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GP Week : Issue 54
CRAsH HEll AT The spate of high-sides at last week’s US MotoGP is ‘Just a Blip’ … MICHAEL SCOTTexplains A spectre returned to haunt the MotoGP paddock at Laguna Seca – the high-side crash. In a weekend when the hitherto increasingly accident- free premier class made an unwelcome return to the bad old days, a high proportion of the many crashes were of that destructive and painful variety. A classic high-side happens under power when the rear tyre loses side grip, the bike slides sideways, then the tyre grips again. The bike flicks over its own centre of gravity, and the rider is launched skyward. In the course of a normal dry race weekend, there may be half a dozen MotoGP spills, most often harmless low-side crashes. This number was tripled at Laguna and the ratio turned upside down: only four out of the 17 riders completed the weekend without tasting the gravel at least once. 3 This is an amazing 76 percent. Oddly, the non-crashers not only included winner and runner up Pedrosa and Rossi, but also Alex de Angelis and Randy de Puniet, both of whom have Gold Cards in the Frequent Faller club. By contrast, the crash list was swelled with famous names. And more worrying still was the number of potentially ruinous high-sides among those crashes. As well as the injured Lorenzo and battered but lucky Stoner, Edwards, Hayden and Vermeulen also went flying in the same way. One reason for this spate was not hard to pin down: of 11 corners on the short and intense Laguna circuit, only four are to the right. This gives that side of the tyre a chance to cool down. This far from unique phenomenon is usually managed by the use of mixed- compound tyres. A softer compound on the less-used shoulder of the tyre offers grip at the lower tyre temperature. Unexpectedly, given the benefit of hindsight, Laguna was one of the circuits where Bridgestone had elected not to bring what the company calls “asymmetric” tyres. As reported last week, Rossi led renewed rider calls for mixed-compound tyres. But with no hope of immediate solution. He explained that while Bridgestone were very open to discussion, and had agreed to reassess the situation later in the year, they were unable to alter the allocation for the remainder of this year. In fact, the situation is somewhat self-remedying. Bridgestone had already promised mixed-compound tyres for five of the remaining nine races. These include next week’s predominately left-handed Sachsenring, as well as Phillip Island, with its ultra-fast right- hand turn one following a long series of left-handers. Indianapolis, Estoril and Valencia will also have mixed compounds; Donington Park, Brno, Misano and Sepang will not. Bridgestone’s development manager Tohru Ubukata explained the decision to exclude Laguna from the list. Temperature differences shoulder to shoulder measured the previous year had been only a few degrees, such that the wider range of operation of this year’s single-tyre compounds was enough to bridge the gap. But there were other factors, exacerbated by cooler conditions on Saturday afternoon. One was the