16 July 2002
MOTOGP » Hofmann hopes to erase Edmund who?
Sadly, as so often happens, it took a serious accident to bring the riders together to demand more protection or threaten a boycott. British rider Bill Henderson broke his spine when he crashed and hit the unprotected Armco barrier. It also took the ambulance ten minutes to reach the stricken rider, and the riders decided it was time for a showdown.
''A meeting of the riders followed, from which Giacomo Agostini, John Dodds and myself took an ultimatum to the organisers,'' Read explained, ''If they refused to put out more bales, the riders would refuse to race. A further 2500 were promised but, in our opinion, that was not enough.''
The riders signed a document stating they would not race, which was then delivered to the organisers.
''It was signed by all the works riders and their team managers,'' Read confirmed, ''However, when all but a few privateers also declared their intention not to race, the organisers realised they had under-estimated the strength and unity of the riders.
''The only unhappy feature of the whole affair, from our point of view, was that the paying spectators were robbed of seeing the stars they'd come to watch race. In the event, a few solo riders - mainly Germans in fear of losing their licences - raced, as did the leading German sidecar men after a good deal of arm-twisting.''
The organisers were shaken, and lambasted the riders over the PA system, incredibly accusing them of a lack of courage. The German Federation also suspended a number of riders and issued a press statement stating the riders had demanded more money, which was not true. At a special FIM meeting the next month, the organisers were fined and the German Federation reprimanded. The rider suspensions were lifted.
''At the time, it seemed like a great victory, with riders forgetting their differences and acting together - and not for money, but for safety,'' Read said, '' I felt proud to be part of it. Yet what came of it? I'd like to think that our action, in the long term, did some good.''
It certainly did a massive amount of good. Armco barriers have long disappeared from, or are adequately protected at, modern day grand prix circuits. Organisers now work hand-in-hand to provide the safest possible workplace for the riders to display their skills in a very dangerous sporting environment.
And their brave actions brought German their only 500cc grand prix winner - Edmund Czihak.
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