2014 Sachsenring Friday MotoGP Round Up - Marquez' Big Crash, Some Fast Yamahas, And Fixing Turn 11 Again

There are those who say that Marc Marquez is due a big crash soon. He is always riding so close to the edge of traction that at some point, he will go over the limit and suffer the consequences, they reason. They will therefore not have been surprised to learn that Marquez had a huge highside on Friday morning. What will surprise them is the cause of the crash. It was not due to pushing his Honda RC213V beyond the limits of adhesion, he explained to the media afterwards, but was caused by a minor slip of his foot. His toe touched the gear lever, clicking the bike into 3rd, and that caused the rear tire to grip momentarily and flick him off.

The crash happened at Turn 2. "You turn with the gas in second gear," Marquez said. "I didn't know at the time, but I was touching a little bit the gear lever." In the last part of the corner, he accidentally engaged third, and as he kept the throttle in the same position, the bike highsided. Marquez was thrown upside down, and landed on his neck. He was lucky to walk away, but walk away he did. He returned to the garages and was straight back on the bike again, posting the sixth fastest time, six tenths off the pace of Aleix Espargaro, and a third of a second behind Jorge Lorenzo.

By the afternoon, Marquez was back at full speed, and second quickest behind Aleix Espargaro once again. He still had some stiffness in his neck, he said, but it was not really hindering him. "The neck feels a bit locked in some corners, but it is not a problem," he said. Intensive physiotherapy kept his neck warm, and prevented it from seizing up and becoming painful. That only happened after the session was over, and his neck started to cool down.

There was some question of why Marquez was allowed to continue straight away. After what was obviously a very serious crash, Marquez was not subjected to a physical examination to check for signs of a concussion. This is a recurring problem in MotoGP, with pressure on riders to get back on the bike as soon as possible. Only in very severe and obvious cases does the circuit doctor intervene, and so far this has not caused any problems. How long it will continue without a rider hurting themselves by going back out too soon remains to be seen. There may be a role here for more forceful action by the Medical Director and circuit doctor.

If the Sachsenring was supposed to be a Honda circuit, the Yamahas did extremely well. Aleix Espargaro was especially impressive, and though he set his fastest time on a set of the super soft tires which the Open bikes are allowed to use, Aleix was competitive in race trim as well. The soft tire was not necessarily just good for a single lap, he said, saying he had posted good runs with both the soft and medium compounds. That soft rear could well be the race tire if conditions are right.

Espargaro also gave both chassis a work out, switching between the Yamaha chassis being used by Forward, and the Forward chassis designed by former FTR guru Mark Taylor. Espargaro had been impressed by the Forward chassis, saying it worked particularly well at the Sachsenring. That frame works better than the Yamaha chassis in the slower corners, though it loses out in the fast corners to the stiffer Yamaha frame. "This is a special track, a bit slow," Espargaro said, and that worked in favor of the Forward frame. He will test both frames again in the morning before making a decision on which one he will use in qualifying and the race. He had set his fastest time on the Yamaha chassis, but his time on the Forward chassis had been more than respectable.

The performance of the Forward chassis had given Aleix Espargaro pause for thought. After testing the bike at Barcelona, he had felt the disadvantages in the fast corners would work against it in 2015, when the Forward team will have to hand back the Yamaha chassis which he has been using. Friday at the Sachsenring had given him confidence that the bike could be competitive, making the decision to stay at Forward or leave for another team – his name is often linked with Suzuki, due to enter next year – that much more difficult. He was not ready to make that choice just yet, he said, and would spend some time thinking about it over the summer break.

It wasn't just the Open Yamaha which was quick, however. Both Movistar Yamahas were fast in the morning session, and Jorge Lorenzo carried that speed through to the afternoon. Lorenzo has found some confidence, both in the bike and in himself, and is keen to wipe the slate clean after the debacle at Assen. The bike is better too, though it still remains nervous when leaned over and at the first touch of the throttle. That is a symptom of having a liter less fuel, a problem which Yamaha has worked hard to solve. The new exhaust, which provides better response off the bottom end, helps in this regard, but it is still not as buttery smooth as Lorenzo would like it to be.

