MotoGP Riders to Boycott Motegi Round

07/18/2011 @ 8:37 am, by Jensen Beeler30 COMMENTS

News out of Germany this weekend is that 15 of the 17 riders racing in the MotoGP Championship have threatened to boycott the Japanese GP at Motegi later this year because of safety concerns. Lead by Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, who publicly announced Saturday at the post-qualifying debriefing that they would not race in Japan, the riders are worried about radiation from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, despite Motegi officials (essentially HRC) declaring the Twin Rings circuit safe. The planned boycott also comes ahead of an independent study being conducted on behalf of MotoGP, which is supposed to be an objective assessment of the track’s safety for host MotoGP (the results of the study are due to go public on July 31st).

Stoner and Lorenzo, along with several other riders have been vocal about their desire not to race at Motegi, despite assurances from Dorna that the facility was ready for MotoGP and all safety concerns would be looked after. The only riders seemingly keen on racing in Japan is unsurprisingly Hiroshi Aoyama and rookie Karel Abraham, the latter of whom is eager to bring GP racing back to his home country. MotoGP had to cancel the Japanese GP last year because of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland grounding international flights throughout the globe.

Attitudes in the paddock have become divide over the topic, with opposition to the boycott suggesting that the riders are making a straw man argument, and in fact reacting more in response to how Dorna has handled the situation with the nuclear crisis, and how little input was taken from the riders about Motegi in the series’s final decision. This has lead to the criticism that the representations of solidarity with Japan and the “Help Japan” stickers that many of the teams fly on their race bikes have been disingenuous, as the Japanese fans are now potentially going to miss another GP race because of MotoGP’s riders wishing to have a larger voice regarding safety concerns.

With October still a long way down the calendar, it is uncertain if the boycott will last, especially since there will be plenty of contract negotiation going on between now and the rescheduled Japanese round. While Stoner and Lorenzo may be immune to such pressures (they already have a contract for 2012), other riders are not in such a fortunate position. The question will be however, how many riders will be a critical enough mass to grind MotoGP to a halt, or at least sway Dorna’s rule?

There’s also the point that riders could find themselves in breach of contract if they boycott the race, though issues of safety, if proven adequately, could be reasonable grounds to consider the contract null for the Japanese GP. Undoubtedly as MotoGP heads here to the US for the Laguna Seca round, the power struggle will continue. More as we get it.

Source: MotoMatters & MCN; Photo: © 2011 Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

  • BikePilot

    Aren’t radiation levels fairly easy to measure? Aren’t there established levels that are deemed safe and deemed unsafe? Seems this could be objectively determined with little drama if the parties were so inclined (provided that the actual measurements don’t come back borderline). Also, it maybe a bit ironic that folks who will be hurdling around at 200mph on bikes are striking over what are, at best, remote chances of danger from radiation. Seems like its really more a political power play (and maybe well justified – I wouldn’t know and don’t care) than an actual concern over danger from radiation.

  • All reports I’ve seen so far indicate the riders (who travel by air) are subjected to far more radiation during airport screenings than they would be exposed to at Motegi.

  • Brian

    So Dorna has already contracted a third-party to do the actual radiation testing in Japan and the results came back within normal levels. I don’t know if the riders are ignoring this information and choosing to base their boycott on ignorance and fear or if they’re using this opportunity to show-off how little they understand about the world outside of racing.

    The testing has shown conclusively that the radiation levels in Japan are safe. If there’s any place in the world that needs something good right now it is Japan.

    Japan does so much for this sport; this boycott by the riders is a disgusting display of selfishness and I for one am losing a lot of respect for them because of this.

    Riders, pull your heads out of your asses and wake-up.

  • AC

    Hate to say it but I think these guys are being crybabies.

  • 76

    Saying radiation levels are safe is a bit generalization to say the least. There are spikes that happen well outside the “no mans land” area that are in fact a serious concern to ones health. These happen and will continue to happen. With all of this expert knowing, they still to this day do not know or at least published the true extent of the damage and contamination (what actually happened).

