everyone else's) next hard move will be under great scrutiny as well.

Rider briefs and stern looks in everyone's direction will probably do wonders. If it doesn't and a leader gets a ride through again it will be even more deserved on principle of stupidity.

Simoncelli's 'everybody is picking on me' response isn't the smartest move he could make, especially given the timing of his coming-together with Pedrosa just when he had a target on his back. He may feel victimised but he gave a perfect moment for 'the Prosecution rests, m'lud' summary.

It rather makes Stoner's acceptance of his fine as a 'good thing, because it shows Race Direction is finally making a decision' as a rather clever response: applauding the judgment for the fact that it WAS a judgement while getting in a neat dig on his recurrent theme of 'no direction from Race Direction.' Things could get most entertaining if Stoner continues to demonstrate media-savvy that he has previously famously lacked, while Simoncelli seems bent on running out of Brownie points..

I have a feeling he'd be in danger of digging his own hole. If I were race direction, I'd reward his new found 'respect' for fines with a couple every single round for him and his team, if only to stay in the Australians good graces.

To me this just proves one more time that certain rider can get away with things that others can´t. "Race direction usually doesn't do their job" is a far stronger commentary than what Simoncelli said, and they both where talking after being punished.
But to me this is not a matter of corruption, that´s the way it is, new guys have to pay their dues before back talking (Anybody knows how to translate "derecho de piso" the meaning not the words?). Here you are, saying that one commentary was childish and blunt and that the other was grounded and correct.

Marco is guilty of wrecking Pedrosa, and I believe the punitive measures were not strong enough (should have been a black flag); however, I support him 100% in the ego-battle vs. the stewards.

Authority figures who can't handle/deflect criticism are weak. Marco has the ear of the press, and he can make Race Direction cry if he plays his cards right. While I'm not particularly keen on the idea of Marco having free-rein on the race track (the result of rendering the stewards impotent), I wouldn't mind seeing Race Direction get their come-upins.

Gloves off. Take it back to Tomizawa and remind everyone that Butler didn't flag the race after Tomizawa was killed. Nail your theses to the door. Indict them for hypocrisy and corruption.

I agree race direction is hypocritical and does seem biased/corrupt in their decisions or lack of them. But in the last race decisions were made, and even the most corrupt, biased and weak organisations have to start somewhere when seeking to reform their ways.

But to call race direction corrupt is well over the top. This is not FIFA!

Paul Butler has said that each rider starts a new season with a clean slate.
Whilst I believe Simoncelli's move to be reckless in the extreme, and nor has he helped himself with such spare contrition, it really does seem the the weight of history (and to a far lesser degree Lorenzo's salvo) has been brought to bear by Race direction, regardless of what Butler has stated to the contrary.

David, you are quite right. Race direction needs to sit all three classes down seperately and thrash out whatever issues they have between themselves on track, if only to clear the air a little. All competitors know (or damn well should) where the line is drawn, as an ex-racer (damn the -ex part!), I realise this line gets banged up against on occasion, but giant strides across it as Simoncelli is prone too need to be stamped out fully. No racer I've seen in 30 years of watching this sport treats his fellow competitors with such contempt as Simoncelli.

To take the teenager analogy further, if two teens get into it on the playground, than usually they both get taken to the principal.

Why shouldn't Dani be in there also? Whoever was at fault (I think it was a racing incident, if Dani is the wiser one he shouldn't have tried going up the inside, if Simo is the new guy and in-experienced one, he should have let Dani go until another corner, and around and around it goes like all racing incidents)

By not calling Dani into the meeting also, Race Direction seems to be favoring the "aliens". Just as when the football kids in HS would get away with stuff the other kids wouldn't.

Are you serious? Dani is older and wiser so he should not be passing up the inside?

By your rules Rossi, Edwards and Capirossi would never be allowed to pass anyone, being old and all.

I'm glad you don't run GP. It would be boring as hell.

Of course riders should pass up the inside, not sure why you inferred that I was saying they shouldn't. In that corner at that place, maybe it wasn't the best decision.