Lorenzo was also feeling better on the bike because he felt better in his leathers. Alpinestars had been working with him on how his leathers fit, having supplied him with a suit which fit a little more tightly earlier in the season. That suit had extra protection in the shoulders, Lorenzo explained, but in consultation with the Italian leathers manufacturer, that protection had been removed. That did not raise any safety issues, as he still had the standard protectors and the airbag to save him in the event of a crash, but the space which was freed up allowed him to move more freely in his leathers. In turn, this made him more confortable, and that allowed him to ride better.

Valentino Rossi is now also using the new, shorter exhaust, as he finally has two units, one for each bike. His problem, however, is not power delivery, but tires. In the afternoon, Rossi was forced to use the extra hard front tire, which he could not get to work. The bike suffered understeer, and it would not turn. They need to work on a better weight balance to try to get the bike to work with the extra hard, but so far, they had not succeeded.

The simple solution is to run the hard front tire, but because of the way the tire allocation works, they only have three of those fronts. Rossi needs to save his allocation for possible use in qualifying and for the race, and so practice with the hard front is limited.

Where does that put the Italian? It leaves him looking worse than he really is. The key for Rossi will be on Saturday during qualifying. At the tight Sachsenring circuit, he needs to start from as close to the front row as possible, and so a strong qualifying session will be crucial.

Understeer is a word which is all too familiar in the Ducati garage. As they had expected, all of the Ducatis struggled on Friday. Andrea Dovizioso was fastest in one sector of the track – the first sector, with the front straight, hard braking for Turn 1, and then the first left of Turn 2 – but any gains there were minimal to the time lost at the rest of the circuit, which needs the bike to turn. They were much where they expected, Cal Crutchlow said, though there was some small improvement from a revised seating position. That made riding the bike a little easier.

That the pressure is on at the Sachsenring for everyone who doesn't have a contract was made clear by Bradley Smith. The Tech 3 rider crashed twice during FP1, going down at Turn 11, the most difficult part of the track. Smith is pushing hard for a result, and when you push hard, you are likely to crash. He needs a result this weekend if his Tech 3 is not to slip out of his hands, if it hasn't already.

There was also some discussion of the tests done on Thursday at Turn 11, especially as several riders in all three classes crashed at the corner. Asked to explain what the problem was, Marc Marquez said the tarmac there is bumpy, and it lacks grip. That problem is made worse by the fact that the track drops away after Turn 10, taking weight off the front and making it easy to wash out and crash.

The revised layout had not helped at all, was the general consensus. Moving the apex of Turn 11 to the left merely meant that you needed more lean angle to make the corner. Speed was reduced, but more lean angle meant that the front was as prone to washing out as before. There really is no simple solution to that corner.

Cal Crutchlow pointed out that it isn't just that corner which has a problem. There are several points around the circuit where the walls are close, and riders are hitting air fences. As I wrote yesterday, there really are no quick fixes to that problem, however: the walls around the track are for the most part close to the boundary of the property. Moving them back is almost a physical impossibility.

The Sachsenring is illustrative of the problems facing MotoGP at many circuits. Bikes are travelling further, and hitting walls, and walls are getting harder and harder to move. Slowing the bikes down may help, but where they really need to be slowed down is in the corners. But I can't help but feel that a solution could be found by approaching the problem from a different direction altogether. If rider safety is paramount, and riders have to be protected when hitting barriers, then perhaps the solution is to concentrate on rider protection, rather than on changing the circuits. Both Alpinestars and Dainese are working with much larger airbags, which protect back and sides as well as the shoulders. This is the direction where real improvements in rider safety will come from. But it is a long and difficult process.

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I strongly agree with David's comment that perhaps something more should be done before allowing a crashed rider to return to action (in cases where the head hits the ground). So much has been learned from recent research, and the FIM should take note. A rider with even a minor concussion who returns to the track is *much* more likely to crash again. And if he does crash again, he is *much* more likely to suffer a serious head injury. There needs to be a medically-supervised concussion protocol, IMO.

we probably were thinking the same thing. Marc looked groggy in FP1 and riding with a concussion is a recipe for a disaster. A concussion protocol for the heavy crashes is a must-do.

Also, concussion or not, i'd certainly be suggesting that neck gets x-rayed. spinal injuries are not cool.

Wasn't it said that undetected damage to the spine from an earlier incident contributed to Wayne Rainey breaking his back in 1993?

