More crashes were the fare at Sachsenring, where tires are slow to warm, lose their properties rapidly and riders must cope with difficult Turn 11—the “Waterfall.” This is a downhill, off-camber right, which follows a series of uninterrupted lefts. The right sides of the tires cool while the left sides get hot through this section of the track. Andrea Dovizioso crashed there in second practice and said, “When you lose the front at that point, it is almost impossible to save it because it is such high speed. When the front closes, because the temperature of the tire is cold, it happens so quick and nobody is able to save it.” Andrea Iannone’s crash at Turn 11 dislocated his shoulder and broke the rear wheel off the bike. All four Ducati riders crashed in Friday’s sessions.
Cal Crutchlow crashed in both FP1 and FP2, giving himself a heavy beating, having gravel embedded in one hand and receiving friction burns to his forearms. About Turn 11, the Yamaha Tech 3 rider said, “Because of the camber going away [from] you all the time, you can’t really save the front.”
Marc Marquez’s view of Turn 11 was a little rosier. “The corner is so nice,” said the Repsol Honda rider. “The problem is that there are so many left-handed corners before it. It is fast with 50 percent gas and not full banking, so when the front slides, it is hard to save. I crashed there in Moto2. It is a little bit dangerous, but there is a lot of run off.”
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo topped FP1, then highsided at the beginning of FP2 in left-hand Turn 10, landing on his repaired collarbone, bending the plate installed during the Assen weekend, where he finished fifth, only a few hours after surgery. He withdrew from the Sachsenring and returned to Spain to have a new plate with 10 screws installed. Riders used to heal. Today, they are repaired.
Light rain began to fall early during Saturday morning’s FP3. Series points-leader Dani Pedrosa crashed exiting right-hand Turn 1. The rear wheel stepped out while he was off throttle, flicking him into the air. Pedrosa hit on his left shoulder. “It was definitely a scary moment,” he said, “and I’m still not totally sure what happened. I hit my head hard and immediately felt a lot of pain in my shoulder. I checked to see if I could feel anything. Thankfully, in the medical center, they saw it wasn’t broken but maybe a small fracture. I was also feeling very dizzy but never lost consciousness.”
Marquez topped FP3, but the real surprise was Aleix Espargaro, second fastest on the non-MSMA/non-CRT Aprilia.
In Saturday afternoon qualifying, Pedrosa did not ride, and Marquez, Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi traded the top position until Marquez took pole two minutes from the end of the session. Stefan Bradl pushed for a front-row start but lowsided and had to be satisfied with fourth. Espargaro was fifth, the highest-ever qualifying position for a non-MSMA entry.
Rossi, when asked about the many falls in Turn 11, replied, “For me, a dual-compound front tire is a very easy way to fix the problem. I raced with the Michelin dual-compound front, but it was a different type of dual compound—harder in the center and softer on the edges. Not one compound on the left and another on the right. I heard when Bridgestone made a dual-compound front tire the riders didn’t like [it], but I have never tried it. So, it is a question mark. Maybe we need to try again.” Rossi’s third place in qualifying was his first front-row start since 2010.
Against this backdrop of crashes and injuries, the remaining riders formed their tire strategies and set about their tasks. “I am a bit worried about the second part of the race,” said Rossi. “We have to improve a bit. For me, the bike slides too much.” Pedrosa did not appear for qualifying but could have started 12th in the race. On race day, however, low blood pressure and persistent dizziness kept him from starting.
In Sunday’s morning warm-up, the order was Marquez, Crutchlow, Bradl and Rossi.
The race began with poor starts for the front row, and Bradl took the early lead. He was clearly riding harder than his setup could support, but this was the German’s home race. Marquez took three laps to be sure his tires were ready for pursuit and began to methodically dispose of his rivals. He took the lead from a fading Bradl on Lap 6 and, thereafter, managed his risks like an experienced investor. The top three were being super-smooth through Turn 11 for the second half of the 30-lap race. Why? Marquez’s tire-performance drop came around Lap 17, when slightly slower laps of 1:22.5 and 1:22.6 appeared. Somehow rising above his battered state, Crutchlow hit the drop at Lap 13/14. Rossi hit it sooner yet—Lap 9. Crutchlow remained full of fight, being only 1.5 seconds back from new points-leader Marquez at the end, with Rossi down almost 10 seconds. Each man did what he could. Rider contracts offer no bonus points for foolish crashes caused by ignoring fading tires. Yet fans love a fighting underdog. Can they do better than Crutchlow?
Sachsenring Race Results
|Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||41:14.653|
|Cal Crutchlow||Yamaha Tech 3||1.559|
|Valentino Rossi||Factory Yamaha||9.620|
|Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||13.992|
|Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||21.775|
|Bradley Smith||Yamaha Tech 3||25.080|
|Andrea Dovizioso||Factory Ducati||30.027|
|Aleix Espargaro||Aspar Aprilia||30.324|
|Nicky Hayden||Factory Ducati||45.355|
|Michele Pirro||Pramac Racing Ducati||47.142|
At first, Yamaha announced that Lorenzo would also be absent next weekend at Laguna Seca, but later, this was called into question. It is unfortunate when injuries sideline riders. There is no way to glamorize this as “an integral part of racing.” Injuries are hateful.
As for the numbers, Dovizioso’s Ducati was a second per lap off the winning pace; he was 30 seconds behind after 30 laps. Teammate Nicky Hayden was a second-and-a-half behind, with Espargaro’s Aprilia splitting the Ducati pair at the end. To come from Casey Stoner’s brilliant championship in 2007 to being gradually overhauled by Aprilia’s notionally production-related “ART” bike is a hard situation for Ducati. What will happen if Aprilia boldly wades the seas of Dorna/MSMA politics to put pneumatic-valve heads on its V-Four?
At this point, I wonder why MotoGP bans use of intermediate tires. Would the extra cost of providing intermediates prove more expensive than the crashes that occur without them? It is fiction to propose that race direction proclaiming a race either “dry” or “wet” somehow makes the danger of mixed conditions disappear. Slicks become dangerous as conditions become wetter, and full rains slide more as conditions become drier. Outside MotoGP, intermediate tires, not full rains, are the correct choice in most wet situations.
This is a strange game. Riders must have the means to get their tires working quickly, which implies something close to abuse. Then, they must switch to tire conservation, with a chassis setup that prolongs tire life as much as possible. Who can satisfy such opposed conditions? This season continues to be a “who has grip?” teeter-totter.