Anatomy Of A Crash - How Valentino Rossi Ended Up Breaking His Leg

Valentino Rossi has an incredible record in MotoGP. The Italian legend has 230 consecutive race starts, and has never missed a Grand Prix in his career. He has crashed many times, yet never broken a major bone in his body. His worst injury coming at Assen in 2006, where he fractured a wrist.

His luck had to run out some time, and Saturday morning at Mugello turned out to be that time. So how did it happen? How did a rider of Rossi's extraordinary experience, indisputable talent and seemingly endless luck manage to crash so heavily, and hurt himself so badly? Below is an outline of what we know, assembled from information from various sources inside the paddock at Mugello.

The sequence of events is fairly well known: After two fast runs early in the second session of free practice, held during the morning, Valentino Rossi went out for a third time. He had just fitted a brand new tire, the harder of the two compounds Bridgestone brought to Mugello. He went out for his out lap, and crossed the line to start his first full lap.

In the first two sectors, Rossi was as fast as on other laps. As he ran through Arrabbiata 1, he found Hector Barbera following him, and so he slowed right down, to prevent Barbera from following. According to one team manager who witnessed the entire incident from trackside, Rossi was slow for almost a kilometer, creating enough space ahead of him to get back on the gas. He was just under 9 seconds slower through the entire third sector than normal, taking 44.5 seconds, instead of between 35.7 and 36.2, which is normal for a fast lap.

As Rossi entered Correntaio, the downhill long hairpin, the Fiat Yamaha rider got back hard on the gas. He was pushing very hard out of Correntaio and entered the left-right flick of Biondetti 1 and Biondetti 2 at full speed. After Rossi flicked the bike left and got on the gas, the rear wheel of his YZR-M1 started coming round on him, before catching and flicking him off high into the air. Rossi landed very badly, breaking his tibia and ending his weekend, and any hope of racing for the foreseeable future.

So what caused Rossi's highside? It seems to have been a combination. The data showed that Rossi went into the corner with just a little bit more lean angle and a little bit more throttle than he might normally use. The crash occurred as Rossi got on the gas, the tire breaking traction. Rossi did not apply an excessive amount of throttle, just probably fractionally more than he might have otherwise.

The problem was probably a combination of three causes. Firstly, because he was on his first hot lap out of the pits, the tire was a little colder than it should have been. The Bridgestones offer excellent grip once warm, but they can take a lap or two to get fully up to temperature. By the time Rossi started his hot lap, the tires were just about up to temperature, but by backing off through the third sector, his tires dropped in temperature. Making things worse, the point where Rossi backed off was three right handers and one left hander. In similar situations, tires have been lost to drop in temperature by as much as 20 degrees centigrade, enough to take them just outside their optimum operating range.

Secondly - and thirdly, as the two are related - Rossi was riding very aggressively. The Italian had come to Mugello with a point to prove, after being beaten by his teammate for the last two races in a row. Rossi's shoulder injury had hampered his title defense, preventing him from riding the way that he would like to, but both at Jerez and Le Mans, Lorenzo had got to the grid with a near-perfect setup, while Rossi had struggled for rear grip. The Italian had found some solutions on Friday, and was pushing hard to gain a clear advantage throughout the weekend. Rossi was taking more risk than usual, one ex-rider commented to me, and this is what happened during the crash: A little more speed, a little more throttle, a little more risk. And Rossi paid the price.

It was a very high price indeed. Rossi could be out for up to 6 months, if reports from Italy are to be believed. The best case scenario is that the Italian will miss 40 days, the worst case scenario is that Rossi is out for the season.

Either way, Yamaha will have to find someone to replace him. But - as Rossi's communications manager William Favero pointed out to - Rossi is irreplaceable. For the next two races, his bikes will sit unused in the garage, to allow Yamaha to mull over the situation it finds itself in, but also as a mark of respect for a great champion. After that, one of Yamaha's Japanese test riders is likely to take Rossi's place, as they can gather the data that Yamaha requires to develop the M1, without detracting attention from Jorge Lorenzo, who is now the firm favorite for the title.