I remember watching Troy Bayliss sitting in the box after a big crash dumping gravel out of his boots and gloves with a somewhat bewildered look on his face. It wasn't until he returned from finishing the session on his second bike that he admitted he didn't realize that he'd crashed the first.

if moving corner 11 to the left is a bad thing, why don't they move it more to the opposite ? I mean less turning angle, less problem right ?

Roughly speaking, getting turn 11 closer to a straight line is likely to put right the unfixable cold tires and grip issues. No real need to move the walls moreover.

The problem is that they can't move it to the right either. The corner runs right at the boundary of the property, and there is a road and some houses there. They really have packed a lot of track into a small area at the Sachsenring.

I knew they lacked space but I wasn't aware it was so tight; Suzuka syndrome is spot on... Hopefully Sachsenring will remain on the calendar.

Head injuries are a complicated matter. It certainly feels right to have something in the rules like; a rider whose helmet must be replaced as result of crash damage must also be medically examined before returning to track. However, it could mean riders have to sit out when they are otherwise fine or worse putting pressure on them to ride having been medically cleared when problems are still lingering... as the actual swelling of the brain could delay the effects of the injury.

MM is likely to have bigger headache the day after if he had a concussion, so if he was checked out and "passed" today, does that then put more pressure on him to race the next day or day after that, if he were to say he's not feeling so well all of a sudden..., or would it mean to get properly cleared requires sitting out the whole weekend to be properly examined for a head injury...

Either way, i agree incidents like this are common in motorcycle racing but yet i don't think they really have a problem with guys riding when they know they shouldn't. Perhaps it suggests the best test is actually whether or not they can still ride a motorcycle... When they can they do, and when they can't they don't.

Kenup, I really can't agree that there isn't a problem here. I can think of many occasions when it was barn door obvious (IMHO) that a rider really should not be racing that day. For example, I'm sure many will remember Biaggi having a special glove one race day so that he could get the finger splints through the finger holes. Does anyone seriously think he had total control of a 500cc beast with one hand splinted? The same goes for Jorge at Assen last year (after which he re-broke his collarbone at Sachsenring). What bothers me about this is the long term impact as much as the short term. Racers have relatively short careers and most will have another 40 years or so of life after racing. I can almost guarantee that Jorge will be hoping replacement ankle prosthetics have improved by the time he gets to 50, because he's likely to have terrible problems with both of his ankles. That's partly through not giving things time to heal as well as they might. I speak from experience. As for concussion, I would much prefer that someone had to sit out the weekend than carry on.

Moving on the the turn 11 issue, I don't know nearly enough to give a knowledgeable view here but it always seems to me that the issue is the tyres, because we see the same kind of crashes in Moto2 and Moto3, which are less powerful bikes. The issue being that the tyres regain grip in such a way that they fling the rider into a high-side. Though I have no idea at all how you'd design tyres to do otherwise.

Place G sensors in the helmet. Electronic or those breakable mechanical ones that shipping companies use. Above a certain G of medical significance….

Minor editorial pickup. " Aleix was competitive in trace trim as well." Although it would beg the question just who hes tracing as he leads to way again in the early going.

It's common practice to fire tracers when you're homing in on a target. In this case, perhaps he was simply aiming at braking markers since there was nobody in front of him.

This is a very valid point and I'd be surprised if Dainese and A-Star are not working this to a logical conclusion. Being wrapped in a big soft ball as you bounce down the road has it's attractions.
Regarding the type of accident that causes 'concussion' though - that should be easier to create a benchmark for medical intervention in fitness to ride.
Those suits are already fitted with accelerometers I'm sure. It would be relatively simple to set a g-force limit that requires a rider to take a trip to hospital, or somewhere with a scanner.
I too cringed when I saw that photo, because of the implications it conveyed. However, a snapshot like that is much less accurate in conveying the dynamics of the accident, I suggest. I'm no accident investigator. The rate of vertical deceleration is the key point. If the rider is travelling horizontally the neck compression will likely be a lot less than a pure vertical 'pile driver' effect. The impact is taken over a greater time period and less compression occurs (probably).
However, that raises the risk of twisting or extending the spine and that has some pretty serious risks as well....
It would be interesting to see some collaboration between, say, Arai and Dainese to see if accelerometers could be fitted in the helmet to measure 3D forces and time, linked to the kit in the suit. This probably wouldn't have much use in protection (although something preventing rotation under certain circumstances may be useful in preventing injuries)but it could inform medical assessment as to the severity of the accident and promote a decision to rest up/have a scan.
Regarding the circuits - this sort of thing has been raised many times and whilst we shrink from limiting the machinery in the context of 'free competition' and 'progress' my feeling is that shifting the emphasis to rider protection cannot work with any confidence. The biggest issue is the rate of deceleration and in the absence of my big soft ball as described above (which would be at risk of re-entering the track or bouncing into spectators) creating space is the biggest problem.
This issue affects so many tracks now, and has already effectively closed some to top level sport. I feel that slowing the bikes down a little has to happen at some point. Smaller engines, different tyres. We are close to the limits, so why not slow down now before someone's accident creates the outcry that forces a change in approach?
I'm a TT and road racing fan by the way. I'm not anti high risk, I just see the impending problem and wonder if there aren't some technical chellenges in a different approach and perhaps better racing in making the field more equal (although that's another big discussion, I know).

