Former Yamaha TZ750 racer Mark Homchick made me realize this week that we have to stop calling Marc Marquez’s recoveries “saves” and call them what they are: a learned and thoughtful technique. In his own words, Marquez crashed 27-1/2 times this season, with no hospital time. Marquez is not just lucky. He knows things.

“Safety gear must be so much better than in the 1970s and ’80s,” Homchick noted. “I remember it would be two weeks after a good highside before I could get out of bed in the morning more quickly than 20 to 30 seconds.”

Today, when the riders file into the various press briefings, you can see the winking lights on the arms of their leather suits—status lights for the built-in airbags that are deployed by clever “crash imminent” algorithms. Plus, there is the usual knee, elbow, and shoulder protection. And a back protector. And the constantly improving helmets, to say nothing of the profound changes in track safety.

Today’s runoff areas and gravel traps replace old-time Formula 1 Armco, the big trees lining Barcelona’s old Montjuïc Park circuit (“If you were off the bike and sliding, you tried to steer with your elbows, hoping to go between the trees”), and the timeless “ounce of prevention” arguments with promoters over the cost of a few more hay bales.

Here comes Marquez into that left-hand corner at Valencia. As he feels the front end “closing” (loss of grip causing an increase in steer angle), his left elbow comes down to stop the bike from being picked up by engine contact with the pavement; if that happens, all grip is lost and you’re in the gravel.

Marquez continues to hold the bike up (not that it has far to fall; today’s tires see to that) with his elbow and inside thigh/knee and begins to work the front tire back into firmer contact with the pavement. Somehow, he has been able to do this time after time without triggering a highside. All the while, friction is slowing the bike. Re-established front grip is picking up the weight, so Marquez can retract his “landing skids.” The bike has now reached the runoff area but is back under full rider control. He accelerates back onto the track.

As Homchick notes, this process is nothing like the “saves” of old, which were mostly luck. The bike snaps loose with a giant twist, throwing the rider through the windscreen (this used to be called “doing a Superman”), which explodes into brightly winking fragments. Being a fit athlete, the rider still has the bars but may be on either side of the bike or at full length, looking down on the front wheel.

Barry Sheene had one of these at a long-ago Match Race, finding himself “waterskiing” alongside his Suzuki, knowing that a crash would re-break his recently plated-and-screwed bones. Somehow, he heaved himself back on the bike and continued.

Just as a traditional shifter-drum transmission must pass through a neutral to get from one gear to the next, so the traditional “save” must pass through complete control loss to arrive back at stability. But in the new Marc Marquez technique, nothing is allowed to happen fast enough that control is lost. As tire grip fades (no longer the sudden process it was in the late 1980s and ’90s), Marquez lowers his landing skids and waits for friction to reduce his speed enough to try the next phase: re-engaging full front tire grip.

Homchick ended by saying, “That youngster is rewriting the operations manual every year. Makes me wonder if he is doing some sort of training to practice this or if it is just a case of having thought it through and storing it so it is ready to go.”

You can bet other riders are watching and rewatching Marquez’s technique, just like Homchick.