CN III IN THE PADDOCK
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
runo was busy at the
Sachsenring. Bruno (according to a big nameplate
behind the windshield) drove the
breakdown truck, picking up broken motorcycles. Often as not,
during the MotoGP sessions,
he would have two bikes on the
trailer at a time.
The crashes that mattered at
the little German track – knocking out Jorge Lorenzo and Dani
Pedrosa – happened elsewhere,
but the vast majority were at Turn
11, nicknamed "the Waterfall,"
where paddock cognoscenti
gather in numbers to watch. Because, being cognoscenti, they
know they are going to see people fall off there, at high speed,
and with some frequency.
The thrill, for the riders as well
as watchers, is the challenge.
Getting away with it, big-time. It's
one of those places where you
can see easily who is trying hardest, who is bravest, and with ticktock frequency which of them will
do a bit too much of one or the
There were 61 crashes over
the weekend, a disproportionate
20 of them in MotoGP, and six of
those were at the Waterfall corner.
Prompting cries for something
to be done.
Even louder were the cries
to leave it alone. It is one of the
most challenging and pulsequickening corners of the year,
most especially because of the
speed – in sixth gear.
The crashes happen for a simple enough reason. At 2.3 miles,
the Sachsenring is the shortest
and by far the giddiest circuit of
the year. In the corner of an industrial estate, it loops back and
forth on itself before galloping up
the hill at speed, and plunging
down the Waterfall. Unusually it
is an anti-clockwise track: so riders have to keep turning left.
And how. There are 13 corners; the Waterfall is one of three
rights, and comes after a spell
of seven lefts, taken at increasing speed. By the time they get
to the right-hand kink, that side
of the tire has cooled right down.
The other difficulty is the topography… the track falls away
steeply. Just where you really
need the front to hang on tight,
the grip disappears.
Time and again, the spectators gathered at the black spot
see the same thing: the front
wheel tucks under, if he has time
the rider tries to save it, but this
is very seldom successful. Then
there's the bike somersaulting to
destruction, and the rider spinning and bouncing like a handkerchief in a tumble dryer.
Of course riders can stop short
of disaster. Indeed, they always
aim to do that. At the same time,
they're also trying to beat one
another. "If you tip-toe through
there, you lose three tenths," observed Hayden, one of few not to
pay the price there, at least this
The enthusiasm of the in-paddock fans as much as the nature
of the corner speaks volumes
about motorcycle racing. Blood-