Oct 2, 2001
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Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>FIRST PERSON/OPINION:<BR><BR>By Glenn Le Santo<BR><BR>Sport is supposed to be the substitute for war, or so the philosophers say. But the truth is that the competitive spirit nurtured by sport is often little removed from war, and can sometimes erupt into violence--and anyone who follows football can vouch for that.<BR><BR>Supersport racing often resembles war; the competition is fierce and the on-track battles are often very physical! And Imola last Sunday, things got ugly after an incident when Paulo Casoli and Karl Muggeridge had a coming-together on the first lap of the World-Championship-deciding race at Imola, in Italy. Casoli's hopes of winning the 2001 World Supersport Championship evaporated as he slid into the gravel trap after colliding with Muggeridge. The two riders tell contrasting versions of the incident and the Italian television director seemed unable to bring himself to show replays of it to the press gathered in Imola's vast pressroom.<BR><BR>Whatever the rights and wrongs of the incident itself, it's what happened after the event that brings the comparison of sport with war. Casoli stormed into Muggeridge's pit garage after the incident, while Muggeridge was still out on track, and in a rather cowardly gesture, shoved Muggeridge's petite girlfriend, Isabelle, aside. One of Muggeridge's technicians gallantly rushed to her aid, threatening Casoli with either a fist or a workshop tool, depending on whose version of the scuffle you believe.<BR><BR>Now one would think that once Casoli's rage had cooled that would be it, the riders would hate each other for a while, as Pierfrancesco Chili and Carl Fogarty did after a similar incident a few years ago. But no, Casoli being Italian couldn't let matters lie, and his team called a press conference at which they more or less accused Australian Muggeridge of purposefully nurfing Casoli off to aid fellow Australian Andrew Pitt's title chances. As it happened, Pitt rode to a cool-headed fourth and clinched the title from odds-on favorite Casoli.<BR><BR>Why Casoli thought he needed to be contesting a corner with a hard-riding guy like Muggeridge for a front position, early on lap one, in a 21-lap race, when he only needed a 10th-place finish to wrap-up the title, is anyone's guess.<BR><BR>A few hours later Muggeridge's burly team manager, the aptly named Francis Batta, marched into the Belgarda Yamaha hospitality area and invited Casoli outside (for a fight). The Italian might be a fiery type but he's intelligent enough to know he's no match for Batta, especially when Batta's flanked by five of his biggest mechanics! But Batta wasn't going to take no for an answer and flung himself at Casoli. In the resultant melee, which involved Casoli's teammate Jamie Whitham, fists were flung, eyes were blackened and the local police were called.<BR><BR>When you've got sport, who needs war?