I’ve always found it odd watching world-beaters doing their thing – in whichever activity they happen to excel – for it presents an age-old antagonism: many of them make it look like we could all do it, even though we all know full well we couldn’t.
Motorsport’s right up there, of course, with other hazardous pastimes like, you know, extreme rock climbing, ski jumping and flying a Red Arrow, to name but three.
In our world, there are some disciplines, past and present, that with a bit of practice, you could have a go at, confident you’d get a glimpse into how it’s done, on an off-day.
But among others, there’s not a cat-in-hell’s chance.
From yesteryear I’m thinking Denny Hulme thumping round Elkhart Lake in a McLaren M8F, Pedro Rodriguez lapping the old Spa in a Porsche 917K, or Henri Toivonen dancing between the trees in Dalby Forest aboard a Group B Lancia Delta S4, among others.
In the more sanitised modern game, in which machine technology and strength, as well as circuit safety, almost certainly mitigates the fear, there are probably fewer categories you’d be terrified to try.
One such exception that, to my mind, perfectly corroborates the dichotomy I mentioned at the start is World Championship Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Watching the top MotoGP riders at work brings a conflicting sensation of joy and inadequacy, especially if, like me, you ride a bike at recreational level. These guys are off the scale, as they again proved in yesterday’s antepenultimate race of the year at the super-fast Phillip Island in Australia.
The commitment and bravery of the two Yamaha boys, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, their Honda nemeses, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, as well as Ducati number-one Andrea Iannone, was staggering – in every corner of every lap. It’s a mind-scrambling thing to witness, so heaven knows what it must be like to be in. Well, we’ll never know, of course.
World Champion Marquez’s last-corner mugging of leader Lorenzo, to snatch his fifth victory of the year, was sensational, coming as it did after a race-long order-shuffle at the front. Lorenzo held on to second, ahead of Iannone and Rossi, meaning two-time champ Lorenzo ate into six-time title winner Rossi’s lead with two to go.
And the other thing that’s so disarming about MotoGP riders is that when they alight from their 1000cc, 250bhp featherweight projectiles these leather-clad heroes become normal human beings who smile for the camera and speak politely and engagingly to the media. Whatever next?
The fight for the title between the Yamaha duo, currently separated by 11 points, will continue at Sepang in Malaysia this weekend and may well drag on to the finale at Valencia on November 8. Doubtless many of us will marvel at their antics, happy in the knowledge we couldn’t possibly emulate them.
Photography courtesy of Yahama and Dorna.