MotoGP

When motorcycle racers were properly mad

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The politically incorrect class clown of the 1980s, Randy Mamola, will be inducted into the Moto GP Hall of Fame at the Austin Texas round of the 2018 season. Thoroughly deserved. Mamola typified the fun side of motorcycle racing. Not spouting carefully scripted messages for sponsors but showing a genuine side to a sport where lives were properly at risk. The 500cc 2-stroke era of the 1980s was known as the ‘unrideables’ such was the erratic behaviour of the machines. They were pioneers. Experimental rocketmen. While Mamola never won the championship he did finish second in multiples seasons and was bestowed a Ferrari Testarossa by team owners, the Castiglioni brothers, after he managed to get the hopelessly out of its depth Italian Cagiva on the podium in the mixed condition 1988 Belgian 500cc GP. I watched that race. He rode out of his skin. Congratulations Randy! Nice to see the left-field choice get the accolades.

Equal pay for equal work

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Australian Channel 9 TV Today Show host Lisa Wilkinson has quit the station after pay negotiations broke down. Her request to have her salary matched to that of her male side kick Karl Stefanovic was knocked back. Stefanovic is reportedly on a $6mn three year deal, contracted when he was about to quit and join another station. Call it unfair or whatever you will but Wilkinson was still paid ($1.1mn) but appeared on fewer shows than Stefanovic .The network upped it to $1.8mn (with the potential it would cause retrenchments) but it was not accepted by her. She walked to defend the gender pay gap to join a new show where she is paid 3x the salary of the male host. So the gender pay crusader is ok with earning more for equal work. How soon we forget that the station being pilloried for not paying fairly made Jana Wendt the top paid announcer 30 years ago. Commercial decision.

MotoGP is a great example of why equal pay for equal work isn’t always so simple. The Ducati Factory Team has two riders – a newly signed €25m 2-yr contract former 5x world champ Jorge Lorenzo and a €1.5mn pa 1x world champ Andrea Dovisioso. Now Dovi is in shooting distance of his first ever MotoGP crown while his overpaid team mate is ranked 8th with patchy performance. While no doubt the pay gap for the same work (riding a motorcycle as fast as possible and not crashing) will be addressed somewhat, satellite team rider Scott Redding has to “pay” for his seat. Not get paid, but pay. So much for equal pay! Yet Redding has made a conscious choice on the basis he performs and his fortunes change. He hasn’t demanded a €25mn deal because he’d be laughed at even if technically fair. Yes, the reality is that “performance” matters. If you’re a better rider, TV cameras are zoomed in on your sponsors for more of the race. That’s why the pay gap exists. Sponsors get their lick. Same job, unequal pay.

We heard similar arguments around the pay differences between the male and female national US soccer teams. The point was made that the women were more successful than the men (true) so it was absurd they were paid less.  The realities were simple. The women were paid healthy salaries whether they played or sat on the sidelines – win, lose or draw. The men were geared to pay on performance and those who were dropped on playing badly didn’t get a dime. Once again, as professional sports goes, male sports tend to be much better paid because of the revenues they attract (which is a reflection of commerciality). Lionel Messi earns 40mn euro a year. Is he worth 100x that of the highest paid female player, Alex Morgan. Well if you paid Messi $400k he probably wouldn’t play. It’s just the world of professional sports. Perhaps all players should be on $40m per year after all equal work, equal pay right? How would losing teams be able to attract superstars to help them win championships (they’re not in it to lose) if they paid them the same wage? They’d remain at the bottom of second division and go out of business because they couldn’t afford equal pay.

To turn the argument on its head, perhaps male models should have the right to protest that female supermodels absolutely trounce them for pay. Only three male models earn over $1mn while 5 times as many supermodels earn it. In the lower echelons female models get paid much more than the men. Probably because the companies that wish to advertise think their brands get more impact by using women! No problem – a commercial choice.

While there is no doubt that pay equality for the same work is fair in theory, the idea that women are deliberately discriminated against from a pure economic standpoint is irrational. If companies could hire women to do the same work as men for 25% less, why would any business hire men? If you work at Starbucks or as a bank clerk, on the same seniority, hours, effectiveness and efficiency then absolutely the pay should be equal .

For jobs that have equal output from equal time then absolutely equal pay is warranted. However workplace discrimination is an evil in almost every firm. Do we have half yearly evaluations where everyone gets the same grade and same bonus? Or do firms try to keep the best performers by incentivizing them to keep bringing in more dollars. For the record my top salesperson (female) in my former career was the best paid of all – gender irrelevant – output relevant. No complaints.

