Stoner Crash Officially Put Down To "Cold Tires"

The 2009 MotoGP weekend at Valencia will be one that features in motorcycle racing trivia contests for many, many years to come. Both the 250 and the MotoGP races started with grids slightly different from those set during qualifying. While the alteration to the 250 grid was understandable - Alex Debon was in too much pain to race from the pole position he set on Saturday - the events leading up to the modified MotoGP grid were just plain bizarre.

As the pack sat on the grid waiting for the red lights to dim, one spot remained empty. Casey Stoner, always the last rider to arrive on his starting position, failed to appear. So surprising was his absence that Dani Pedrosa, sitting 2nd on the grid, failed to close his visor in time for the race to start. It didn't hinder him, though, as he entered the first corner in the lead, as is his wont.

So where was Casey Stoner? In an incident as bizarre as it was unexpected, the Australian had highsided off during the warm up lap, being tossed off his bike as he pitched it into Turn 2. After Stoner's crash speculation immediately turned to the cause. The consensus of opinion in the press room was that Stoner had got in too hot on cold tires, and this had thrown him off. The assembled press looked forward to hearing from Stoner himself the reason for his crash in the customary press debrief.

The chaos and excitement of the final MotoGP race threw a spanner in the works of the regular press debriefing schedule, and Stoner's usual slot got lost in the melee. It slipped back until after Nicky Hayden's slot, and the press was told to stand by, as Stoner would be appearing soon. Journalists mingled, chewing the fat with Nicky and his brother Roger, but after half an hour, they slipped away one by one, finally giving up on talking to Casey and finding out his side of the story.

Instead, upon returning to the press room, a press release awaited us, explaining what happened from the point of view of technical guru Filippo Preziosi and Casey Stoner. Both stated that it was a failure of their warm up lap strategy, the first time it had failed in the two years they had used it. The strategy consists of hanging back in the early part of the lap, while pushing hard to get heat into the tires, arriving late and with warm tires, ready to get away from the line and push as hard as possible from the off. This strategy has given Stoner an almost unbeatable advantage in early laps in many races over the past two years, helping him to amass as many victories as the legendary Freddie Spencer.

According to the Ducati press release, Preziosi explained Stoner's crash thus: "We've been using this grid strategy for the past two season, but the only risk is that the tyres are colder than they should be for the warm-up lap. We obviously need to change this for the future and make sure there is enough temperature in the tyre. It is the first time it has happened in two years but once is already too much so we will look to improve on that. We have some ideas already and we will have something different in place for the first race of next season." Stoner concurred: "Obviously this is a frustrating and disappointing way to finish the season. There have been plenty of highs and lows throughout the year and we have ended on a low, but with another lesson learnt for next season. We have had this strategy for two years and not had a problem until today so I guess it is better it happened here than in the first race of next season in Qatar!"

Unfortunately, due to the scheduling problems with the press, the media were unable to hear directly from Casey Stoner what the problem was, how he thought it had occurred, and the ideas he had for fixing it. Testing for the 2010 season starts here tomorrow, and the teams and the media are staying on at Valencia for those tests. The subject is sure to come up again at some time over the next few days.

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Comments

[The strategy...]

Yes, you could see Stoner pull over and wait as nearly all the other riders went by, which I'd seen him do often before. Always thought he just wanted to make sure to stay out of traffic/avoid trouble.

Very careless of Stoner. His absence was deflating -- it really took something away from the race. Unfortunate for the season to end that way.

Pedrosa rode to the front and hung on like a bulldog; reminded me of Laguna Seca. All credit to him.

The interesting racing was further back in the pack, which is not ideal for MotoGP.

Nothing wrong with the warm up lap strategy, what I do not understand is Prezioso saying cold tyres. Sure if you've just taken the warmers off, the tyre starts to lose heat, and if the rider is wobbling around for the first half of the lap then they'll get colder. But Casey crashed at turn two? Maybe there's a bit of truth to the rumour that Stoner uses very little traction control. Cooler tyres, less than 100% concentration, no TC and an aggressive throttle delivery would certain provide such a 'hiccup' highside as happened. I reckon the tyre warmer thermostat was not functioning properly. Incidents always happen when you least expect them.

Motorcycles fall over if you don't go fast

"Nothing wrong with the warm up lap strategy, what I do not understand is Prezioso saying cold tyres."

The tyre warmers obviously get heat into the tyres but not as much as actually riding at race speed. So 'cold tyres' is a relative term in this case - they are warmer than most road riders every get near, but given how Stoner cranks it up on his warm-up lap, they are nowhere near optimum temperature for what he is asking of them. And as mentioned by DE, the wind played its part in the incident too by cooling the tyres more than Stoner could have reasonably anticipated.

And yes Stoner runs the TC at very minimal settings according to many insiders and observers.

Michael Scott of GPWeek.com spoke to the team about their strategy, and the strategy Stoner uses is the one laid out above (i.e. a slow sighting lap and a fast warm up lap). Trouble is, it was so windy at Valencia that the tires cooled too much as they sat on the grid waiting for the warmup lap to begin.

Stoner's technique is hardly new. It's used by a lot of riders, to varying degrees. They've used the same approach for a few seasons now. It seems to be designed as much as anything to delay the other riders and impact their performance rather than anything to do with his. After all, if they all arrive at the same time, the tyres and brakes of all the riders are at the same level. If you delay formation to the last moment, the other bikes are all cooling down and the riders getting annoyed. People even do it at club days. But at club days we don't have bikes that make 220+hp so the prospect of a highside on the warm up lap is not really a reality....

I think Casey won't do this again. If it's won him any additional points in the last couple of years, I think the negatives now outweigh the positives.

Guess I'll have to wait til March to see Stoner race again. I can't beleive it, #1 in all practices, pole, and then highsides on the warm up lap? Unacceptable. The thing I don't get is how Pedrosa and Lorenzo had no trouble getting to the grid when they crashed in warmups? Stoner just looked like he did not want to get to the grid. what a shame!

He checked it out, but it was obviously beyond being driven. Lorenzo was lucky he could remount. Don't know about Pedrosa.

And i was not let down, sorry David but Stoner once again proved me right, i liked the race, it was entertaining, very sad to see the 250's go, what a shame, and for Honda to get the tittle too, what will happen with the rest of the factories? Nobody knows, Hor can you run a GP prototype series with one engine? Nobody knows, what i did know is the i should've posted the Little Benny was gonna get 7th!!! I liked the race he did, it was what i expected from him, he will give Old Colin a run for his money next year for sure. By the way David where are the pictures?

I've raced many a year with tyre warmers and they give a great deal of confidence to get on the throttle straight up as opposed to the old days sans warmers. The point is Casey dumped it only in turn two so the tyre can't have cooled that much. That said it looked like he was on the outer dusty part of the track. The official release is typical factory obfurscation, maybe Casey just cocked up!

He'd never admit that, which is a pity. I see no huge failing for someone making a mistake, we all make them. But perhaps not at Motogp level.

What did Lorenzo say after his sighting lap off a few races ago?