THE TOUGH OF THE TRACK
Let me tell you a story. A long time ago when children were both educated and entertained by reading - yes, I know, a few still are - there were a couple of 'comics' one called The Wizard and the other The Adventure and they carried stories of unlikely heroes such as Limpalong Leslie, a cripple who played for England; Whiz Morgan, a speedway star who always gave his opponents a lap start; Wilson, a mystery athlete from the hills, who would emerge from the crowd and do a four minute mile and then disappear just as quickly.
There was also another amazing runner, a Northerner called Alf Tupper. He was dishevelled in appearance, without proper running kit. His training secret was a diet of fish and chips. He continually battled against the odds, often being a lap down in a four lap race but winning with an amazing burst of speed! Every story, and his career never seemed to end, provided another challenge but the Tough of the Track always prevailed.
What happened when Wilson met Tupper? Ah, that's another story
These meanderings from childhood came back to Wolf when considering the Cal Crutchlow/Silverstone saga. Riders like Cal certainly deserve the accolade Tough of the Track but he seems to deserve it more than most not just because it was heroic stuff but he looks the part. This is not to denigrate our hero's appearance or suggest that he eats at anything less than the best restaurants but you would probably think twice about putting up your dukes with our Cal.
Being tough physically, determined mentally, is part of a successful riders make-up. Leon Haslam riding with a broken leg in Australia and many others. The list is endless. "Are they mad," asked one incredulous observer of Troy Corser. "No," came the casual reply. "That's what we do."
It is brought home even more when watching our national sport on television - you can't avoid it at the moment - and watch those grotesquely overpaid clowns falling to the ground, apparently writhing in agony, when an opponents hand brushes their face. It's called cheating but, apparently, that's ok.
PLEASE DON'T LET ME BE MISUNDERSTOOD
Another journey into nostalgia land has been prompted by Casey Stoner's confessional in The Times on his decision to retire. The great Eric Burden and The Animals had a sixties hit called "Please Lord, Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" and it seems to sum up the little Aussies' emotions as he explains his decision.
He says the enjoyment of participating in a sport he once loved has gone; it is all to do with men in suits; money rules; and there is no passion any more. He does not think he is given the credit he deserves and he clearly bitterly resents the scepticism which voiced in many quarters when illness (probably) cost him a world championship.
That he is a great rider is in no doubt. According to ex-Race Director Paul Butler the outstanding rider of the last three or four years and the only one to master the Ducati - although Troy Bayliss went out with a MotoGP win!
It is also not possible to argue with the proposition "quit while you're ahead." So good luck to Casey. But nothing in life is black and white and today's professional sport, sponsorship et al, is more than just about winning. And it must be hard for champions like Stoner and Lorenzo to take when they look behind them on the grid and see all the photographers around Rossi on the third row!
LIFE BEGINS AT 70
A little party was given by Yamaha at Silverstone for one of the all-time greats of racing. So while Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies sat on a celebrity panel it was Giacomo Agostini who got all the attention. And why not. His success in winning multiple world championships for MV and Yamaha; races as diverse as TTs and Daytona; first 500cc win on a two-stroke; and against the best.
Somewhat shy of acknowledging his advancing years, and barely displaying them, the still handsome man from Bergamo patiently answered lots of questions, like who was the greatest rider he competed against (Hailwood of course), in perfect English which was not the case when he burst on the scene in the mid-sixties.
Then the rascally Hailwood instructed him on the reply he should make on receiving his TT silver replica at the Villa Marini ..."Grazie - f...in' my old boots." It went down a storm!
A star then. He remains so today.