Naughty step | MotoGP, WorldSBK riders getting comeuppance for bizarrest reasons

We've all experienced moments of sheer madness... but then not all of us are high-profile racers competing in MotoGP and WorldSBK et al. 

Anthony West

As a highly-charged sport, motorcycle racing can raise tensions, heighten blood pressure and result in moments of sheer madness…

Take Dominique Aegerter, who in July saw his massive WorldSSP Championship lead almost wiped out in one event at Most earlier this month when he was excluded for his irresponsible theatrics aimed at getting a race he’d crashed out of red flagged.

For sure, the incident ranks highly on the ‘bizarre-o-meter’... but he certainly isn’t the only Grand Prix or WorldSBK/SSP racer to land themselves in hot water for curious antics both on and off track, as these examples prove.

Dominique Aegerter

And the Oscar goes to…

We have all done things we regret in the heat of the moment but while defending 2021 WorldSSP Champion and 2022 series leader Aegerter defaulted to that exact justification for his antics in the Czech Republic, his (poor) acting was in fact rather awkwardly stretched out over 24 hours.

Seemingly well on the way to a second consecutive WorldSSP title by Most after winning nine of the season’s ten races, Aegerter was nonetheless the innocent victim of a Turn 1 pile-up at the start of race one, together with Andy Verdoia and Yari Montella.

However, upon realising that officials (perhaps surprisingly) didn’t see fit to red flag the race and his closest title rival Lorenzo Baldassari was leading, Aegerter - having already stood up quickly after his crash - suddenly slumped to his knees and flopped into the gravel trap.

When TV cameras panned back to the scene of the accident, Aegerter - employing some hammy amateur dramatics - was still lying in the gravel trap. Now surrounded by medical crews and marshals who were attempting to extricate him before the field came round to start lap two, Aegerter was hauled up, only for the Swiss rider to flop back down. 

Eventually he was removed from the gravel trap and taken to the medical centre where, based on his feedback, doctors believed he had concussion and that meant he was forbidden from starting race two. Realising his ruse was coming back to bite him firmly on his buttocks, Aegerter sought a second opinion at the local hospital and succeeded in getting another diagnosis that ultimately cleared him to race.

However, by this time FIM stewards had grown suspicious of Aegerter’s actions and, after pressing the matter with him, eventually got a confession that he’d exaggerated an injury in order to get the race stopped so he could restart. Excluded from race two in part because he also put medical staff and marshals in harm’s way as they tried to ‘help’ him.

So, all in all, pretty lame from an (poor) acting World Champion…

Maverick Vinales

Pulling the pin, pinning the throttle

One of motorsport’s most complex enigmas, even Maverick Vinales himself was at a loss to explain exactly why his MotoGP form with Yamaha was so wildly inconsistent.

In four and a half seasons with the Iwata marque, Vinales achieved eight wins and 24 podiums, but then interspersed these results with days when it was easy to forget he was even on the grid.

It was excruciating enough to watch, let alone experience, so we admit we had a little sympathy with Vinales when - in a fit of frustration as he pulled into the pit-lane at the end of a dismal Styrian MotoGP - he pinned the throttle of his M1 while shoving down the gears at maximum revs.

Perhaps one to file under ‘should have counted to ten’, Vinales’s action may have felt satisfying at the time but left him with little defence when Yamaha inspected the engine to find it had been irreparably damaged as a result.

To say Yamaha wasn’t impressed would be an understatement and it didn’t waste any time in benching Vinales for his recklessness and disrespect. Suspension turned into a firing, though many considered this a smokescreen for Yamaha to rid itself of Vinales, who had already announced his exit at the end of the year.

Ironically, the incident might end up being the best thing that ever happened to Vinales since it paved the way for him to join Aprilia, where he is comfortably out-performing his Yamaha successor Franco Morbidelli.

Romano Fenati

Putting the brakes on GP’s bad boy

Everyone loves a villain, but in the case of Romano Fenati, his actions during the 2018 Moto2 race at Misano were less pantomime and more sinister.

