A bit of a follow-up to my previous post about how MotoGP riders had expressed concerns over travelling to the Motegi racetrack in Japan this season, following the terrible damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami. Back then, I was puzzled at the lack of commitment, given that the US openwheel Indycar Series hasn’t mentioned any problems with going there at all- and they’ll be making the trip to that track one month earlier.

Motegi (C) Google Maps

The Motegi circuit (C) Google Maps

So I was surprised and slightly disgusted at the likes of riders Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, the only two real riders left fighting for this season’s championship, saying they won’t be going, because it might be too radioactive there. Other riders shift uncomfortably in their overalls if the question of boycotting the race is put to them, while only two competitors- one of them Japanese- have said they’ll go.

I mean, what?

Maybe I’m being ignorant, but I haven’t heard reports of giant mutant lizards plaguing the Japanese countryside from all this radiation. Nor have I heard tales of Japanese people with three heads, 17 toes and kneecaps for nipples sprouting up in and around the damaged Fukushima plant. What I *have* heard is the radiation levels are such that a short visit there will have no repercussions on long-term health.

Given that more than half the MotoGP field has had a good dose of radiation over the past 12 months because they keep breaking their own bones in crashes (or, in isolated cases, someone else’s bones) and require X-rays, the riders’ argument seems at best weak, at worst stupid. In the case of Stoner and Lorenzo, who also happen to ride a Honda and a Yamaha respectively, it’s also corporately damaging, and unnecessarily so. (It’s doubly annoying because I’m a casual fan of both of these riders).

In addition, it kinda contradicts the whole ‘supporting Japan’ motif everyone subscribed to at the start of the season. It’s a bit like learning a loved one has had a nasty accident and is in hospital, but while people were initially sympathetic, they don’t want to visit the hospital in case they catch some horrible disease, even though the chances of that are pifflingly remote.

So what could happen? It’s possible there could be a mass boycott, which might lead to a race cancellation, or a thin field populated by Karel Abraham, Hiroshi Aoyama and a handful of Japanese wildcard rides, or perhaps the riders will receive the official Dorna-backed study that everything is fine and they should stop being so dumb and ride those 800cc motorbikes at 160mph around Motegi. Because hey, that’s not dangerous, is it?