MotoGP is show business, and to contribute to the show riders must bring more to their teams than race results. Since 2009, few riders have done more for their teams and sponsors without winning a race than Nicky Hayden has done for Ducati.
For decades the mantra in pro racing has been “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday,” but Ducati has seen its North American market eclipse sales in Italy for the first time, even as they have not had a GP win since Casey Stoner left. There’s no empirical way to determine how much of this is due to Nicky Hayden riding for Ducati, but common sense says these are related. So Ducati’s decision to let The Kentucky Kid go must have been a difficult one.
Two weeks after Lorenzo had risked, perhaps not ‘everything’ but certainly ‘a lot,’ to limit his injury’s effect on the championship standings (he finished 5th, one place behind a struggling Dani Pedrosa), the topic came up in Thursday’s Press Conference at the German GP. Cal Crutchlow remarked that Lorenzo’s decision at Assen had raised the bar for all riders facing the question: Should I race with this injury?
Ironically, or perhaps not, Crutchlow himself had raised this bar at Silverstone last season when he slipped past the medical exam process to turn in his own amazing ride through the pack with a broken ankle. He pointed out that now more riders would be using Lorenzo’s Assen ride as a precedent: if he was allowed to ride at Assen, why can’t I?
Lorenzo didn’t like the sound of that, saying other riders should not use him as an example and instead listen to their own bodies to determine if they should sit out or compete while injured.
All weekend I heard different responses to the situation, from respect for athletes who push through pain, to scorn for the willingness to put others at risk by competing at well below 100% fitness.
One paddock insider expressed the opinion that riding a MotoGP bike is difficult enough at full fitness–any physical or mental weakness is a liability that increases the risk of crashing, and thus increases the chances of a crash involving other riders.