It was 1920 and the world championship did not yet exist. The race was at Monza; Tazio Nuvolari was on a Bianchi and in practice he broke both legs, the doctors put them in a cast and told him to forget about bikes for at least a month. The day after the Mantuan was in the saddle; tied to the saddle, he asked his mechanics to hold him up at the start and finish. He won the race.
If Nuvolari is the prototype of a rider/driver (on both two and four wheels), all racers are in some way also his children and a century later they have the same courage (or madness) that leads them to overcome every limit. Even those of medicine.
This morning Marc Marquez will get back on his Honda 4 days after an operation to the humerus, yesterday Crutchlow did it 3 after an operation to his scaphoid and on track there was also Rins, who fractured his humerus on Sunday but did not enter the operating room.
These are the latest cases, but the annals of the world championship are full of lightning-fast recoveries and exploits verging on the impossible.
Let’s have a look at some of them.
Daytona 1975, Barry Sheene - The rear tyre of the Suzuki 750 ridden by the British champion exploded on the banking at 280 km/h. Barry fractured several bones (femur, radius, ulna, ribs) but 49 days later he was back racing again.
Assen 1992, Mick Doohan - The story is well-known: in 500cc qualifying the Australian crashed heavily. To save him, Dr. Claudio Costa, who "abducted" him from the Dutch hospital to take him to Imola when his leg was starting to develop gangrene and risked being amputated. Costa saved the career and leg of Mick, who missed only 3 GPs, but Rainey won the title by 4 points.
Assen 2000, Loris Capirossi - Fractures in the third and fourth metacarpals in the warm-up of the 500cc, enough to watch the race from the garage. Not for Capirex, who stoically passed the medical examination by enduring the grip of the Dutch doctor. He raced, finished on the podium and then went to the infirmary, to get it put in plaster.
Mugello 2010, Valentino Rossi - The Tuscan track has not only produced joy for the Doctor, but also pain. He flew off at the Bindetti and fractured his tibia and fibula. He went under the knife twice, one month later he got back on a Yamaha SBK for a test, then after 41 days he fought for (losing) the podium with Stoner at the Sachsenring.
Indianapolis 2012, Casey Stoner - Last year of racing for the Australian. In qualifying he crashed and destroyed his left ankle. The next day he decides to race and finishes 4th. Afterwards he has to have an operation.
Assen 2013, Jorge Lorenzo - Impossible not to mention the Majorcan, who in the Netherlands crashed badly in FP2 fracturing his collarbone. He got on the plane, went to Barcelona, got operated on and returned to Assen. 36 hours after surgery he finished 5th. In the following GP, at the Sachsenring, he crashed again on his injured shoulder and bade farewell to his world championship hopes.
Jerez 2020, Andrea Dovizioso - The most recent case: last Sunday the Dovi got on the podium 20 days after a collarbone fracture picked up in a motocross race at the end of June. An operation, lots of physiotherapy and Andrea was ready.