That may suit Yamaha's R&D plans, but no doubt their marketing department will be screaming blue murder. Having lost their biggest sales asset, the value of having a relatively anonymous rider in Rossi's seat will be close to zero for Yamaha marketing. They may adesire someone eye-catching to take Rossi's place, and that list of candidates is very short indeed.

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if they are going to put some one else on his bike, then they should put Ben Spies or Colin Edwards on in my opinon and put a guest rider on their bike.
just like ducati did last year with Stoner and Kalio.

A couple observations/comments--Rossi went out for his third run with a substantially revised front setting; I saw the mechanics changing out the springs of his Ohlins front end just prior to his final run. It appeared to me that the front pushed a little on the exit of Biondetti 1, putting him off the racing line on entrance to Biondetti 2, which may have required additional lean on an area of the surface that offered decreased traction. In the end, of course, only Rossi really knows for sure what happened.

Second, from your analysis, this is appears to be yet another incident at least partially attributable to second-tier riders trolling for a tow. There are several other examples that are strikingly similar; e.g., the nearly simultaneous high sides of Jorge and Casey at turns 11 and 3 at Laguna Seca last year. It is an understandable behavior on the part of the slower riders, but it has had very unfortunate effects for the very best of these men.

Finally, like the rest of us, sadly, Rossi occasionally crashes. Unlike the most of us, however, Rossi always digs deep and leverages his remarkable talent to full effect regardless of the current challenge--this is why he is a 9-time world champion and why I admire him as a person and as a racer. Was he pushing "too hard"? Maybe, but that is what he has always done and--I predict--he will continue to do from this moment on. (e.g., it has been reported elsewhere that his first response after the operation was to ask about the pole time.)

Godspeed for a fast and full recovery, Vale. The sport is not the same without you.

I can't say any of that any better than you did, DrEvol.

Again, it just hurts my heart to hear it. Rips it clean in two. It brings up so many "what if"s. So many "if only"s. A bazillion things that could have been ever so slightly different...and yet...all of them conspired to render this end result.

Mark my words: Rossi WILL be back from this. Granted, it's a big one. That said, it's an injury from which he CAN recover. I had the absolutely identical injury, many years ago (a three-wheeler accident...), and it healed up just fine. Yes, I was a bit younger, but I'm no Rossi, and I didn't have a beloved career to which I just HAD TO return. Again, it's a big one, but it's a broken leg. He'll be back. Plain and simple.

We'll be here when you get back, Vale! Just wait until you're completely healed! NOBODY would, could, or shall replace you. Our prayers are with you, so just focus on the task at hand. We believe in you, and we'll see you soon!

Now...which one of y'all is it that has the spare time machine in your attic? Will it accomodate a couple hundred million of us? Let's just skip ahead 5 or 6 months, shall we?

I call shotgun. (YESSSSS!)

Rossi, the pain is to hard to come back.. goes to F1
Stoner to Yamaha 2011, JB stays to help Stoner win 7 stright world championships
Edwards takes Rossi's bike and wins 2010 Championship...
Spies still learnig this year not up to speed yet.

I can take Vale's ride while he is out. Just think of the publicity Yahama and Fiat will get when a 61 year old stands on the top box.

Also, if you think it would hurt the kids too much to be schooled by a more mature man then maybe they could consider Mat Mladin or Troy Bayless.

Just say'n.

Thank you for the for the great reporting Dave. I'm still a little speechless. This changes everything. I hope that Stoner will be up to the task and we will see some good racing tomorrow. It's just going to be different regardless. The thought of a race without Rossi is still a little hard to wrap my head around. Godspeed Vale, we need you back soon.

As far as a replacement, it would be nice to see Edwards on a factory ride again. But for Spies, aren't there rules against rookie rides on factory bikes in the first year? Or does this not apply for a temp replacement?

while I would love to see Ben on a factory M1 it would give him an unfair advantage in the rookie of the year comp, one of the reasons for the rule change. If a rider came in to replace Vale from another series they would be considered a wild card rider and therefore not in contention for rookie of the year.