    I would question anything and everything the Japanese government and the supporting cast of companies when it comes to this. Do you people have a memory? This is the same government that said everything was OK and all nuclear powerplants were safe within hours of the quake and Tsunami. Day 2 well there was some damage but no meltdown and everything is under control. Day 3 there was no meltdown but 2 huge blasts, at this point they still refused to say there was a danger outside the actual plant? Week2, there is a possibility of a partial meltdown? Week3 there was a partial meltdown? OK lets get one thing clear, there was a meltdown, there was contamination, and to this day it is classified as the second worst nuclear accident in the history of mankind.

    If there is a culture/country that is more willing to march to death proud rather than “Lose Face”, its this one. This is the same culture that would rather spend 6 months covering up a mistake pretending it never happened rather than admit one and fix it in a week. So to all that say go ride motorcycles over there, I say if you want people to trust you with their health and fears related, tell the truth. Sorry they brought this on themselves with their double talk and lies. The riders know all to well that the Japanese dont make mistakes, its always something else, a inconsistent material, a market shift, an unforeseeable environmental factor. How do the riders know, they work for them, they know all to well.

  • Jake Fox

    Though my first impulse was to criticize the riders, I find myself sympathetic to their concerns. The Motegi circuit is less than 100 miles from the site of the Fukushima meltdown and probably closer to 75 miles away as the crow flies. How many of us would want to place ourselves that close to the site of the second worst nuclear accident in history mere months after it occurred? As 76 says, forgive us if we don’t take the word of governments and multinational corporations as gospel truth. It could very well be safe, but I would certainly want as much information as is possible to gather from independent sources before arriving at that conclusion and agreeing to travel there.

  • jamesy

    The Twin Ring is a very fast and unforgiving place to ride at maximum pace and has resulted in the deaths of several over the years. I’m thinking TRACK safety is the greater but less spoken issue here.

  • G.Irish

    Please. Number 1, if people are so concerned about radiation, take a Geiger counter. Multiple independent agencies have ruled that the area is safe, what more can anyone ask for? If the IAEA can’t be trusted to give accurate radiation data who should one trust?

    Secondly, these guys get exposed to quite a bit of direct radiation every time they get a CT scan or X-ray. If they were truly concerned about radiation they would refuse to get X-rays. Hell, they wouldn’t fly in airplanes or walk outside without suntan lotion either.

    Lastly, statistically speaking GP riders are WAY more likely to get killed on the track than by radiaton.

    Fact of the matter is these guys are not making their decisions based on facts. They are making their decisions out of fear and ignorance. When you have guys like Stoner they won’t change their mind, no matter what the facts, one has to conclude there is zero rationality to his decision. It would be one thing if there were conflicting reports of radiation levels but there is nothing to suggest that the radiation levels at Motegi, which is around 100 miles away, are anywhere near dangerous.

  • Spamtasticus

    1. A giger counter going off does you no good if you are already being radiated.
    2. To the first commenter saying that they should not complain because what they do is already dangerous… Really? That is your logic? I’m guessing you ride motorcycles on the street. I’m guessing that by your calculations throwing away very expired medication is not important since you already risk your life.
    3. To the “flying radiation” argument… Ionizing radiation from fallout is quite a bit different from the radiation we are exposed to in flight. Using quantity as an argument in this situation is like saying that someone concerned about drinking a cup of gasoline is being a pussy because he drinks a cup of water every day.
    4. Wanting to protect your own life and health does not go against the rider’s show of support for Japan evidenced by their stickers. If going to race in Japan was going to save lives, it would still not be evidence but at least you would have an argument.
    5. The Japanese government and the company who runs the plants have already been caught lying about the danger to their own citizens.

  • Jake

    How can you criticize anyone for having concerns for their safety? Also saying this make the riders hypocrites and not showing support for Japan is simply selfishness from people looking to make money or be entertained. You don’t have to potentially put yourself in danger to show support for people. I’m sure the people effected by the tragedy could give a damn about a race. I have yet to see Dorna, FIM or the Motegi track say they are donating 100% of the proceeds of the race to the victims so until they do, it’s all about money.

    As for the riders again whether you agree with them or not it’s their choice what risks they will take with their lives. As a motorcyclist I take “risks” simply by riding that a lot of people won’t. That is my choice. It doesn’t make me any better or them any worse.

