There can be little doubt among the serried ranks of the certifiably sane, that racing motorcyclists are consumed with the kind of mind-numbing madness which surely makes the sporting gods hide their heads.
If there was any more certain proof of this it is Valentino Rossi’s decision to race in this weekend’s Aragon Grand Prix, just 21 days after suffering a double fracture of the leg.
This, you would surely have to agree, is not normal behaviour. Nor has the “Professor”, who has won nine Grand Prix World Championships – seven of them in the premier class, discounted the inevitable fact that he is in for an extremely painful weekend aboard his Yamaha.
Racing is what he does; his raison détre. And in his defence, at the age of 38, he does not have the time to lend to a lengthy recuperation to return to the high levels of physical fitness the sport demands of its top competitors. Add to that demand, the steely nerve and split-second reactions of navigating highly-tuned racing machines.
But above all of these is a plateau of personal bravery that few outside the elite circle will ever aspire to. Rossi is not alone in this.
In the days before kevlar or the carbon fibre back braces to bear some of the brunt of being summarily unseated, there is the saga of Jon Ekerold’s broken leg. Ekerold, the 1980 350cc world champion as a privateer, was contracted to finish a prescribed number of races in a season.
But a leg, which can only be described as shattered below the knee, got in the way of this. Ekerold’s solution?
He was helped into the pits, cut the plaster cast off, rapidly bandaged the battered limb and pulled on his boot. He was helped to the start line and, in the days when riders had to push-start their machines, paddled one legged until the engine took, did the number of laps to qualify as a finisher, came in and was hurried straight to hospital.
But this pales in the light of Wayne Doran, who had a minor prang qualifying for a meeting in East London which crushed the top digits of his ring finger.
Taken to a surgeon, he had the top of his finger amputated and, suitably stitched, slept with his racing glove on … and rode the next day.