I'm not quite sure that Motor racing works like that. Spies can have any unfair advantage that Yamaha wants to give him as long as it is within the technical rules.

Yamaha could give Spies the same bike as Rossi as well as the factory team and support if they wanted. As long as he is contracted to Tech3, he is following the rules like everyone else.

There is nothing in the rules regarding the fairness of the equipment he is given.

--------------------------------------------- - MotoGP Data & Statistics

My understanding is that a rookie is a rider who has completed less than 9 MotoGP races. when a rider completes 9 races he is deemed to be a non rookie or 'contracted rider'.

This ruling was clarified after a GP commission meeting at the Donnington race last year.

I have watched the video over and over, and I have to say, he just THREW it at the corner when changing direction. You can see the suspension load way too deeply and way too quickly. The first time I saw it, I suspected the outcome that occurred. Physics can only be so forgiving...

He had a hell of a run... 14 years. A lot of skill and a fair bit of luck. Cant last forever.

Heal fast, and heal strong. We need you back ASAP!

To all those with sentiments similar to the above... Rossi will be gone one day, then what are you gonna do, stop watching? Good as he is, he is not bigger than the fantastic sport that is Grand Prix motorcycle racing.

Back in the sixties, I used to feel the same about Mike Hailwood but did eventually come to realise that there was a track-full of other riders trying their utmost, and deserving of some attention if one actually loved the sport, and not just one man.

Watch the race on Sunday for what it is and try not to say afterwards, "Ahh, but if Vale had been there, it would have been different". The reason you will actually be watching a race will be because the rest didn't crash and injure themselves on the Saturday!

silversixtiesfan, when you start a paragraph with "Back in the sixties...", please don't be suprised when people roll their eyes and ignore your comments. I almost did. I ride a Triumph and when I am approached by someone who says "Back in the sixties..." I smile politely but am bored shitless...

But you are right. Rossi has been so dominant this last decade, a lot of us knew (but secretly feared) these times would come. The accident today was awful. Rossi is still awesome, but the golden days are over. Like many, I so want him to come back and perform his mind-blowing miracles, but I also realise that it is less likely to happen as the years pass.

Great racing has come before and will come again, but we all know Rossi's career is coming to an end. I truely hope I am proved wrong and he comes back next year stronger than ever, but the pesimist in me doubts it. Prove me wrong Vale... Please!!!

With the unfortunate accident Rossi had the racing should be tighter than ever, it has to affect Lorenzo's approach from the mental standpoint. I had the same injury only both my Tib and Fib were broken and it won't be easy to come back this season. Like every fan should I wish him a speedy and full recovery, it was sad to watch Doohan ride thru his injury and all the worse on his fans when he went down at Laguna.

If the rules allow, Spies on the factory bike would allow for continued development while garnering marketing possibilities in one of their biggest markets. it would be fun to see someone like R.L Hayden get to ride the Tech 3 bike. There should have been more Yamaha's on the grid to help avoid this scenario...

Oh yeah, I'm available too:}

I suspect that had the Internet been as prolific as it is today when Wayne Rainey had his accident we would have seen similar outpourings of support, analysis, and yes even some criticism. Rossi is Motogp! No two ways about it. He is the biggest draw the sport has ever seen. That doesn't sit well with some folks for certain. You cant make everyone happy when you are kicking their butts for as long as he has. Rossi will be back, unlike Wayne unfortunately. For that, we as fans of the sport should be thankful. Hopefully he will still make his presence known while he heals. And I truly hope he does heal. This sport has seen its fair share of injured superstars hobble away from pit lane and call it a career. You have to hope that isn't the case here.

I suspect that had the Internet been as prolific as it is today when Wayne Rainey had his accident we would have seen similar outpourings of support, analysis, and yes even some criticism. Rossi is Motogp! No two ways about it. He is the biggest draw the sport has ever seen. That doesn't sit well with some folks for certain. You cant make everyone happy when you are kicking their butts for as long as he has. Rossi will be back, unlike Wayne unfortunately. For that, we as fans of the sport should be thankful. Hopefully he will still make his presence known while he heals. And I truly hope he does heal. This sport has seen its fair share of injured superstars hobble away from pit lane and call it a career. You have to hope that isn't the case here.

