There’s an expression in the Dutch language, “een ongeluk zit in een klein hoekje,” which translates literally as “accidents hide in small corners.” It seems particularly relevant at the Sachsenring on Friday, as while there were crashes galore at Turn 11, the fast corner at the top of the long downhill run to the two final left handers, Jorge Lorenzo crashed at Turn 10, the uphill left which precedes Turn 11.

It is not much of a corner, just the last of the long sequence of left handers which proceed from the Omegakurve towards the top of the hill, and the plunge down the waterfall. But it was enough to bend the titanium plate holding Jorge Lorenzo’s collarbone together, and put him out of the German Grand Prix, and maybe Laguna Seca as well. That relatively minor corner may have ended Jorge Lorenzo’s championship hopes.

What happened? It’s hard to say exactly, but buoyed by the fact he topped the timesheets in FP1, and was consistently fast, Lorenzo came out in FP2 in attack mode. He pushed aggressively for the first two laps, setting a time that would put him in 4th on just his second full lap out of the pits. He was faster still round the first two sectors of the track, and then Turn 10 happened.

The factory Yamaha man was thrown off his bike and into the air, landing having on his shoulder and back. The impact was violent enough to bend the titanium plate, and Lorenzo immediately knew something was wrong. He got up, zipped open his leathers, and started gingerly feeling his collarbone.

A trip to the medical center confirmed the injury was serious, and he was transported to a local hospital, where the plate was discovered to be bent. Lorenzo returned immediately to Barcelona, and will undergo surgery as soon as possible to have the bent plate replaced.

Though the pattern may seem identical to Assen, where Lorenzo rushed back to Barcelona for surgery to fixate his broken collarbone, do not expect a heroic return to race this time. That experience required a concentrated burst of intensity, to prepare himself mentally to race. The intensity required was clear after the race, when Lorenzo broke down in tears, as the tension released. Repeating that kind of intensity two races in a row is hard, even for a man like Lorenzo.

More difficult still is the dent to his confidence. Lorenzo arrived at the Sachsenring on a high. The race at Assen had gone better than expected, and his recovery had gone even better than he had hoped. The hard work he had put in appeared to be paying off. Just how confident he was was apparent in FP1, when he was fastest.

The huge crash in FP2 as he pushed for a time brought him down to earth with a bang, literally and figuratively. Lorenzo is resilient, one of the most resilient and mentally tough riders in the paddock, but there are limits, even for him. At Sachsenring, Lorenzo found it.

Does that mean that he can forget about defending his world title? It has certainly got a whole lot harder now, but it is far from impossible, teammate Valentino Rossi suggested. “The situation for the championship will be very difficult, but not impossible,” Rossi said of Lorenzo’s title chances. “Jorge is very fast and can win races.

After Laguna is a three week break, so for Indy he can be at 100%, and it also depends on the results of the Hondas in these two races. The championship is long but now everything has become more difficult for Jorge.” Lorenzo is dependent on the results of others, and particularly on Rossi, Marc Marquez, and Cal Crutchlow stealing points from Dani Pedrosa.

While Lorenzo was crashing unfashionably early, the rest of the pack was hitting the gravel at Turn 11, the fast right-hander at the top of the hill. The attrition rate was exceptionally high, with Cal Crutchlow crashing there twice, all three Ducati regulars going down, as well as a host of supporting characters. Crutchlow’s crash was the worst, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man suffering a gash in his right hand, bruising and burn marks on his left arm, and more bruising on his legs.

The consequences for Dovizioso were also severe. The Italian fell heavily in FP1, destroying the brand new chassis he had brought to the track to test. He had had four laps on the chassis he had tested at Misano, before damaging it beyond repair. He is left with two standard GP13s, the same bike he started the season on. This is not the progress he was hoping for.

Andrea Iannone also managed to destroy a Ducati, this time the lab bike he had decided to switch to from Germany. Iannone’s demolition of the Ducati was one of the most thorough in recent years, snapping the rear swingarm and the rear subframe, trashing the front forks and wheel, and generally making the bike look like somebody tried to fold it in half.

So what is it about Turn 11 that has everyone falling off? The nature of the track, most of all, with only three right-handers, Turn 11 being the fastest of them all. Riders arrive there with the right-hand of the tire having cooled off, and have to handle the corner carefully. The wind and the camber also play a role, with several factors combining to make it treacherous in the extreme.

Marc Marquez explained in detail the problem of negotiating Turn 11 successfully, having experience of the way the corner can bite you himself. “Last year I crashed there in Moto2,” Marquez explained.

“You know, I try to be a little bit careful, especially on the beginning. You never know with that corner, because it also depends with the wind and everything. You feel like you are on the correct line, and the correct speed, and immediately, you lose the front. The banking is not full banking, and then it’s so difficult to try to save that crash. But yes, it’s a difficult corner, because the tire is a little bit colder than other corners, and you need to be careful.”