It occurs to me that, while watching all the practice, qualifying, and races this year, I've not yet seen evidence of riding-suit air bags when riders crash. Are they deploying and we just don't see it, or are the crashes I've seen so far just not worthy of using up an air bag? What does a riding suit with deployed air bags look like, anyway?

And what happens once the bag deploys? Does the whole suit need to be replaced or can a new air-bag unit be installed?

When we see riders sitting in their paddock chairs or waiting with their umbrella girls on the starting grids, the proprietary names that Dainese and Alpinestars et al have given their air bag technologies are prominently displayed on the suits. Since these names are evident on everyone's leathers, I'm going to go ahead and assume all the riders have air bags. I've seen some pretty gnarly crashes (like Marquez's, especially in slo-mo). Lots of riders getting up and just walking away. Is this because of air bags?

The air bags always deploy during a crash. The reason you don't spot them is because they deflate within 30 seconds of inflating, which is quite soon after the rider comes to a standstill. Also, as air bags have come to protect a larger area, they are harder to spot, as it isn't just the shoulder which is protected, but a large part of the back and sides.

For example, here is a shot of Nicky Hayden crashing at the Sachsenring last year, taking by Scott Jones. If you click on the photo for the larger version, you can clearly see the area around Hayden's shoulders is expanded and inflated, where the air bag has inflated. You have to look, though.

That Honda must have an amazing gearbox, to not even notice changing gear.. I'd expect Marquez to be a little stiffer today.

>> If the Sachsenring was supposed to be a Honda circuit, the Yamahas did extremely well.

I'm not a big believer in the Honda and Yamaha-circuit-theory anyway. But if there is any circuit, where the strong points of the RC213V (the point-and-shoot-style and the superior drive out of corners) shouldn't really make a big difference, then it's here.

The fact, that Dani has dominated here merely illustrates, that he likes the circuit, I think. When Marc won here last year, Dani and Jorge weren't even there. David himself has stated in his preview on thursday evening, that power is not as important at Sachsenring as it would be elsewhere. Therefore, the Production-Hondas should be stronger here. And if you think about last year, you would have to agree: Aleix grabbed 5th (?) in qualifying on the Aprilia. If you have a look at the track layout, you would have to agree even more. It's tight and tiny. And if we're talking about handling and supreme corner speed, the theory would have to state that this should be a Yamaha track, right? So I don't think the whole Yam- vs. Honda-track-theory holds up really. Right now, the Honda might be the better bike. But I don't think we're talking huge margins here. It's just that the Repsol riders happen to be not too shabby. Neither are the Yamaha riders (factory and satellite), as the timesheets clearly show.

I remember Jeremy McWilliams grabbing a provisional pole here on the 3 cylinder Proton Two-Stroke against the superior 4-stroke-force in 2002 despite being slowest on the straight. 2nd spot was Olivier Jaqcues and third was, you guessed it, Rossi on the RC211V.

The problem is that the rider can only carry so much padding. Just not really possible to carry enough of it.

Ultimately, if the ever increasing energies are becoming a problem for the available run off, you have to deal with the source of the problem: Too much power and too much grip.

For all the talk of fancy (read expensive) new leathers and vast earth moving surely an easier way to sort all the associated problems is by reducing the tyre sections. Instead of 200 (or whatever, 220?) why not a 180?

If by some miracle that does not supply sufficient reduction in grip therefore corner speeds then coupled with a less grippy tyre and, much vaunted reduced electronics and, surely, these great older tracks can continue for many years?