Donovan Fourie: Ya know, that wasn’t really Lorenzo’s fault
This is beginning to look like a Jorge Lorenzo apology column, after the previous story about his struggles aboard the Honda, however, this race showed a glimmer of hope for the Spaniard. He started the race in an already improved tenth place on the grid and was in fourth at the end of the first lap.
Then, at the infamous Turn Ten hairpin, he attempted to overtake Vinales, lost the front and inadvertently cannonballed Dovisioso and leaving Vinales and Rossi. What he did was take out three championship contenders and left Marquez an easy race, robbing fans of a potential thriller.
Like 99.9999% of the world, I went on social media after the race to see some reactions. There were rants from people telling Lorenzo that he is a Dutch cat, and how various steel-capped footwear is going to be inserted about his person, there were a few rather quirky memes seemingly put together so quickly that I’m suspecting clairvoyance, but mostly everyone put it down to a racing incident and that’s annoying.
It’s annoying because it was very much a racing incident, and that’s why the Stewards elected not to penalise him, and I was looking forward to writing an article telling the majority of people cursing Lorenzo’s name that they are wrong. Curse you, humanity, for going beyond my estimation!
Oh well, maybe a few people will read this story anyway. If you are, I thank you wholeheartedly.
Here’s the thing – Lorenzo did not have the convenience of replays, different angles, slow motion and retrospection. At the time, he was in fourth place and needed to get some pace in early. He had chosen soft tyres that would benefit him at the beginning of the race but might start dropping off later, so he couldn’t afford to waste time behind riders on harder tyres that were dilly-dallying.
The three riders in front of him were tightly packed and the man directly in front of him, Maverick Vinales, made a mistake coming out of the fast turn Turn Nine onto the back straight do took the opportunity to try passing him going into Turn Ten. This is where everything went wrong, and the casual onlooker might’ve seen Lorenzo careening into the inside of Dovizioso who was calmly taking the turn, locking the front and causing a four-bike pile-up.
Here’s the thing – when Lorenzo set up the overtake, he had his eye purely on Vinales because Vinales was the target. A little in front of them were Marquez and Dovizioso, but they were not the subject at the time.
Lorenzo slipstreamed Vinales, pulled out just before the braking zone and braked a fraction later than him – so far so good. As standard overtakes go, everything was textbook – he had timed it right, he was in the correct position and could easily turn in to the corner giving Vinales tons of time and space to avoid him.
The problem was that, at the same time as the Lorenzo overtake, Marquez took a stab at passing Dovizioso, so Lorenzo had a Vinales to the right of him and a Marquez matching his pace directly in front. While this was going on, and a little obscured by Marquez, Dovizioso was doing the usual “oh no, Marquez is overtaking me” motions which mean holding a wide line, turning in slightly later, coming to a near standstill while he squares off the corner and then blasting out on the power, retaking Marquez who is faffing around trying not to run wide.
The problem is that Lorenzo was coming and there was nothing the Spaniard could do about it. Turn Ten is a horrid corner that was turned from a medium-paced left-hander into a ridiculous hairpin because there was not enough run-off.
When Lorenzo first pulled brakes, he was concentrating on out-braking Vinales without any knowledge of what was about to unfold in front of him. On that turn, the riders go from 270 km/h in fourth gear down to 59 km/h in first, with the entire slowing down process taking nearly six seconds, an eternity in MotoGP circles. When they brake, they are using special Brembo carbon brakes that are beyond the understanding of us mortals. When we brake hard on one of our ridiculous roadgoing superbikes, we might occasionally top 1g of force.
MotoGP riders, braking for Turn Ten, get close to 2g.
They are properly on the anchors, so when Lorenzo pulled brakes about a mile and seven months before the corner, everything was fine. Suddenly, there’s Ducati at a near standstill in exactly the position he needs to still be doing 100km/h on.
He was already braking as hard as physics would allow him, and Vinales was blocking any path of escape. There was nothing else for it – he had to try and brake harder. Of course, physics doesn’t give leeway, so the front locked, pandemonium ensued and people on couches with 15 slow motion angles decided that Lorenzo was a feline from the Netherlands.
It seems that his fellow crashees could see it for what it was and were more annoyed at their race finishing early rather that Lorenzo making a mistake. Everyone except Vinales who called for severe penalties to be piled upon Lorenzo, but then Vinales is the guy who, at COTA, took two long laps for his jump start penalty when clearly it was supposed to be a ride-through, and was then penalised himself at Catalunya during Q2 when he started his victory lap celebrations despite having not actually seen a chequered flag being waved.
Maybe there’s a reason he’s a bike racer and not, say, a physicist.
When Lorenzo began the move, it was completely innocent. Events that unfolded in front of him meant that he ended up being the wrong guy in the wrong place.