I agree with you on all of what you said except one thing, Rossi is not MotoGP! Rossi is a huge part of MotoGP and it's popularity now but Lorenzo, Dani, Stoner, Hayden, and Spies amongst others have a good number of fans themselves. I could see Lorenzo's popularity increasing near Rossi's very soon and Dani always plays the "heel" role very good.

All true race fans and sports fans in general are and should be wishing Rossi a speedy recovery but in the end the racing is MotoGP not one guy or personality regardless of how big it is.

For the aliens, what's the problem with people following them? I can understand it in 125 where a slipstream can boost you past the time of the person in front. But in MotoGP, surely the aliens are just going to pull away or the person will fall trying to keep up.

I would imagine they wouldn't want them learning any of their lines, especially at a track like Mugello where the Italians seem to know some secret route!

This is not a complete list but there are a couple of reasons.

First, a slow rider getting a tow is just going to clog things up at the start. Imagine you have pole but fumble the start, now you have a rider who will finish last in front of you. At least if the rider is faster, he will be less of a logjam.

The other reason is just that it is annoying.

--------------------------------------------- - MotoGP Data & Statistics

These MotoGP riders are close in seconds/lap away from each other on a good day, track knowledge or the ability to learn from the fastest is definitely a big plus. Doesn't Toni Elias always slow down and try to follow Casey Stoner during 2007 along the straights on quite a number of tracks?

I watched Wayne Gardner chrashing in Suzuka, I'watched Wayne Rainey in Misano,
Lawson with his broken leg, Doohan at Assen, Kevin with his dislocated Hip an his
wrist in USA, and now I'm shoked like 15 Years ago...I'm so sad...

Sorry for my bad scholl-english

This is an great forum for real fans...thanks

It's not the end of the world for Rossi. Even if he decided not to come back to bikes because of a season sending injury, he will still have the option of rallying (at worst) or possibly F1 (at best).

Personally, I would love to see Bayliss take the ride and perform like he did at Valencia a few years back. As someone pointed out earlier, Mladin would be an impressive person to put up there and with Spies having a ride in GP and doing well, I can't see anyone doubting his ability.

I do hope that Vale comes back to MotoGP, he does amazing things on a bike, but if he doesn't he'll still be as impressive in a car.

Is it just possible that Lorenzo needs Vale for inspiration?

I have to admit that today actually seemed an anti-climax, but both the fans and lorenzo have to move on, the sport is bigger than any one rider!

This will throw the season wide open. Why?
That said, it does make for some interesting season possibilities:

Jorge Lorenzo: He may now feel the full weight of season favouritism. Can he cope? Will he ride for points as the season wears on? Can he be consistent enough to win the title- or he is he too just one high side away from 4 races in hospital etc?

Casey Stoner: Probably will gain the most (as inappropriate as that sounds) because he can now put his two early season crashes behind him and look ahead. As he did in 2009 after his post illness return, he can go out there with no title pressure and win races. But with Rossi out, he might just be able to use the pressure on Jorge to advantage and still seek out this years title.

Valentino Rossi: He can "do a Casey" and return when he's ready. The title is gone, so he might elect to stay out longer rather than rush back. If he does come back fully fit (or close to), then he could reel off some wins and play title spoiler to Jorge Lorenzo, Danny Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.

I think Lorenzo has a bit more to be concerned about than the pressure of favouritism. I believe he has been able to get the same overall team treatment as Rossi for a while now and particularly the sharing of data which has undoubtedly helped him. With Rossi not riding for a while he might actually have to figure things out for himself and that could be interesting. I wonder how much help JB and his team will give him?

Interesting comments also from Wayne Gardner on the Ducati problems at

Sharing data? Are you serious?

They do not share the data anymore from this year. JLo has been doing just fine without the Rossi`s data so far. What he should worry is a bike. It is not as dominant as last year. Honda is catching up very fast.