The culprit, if blame is to be assigned, is the front tire. The rear is now pretty good, with Marquez and Bradley Smith praising the job which Bridgestone has done. The problem is the front, with Bridgestone not having an asymmetric front to bring. The left side of the front tire takes a beating round the many long left handers at the Sachsenring.

The right hand side of the tire is barely touched, and tends to cool. That leaves the riders arriving at the fastest part of the circuit with a cold left side of the tire, and an unknown amount of grip. While most riders feel their way forward, carefully avoiding pushing too hard until they are certain, it remains easy to push to hard, and find yourself in the gravel.

Saturday promises to be decent weather, and the hope is that it will be less incident-packed. Almost everyone had a warning on Friday. Let’s see what they have learned for qualifying.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • JW

    All his bitching about other riders being dangerous over the years; 58 and 93 as an example, yet he has proven he is his own worst enemy..

  • Phil

    JW…Nail on the head!

  • TexusTim

    what the heck are you two guys talking about…lorenzo didnt ride dangerous in this …it’s the tires dumbasses..there is only three right handers and the asymetrical tires bridgstone brought are not holding enough heat in the right side. they are crashing due to this not bad riding…we may lose dani as well, high side in turn one in fp3 cold tire crash may have broken his cb too..many riders going down due to this.THERE NOT RIDING DANGEROUSLY SO FIND SOMTHING ELSE TO HATE ON !!!!!

  • smiler

    Agree with Tim. If you want dangerous riding look at Bautista.

  • Dave zzrMD

    …yeah, and explain to me how a high-side is caused by a front tire? Supposedly the rear is good, but the problem is the front tire:

    “The culprit, if blame is to be assigned, is the front tire. The rear is now pretty good, with Marquez and Bradley Smith praising the job which Bridgestone has done. The problem is the front, with Bridgestone not having an asymmetric front to bring.”

    …and Jorge Lorenzo high-sides yet again. Seems so common for him. Why? Probably because he was a little too aggressive with the throttle. And of course, the amount of grip the rear has and how much heat it’s holding is gonna matter, but the bigger culprit is him pushing it too fast too early. Jorge Lorenzo is dangerous (not toward others, but toward himself) and always has been and I think it’ll be the difference in his career of being very good versus being a dominant force over a long career…which just isn’t going to happen if he keeps abusing himself like this. I mean, he has a newly operated collarbone. It’s not healed. It’s just held in approximation by plate(s). It’s would’ve had even trouble healing if he doesn’t give it some rest!

  • Norm G.

    re: “The problem is the front, with Bridgestone not having an asymmetric front to bring.”

    but then there’s the question of why is this NOW a problem…? we’ve been cooling off the right side of tyres at sax for decades. this isn’t new data. we’ve had crashes here in the past (stoner iirc), but I suspect there are other factors at play this year than just a tyre. they have their limits. seems like this track has the “indy greens”.

  • JW

    @ Texas namcallerboy:

    So I will blame the next shooting on the gun..

  • L2C

    No mention of Wilco Zeelenberg getting into Lorenzo’s ear and pumping his head up to “The Terminator” and “Man of Steel” status. Why?

    Maybe Lorenzo would have decided on his own to race at Assen anyway, without Zeelenberg’s input. But most likely he would have held off racing until Sachsenring, at least, because in his own words he didn’t intend to race Assen until Zeelenberg convinced him it was something that Zeelenberg thought he could do.

    Here at Sachsenring, Lorenzo might have been much more cautious than he was, trying for a spot on the second row rather than the first. All that ego overwork he got from Zeelenberg, Yamaha and the press -before and after Assen- could have given Lorenzo an inflated sense of confidence and fitness, and so he went out and pushed harder in practice than he otherwise would have. Sure, he’s the reigning world champ and all of that, but his body is made of the same stuff as anybody else’s, and if his mind is clouded with PR hype bullshit, he is at further risk to injury.

    “Though the pattern may seem identical to Assen, where Lorenzo rushed back to Barcelona for surgery to fixate his broken collarbone, do not expect a heroic return to race this time. That experience required a concentrated burst of intensity, to prepare himself mentally to race. The intensity required was clear after the race, when Lorenzo broke down in tears, as the tension released. Repeating that kind of intensity two races in a row is hard, even for a man like Lorenzo.”

    No shit. Not the least because Lorenzo is a man in a body made just like any other. Bones can be broken, mental fitness can be compromised, championships can be lost – and careers and lives can be ended due to small mistakes and failure to properly assess crucial situations.

    “How a simple crash can change the course of a championship.”

    Yeah right. How many other ways can you spell denial?

    A high-side is not a “simple crash”. Lorenzo has had two of them in two weeks resulting in major consequences from both. Deal with it.

    Deal with the real thing and not the fantasy that you imagine. Respect is lacking.

  • JW

    @ L2C: Thank you

    All my research about this particular corner says with a cooler tire side, one should be “careful”.

    Not everyone highsided..

