MOTEGI, JAPAN - The continuing sophistication of electronics was supposed to put an end to highside crashes. When the rear tire started to go sideways, the electronics were supposed to kick in before the point of no return. Clearly that didn’t happen in qualifying for the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix back in August. Yamaha’s Ben Spies, Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner, and Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden all had horrifying highsides during qualifying. Stoner damaged his right ankle so severely he missed three races. Hayden missed a race with a broken hand.
For Hayden, it was his first highside on the gas with the Ducati and he was at a loss to explain the rash of problems.
“Still really weird why three of 12 MotoGP guys all crashed in the same corner in a matter of about ten minutes,” Hayden began, “and Rossi had a problem there. Dani (Pedrosa), I guess, came in and thought something happened. Also I heard (Alvaro) Bautista thought he had some problems. Valentino, I know for sure didn't understand what happened.”
One explanation, Hayden thought, was “maybe the first time when Ben (Spies) crashed if he didn't put something down.
“But it is a corner you can crash, but since I've been going there I've never seen a GP rider crash in that corner, I don't think. Maybe Cal (Crutchlow) on the Friday or something, but I think that was a little different deal.
“I'm not looking for excuse or whatever, but still seems a bit strange why three guys did the same, similar crashes in a matter of ten minutes. Guys that don't normally highside. It’s the first time I ever highsided a Ducati on the gas. So was really strange for me. And Casey don't highside much either.”
Stoner spoke about the accident following his sixth place finish in the Japanese Grand Prix. He said there was a slippery patch that he’d hit a few times over the weekend, but “normally you drive your way out of it. Sort of lose the rear and you just pick up the throttle a little bit and keep it going. But as it’s come around, and very early I had a little lose, and, you know, electronics cut in and I've been trying to get them to move it, move it, move it so I can actually get some spin through there. That's the way I like to ride. And it sort of caught it again and then all of an sudden it just let me go free and as it went free it came around and as I went to sort of try and slide through it everything’s just bound up, locked up. It didn't like it being out that far. And so as it’s bound up; you see it. It comes around so slow. There was nothing I could do. So I'm on the gas, trying to get on the gas to slide through it, and it’s just slowly coming around, slowly slowing the tire to the perfect point to frickin’ highside me. So, yeah, it was frustrating as hell, to be honest.”
Had he had more control, Stoner believes he could have saved it. Surprisingly, he said that the electronics had made the situation worse. And he also said that he and his team disagree on how much control he should have.
“In that instance, yeah,” he replied when asked if the electronics had made it worse. “You know, everyone knows I like the bike moving a little bit more, I like it to be a bit more free and have a bit more contact with the rear.
“But, yeah, it’s hard to get my team sometimes to allow it to go that far. They sort of don't like it getting any further. I guess because it's a very slippery little patch there it caught a few people out. But as you saw my bike came around so slow. It should have caught it much earlier if it was going to, or it should have let me drive through the slide. But it just slowly bound it up until it basically stopped it and launched me.”
Hayden wasn't as certain that the electronics had made his situation worse.
“You know, it’s hard to say,” he said. “I mean, it was more when my bike started hooking back up that it wasn't the actual…you pick it up and spin, spin and then there’s the next (corner) when you start rolling back out and leaning over and that's what got me in trouble. The bike was moving quite sideways and the bike actually hooked up. That's also what electronics do.”
The unexpected highside has made Stoner “a lot more cautious, especially coming back here. And even when I raced in Indy I was very cautious not to crash. I didn't want to crash today either. Anything I do to my foot is going to set us back a long way. So I do want to finish the season out.
“This weekend I slowly got my confidence back up. And, like I said, in the race I had the pace to run with the front guys. Probably not for the whole race, but we definitely had the pace, so it’s good.”