A fiercely talented yet impulsive racer, Fenati quickly established himself as the bad boy of GP racing following a series of hot headed moments, including kicking out at Niklas Ajo’s bike and then switching it off as the Finn prepared for a practice start, while confrontations in the VR46 Academy camp got him fired by Valentino Rossi himself.

However, Fenati’s reputation sunk to a new low at Misano when during the San Marino Moto2 race he reached over to blip the brake lever of Stefano Manzi’s bike in retaliation for being forced wide at the previous corner - all while accelerating at more than 200km/h.

Though Manzi survived the unexpected intrusion with nothing more than a unnerving wobble, Fenati’s actions were caught on the TV feed and the condemnation came thick and fast.

While talk of an attempted murder charge didn’t materialise, Fenati was sacked by his team, thrown out of the GP paddock and had his racing licence withdrawn. 

The latter would eventually be reinstated with a calmer Fenati returning to Moto3 and eventually Moto2 having - wisely - kept his head down ever since.

Hector Barbera

Oh, Hec!

While he wasn’t one of the most standout performers in MotoGP - despite impressively amassing 139 MotoGP starts without once standing on the podium - Hector Barbera certainly courted headlines away from the track with not one, but three incidents during his career that would certainly make us think twice about hiring him…

Incident 1

Both Hector Barbera and his girlfriend Bianca were arrested in May 2013 following an argument that led to the pair coming to blows.

The Spaniard reportedly struck Blanca, leaving her with bruising to her face, after - according to sources - she informed him that she wanted to end the relationship. It is understood she bit him in the altercation too. (Ed: The precise facts of this incident is known to the editor but shared very much off the record… sorry!)

Both were convicted and given suspended sentences, six months for Hector, five months for Blanca

Incident 2

Though Barbera retained his MotoGP ride despite his conviction, he wasn’t so lucky in 2018 when he was charged with drink driving while competing in Moto2 with Pons Racing.

It was actually his second drink driving conviction following a first offence in 2013, which he doubled down on by being arrested again (!) for driving with a suspended licence. This time he was given a one-year driving ban and a big fat P45 by an unimpressed Pons Racing.

Incident 3

Having reverted to the WorldSSP Championship by 2020, Barbera was involved in a bizarre incident during which he was accused by employers Team Toth of stealing his own bike at Jerez.

Barbera had already walked out on the team mid-way through round three of the season in anger, claiming Toth wouldn’t go to the expense of upgrading his Yamaha R6’s engine, which he deemed to be unsafe.

However, the plot thickened when the Toth team turned up to the paddock to discover the R6 was missing and Barbera was nowhere to be found. Toth was later told Barbera’s mechanics had taken the bike (because Barbera wouldn’t do it himself) and duly got the police involved. 

No charges were lodged, however, and it is unclear how the incident was resolved… but the Hungarian team hasn’t been seen in the paddock since.

Yonny Hernandez

“But you get the tenth night free on Hotels.com…”

One of the many MotoGP riders to migrate to the WorldSBK Championship once their time in the premier class is up, Yonny Hernandez might have found the transition a bit more of a culture shock than he might have expected… 

But we’re not talking about the bikes here, we’re talking about the duller - but still necessary - admin side of the sport.

The Colombian rider was already under pressure from his Pedercini Kawasaki team after failing to secure a visa in time to travel to the British round at Donington Park when, having travelled to France for Round 11 at Magny-Cours, he’d also neglected to book a hotel room.

With no more rooms available in the near vicinity, Hernandez hopped back on a plane to Colombia, where Lucio Pedercini told him to stay since he had been fired.

Danny Kent

The rise, fall and redemption of a World Champion

Crowned Britain’s first GP World Champion for 38 years when he clinched the 2015 Moto3 World Championship, the racing world should have been Danny Kent’s oyster thereafter.

However, after struggling to find his feet upon graduating to Moto2, Kent’s GP career came to an abrupt conclusion midway through the 2018 season when he was fired by his Speed Up team as punishment for not heeding team orders with boss Luca Boscoscuro bluntly declaring he ‘lost the challenge when betting on Kent’ - ouch!