What I was saying is that I believe they both made a mistake and it caused Dani to crash. What I am referring to is a long article on this site about the incident in which it seemed to me the point of the article was that Simo's crashes and behavior is a result of being new and somewhat over anxious instead of settling down and waiting for the right moment to pass, a wiser choice it would seem to be. But, if Pedrosa is the wiser one, and by wiser I mean going for points and the championship and not wrecking/coming back on a rider right after he was passed, than he also should/could have waited to try and pass at another corner if he could.

In fact, I thought it was great racing and would hate to see Race Direction try to go down the route that some of the other riders, namely Lorenzo seem to be pushing it. In fact, if that happened they would lose me as a fan, not that one guy maters that much.

The RT for Simoncelli was nothing but a joke and one more reason to watch BSB and other series where real men battles and not boys with handbags!

It's all a bit after the horse has bolted. If the last time the riders with an axe to grind against Simo got together is anything to go by. Everyone who's had, might have, or think it may help them in the future, will be able to criticise him in the extreme with impunity.. what a mess..
Will be interesting to hear what race direction have to say that they haven't said already or anyone else for that matter or if it has anything to do with the racing..
Simo has had his bollocking time to move on. It smacks of a parent who tells a child off but because the child doesn't start crying they keep on at it till they do, serving no purpose other than to satisfy their own sense of frustration.. Move on and make the next bollocking, if necessary, more severe..
These are dark times in motogp, the current WC can't find a sponsor yet they continue to strangle the spectacle with gay abandon, talk of overtaking rules, stiffling the racing, tighter restrictions, limited practice/testing, limited fuel, same old tyres that can go 50 laps of a 30 lap race, and the nuances of the sport now wasted on anyone but the true connoisseur. The sport is in serious danger of getting lost up it's own arse.

Okay it's getting late and I'm sitting up trying to think with a bit of flu clouding my thoughts, but unless I missed something I don't think this article actually mentioned why SuperSic has been called before race direction???

They are gonna ask him if he would be in favor of a riders briefing?

SuperSic is being called before race direction because he's been blamed for the Biaggi/Rea incident this weekend at Miller.

Although I was in favour of race direction actually doing something while the race still lasted, regardless of whether the penalty was mainly fueled by recent discussion or not, I still find this additional meeting weeks after the fact just too much. And I don't even like the guy. But as you pointed out, David, it reeks of being heavily influenced by the media discussion since the GP.

If I recall correctly, according to the rulebook they now can't do more than give him a stern talk anyway, right? So what do they expect to come from it? Simoncelli already got two "yellow cards" in previous years plus some penalties and I assume many an appeal to his conscience by race direction. It didn't change anything then, so why should it now? All it will likely do is create more bad blood inside and outside the paddock, again heavily fueled by the media, clouding the joy of racing even more.

Attacking race direction and refusing all blame for the incident might not have been the smartest move of him, but it was to be expected. He repeatedly did that in 250cc as well, accusing them of being biased towards Spaniards and only penalizing him "because I'm Italian". But while naivety might go quite a way for him to never see himself at fault for anything and blaming others (or his bike) for every incident, he should be experienced enough by now to finally start owning up to his mistakes - regardless of how much another rider might have also been at fault or not. Everyone makes mistakes, all the time, and simply denying them just makes him look spineless.

So if Race direction is calling him in again in response to recent media coverage, does this not prove Marco right in his view that Race directions decision was influenced by media and rider pressure?

David, wise words - perhaps you should apply for the job as Simmos PR manager? Looks like he (and Gresini) need one!

...(and because I don't have anything new, interesting, or of any consequence to add to this main topic) I'll address the quietest sound in amongst the fury: The ONLY leaf we should be borrowing from F1 is tires whose grip does not exceed the available HP and/or whose lifespan isn't thrice the whole bloody race.

Dennis Noyes is correct: 1) More HP than traction, and/or 2) tires that don't support such insane cornering speeds all race long...would be great. Those two characteristics were hallmarks of the 990 era. To bring them back would slow things down, ape the 990s, and maybe discourage the banzai tactics just a bit.

Getting away from Bridgestone's 1,000-lap lifespan has certainly improved F1 a helluva lot...