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GP Week : Issue 26
>>Moto GPMisano Motorbike racer behaves badly shock Michael Scott MotoGP editor ‘Personal problems’ – a phrase that covers a multitude of sins. Often quite literally. But not a phrase that often bothers MotoGP racing. Until Misano, where troubled and oft- injured Kawasaki rider John Hopkins missed the first of three days of work because of “personal problems”. The official company line explaining his absence from Friday practice was a little different, dwelling instead on a troublesome chest-muscle injury aggravated during “a light training session” on Thursday evening. Naturally, rumours were rife – fuelled by tales from other riders of some colourful paddock exploits on Thursday night. These suggested the “light training session” had involved rigorous bending of the elbow, a number of glasses of personality, and a very late and extremely rackety night! One other fact: Hopper’s new wife (he was Alvaro Bautista leads Bradley Smith wed in the winter) had departed the track abruptly the previous day for her family home in England. Again, lots of rumours, that one (or, in a few versions, the other) had discovered evidence of non-marital behaviour. Either way, Ashleigh was back on Saturday morning, with her father as company, while Hopper was back on track, although circulating at the back in his first session, slower even than his out-of- form team-mate Ant West. Most of us know that marriage can be a rocky road, and the first year is no easier than any of the others. And there is a matter of respect for privacy. The Hopkins’ marital strife really has nothing to do with any of us. Or does it? As an international sportsman earning several million dollars each year, indirectly from the paying public, then maybe every element of any rider’s life is open to public scrutiny. Goes with territory; rough with the smooth, etc. This view tends to prevail, especially when there’s a hint of salacious detail. It means that anyone in the public eye, or at least taking benefit from being in the public eye, has sacrificed the right to privacy. In fact, Hopper can be thankful that MotoGP is still, relatively speaking (Spain and Italy apart) a minority sport. If the same thing had happened to, say, Lewis Hamilton, he would be besieged by paparazzi, and the gossip rags would be having a field day. Let alone somebody really famous … say, Brad Pitt. There is the question also of simple jealousy. Hopkins and his peers get paid extremely well not only for doing what they enjoy most, but for working basically three days every fortnight during the summer, plus the occasional testing stint. Since the money comes, one way or another, out of the fans’and the bike buyers’pockets, they are entitled to expect value for money. Missing a day’s work is, to coin a phrase, taking the piss. One can only imagine how dim a view his employers Kawasaki and sponsors Monster take of such exploits. Or wonder just what it means to Hopkins’s long-term employment prospects as a professional sportsman – this is not the first time his off-track antics have been called to attention. Maybe they swhould lighten up. Maybe we all should. As much as Dorna tries to turn MotoGP into VIP entertainment, it remains motorbike racing. And it’s actually quite refreshing when one of the really good motorbike racers behaves like a motorbike racer … And people will certainly wonder what to expect next, when anyone attached to the team or the energy-drink sponsors suggests a Monster drinking session! … 35 opinion