Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Racing Risk

I love racing, particularly motorcycle racing.

I grew up on motorcycles. Though I didn't get my first motorized two wheels until age 10, my brother, friends and I would fantasize about having a motor, riding our bicycles and making vroom sounds or using playing cards to create the noise.

Riding bikes is thrilling, but racing takes the experience to a whole new level. Close riding proximity, the test of skills against another rider, competitive adrenaline - if you've raced anything on two wheels you know exactly what I'm talking about.

My last race was a motocross at Piru Race Track 10 years ago. I won my age class, and got third in the age 35-40 age group. I stopped because I realized my motor skills didn't keep up with my mental agility...

But spectating is just as thrilling. Perhaps it is because I can relate from my experience, or perhaps because motorcycle racers aren't hidden from view so you can see what the riders are actually doing; to me it's just much more up close and personal than automobile racing, or any other kind of racing really.

I try to go to a race every year. Usually it's the U.S. round of the World Superbike Championship held at Laguna Seca raceway near Monterey, CA. It's the proverbial child in a candy store adventure for me.

Of course, up on two wheels eventually means going down - as in crashing. Two wheels are inherently unstable. The gyroscopic effect keeps everything in proper order so long as the laws of physics are respected.

Racing always challenges those laws, though. Anyone and everyone that races eventually will get on the wrong side of Newton's laws. Momentum becomes an enemy. Injury and death result.

This past weekend three professional motorcycle racers died.

Luis Salom was only 24, and a rising star in the World Superbike support class, Moto 2.

Just a few days later the Isle of Man, known in racing circles as the most dangerous of courses, took two riders in one day.

Last year, at Laguna Seca, a horrible crash in the last MotoAmerica race of the day claimed two lives.

Of course there are the countless injuries on a daily basis too.

Bikes are dangerous. Risk management is taken beyond science to an art level in motorcycle racing.

Curiously, I know pretty much nothing about how workers' compensation works in professional racing, particularly international racing like World Superbikes, which goes to 13 different countries.

How are racers and crews covered? Who pays for what? What jurisdiction controls? How adequate are benefits (if any)? What is the scope of medical care, both preventive and responsive? How expensive is insurance and how is it rated?

I'm sure there are brokers who specialize in covering motor racing risks, and in particular international motorcycle racing - I hope you'll chime in and educate us domestics about racing risk management and insurance, and in particular occupational risk management...

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