    93 in his own words, quite humbly, said he learned from crashing there in moto2, so he is more “careful”.

    Pain comands the most respect, is always the best teacher and humbler

  • FafPak

    Wow…a lot of Lorenzo vituperation. Why single him out? Because he is injured two weekends ago so he shouldn’t be riding this weekend? Or is it really because he did a phenomenal feat and non supporters hate to admit they were impressed…

    What about Pedrosa’s high side in FP3. He wasn’t even going citing lap pace when it happened. It was pretty obvious it had to do with the cold right side of the tire.

    What about Crutchlow’s double crashing in FP2. He wasn’t nursing an injured body part either but I guess he and Pedrosa were just as reckless, right?

    How is Lorenzo’s crashing comparable to some of the past antiques of 93 and 58? It was an isolated incident. It didn’t involve any other rider. Lorenzo could just have broken his collar bone for the first time this weekend, per Dani’s hairline fracture medical report.

    Watch the Qualifying Press Conference where the front row guys talk about the short comings of the tires and their cold edge. If anyone knows why there were a high frequency of crashes this weekend, better than we do, it’s the riders

  • tony kinsel

    jorges last race efforts were amazing…and wilco did a great job imo getting him back to do so…now yall are painting jl as a fool and wz as some type of svengali?

    99 has the true heart of a champion- how can you guys dis him for that? top flight racing involves risks, hell just putting it on the track at all involves risk! when was the last time you armchair racers put your ass on the line?

    perhaps youd rather have dani just ride around in circles, never taking a chance, never risking, hand the title over to him…boring! remember, it’s not bingo or watercolors boys…

  • Dave zzrMD

    FafPak, it’s simply that I think this (Lorenzo’s choice…and others like it) is bad for sports in general. I’m sure it must be torment for these guys to be held out of a race by a doctor…but whether their own fault, someone else’s fault, or just plain dumb-luck, if you’re seriously injured and the doctor tells you not to compete then that should be it. None of this bargaining with the docs to get them to give the ok.

    And I think it should be against the rules to compete with any serious painkillers. I just think it’s bad practice. If you’re in that much pain then you shouldn’t race. If they are helping that much, then pain killers at that point become performance enhancing drugs. (yes it brings your performance back to what it was, but as a rider you have to face the reality that YOU were in a crash and YOU must deal with the consequences)

    Now obviously this determination of when you can return to your sport is a soft science at best, but as a doctor myself I don’t think it’s ethical to send a guy who is clearly not fit to race out onto the track with a bunch of pain killers (Assen). So that’s why there’s a focus on Lorenzo from my standpoint. Worst case scenario is that these attitudes get carried further and further down to our college and youth sports (it already happens to an extent). Also, being a dangerous rider can apply to yourself and how you let yourself heal, not just whether you put others at risk.

    Lorenzo isn’t the first to make stupid decisions and he won’t be the last. There’s gonna be plenty of fast riders who will throw caution to the wind and ride fast at the cost of their own health. The guys who last will have raced smart (and had luck on their side), and the truly great are those who race for many years and stay (relatively) safe and healthy throughout their careers.

  • Dave zzrMD

    haha obviously I meant to say the truly great have long careers (relatively healthy) while winning many races.

  • FafPak

    @Dave zzrMD

    I understand your side of the argument, but that’s not the angle the others are spinning it from. The bottom line is, this weekends crashes had a lot more to do with the nature of the track and the tires and the riders are complaining about Bridgestone. Singling Lorenzo out is unfair on their part, IMHO. Yeah he took risks last and this weekend, but he was far from reckless and he hasnt taken anyone out.

    While medicine isn’t my field, I thought painkillers were generally performance de-enhancing…dulling reaction times, causing drowsiness, sensory dullness… etc?

    As for these attitudes being carried down to other (youth) sports, I think high impact and contact sports already suffer from this issue and have even less medical supervision e.g. football/rugby and concussions etc

  • @JW: “Not everyone highsided..”

    True enough, but FP turned out to be a total crashfest in all three classes. It’s good to resist selective memory and note that Sachsenring has always been a difficult track. Certain conditions promote more crashing than others. And as for “not everyone”, Pedrosa’s highside was one of positively EPIC proportion. And that was on an outlap.

    People don’t want to blame the tires, but the tires have been the subject of rider complaints for years.

  • JW

    Very good comments here, I wish we could all watch the race together in someone’s mancave. With the 2 top point men out, there will be a Top 5 very close to each other. Dorna must be very happy cause ratings will increase due to injuries. Sports can be real cruel..

  • @JW:

    I expect the 3-way battle between MM93, VR46 and CC35 to be deliciously good. And I’m going to fully sign up for the Espargarins and urge Aleix to finish in the top 6. If the guys on the front row do anything goofy, such as ride on the same track as Bautista (sorry, cheap shot, I know), AE41 might very well find himself fighting for the podium.

    That’s the stuff of movies, right there.