So we can howl at the gender pay gap but let’s get real with what is unfair and what isn’t. There is an idea that all have a right to equal pay but I will defend every woman who earns more than me if she legitimately beats my results – wait a minute I already did.

Why winning matters

In a world that is sliding down the slippery slope of participation prizes and everyone is a winner, Ducati MotoGP rider Andrea Dovisioso proved why winning isn’t a bad thing (watch the video) and why competition breeds success and overwhelming joy to the victor. Since joining the MotoGP class in 2011, Dovi had only won 2 races til last season. This year he has won 5. He had been in positions to win in the past but misfortune (usually being wiped out by other riders) has stifled any shot at the title.

Today he was up against championship leader Marc Marquez who is without a doubt the toughest rider to face on a last lap. The word “give 150%” doesn’t even begin to describe his riding style.He rides that bike like he stole it.  Even in the pouring rain with no real safety aids in braking or traction control, Dovi managed to outbrake Marquez in a risky move that (literally) stuck.

Now these bikes way 157kg and have 270hp. These two riders are 1&2. Dovi is smelling the championship that he’s not attained (Marquez already 3) and had to risk it to stay in the hunt. So under intense pressure he produced a diamond and spoke of utter grit. No knees taken. No politics. Just a win that defied the odds. The satisfaction that came with his win could be felt by the crowd and even those who support others congratulated him.

So whenever I hear of read of participation medals given to all these kids in sports events I wonder what lessons are we teaching them about the real world which is nothing like this. Wrapping kids in cotton wool is pointless. The daughter of a friend said she was told after winning three races in a row would she mind not winning again in the following races to give the other kids a chance. Is it any wonder we have a generation of self entitled kids who expect to get a good paying job without having to “earn it”. Dovi if you manage to beat the best over the final three races then we’ll know you earned it and deservedly so.

Monstering the Red Bull war?

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Today’s motorsport sponsorship is now the domain of the energy drink makers. Long gone are the tobacco sponsors. Race teams were synonymous with their cigarette brands – Marlboro McLaren, Rothmans Honda and Lucky Strike Suzuki. While tobacco sponsorship was banned for promoting unhealthy habits one wonders when carbonated energy drinks will meet the same fate?

Monster has been the company experiencing the fastest growth. While Red Bull holds the top share (43%) , Monster has taken 39% of the market in 2015 up from around 12% in 2006.

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MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi is sponsored by Monster. A yellow ‘Rossi’ version of the drink is sold amongst the other Monster flavours. If this convenience store is any guide, Rossi Monster is all that seems to be selling in the energy drink market.

Angel Nieto passes away

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13 time motorcycle world champion Angel Nieto has passed away at the age of 70 after suffering injuries in a quad bike accident on July 26. Nieto won 13 titles in the 50cc and 125cc classes. His superstitious beliefs meant he referred to his tally of championships as ’12+1′. He was the first Spanish rider to race in the world championship and the first Spaniard to win the world championship title.

Record setting pensioner

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You have to hand it to Valentino ‘The Doctor’ Rossi, the 38-yo pensioner scrapping it with kids almost half his age. I’m an unashamed fan as I have been since 1996 when he was in the 125cc class. He managed to win the Dutch GP in Assen today in a typical strategic race, weighing up and wearing down his competition. 9-time world champ, 115 wins and the only rider to win races across a 20-year career. It is no wonder he’s paid €20mn per annum given the fact he hasn’t lost his edge. Sure he isn’t winning with the ease of his youth but he’s still majorly competitive. He is still in the hunt for a 10th championship. Forza Vale

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Farewell Kentucky Kid

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2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden aka the Kentucky Kid has passed away at the age of 35 after suffering a cycling accident last week in Rimini, Italy. The support for him from the motorsport community was huge. Even Aussie supercars had #gonicky hashtag stickers on their cars. Hayden was universally liked on and off the track.

Hayden’s death comes a month after Michele Scarponi, a veteran Italian professional cyclist, was killed after being hit by a van while out on a training ride.

Tommy Hayden issued the following message following the death of his brother,

On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way.

“Although this is obviously a sad time, we would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle. He dreamed as a kid of being a pro rider and not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport in becoming World Champion. We are all so proud of that.

“Apart from these ‘public’ memories, we will also have many great and happy memories of Nicky at home in Kentucky, in the heart of the family. We will all miss him terribly.”