There is one classification where no rider wants to be at the top of the list: the crash rankings. Gravity is the most democratic force in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing, no matter whether you are a multiple champion or a rookie, whether you ride a factory bike or a slightly out of date model, and it does not even matter how many zeroes you have on the end of your contract: sooner or later, everyone must pay the piper.
GOOD AND BAD – At the end of the season the data arrives on the slides, tumbles, dives, high sides and so forth, and it is the numbers that decide who goes up on the board. Precisely for the sake of democracy, the three steps of the 2016 podium are occupied by riders from different categories. First place was earned - in a manner of speaking - by Sam Lowes, capable of going to the ground no less than 30 times in just 18 Moto2 races. However, the young riders advance, so Gabriel Rodrigo took the silver, sliding along the asphalt 27 times in Moto3.
More experience does not exactly mean more stability. In fact, the bottom step of the podium goes to Cal Crutchlow (who is sometimes affectionately referred to as ‘Crashlow’), who laid his Honda down 26 times during the season. We should point out that the battle for third place was a heated one, because Jack Miller missed it by just one crash.
As you may have guessed, in these standings, the winner is the rider who… comes in last and the MotoGP crown goes to Valentino Rossi, author of only 4 falls. Unfortunately for him, however, 3 of them occurred during a race. Yamaha chose well from this point of view for next year, because Viñales is also quite sparing with his crashes, only ending up in the gravel 5 times this year, whereas Dovizioso and Barbera fell 6 times. One last interesting fact on the premier category: world champion Marquez is on the podium in his class, with 17 bullseyes, most occurring during free practice.
Moving on to Moto2, the ‘best’ in the class is surprisingly a rookie: Isaac Viñales, with only 4 crashes. In Moto3, on the other hand, Livio Loi was the best, losing his balance just twice in 18 races, managing to do better than the excellent performance of Kornfeil, who only went down 3 times.
THERE ARE MORE CRASHES, BUT ONLY IN MOTOGP - Now that the trophies have been handed out, let’s have a look at the overall statistics. Counting all three categories, the total number of crashes during the year comes to 1062 and it is a record, albeit a negative one. In fact, in the last 10 years, ‘four digits’ had never been achieved and that even leads us to think about the fact that, compared with 2006, the number of crashes almost doubled (there were 647 that year).
Going farther into detail, we can see how MotoGP is the culprit for this increase. In the other two categories, the results were similar to the 2015 season: in Moto2 there were 364 crashes compared with 352 this year. In Moto3 there were 410 compared with 409. The premier category, on the other hand, went from 215 to 288 crashes. Looking back, the crashes in this class have more than doubled over the past 6 years and over the past 10 they have even tripled.
This conflicts slightly with the statement made by the head of Michelin, Goubert who, on the Saturday before the Valencia race, pointed out that the crashes in the races up to that point had been less than the year before. This was correct, but partial information. After summing all the numbers, there were many more crashes this season.
The change in tyres certainly played its role, but we must also admit that the riders often found themselves battling the weather. Between rain, damp tracks and the cold, conditions were often less than ideal this year and the many scratched fairings are a direct consequence of this.
AT PHILLIP ISLAND WE ALL FALL DOWN - We conclude our analysis looking at the various circuits. Phillip Island receives the black shirt with 90 crashes over the 3 days, 6 more than Motegi and 9 more than the Sachsenring. Three tracks, as already mentioned, where low temperatures are common in the morning and this year they did not… disappoint in this sense.
The circuit with the least crashes, on the other hand, was Mugello, followed by the Red Bull Ring (where, in all fairness, there are so few corners that it doesn’t have much of a chance…) and then Austin.
We left the ‘cursed’ corner for last, the one where the most crashes took place: it is turn 4 at Phillip Island, the first tight right-hander that comes after the super-fast Stoner. That spot caught out 32 riders. In comparison, turn 9 at Motegi and the first corner at Motegi, with their 20 crashes, are mere novices.