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Perhaps ‘family’ is appropriate for MotoGP, given that in some cases families are rife with sibling rivalry of astonishing proportions

It’s Proud and Happy time again. As the 2017 MotoGP season assembled again, a great tide of obvious cliché swept through the paddock, as one rider after another spoke intimately about his hopes and dreams.

Here’s a sample, from Marc Márquez. “I am very motivated to try to fight for the title for another year.” Well, there’s a surprise.

All the others likewise plan to do the best they can for the best possible results.

There was another shared emotion, lapping at the ankles in the Qatar pitlane. Not just pride and happiness with oneself and one’s team. It was more to do with the beating heart of the MotoGP family.

And it’s as fake as a cuckolder’s cry of ‘I’m sorry’.

Oh, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Maybe my cynicism has got the better of me. Again.

But the emotions I’ve always detected in racing, especially among the denizens of the starting grid, have been the direct opposite of familial altruism.

Racing at this level is the greatest of ego trips; fellow feeling towards one’s rivals tends to be more of the seriously vengeful than the brotherly supportive kind. (Even, to some extent, when it actually is your brother.) These are not weekend warriors at some club event, vying for a minuscule silver cup made of plastic and bragging rights in the circuit bar afterwards. These are the world championships.

There is of course something resembling empathy when another rider gets badly injured or worse. But I believe that is still motivated by self-interest, because it is a reminder of what could happen to them.

Perhaps ‘family’ is appropriate for MotoGP, given that in some cases families are rife with sibling rivalry of astonishing proportions.

Look at the ancient Romans. The Emperor Nero, famous for fiddling while Rome burnt, also distinguished himself by kicking his pregnant wife to death. (Another of that ilk smothered his dinner guests with rose petals, according to historian Mary Beard.)

Caligula took the biscuit. Beard believes the movie scene where he ripped the foetus of his own baby from his sister’s womb and ate it was entirely made up by an over-imaginative script writer.

More telling, and more apposite to those eyeing one another up on the GP grid, was his habit of chuckling to himself in avuncular fashion, then saying to his family and fellow guests with a grin: “I’ve just realised I could click my fingers and have all your heads cut off.”

Not that different from the atmosphere one can imagine in the Yamaha hospitality unit, should there ever have been an occasion that Rossi and Lorenzo ever broke bread together. In fact, they avoided one another, in time-honoured fashion. Riders are sometimes friends before they get serious, and sometimes do become friends after they’ve retired. In between, however … not so much.

Families, eh. They have their weird elements.

And so it is with the MotoGP family. Not least because, in the nature of things, loyalties tend to shift from one year to the next, as riders and/or their mechanics change teams or classes. One season’s bosom buddy can become the next year’s hated enemy.

Among riders, just going a bit too fast can turn a relationship on its head.

Going back a bit, I recall Marco Melandri looking wistful as he told me how he and Rossi had been such good pals. After joint motocross training, “we’d hang our wet socks together on the radiator”. Until Melandri arrived in MotoGP and became a serious threat. No more sock-hanging after that.

I love motorbike racing. I think we all do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.

I also really admire top riders. But it’s not for their role in any imaginary MotoGP family. Nor for their charm or personality. It’s because they’re really good at riding motorbikes really fast.

And that’s enough for me.

Yamaha Motor GP rider Italian Valentino Rossi (R) jokes with Hayate Italian rider Marco Melandri (C) and Rizla Suzuki Italian rider Loris Capirossi (L) during a training session at the Jerez racetrack, on March 29, 2009. Yamaha Spanish rider Jorge Lorenzo clocked the best time during a training session at the Jerez racetrack followed by teammate Italian Valentino Rossi and Ducati Australian rider Casey Stoner. AFP PHOTO / CRISTINA QUICLER