World Superbike: Age of Wisdom

Superbike Report

As a moto-journalist, with the necessary road trips and air travel resulting in long periods in the air and waiting around in airports, it’s easy to allow the mind to wander.

In these lonesome moments of boredom we tend to start looking at the various printed materials and race reports we’ve collected over a race weekend.

What emerged recently, following the US round of WSBK at Miller Motorsports Park, as I studied the info the promoter so ardently assembled for our consumption, was the range of ages of riders who are consistently running at or near the front this season. This should be reassuring news for those of you (us) that have suddenly found themselves the recipients of complimentary AARP magazines in the mail as of late.

To put this age in perspective, Race One at Miller saw winner Max Biaggi (38), followed by Leon Haslam (27), Noriyuki Haga (35), Leon Camier (24), and the stalwart Troy Corser (39). This doesn’t include Carlos Checa (38), who led the entire race and was sidelined with mechanical gremlins two laps shy of the checkered.

Race Two once again saw Biaggi (38) win, followed Camier (24), Cal Crutchlow (25), Haga (35), and Corser (39), with a carbon copy of the first race of Checa (38) leading until the Ducati quit once again, robbing him of the win.

When Biaggi was asked why older riders are able to compete when ten years ago it seemed impossible, he said: “Experience is an additional gift and when you race at the top all these little details count. The new guys who have arrived are all pretty good but very few of them make the big difference. Ben Spies is one exception to this.”

The range of ages here is impressive, given the physical demands of the sport. When I was a kid, I can remember the “old man” up the street that used to yell at us for riding bicycles across his grass. I now seem to think he was about all of 45. We’re doing things a lot longer now than we were two decades ago.

The WSBK line-up should serve as indicator to how 40 is pretty much the new 30, if not the new 20. And this is if these guys are telling the truth. Racers have a reason for not wanting people to know their true age, and it has little to do with vanity.

It has to do with concern of losing sponsors for fear their age may cause the corporate world to look elsewhere-youth, like so many faucets of life, being the cherished fruit. Personally, I think these seasoned riders should start chasing up sponsors the younger guys can’t legitimately endorse; Viagra, AARP, Just For Men, etc.

My favorite “mature” rider was Italian Frankie Chili. Years ago Frankie had agreed to do an article with me about staying in racing trim when he turned 40. Each year I reminded him when he came to Laguna Seca for the WSBK event that as soon as he turned 40 we would do it.

And each year he said, “Yes, this is good, I turn 39 this year.” I finally had to say, “Frankie, you’ve been turning 39 for the last four years.”