During the press conference with the front row starters at the Japanese GP held a couple of weeks ago, Jorge Lorenzo was asked if the airbag in his suit had helped protect him during his frightening crash in which he suffered no other consequences than the force of the crash itself. His answer was: “Yes, it worked well”… However, Jorge was not being entirely sincere.
Saturday morning FP3 at Motegi, shortly after 10.30. Jorge Lorenzo is out on track for his third outing of the session. After Pedrosa’s chilling crash the day before, Michelin had warned the riders that in the morning session they should take extra time to warm up their tires despite the shining sun as the track was still cold at that time of day. And at this stage we all know that the Michelin need time to reach optimum operating temperature.
Jorge Lorenzo’s decision not to use an airbag in his suit makes each crash a gamble.
Despite the warnings, for whatever reason Lorenzo did not follow the advice from the French technicians. On his first flying lap, just past the finish line, at Turn # 2, he was dramatically tossed from his bike. It was one of those high sides that used to be quite common but fortunately are now, thanks to electronics, increasingly rare. The bike’s violent whip threw Jorge in the air and he hit the ground face up. The impact was hard. His back, head and ankles absorbed the inertia and Lorenzo bounced off the ground like a ball. “Fortunately” he fell completely flat.
Fortunately too the first impression that Jorge had been hurt was not confirmed. Rushed to the Dokkyo hospital of Utsonomiya, the ankle thought to be fractured was not. The incident left him bruised but not broken, so Lorenzo returned to the circuit and in a demonstration of bravery in the qualifying he ended up on the first row of the grid. Luck had been on the side of the Mallorcan rider once again.
For Lorenzo the 500 gram weight of the airbag system and the the discomfort of wearing it outweighs the safety benefits.
The fact is that Jorge Lorenzo’s decision not to use an airbag in his suit makes each crash a gamble. For the few who know he doesn’t use one -on his own team there are those who don’t know- every time he falls is breathtaking moment.
Like it was, for example, last season at Misano. There, in the middle of a full title fight, Jorge hit the ground in the race in a tremendous tumble. Without the airbag, at least a fractured collarbone would have been expected, and would have been more than likely that the title would not have landed in his hands… At Motegi two weekends ago, his luck was even greater.
Lorenzo, those around him or who deal with him, should reflect on his decision not to use a security system of unquestioned effectiveness at this point. They need look no further than to Dani Pedrosa who walked away from a chilling crash at the same place with “only” with a broken collarbone thanks to the airbag in his Alpinestars suit. We’ll say it again, Jorge quite simply had luck on his side on Saturday in Motegi.
If you’ve read this far you’re probably wondering why Lorenzo rejects using a protection system that seemingly can only benefit him. It is because Jorge believes that the cons outweigh the pros. The 500 gram weight of the airbag assembly / discharging system and the the discomfort of wearing it outweighs the safety benefits.
It’s a perfectly respectable decision, especially considering that we are talking about his own personal safety. There is no one better than Jorge himself who knows what’s best for him…Although the fact that he did not reveal the whole truth about the situation when asked at the Motegi press conference perhaps suggests that he is not so sure.