Returning to the UK for a stint in BSB, Kent’s career was thrown into disarray in 2019 when he was handed a four-month suspended sentence for carrying a knife in a public place following an altercation with a man being targeted by Kent’s brother. 

Though dropped by his Paramatta MV Agusta team, Kent has since rebuilt his career with a successful season in the Superstock ranks before returning to BSB with Buildbase Suzuki

John Kocinski

“Dear Suzuki, Kabooooom!”

As it happens, Maverick Vinales wasn’t the first rider take their frustrations out on a motorcycle, but while the Spaniard committed his offence discreetly, John Kocinski wanted his message to be made very public.

The 250GP World Champion in 1990, Kocinski found himself back in the quarter-litre class with Suzuki for 1993 despite race-winning 500GP campaigns the two previous seasons.

However, the American - another with a reputation for having actions that speak louder than words in moments of anger - found his Suzuki RGV250 underpowered, so during the Czech GP he parked it up against the guardrail, stepped off and revved it until it gave way and exploded.

If he was hoping it would get him a new, quicker engine, then there was disappointment for Kocinski because all it did was give him the boot.

Anthony West

Step away from the keyboard…

Much like his countryman and namesake Anthony Gobert, Australian ex-MotoGP racer Anthony West is lumbered with a tarnished reputation as a quick racer on his day (especially in the wet) but one whose personal activities too often interfered with his professional ones.

Drugs were to be his ultimate downfall with West twice failing tests while competing in the Moto2 World Championship, first in 2012 - for which he was banned initially for a month before WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) appealed against the lenient sentence and it was extended to 18 months - and again in 2018, which landed him another 18-month suspension.

While banned, however, West headed to Brazil to compete in its national series instead, believing it to be exempt from the terms of his suspension because it wasn’t sanctioned by the FIM. 

However, he was wrong and the FIM added another six months onto the term, prompting an extraordinary - and uncomfortable to read - outburst from the former Kawasaki MotoGP rider on social media during which he levelled a series of accusations at various parties, including Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez - READ HERE

He also slammed the FIM as ‘corrupt’, prompting a rare response directly from President Jorge Viergas, who retorted by calling West ‘desperate’ but adding the FIM wouldn’t pursue legal action against him. 

West, who also spent a season competing in BSB, is now back racing in the Australian domestic series.

John Hopkins

Racing in the shadow of addiction

John Hopkins’ battle with drugs and alcohol during his time in MotoGP has long been considered something of an open secret in racing circles.

While his addictions - which were exacerbated by a dependency on drugs prescribed during several injury recoveries - never officially stopped him from making the competing, there had long been talk his absence from Friday free practice for the San Marino MotoGP at Misano in 2008 was due to binge drinking the night before.

The official word from Kawasaki cited a rib injury for Hopkins’ absence, but the man himself has since gone on to give an unflinching account of just how bad things became in his memoir, ‘Leathered’.

How bad are we talking? Well, the book begins with a story of how he was pulled aside by customs when coming across the US border from Mexico while carrying contraband. He would have almost certainly been arrested had one of the guards not been a MotoGP fan and subsequently waved him through…

Loris Capirossi

Winning a world title… at ALL costs

There aren’t many sportspeople out there who’d get fired because they won a world title, but this was the flip side to Loris Capirossi’s immensely controversial 1998 250GP World Championship success.

The Italian was locked in a season-long tussle with Aprilia team-mate Tetsuya Harada with the title to be deciding at the season-ending Argentine event in Bueno Aires.

Capirossi came into the race with a slim four point margin over the Japanese but it was Harada who looked destined for the title by leading into the final lap. However, just as Harada entered the final corner, Capirossi lunged from a long distance so unfeasible it’s unlikely he’d have made the corner without a solid object to bounce off.

Alas for Harada, he was that object and he was the one to go down, while Capirossi stayed upright while clumsily scrambling over the gravel to take the short run to the flag. While stewards declined to penalise Capirossi - partly because a non-score for him would have still assured him of the title - Aprilia took a dim view and subsequently fired him for unsporting behaviour.