Rainy conditions abound in Assen for the Dutch round of World Superbikes, and the wet weather has already claimed its first victim: Pata Honda’s Leon Haslam. Catching his foot in the wheel during a crash in FP1, Haslam fractured both his tibia and fibula on his left leg during the off, and has been unfortunately ruled out of the Sunday’s race.
Watch a modern MotoGP, Moto2 or World Superbike race with a casual fan and you can be certain there is one question they will ask you: “Why are they waving their legs about like that?” Many theories have been offered, often directly contradicting each other.
For example, several years ago, I suggested that the leg wave is entirely mental. Earlier this year, the Australian motorcycle coaching organization MotoDNA described the possible role which aerodynamics play, the exposed leg helping to create more drag. Much has been said, yet it seems impossible to settle the argument one way or another.
Asking the riders to explain does not help much. It is a question I and other journalists have asked of many different riders, including Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow, and Dani Pedrosa. Their answers always boil down to the same thing: “It just feels natural,” they say. An interesting response, perhaps providing an insight into how deeply racers have internalized so much of the physical part of their riding, but not doing much to help explain the phenomenon.
To attempt to get to the bottom of this mystery, I turned to some of the best minds in the MotoGP paddock. For an explanation of the physics behind the leg wave, I asked Monster Tech 3 Yamaha crew chief and technical guru Guy Coulon, while for further insight from the point of view of an observer and ex-rider, I spoke to Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager of Jorge Lorenzo – the one current MotoGP rider who does not dangle his leg while riding.
Dani Pedrosa said it best during Saturday’s press conference when he told the assembled press that Casey Stoner is one tough racer, and if he was able to ride on Sunday, he would be fast. Seen in the pit box this morning hobbling on crutches to and fro, Stoner was sixth quickest in the warm-up session — Dani might just be right.
Over half a second back from the injured Ben Spies, who lead the session, Stoner’s position may not reflect the blistering pace we are accustomed to seeing from the reigning-World Champion, but considering the Australian tore a number of ligaments, along with a series of fractures in his ankle, tibia, and fibula, we would say that we are fairly impressed with Casey’s pace so far today.
After getting cleared by MotoGP medical staff this morning, Stoner’s warm-up session also confirmed his personal desire to race in the Indianapolis GP. The Repsol Honda team has now issued a press release starting Stoner’s official participation in Red Bull Indianapolis GP. Read it after the jump.
Breaking his left leg (fibula & tibia) during a training accident, Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera will be unable to ride for the next four to six weeks. Missing MotoGP’s stops at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pramac will replace Barbera with two-time former-MotoGP racer, Toni Elias.
Replacing his fellow countryman at the Laguna Seca round, and likely at the Indianapolis round as well, Elias himself has some interesting news, as the former-Moto2 Champion was ousted from his Moto2 ride on the Mapfre Aspar team. Elias’s results during his return to Moto2 have been anything but impressive so far this season, especially after his dominant Championship win in 2010.
Ian Hutchinson may not be a household name here in the United States, but over on the Isle of Man, “Hutchy” is a pretty big deal. Winning five solo-class races in the 2010 season, the English rider’s hot-streak was cut short after a tragic closed circuit racing accident, which saw him sidelined for the 2011 TT fortnight. Suffering another leg injury going into the 2012 racing season, Hutchinson was still physically not 100% as he headed to the TT, with the Swan Racing Team making obvious adjustments to his Yamaha YZF-R1 to accommodate Hutchy’s injured leg.
While Hutchinson would ride through the pain, he was noticeably off the pace during this last TT meeting. While a large component of those results are surely products of his physical state, where were compound by the fact that his practice and racing schedule has been truncated, many also wondered about Hutchinson’s mental state as well. Twice beaten, once shy, one Swan team member explained to me that when you looked into the his eyes as he got on board the bike, there was something there that didn’t exist before in Hutchy’s eyes. “Fear?” I asked. The team member wouldn’t comment further.
John McGuinness may be recognized as the King of the Mountain, as the Englishman has 17 Isle of Man TT victories to his name (second only in overall TT victories to the legendary Joey Dunlop). But, the young Ian Hutchinson has accomplished something neither McGuinness nor Dunlop can lay claim to: winning five solo-race victories in the TT fortnight. Hutchinson did the impossible in 2010, winning five of the solo-class races in dominate fashion (Hutchy could have swept all six solo races if he rode an electric).
Tipped as the favorite for the 2011 Isle of Man TT, Hutchy suffered a shattered leg while short-circuit racing in the British Superbike Championship. Missing last year’s TT, IOMTT fans have been waiting for Hutchinson’s return to the famous island event this year. However with only four months until the 2012 Isle of Man TT, Hutchinson has again broken his leg while rehearsing for the Carole Nash MCN Motorcycle show on an off-road bike.
By last year’s account, Ian Hutchinson is the king of the Isle of Man TT, winning an historic five TT races in 2010. Unfortunately however, the English rider will have to sit out the 2011 IoMTT, as Shaun Muir Racing has confirmed that Hutchinson has not fully recovered from the injuries he sustained from during an incident in a BSB Supersport race, which was held at Silverstone in September 2010. From that incident, the 31 year-old Hutchinson has suffered from a compound fracture of the tibia and fibia, and has had 16 surgeries and skin grafts to treat his injuries.
Moving to the Shaun Muir Racing team, Hutchinson had hoped to defend his five TT wins in this year’s event, but instead will only be able to participate in the Arai Parade Lap with Mick Doohan, Nicky Hayden. and Cal Crutchlow. Hutchinson is now expecting a return to motorcycle racing later in the BSB Supersport season, due largely to his vigorous rehabilitation efforts.
Good news for Álvaro Bautista fans today, as the Spanish rider has been medically cleared to participate in the upcoming Portuguese GP by MotoGP’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sarmento. After giving Bautista a thorough examination, Dr. Sarmento deemed that the Spaniard was fit enough to ride a motorcycle, which will occur during tomorrow’s first Free Practice.
Rizla Suzuki and Bautista will asses his riding fitness from there, and decide whether the Álvaro will compete in the Portuguese GP, or if Suzuki test rider Nobuatsu Aoki will take over the reigns for the race weekend. If he races on Sunday, Bautista will have made his recovery from a broken left femur in a remarkable 42 days.
Chris Vermeulen is back home in Australia after participating in only one shortened day of riding during the Kawasaki WSBK test at Sepang this week. While the rest of the WSBK riders for both Paul Bird Racing and Team Pedercini will complete the scheduled test, Vermeulen was forced home to continue with his physical therapy.
He tweeted, “My knee reacted a bit after riding just a few laps, was fun back on a bike though!!” According to the team, Vermeulen will remain in Australia until the final Infront test at Phillip Island just before the season opener. He will miss the late January test in Portimao to concentrate on his recovery.