  • Bryan

    76 well said. Might I also add the effects and horrible suffering still continuing for children of people not even in direct contact of the ‘worst’ nuclear accident. Genetic disaster. People forget too quickly. Radiation is associated with air, water and food. Are the risks worth it? Obviously yes for some and no for others. Difficult situation.

  • GeddyT

    Can somebody please pass this chart to the riders?

    And, really, if you’re worried about radiation, just, you know, test for radiation!

    My concern with the Japanese round of MotoGP is much less radiation danger than it is a sensitivity issue. What message are you sending when you wade through the rubble of a disaster stricken region to set up shop for a multi-million dollar circus? “Hey, we know you’re currently crashing in your uncle’s gardening shed, but you wanna plop down $100 (or whatever the Yen equivalent) to watch us ride bikes?”

    It’s the answer to that last question that is all important to me. If the answer is, “We’ve got better things to worry about right now,” then MotoGP should leave Japan alone. If the answer is, “We could use that diversion about now,” then it’s time for the riders to talk to ANY nuclear scientist, subsequently pull their collective heads out, and go give those damned people a show.

  • GeddyT

    And, yes, if Dorna insists on going to Japan, I’d like to see them drastically cut their sanctioning fee to the track so that they can, in kind, make the tickets dirt cheap for the locals.

  • SBPilot

    Agree 100% with 76. Well put friend. The Japanese gov’t is notorious for cover ups and will sacrifice everything and everyone (including their own people let alone a few racers) to save face and to hide any wrong doings (ala changing their history books about the Second World War).

    And like Jake Fox said, how can anyone criticize riders for being concerned for safety? Racing bikes is their passion and job, they will take that risk. They are not paid to risk getting contaminated by food or air or water in any way shape or form, and then not know about it until 40 years down the road. Like Jorge said he may not get affected now nor does he want to know when his child suddenly is sick at 20 years old. It is absolutely selfish as spectators to judge the riders about their safety decisions.

    And honestly “independent tests” from so and so company mean nothing. Hypothetically even if the company is called American European Nuclear Testing Agency 9 out of 10 on the board could be Japanese, these things are never black and white, stuff us public will never know.

  • Shaitan

    I like my racers irradiated. It allows them to be seen easier at the round in Qatar. :P

  • G.Irish

    I don’t have any problem with people being concerned about safety. It’s prudent to be concerned. But what is going on here is that the riders are saying no amount of evidence from any party will convince them to race at Motegi. Sorry, but that is an absurd position to take. I would expect that attitude from a paranoid recluse, not any sort of reasonable person.

    The chances that there would be a radiation level high enough at the track that would be so high that you’d be screwed as soon as the Geiger counter picked it up are close to zero. Yeah, if you were walking around Fukushima you might be closer to that kind of situation, but certainly not 100 miles away at Motegi.

    Right on, I absolutely think Dorna should dramatically cut their fee so more Japanese fans can attend the race. Assuming the race still happens.

  • G.Irish

    So let’s say the riders decide to boycott. Does that mean none of them will EVER race at Motegi again? After all, if they are basing their decision on fear of radiation that means they should never really want to race there again.

    Does this mean they want an alternate GP in Japan? Would they be willing to revisit Suzuka or go to Autopolis in order to have Japanese GP?

    As for the factories, should they just hire a bunch of replacement riders for Motegi? I’m sure they could get a bunch of JSB guys to fill in. I wonder if there are any other riders who would be willing to fill in. Too bad WSBK at Magny Cours is that weekend.

  • Spamtasticus

    So what you are saying is that there is not a shread of reason in someone not wanting to go visit the site of one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters before it is thourogly cleared? Hell, I bet you walk into backscatter machines at the airport because a TSA flunky who’s job requirement does not even include a highschool diploma tells you it’s safe.

  • Chris

    Wonder how the rest of the paddock feels about this? I would say their lives and future health are no less important. I’m going with what Julian Ryder wrote over at Superbike Planet. All testing is showing it is safe I’m sure they will bring their own food and water. Guess you could believe its a big conspiracy to cover up the danger but it seems like this current crop of GP riders does a hell of alot of whining.

  • G.Irish

    They are not visited the site of a nuclear disaster, they are going to be over 100 km away (from what I read it’s about 110 km away). Big difference.

