Spectator Enjoyment - Racing

Why do you watch racing?

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Valentino Rossi was injured during practice for the recent Italian Grand Prix, and it was said that many fans left the Mugello circuit immediately thereafter. I think this throws some light on how differently spectators can regard their sport.

Here in the U.S., it is assumed that people go to a race to "see a fight"—a tight cluster of riders, each cutting and thrusting furiously for position, with the win eventually going to whomever chances to be in front as the self-absorbed cluster moves across the finish line.

Italian fans, on the other hand, most of all love their heroes and want to see them win, fight or no fight. This is underlined not only by what happened at Mugello two weeks ago, but also by a story told to me by my former rider, the late Cliff Carr. He described being at an Italian event where Italian fans as usual included the whole family, who spread out elaborate picnics on the hillsides surrounding the track. Babies and children amused themselves as the adults talked, ate and watched the action.

World Superbike points leader Max Biaggi

World Superbike points leader Max Biaggi was a double winner at Miller Motorsports Park this past May. His Aprilia teammate, Leon Camier (above), finished second in Race 2.

Giacomo Agostini was leading on the MV Agusta from Mike Hailwood on the Honda, and the cheering was tremendous for Italy's favorite son. Then the crowd fell silent as Ago's engine stuttered dit-dit-dah-dit and lost power, allowing Hailwood to catch up. Picnics and children were hastily gathered up, and families headed for the car park.

But before many could actually drive away, b-b-baAAAH, Ago's engine cleared and ran on full song once more, allowing him to fend off his challenger and resume the lead. The fans turned around, again took their places on the sunlit hillsides and, with evident satisfaction, spread out their picnics and resumed their pleasant afternoon.

Revealing yet another national manner of appreciating sport, in 1981, Richard Schlachter and I drove away from the German GP, where he had come sixth in 250 but had been as high as third. We drove until we were exhausted, then pulled into a roadside cafe for some dinner. Richard was instantly surrounded by German fans enthusiastically calling his name and besieging him with questions about his unusual technique in the chicane.

There's more than one way to enjoy motorsport.

Look for "Real Racing," Kevin Cameron's coverage of this year's World Superbike event at Miller Motorsports Park, in the September issue.

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