Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - MotoGP 2017: 1126 crashes!

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


MotoGP 2017: 1126 crashes!

Once again, MotoGP’s accident figures broke all records. But does that mean the racing is getting safer or more dangerous?

Late November is a guilt-ridden time of year to be a MotoGP journalist. While dozens of riders check themselves in for post-season surgery, like a reckless driver booking his car’s annual bodyshop makeover, we sit comfortably at our desks analysing MotoGP’s annual Falls Report.

This year’s report runs to 159 pages and contains almost as much pain and anguish as a war novel. Every single crash is recorded in detail: where, when and what were the injuries? And then Dorna’s Friné Velilla divides the accidents into numerous bar graphs, by class, by race track, by year and so on.

The Falls Report isn’t just a ghoul’s delight. There is science behind the data, which is used by MotoGP staff to improve safety. And sensible analysis of the crash statistics can tell us a lot about what’s going on in MotoGP, especially about how each rider gets along with his bike.

What do this year’s figures tell us? The usual, really: that the annual crash rate continues to increase. In 2016 for the first time there were more than one thousand crashes across all three classes. Last season the total increased to 1126, which makes an average of 62 crashes per weekend. That’s a lot of battered bodies, smashed carbon fibre and poorer teams pushed to the brink of bankruptcy.

Five riders crashed more than 20 times, with one reaching a new record of 31 accidents. If you are a rider this isn’t a number of which to be proud, but in some ways the total number of crashes is something that MotoGP can be proud about, because it’s not the accidents that matter (unless you’re paying the repair bills) but the serious injuries sustained.

You surely don’t need me to tell you that if you had crashed 31 times in MotoGP’s inaugural 1949 season that there’s no chance you would’ve lived to tell the tale. Riders raced around the Isle of Man, through the streets of Bern in Switzerland, between the hedges and ditches of the Ulster GP and around the original Spa-Francorchamps, where riders joked that there were so many memorials around the nine-mile street circuit that they could make a fence with them.

Sixty-nine years later, racing couldn’t be more different. Everything has changed, in all kinds of ways. For a start, bikes and riders are much more closely matched. During the 1949 season the average winning margin was 46 seconds; in 2017 the average gap was 2.11 seconds, with more than half the races won by less than 1.5 seconds. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what effect this has on the riders: the racing is so much closer that they must take big risks to make the difference.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 24
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Comments

So many more of them are low sides relative to the old days. The tracks have have doing a good job with run off as well.

The money involved with frequent crashers isn't something we talk about often, do we? If the average MotoGP crash costs $25,000 look at the difference between having a rider like Rossi etc is vs poor Aprilia with Sam Lowes. He could have tossed a million dollars down the road!

Mixed conditions are on the rise. The tires and lean angles are leaving slimmer margins for error. The level of competition is wonderfully up.

And then there is the Marquez factor.

By far the most interesting aspect of the crash figures for me is Marc Marquez. A bit of a revolution has occurred. Few are more pleased than me to see the "polite era" gone. Processional races with few passes. And passes with enough room between them for a third bike to fit. Flinching.

Electronics developed so far that more riders could approach the limit without the throttle control skills of geniuses like Stoner. Bang the throttle open and let the computer hand you 11.8% wheelspin lap after lap. Then get in line with everyone else and do laps until the end of the race. Wohoo! Blech.

So electronics came back to a more reasonable level not long ago. Superb thing. I would prefer even a tad less functionality, but just that this became the standard is quite remarkable. Hats off to DORNA for the backbone, vision and leadership.

Back to Marquez - Moto2 was a bar bashing of unprecedentedly equal machinery when we went to a spec 4 stroke engine. And Marquez was as aggressive a rider as we have seen get up front. Our points system can attest. Not just aggressive with other riders, which of course he is (is this now a contact sport?) - he is aggressive with the bike and the limit. Not a two dimensional limit of tire contact patch adhesion at apex either - attacking consistently the limit of braking, of lines on the track, etc etc. The limits of a unheraldly flawed and in incalcitrant 2015-2016 Honda. The limits of rules. The limits of Valentino Rossi two years ago. The limits of the sport's unwritten rules and culture. The limits of Italian sanity at a few times.

It is feckin beautiful. And, like any sane person that took statistics in college, has spent time gambling, or raced anything in earnest, don't you share some concern for Marquez? That is a LOT of damn dice rolls. He has already had about three career enders that, like his bloody brilliant elbow saves, just didn't seem to complete their natural process. Hey Marc, dial it back just a wee so we can see you racing for a long while buddy.

Have a look at a compilation of just some 2017 MM93 crashes...

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ScvoAA-kQqo

Then have another look at those elbow saves of his - the front leaving a black stripe as long as the beer line. Read the data outlined too. Braking 30 meters late? Jeez.

http://www.crash.net/motogp/news/887590/1/marc-marquez-save

Total votes: 32

Lowes mostly broke old, obsolete parts in his crashes, which Scott Redding should be very thankful for.

Total votes: 24