Gardner has been spouting that same weight distribution story for years. Burgess is on record as saying it is all bullshit, and that Wayne doesn't know what he is talking about.
As good a rider as Gardner was, bike development was not his strong point.
Danis' performance on sunday certainly puts a hole in the Jorge cakewalk theory, but then, Dani seems to do that once or twice a year, then struggles elsewhere.
Silly season looks like it will only get more complicated.

What a shame for Rossi and for GP racing as a whole. get well soon Vale...

The organisers must be in a blind panic after Sundays preview of MotoGP 'post Rossi', because it was the dullest GP race I have watched in many a year. Rossi may not have won the race but he would at elast have brought some colour and personality to what was otherwise a processional display.

As for who should take the 46 bike in Rossi's absence........

Yamaha should be brave and put Cal Crutchlow on it for a couple of races. He would be 'non threatening' to Lorenzo and would give Yamaha a UK rider for us to cheer :)
Spies is still under contract as a Rookie for 2010 so can't really take the ride, and Edwards is just past it so it would be wasted on him (He had the chance to win on the factory bike for long enough). Crutchlow would be the perfect candidate :) Pity they can't get him on it in time for Silverstone.

Edwards seems the best choice for a stand in rider for Rossi while he recovers for several reasons. For Edwards he get's the #1 Yamaha bike and crew increasing his chances to podium and possibly even have a GP win in his career. C'mon everyone's rooting for Edwards to get at least 1 win yes? For Fiat/Yamaha and Rossi's crew he is a known, liked, and respected quantity. He knows the M1 and is so valued as a development rider T3 even said they want to keep him "forever" after he retires from racing because they value him as such. For Rossi he is a well liked former team mate that he is still friends with, he's not an up and comer getting to ride the bike he's worked so hard to make #1. Colin is the perfect regent to the throne.

MotoGP is now over to me, no point on keep watching, Rossi is MotoGP, to many of us, i was a kid when Ayrton Senna died in Formula1, right that moment i stopped following the sport, and so many things like that, i am a fan of sportsman i guess, still i will never give up my sportbike but until he comes back im watching something else, and once he retires i guess i will too.

If you were a Doohan fan and reacted the same way after he quit, you never would have seen Rossi ride. Even, if you were a Gardner-or-nothing fan you never would have seen Doohan ride.
So maybe just stop watching whenever Burgess calls it quits?

but wow. im not trying to be rude but come on man what are you thinking!
rossi is a great asset to gp but he isnt the whole show. if gp's consisted of just him on his own riding around then how boring would that be. It's the lorenzo's and the stoners and the pedrosas and and everyone fighting tooth and nail for every millisecond that makes it a great spectacle.

Several issues to address:

Of the names bandied about to replace Valentino Rossi for the summer, two should probably be stricken as quickly as they are uttered (typed):  Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards.

  • Troy Bayliss does not have a relationship with Yamaha and, more importantly, he still DOES have a relationship with Ducati.
  • Colin Edwards...  aside from the red tape associated with pulling him out of the Poncharal-owned seat sponsored by Monster, and how to fill that seat with Monster's best interests (where is John Hopkins these days...?), there is this important detail from the weekend:

“The bike was working well, but I can't ride in that condition. I felt fatigued really early in the race and was really struggling to change direction with the bike. I've had a bit of an arm pump issue all weekend for the first time in my career and needed quite a few injections to ease that. I'll try and figure it out and be ready to come out fighting strong in Silverstone.”  (source)

The idea of national series wild cards is interesting (and who better to try it than Yamaha), but two names quickly spring to mind:  Miguel Duhamel and Niccolo Canepa.  Fiat may have a say and prefer someone a bit more accomplished.

Jeremy Burgess is probably agreeable to the idea of working with a development test rider from Yamaha corporate, but Fiat may desire someone more marketable.

Though it is an admitted daydream, I can't help but point out that there is a GP veteran with a past linked to Yamaha, who would run afoul of none of the rules questions... 