    And bringing up the TSA backscatter machines is actually an excellent point. You are much more likely to receive a dangerous dose of radiation from an improperly calibrated radiation machine like the TSA scanners or a hospital X-ray or CT scan:

    These guys get CT scans and X-rays all the time, but they trust the doctors’ authority that they are not getting a dangerous dose. Yet here they are not trusting the judgement of international nuclear experts in a situation where they’ll be 100 km away and several months removed from a nuclear accident. Not only that, they’ll only be at Motegi for 3 days. I can totally understand that some of the riders are concerned. But the fact that some of them have said that they won’t go regardless of the facts is what is ignorant.

  • SBPilot

    I see some good points but lets put this in more mundane perspectives. This nuclear accident in Japan is rated level 7 or something, on par with Chernobyl. People do realize how bad Chernobyl is right, that area will be desolate for thousands of years to come with nearby forests with mutated animals (not a joke). This rating is not handed out liberally by anyone, there is a reason why it is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. There are people still affected today by that meltdown, Ukrainian friends of mine are some of them, and my friends are born in the 80’s. Radiation sickness can be passed down through generations.

    Just because we don’t’ hear about Japan meltdown on the news anymore because Politicians want to keep people from hearing all this bad news about their sacred Asian ally, doesn’t mean it’s all gravy there. How much we, or the riders really know about the situation in Japan is unknown, and won’t be known unless you fly over there. That is a risk, a risk I personally wouldn’t take.

  • jamesy

    So, Nagasaki/ Hiroshima was dozens of times more devastating and they dont seem to be having trouble growing anything. Not to mention the Japanese needed only about 20 years afterward to become the techno giants of the world. Wring your hands all you want to but these folks have seen worse and the average person on the planet carries about 20 times the gamma than just 40 yrs ago, evidence suggests that a certain immunity is being developed . It cannot be dismissed but it can be over worried, like a dog that keeps itching the same spot next thing you know you’ve got symptoms… see by GOD I KNEW IT!
    Let’s see what the hand wringers do with this one…;-b

  • Anonymous

    @.G Irish.
    I have never and will never stepped into a backscatter or xray machine at the airport. Every xray or MRI I have gotten has been an imperative for my health. I trust the doctor considerably more because he has no political agenda to cover up the detrimental aspects of the imaging. In fact they are disclosed to me in gory detail for me to sign consent. These riders don’t trust the information coming out of Japan, and with good reason as they have already been caught lying and down playing. They do not consider the risk/reward equation to be within their tolerance and although people can disagree because of their own risk/reward tolerance they can certainly not call this unreasonable. That is what I am saying. Period.

  • Anonymous
  • spamtasticus

    PS. Both those “Anynymous” posts are mine

  • G.Irish

    I would agree with you, I wouldn’t trust the word of the Japanese government or TEPCO either. But the governments of multiple other nations as well as the IAEA and plenty of other independent sources are all finding that radiation levels that far from Fukushima are low.

    I opt out of the backscatter machines too, because they do not measure the radiation coming from them with any sort of independent device, they were hastily implemented, and they are just another example security theater.

    With medical x-rays and CT scans, a radiologist could improperly calibrate a machine and overexpose someone. It has happened before and it’ll happen again (as documented in the links I provided). How can the riders say that they won’t trust any facts from the ground at Motegi but trust doctors to give them the correct dose of radiation, which happens to be orders of magnitude higher than the background radiation reported from multiple sources at Motegi?

  • Bjorn

    If I was in the position of the 15 riders and had a choice I’d say no, just the same as they have. They are all young men with a lot of reproductive years to go. Why would you risk it on the word of a pack of vested interest liars who are intent on minimising the the flow of truth from this disaster?
    The cynical, uncharitable bit of me wonders if the two remaining riders who would go are Vale and Nicky Hayden. Finally, a Ducati 1 & 2; yay!

  • Bjorn

    The Independent report has had it’s initial findings released with the total report to be released later.
    Negligible radiation detected, race will be held at Motegi. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  • spamtasticus
  • Bjorn

    Spamtasticus, good link to a very disturbing video.
    Assuming to video is true, it paints a pretty damning portrait of the Japanese government’s treatment of the truth and it’s own citizens. Like I said before; why would you risk it on the word of a pack of vested interest liars who are intent on minimising the the flow of truth from this disaster?