Anyone seeing the crash by Dani Pedrosa at Motegi knew immediately that there was something very strange about the accident. The only footage of the crash is from the onboard camera, but the way the bike twitched as Pedrosa braked for Turn 9, the V Corner, was a sign that something was not right with the bike.
The problem, HRC revealed today, was a problem with the throttle. A malfunction with the fly-by-wire throttle caused the gas to stay open as Pedrosa braked, instead of shutting off, upsetting the balance of the bike under braking and causing Pedrosa to crash, fracturing his left collarbone in the process.
Fly-by-wire throttles - where the throttle grip operates an electrical sensor, which sends data to the engine ECU, which then calculates and controls the amount to actually open the butterfly valves in the injection bodies - have come under increasing criticism from the riders, commentators and fans who are opposed to electronics, and are likely to be one of the first targets for banning when the Grand Prix Commission turns its attention to limiting the electronics. However, the malfunction suffered by Pedrosa is both rare, and not limited to fly-by-wire throttles. Directly connected throttle cables have also been known to malfunction, either getting stuck open or snapping and shutting the throttle, causing several crashes in the past.
Below is the Repsol Honda team press release, containing details of the incident:
DOVIZIOSO SECOND AT MOTEGI, PEDROSA FALLS AND BREAKS COLLARBONE
Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso finished in second place in the first free practice session for this weekend's Grand Prix of Japan. The 24-year-old Italian was quickly into his stride at the Twin Ring Motegi and rapidly established a promising machine set-up for his Honda RC212V. Steadily improving his pace throughout the hour, Dovizioso was in first position in the closing minutes until Valentino Rossi pipped him for top spot with his final lap. Dovizioso is confident of further improvements in tomorrow's practice and qualifying session, should the dry weather hold at Motegi.
For Dovizioso's team-mate, it was a much less happy day, Pedrosa falling early in the session and suffering a double fracture of the left collarbone which means the Spaniard is unfortunately out of the Grand Prix of Japan. The crash happened only five minutes into the session when the 25-year-old was still getting up to speed. As he began braking for tur n nine, he lost control and fell, with his left leg at first remaining under the bike as he slid into the gravel. The unlucky fall, just three laps into the session, was caused when a small problem with the throttle cable didn't allow Pedrosa to close the throttle when he came to brake, an issue which has already been investigated and resolved. Pedrosa will return home to Spain tonight, with an operation scheduled for tomorrow to plate the fractured collarbone.
Dovizioso will be back on track tomorrow morning for practice, with qualifying taking place at 13.55.
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 2nd – 1m 48.387s +0.213s
"I'm happy with today's session and especially with the lap time - today we started from a good base. In fact I think that we have a margin to improve further so I'm confident for the rest of the weekend. This is a track with particular characteristics; it has sections of strong acceleration and also parts where you brake aggressively, that's why it's important to find a good compromise to control the bike wheeling and get the best acceleration. I'm also very confident that we can improve because today we used the same tyres throughout the session and I didn't test the front hard tyre that seems to give an advantage. I'm really sorry for Dani. It's always very bad for a rider when there are injuries. I was behind him and it was a bad crash. He fell quite hard and stayed under the bike when he slid. I hope he can recover soon."
"Obviously this has been a really bad day for us. It was a strange crash in only my second full lap, in a slow section of the track. I tried to stop the bike as usual but I knew something was wrong and couldn't avoid going down. After the crash I knew immediately that I was injured because it was very painful. I had a big impact in my left ankle and also my collarbone was broken as I hit the track - so obviously it feels very unlucky because recently we have had really good results. I've been very healthy through the pre-season and through the year and we had been working a lot to get to and stay at the maximum level. Another injury to contend with is really not what I needed - I don't feel as though I deserve it. Anyway, once the doctors had checked everything here, we decided it was best to go back to Spain for the operation. I hope it goes as well as possible and t hat I can return to racing soon."
TOSHIYUKI YAMAJI - REPSOL HONDA TEAM MANAGER
"Andrea did a good job today and he has the potential to improve his pace still further. He and his team worked will today and he's looking on course for a strong race. For Dani it's obviously very disappointing that he has suffered this injury. At any time this wouldn't be good, but Dani was in excellent form and so the timing - at the start of three races in close succession - is very unfortunate. We have looked closely into the reasons for the crash and hope that Dani can return to fitness and to racing quickly."