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GP Week : Issue 73
body that is as important to a bike racer as his brain: the right hand controls both throttle and brake, and carries a heavy load in every sense of the words. Injuries are part and parcel of motorcycle racing. When they happen in the middle of the season, provided they are not actually crippling, top riders tend to keep going regardless. They are much helped in this by Dr Costa and his Clinica Mobile, which pursues a ruthless patch-'em-up policy, if the rider so requests. And of course he almost always does. Some of them -- most famously five- times champion Mick Doohan, even eschew the panoply of painkillers that go with the process. "I'm not a painkiller type of person," he once remarked, through a grimace. Lorenzo has himself shown on several occasions that he can race very well even when he's hurt. His rostrum in Laguna last year came the day after yet another crunching high-sider meant he was travelling round the paddock in a wheelchair once again. So why is it that pre-season injuries seem more problematic? It seems to be a matter of lost momentum, at the most crucial of times. There are plenty of examples. Only last year Marco Simoncelli wrecked his 250 title defence with a similar motocross wrist injury. He got all his usual impetus back by the end of the year, but by then it was too late to stop the steady talent of Hiro Aoyama from securing the last ever 250 title for Honda. Something similar took Dani Pedrosa out of the MotoGP struggle. He crashed heavily testing at Sepang, injuring his knee so badly that he missed the rest of the tests and started the season semi- crippled. Supposedly the equal of Rossi, Stoner and Lorenzo, he never managed to get back onto the same page. It's the off-bike mess-ups that make more of a splash. A couple of cases stand out from the mists of time. German Anton Mang was a giant of the smaller classes in the 1980s, but his move to the top class was thwarted when he went skiing. Broken leg. Even more prone to this sort of thing was Kevin Schwantz. The Texan legend might easily have been World Champion before 1993, had he not broken his wrist a couple of weeks before the start of the previous season. That was by falling off a mountain bike. Hopefully there won't be any such incidents between now and the first race. The wise team manager will keep his riders well away from bicycles, ladders, trampolines and ski runs. But there is another rider with a little question mark. Nicky Hayden had surgery on his right arm back in November last year -- a fairly common procedure among racers to treat arm-pump problems resulting from compartment syndrome. Plenty of time to recover, and that should have been that. But problems recurred at the first tests at Sepang this February, and he was 1.5 seconds off the pace. Nicky flew directly to Spain for a refresher operation, to deal with scar tissue from the previous operation. Happily he was able to take part in the next round of tests, and managed to go well by the end of them -- placing third behind Rossi and Marlboro Ducati team- mate Stoner. Rossi of course has his own place in this story -- and as always comes out of it on the winning side. His pre-season injury, just days before the first tests of 2009, could hardly have been more mundane, at least the way he told it. He'd been closing the curtains at home, and had tripped and fallen onto a glass table. That broke, inflicting cuts needing stitches to his hand and foot. It didn't slow him down at all. 36