Honda's Giant Mistake and Marquez' Life-Saver
Like it or not, the risks in motorcycle racing are so high that Dorna is not willing to take some more unnecessary ones, and that's why they enforced a flag-to-flag, shortened race in Australia. The new surface of the track mercilessly gnawed at the tires and Bridgestone could not guarantee anything beyond the 10-lap limit.
So the Race Direction made it clear: everybody swaps bikes and rides with new tires in round 9 or 10. Somebody at Honda was at fault, but whether it was Marquez or the team it is still to be decided.
Suffice it to say that the rookie flew by the pit lane entrance as Lorenzo went to swap bikes, thus going past the 10-lap limit. Things were very serious as Marquez was black-flagged in a matter of minutes, which means the Race Direction simply played by the book. Nakamoto-san argued that it was all a misunderstanding but Marquez was out for good.
The hefty advantage he had over Lorenzo was now reduced to 18 points. Still a pretty decent gap, two races to season end, but by far not exactly comfortable, as the past weekend just showed that things can indeed go wrong when one expects the least.
However, the good news is that both Marquez and Lorenzo are safe and sound after clashing at pit lane exit. Lorenzo came in at full speed, most likely over the 200 mph mark and just kept his line, whereas Marquez tried to get in front of the Mallorcan and the bikes made contact.
Now, we've seen more than one high-speed encounter which ended well, but in this case things could have gone terribly wrong.
I've watched the scene countless times and one can clearly see how Marquez' hand was pushed off the grip, and Lorenzo's bike literally smashed the brake lever guard. Even more, the slow-motion footage also shows the metal pieces falling behind the two bikes.
Now, I don't even want to imagine how the race at Phillip Island could have ended. These guards are specially engineered to prevent engaging the brake lever when the faster bike collides with a slower one.
Some might say this was not the case, as Lorenzo was faster and approaching from behind. It's true, but consider that the guard was broken by the force of the impact.
Honestly, I don't exactly know Marquez managed to stay upright, maybe it's a pro rider thing or sheer, dumb luck, it really doesn't matter. He was clearly rubbing his right arm as he went into the Honda garage after being flagged, so he was injured, even though not critically. But thins only adds up to the whole craziness.
I am glad to see both Spaniards alright and a severe injury (or worst) not putting an even earlier end to the crazy Australian round. There are still no official declarations from Honda or Marquez to clarify what exactly happened at Phillip Island, but one thing is sure: things could have ended very, very badly!
And all this commotion could have easily been avoided had Marquez gone to the pits earlier. Was it a rookie mistake or an unpardonable error from the team? We'll most likely find out soon. But, really, motorcycle road racing is already insane and dangerous enough, and we'd all be better off without such stories.