Eugene Laverty

2016 Motegi MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Return of the Highside

If anyone was nostalgic for the days of 500cc two strokes, they got a glimpse of what the dark side of that era was like this weekend at Motegi. Rider after rider has been flung from his bike, spat into the air as a rear tire slipped then bit again, snapping the bike around, suspension compressing and then explosively decompressing, catapulting the rider into the sky. It has kept the medical helicopter busy: Eugene Laverty and Jorge Lorenzo have been flown to and fro for medical examination, with the second helicopter kept on standby having to take its place.

On Friday, the victims had been Eugene Laverty and Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa had paid the heaviest price, snapping his right collarbone and flying home to Spain for another operation – his fourteenth, by all counts. Laverty had escaped relatively lightly, but was still forced to sit out the morning session on Saturday as a precaution. Jorge Lorenzo was even more fortunate. He was launched at Turn 3 at the end of FP3, and had to be flown to hospital for checks, before being allowed to return and take part in FP4. He feared he had damaged his left ankle, but checks revealed it was just bruising.

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2016 Motegi MotoGP Friday Notes: Highsides, Tires, and the Speed of Marquez

What is the biggest downside of the flyaways? The three back-to-back races are crucial on the way to the end of the championship. This is the time you need to perform, where you can make the difference by pushing that little bit harder. The downside, of course, is that if you push too far you can lose everything. "Three races in a row is always complicated," Valentino Rossi told the press conference on Thursday. "You can have a small problem in the first race and pay a lot."

The first day at Motegi was a concerted attempt to prove Rossi right. The afternoon session turned into a concerted effort by several riders to hurt themselves, sometimes successfully. In cool conditions and with a place in Q2 on the line, the last few minutes of FP2 turned into a massive wreckathon, with rider after rider going down.

Worst victim was Dani Pedrosa. In perhaps the biggest highside since Jorge Lorenzo prefigured Virgin Galactic at Shanghai, the Repsol Honda rider was flung from his RC213V at the end of the back straight, entering Turn 11. As soon as he landed he knew he had broken his collarbone. "Take me to the hospital, I've broken something," he told a Dorna photographer after his crash. It is not the first time he has had terrible luck at Motegi.

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