All of his victories were aboard a Yamaha in 2000, so if ever something was more marketable than a "10th Anniversary Celebration Tour" in this scenario, I don't know what it would be or upon whose shoulders it could be borne.  No, he probably will not win, but I doubt he will suffer the presumed indignity of being lapped by the injured Bautista.  His days of binning the equipment are behind him, and it seems more than likely he would fit into the existing team with no need for changing key personnel (new seat and footpegs, to be sure).

I can't afford a Fiat (or even a new Chrysler), but I will buy hats and shirts!  Please, give the people what they (we) want!

"Please, give the people what they (we) want"?

What I want is to see McCoy sliding like the old days.
But I can't picture him being the Sultan of Slide on an 800 cc Moto GP bike with a stingy fuel supply.

I know you dismiss him as soon as he's uttered, but Troy Bayliss would be my choice if McCoy had to keep his wheels in line. I agree it's a long shot, but Troy's been racing bicycles, so he is fit, and he's itching to race now, not next year. He doen't have a relationship with Yamaha, but he should slot into the team with Burgess just as easily as McCoy would.

Yamaha to invite some old champs back..
Starting with Lawson, give him a private test then get him in full Fiat leathers at Silverstone.. or two more wins from him would maybe scupper Vales hopes of the all time record.?
Then there's the king himself..Kenny. The way he rode that TZ flat tracker last year..I reckon he's the best bet..

Even though he rode a Suzuki most of his time in the AMA I would LOVE to see Mladin on the Yamaha. It would be even better since the guy who beat him to the AMA title 3 times would be on satellite spec machinery and he would be on the factory ride

Mladin was the first "darkhorse" name that came to my mind. Don't know what the odds would be, probably pretty low but it would be a cool thing to see.

No one has to worry about MotoGP surviving without Rossi. The people with the money and power (track owners, promoters, sponsors, santioning body execs, etc.) will ensure that another fast rider with carisma will take his place.

And even if they couldn't find someone like that to replace him, there are plenty of us die hard motorcycle race fans that would be glad to pay to watch mini bikes race.

Any other form of racing is uninteresting to most of us true 2 wheeled fanatics.

Come back soon Vale - you are a great asset to our sport!

PS: I'm still available Yahama - if you need me.

I assume "The Jolly Joker" will be retired - never to see the light of day again - given Rossi's penchant for ritual and superstition.

I think getting back to a normal hairdo is a good start. That coiffe was bound to attrackt the demons.

Rossi will be back, of that you can be sure.

In terms of people giving up on the sport when he retires, to each their own certainly but thats a bit silly in my opinion. I have watched many greats come and go, I remember watching in the early eighties when you had to stay up until 3 am to watch a rerun of the race broadcast on some obscure network, but it was all worth it to see Rainey, Lawson, Mamola, Spencer, Schwantz, Gardner et all doing their thing. When Rainey Lawson and Spencer finished racing I thought it would be another lifetime until we saw such talent again.

I'm glad that I never stopped watching, riders come and go, even the greats. Listen to the older fellas wax on about Hailwood and Ago - the young guys rolling their eyes, and remember that will be you some day, telling someone much younger about this guy Rossi and the young punks rolling their eyes at you, reminding you that they rode pile of crap bikes with skinny tires and little 800cc 220hp engines that ran on gasoline.

Keep watching, because a few races in a row might be boring to watch, but the drama behind the scenes will never be, and every once in a while, you will see pure magic happen in front of your eyes.

Expensive rolling billboard..I guess if he had anything to do with it they'd just park the bike and wait for Vale to come back.

My brother told me he heard the story on the news, and this is Westcoast Canada. I was quite surprised that they had it on the news here.
It's a real shame about his accident! I made a huge printed banner in his honour I was going to bring to Laguna Seca with me this year, and even though he'll most likely miss the Laguna Seca race I'll still bring it and maybe he'll see it and cheer him up
And also, how would you just love to have something like this said to you, spoken by Luca di Montezemolo to Vale;
"If during your convalescense you feel you would like to do some training on four wheels, then remember that the door to Maranello is always open to you.”

It's good to be king!