With MotoGP taking a break until June 11th, I will also be taking a small break. My elderly mother is visiting for a week, and so I will be concentrating on spending time with her. The site won't be completely silent - there are a couple of subjects I want to touch on if I get a spare hour or two - but I will be back up to full speed in a week's time, after May 28th.
In the meantime, here's a couple of things worth your while. Saturday 20th May 2023 marks 50 years since the passing of Jarno Saarinen, Finnish racing legend, 250cc World Champion, and the man who helped change racing. Saarinen died along with Renzo Pasolini in one motorcycle racing's most horrific crashes. Pasolini's Harley-Davidson two-stroke seized in the 250 race at Monza, on 20th May 1973, tossing Pasolini to the ground, where he was hit by Saarinen's Yamaha TZ250. He and his bike careened into the armco barrier, where he was hit by the pack storming behind him.
As usual, Mat Oxley has a deep historic insight into the crash, both its background and the repercussions it had in later years. It was one of the first incidents to start to slowly turn the tide against riders being treated as disposable performing monkeys, and toward creating a safe environment for riders to compete in. Saarinen's death helped change the conversation which would lead to the creation of IRTA, and taking rider safety seriously.
MotoMatters.com reader Peer also sends a link to his own website, containing a history of events that day and the impact of the crash. A very good read.
Jarno Saarinen died when I was 8 years old, and before I actively took an interest in racing. But the impact he made on the sport in his still relatively brief career cannot be overstated. It was Saarinen who started the trend for hanging his body off and sliding his knee on the ground, which inspired the racers who came after him, such as Kenny Roberts, to take it to the next level.
Saarinen is probably the greatest what if in racing. He was already a 250 World Champion, and won the first two 500cc races of the 1973 season. If he hadn't have been killed that day, what heights might he have reached?
Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Finnish racer is the vast number of men aged in their 40s named Jarno. I personally know several Jarnos in Dutch racing and motorcycling circles, as well as world-renowned racetrack designer Jarno Zaffelli. I like to think Zaffelli's eye for detail and dedication to building tracks which are safe for motorcycle racing is the greatest legacy the loss of Jarno Saarinen could have left. We have lost too many great racers too early. Let's try not to lose any more.
Aerodynamics is the villain-du-jour of motorcycle racing, the scourge of MotoGP, to many fans. It has caused massive problems with overtaking, and made the bikes much faster than they would have been otherwise. Aero is widely blamed for ruining MotoGP, and the fans (and many pundits) never tire of calling for it to be banned.
The riders are generally much more positive about aerodynamics. They make the bike more stable, and help make one of the most scary phases of riding - the transition from full throttle down the straight to maximum braking effort for the corner at the end - much safer. The front wheel has much more contact with the ground.
Friend, fellow Paddock Pass Podcaster, and On Track Off Road editor Adam Wheeler (you really should read the site), has two excellent pieces on the significance of aerodynamics in MotoGP. One much wider piece on the On Track Off Road website, and another, more focused on the KTM side of the story, on the KTM website.
Though most of the KTM material appears in both pieces, I recommend reading them both. KTM's aerodynamics team leader Dan Marshall explains how the role of aerodynamics has changed in MotoGP. It is no longer just some wings you stick onto a motorcycle in the hope of controlling the bike on the front straight. Aerodynamics are now a key input for the design of a MotoGP bike, a central variable around which the performance of the bike is centered.
These articles offer a key insight into why you can no longer just demand that aerodynamic wings be banned in MotoGP. That horse has well and truly bolted, and shutting the stable door will merely result in the aerodynamicists finding different ways to incorporate aero into the total package.
That does not mean that aerodynamics cannot be restricted in MotoGP. But it does mean that we have to accept that aero is an integral part of the sport, and what is needed are ways to reduce the effect and impact of aero, limit its effect on other bikes, and reduce its influence on the ability to overtake.
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Didn’t realise the 20th of May was the anniversary.
By coincidence I was at a party in a motorcycle workshop yesterday. Celebrating my brother's birthday. He is the better dirt bike rider.
I was talking to a Motorcycling Australia steward. About the responsibilities of that role and how he had a helicopter medivac at his first motocross meeting.
Thankfully tracks and racing are safer now, so we aren't loosing riders the way we were.
Enjoy the break.
A well-earned break; and you only get one mother as a rule, so it's right to treasure her. Hope it's a refreshing time for you and your mother, and we'll look forward to seeing you back in due course. Tell your mother how widely respected and appreciated her son is; she has reason to be proud.
Greetings from Down Under - and I don't mean Oz.
Rob is right - please tell…
Rob is right - please tell her your readers think you are the best motorcycle racing journalist in the world. A bit of an alien really. There might be few others who justify the description, but no need to waffle. Enjoy.
I was a senior in high…
I was a senior in high school in the US and just getting interested in motorcycles when Saarinen and Pasolini died at Monza. As an F1 fan I was aware of Monza’s reputation, but something in that news stuck with me all these years. And perhaps because Saarinen had just won at Daytona and Pasolini was on a Harley, it was big news here in the local paper which otherwise ignored motorcycle racing.
No MotoMatters in those days, and the only sources of racing info were monthly magazines which I could scan at the newsstand, or Cycle News at the counter in motorcycle shops, where browsing was discouraged. Thanks David for providing news quicker than in those days, but especially analysis that was completely absent then. Enjoy your break!
Such a shame OTOR went to that new endlessly scrolling format, I used to like reading OTOR but have not been back since my first sample of the new format. Tried it again both on a tablet and a desktop for this link and once again found it unreadable gibberish purely due to the format. Awful.
Maybe that's just me, but dropping back in on OTOR reminds me to thank David for 'keeping it real' here.