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Old 12-24-2008, 09:39 AM   #1
Grinchy
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Rider power & when the USA dominated GP

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In 1989 at the Misano 500GP all of the top riders refused to race over safety fears, the first time this had happened.

Photographer Don Morley shot motorcycles for over 50 years. Every month, Don talks in his own words about the pictures that made history.

The Misano GP was the last GP of the year and the organisation was some of the worst I'd ever seen. The Italians were brilliant at getting the best clothing and uniforms before everyone else, but not so good at organising anything else, such as the GP.

The problems started when the Italian TV company who was meant to be televising the event decided they wanted to move the time of the 500GP race, just to get peak viewing in America whose time zone was completely different.

Unfortunately later that day absolutely atrocious storms were forecast, heavy thunderstorms, rain, lightning, the whole works. The track wasn't in a very good condition and after a damp morning practice the top riders came in saying the track was like an ice rink in the wet and if it rained they were not going to race. All the top riders were united in this view, Schwantz, Rainey Lawson, Spencer, Doohan, and only a few of the local wildcards or privateer teams said they would race.

So the organisers were arguing right up until the time the riders were due to go out on the grid about when the race was going to run, and if it would at all should it rain as was looking increasingly likely.

Finally the 500 race has its warm up lap, but there was already a lot of bad feeling due to the threat of a strike from the riders and, true to form, a massive black cloud was looming overhead. It was obvious there was going to be problems.

There was a light scattering of rain during the warm up lap, only light but there was no escaping the fact it was going to get very wet. The rules were different then when it came to wet races. You couldn't change tyres after the warm up lap, but if the race was started it could be stopped and declared a wet race, then restarted with the riders changing tyres. So the riders were all expected to start the race on slicks when it looked like it was about to hammer down with rain. It was farcical. The race started as planned and after about three or four laps the heavens opened and the red flags came out, which was a shame because Niall Mackenzie was up to fourth at that point and looked on for a decent result.

True to their word Schwantz, Rainey, Lawson, Spencer and the rest of the riders all went and sat in their pits and the mechanics put their tools down. That's when I took this picture. The guys weren't happy and you can tell that the mood was ugly. The other mechanics watched the riders as they sat it out. It was a stand-off between the organisers and the big racers, but the riders didn't feel it was safe to race and they refused to. I was amazed that it came to that, but it was their choice. Personally, I would have backed the rider's decision, the crowd was there but making them race would have been like chucking the gladiators to the lions. No one wants to see riders get hurt, but the race still happened, albeit with depleted numbers.

Only about 10 instead of the usual 32 riders formed up on the grid for the race, and only five finished on the same lap as the eventual winner, a rather embarrassed-looking Frankie Chili.

I felt sorry for Chili, it was his only GP win and the other riders were pretty rough on him for breaking their picket line, especially Lawson who cheered ironically when he crossed the line. But it wasn't his fault, he had to race at his home GP.
Look at the talent in that photograph
IMO anyone of those would have cut it in today's MotoGP
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Old 12-24-2008, 10:58 AM   #2
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Steady Eddie, one of my heros
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Old 12-24-2008, 11:01 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by tomLSTD View Post
Steady Eddie, one of my heros
mine too
and Rainey
and Schwantz
shame Freddy is missing from the pic
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Old 12-24-2008, 11:18 AM   #4
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I never did like Freddie too much- I was a Flyin' Fred Merkyl fan.

Every time I've met Schwantz, I thought he was just a great guy (maybe public persona, but whatev), and I loved the way he raced (a lot like Bayliss, almost out of control looking).

Rainey wasn't a favorite of mine because I used to root for Schwantz!
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