By Marissa Baecker
Securing the win in Germany last weekend at the Sachsenring, MotoGP rider, Marc Marquez, has officially taken the lead of the race as it returns to our continent this weekend.
I know there are more than a few die hard GP fans that make the trek every year on their bikes to the Laguna Seca raceway in Monterey, California for this annual event and this year, I am going too!
I am not a regular crotch rocket riding speed demon but the idea of seeing the skill and the speeds at which these style bikes operate, excites me. I have kept somewhat up to date on the race the past while and have a general idea of who is who and what is required of them. All suited up, these riders look like seasoned professionals on the track but in real life, they are just wee lads in onesies – some barely out of their teens.
Take Marquez for example, born in 1993, barely 20 years old, same age as one of my sons, and can that boy ride. Protected well, from head to toe, I cannot imagine the anguish that Marquez’ mother must go through in GP season. I suppose a comforting thought is that if these riders go down, they usually come away somewhat unscathed or with the typical injuries of high calibre athletes. Just last week, Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, a more experienced rider at age 26 and last year’s champion, broke his collarbone in Holland after crashing during practice, got on a plane, flew back to Spain, had surgery, got pinned and plated or whatever it is that miracle surgeons do, got back on the plane and flew back to Holland and competed two days later.
He crashed again in Germany resulting in damage to the titanium plate and had to have a second surgery which has put him on the sidelines for Laguna Seca although he will attend to support his team.
Part of what keeps these riders safe (flip flop, shorts and tank top wearing locals pay attention here) are the one piece leather suits, boots, gloves and full face helmets that cover each and every inch of exposed skin. Super sport riders have been gearing up like this for years and advancements in the tech industry have filtered down to the racing world.
Alpine Stars is a huge motor sports supporter and makes some of the best gear available on the market. Marc Marquez is one of the lucky racers to be wearing an Alpine Stars Tech Air Race – Airbag leather suit. Earlier this year, when Marquez met the pavement during a race, Alpine Stars released a graph with stats from the impact. At first I didn’t understand what they were sending but upon closer look I realized that the suit was gathering information about the impact as it happened.
In a press release after the Italian Grand Prix, Alpinestars interpreted the data received from the suit and stated: “Marc Marquez crashed heavily, requiring the deployment of his Alpinestars Tech Air (airbag) system. Electronic data trace, downloaded from Marc’s system showing the key information sequence from the accident. Key facts:
- Speed at time of loss of control: 337.9 Km/H (209.9 Mph).
- First impact with ground: 0.080 seconds after crash detection.
- First impact with ground: 0.030 seconds after full airbag inflation (airbags inflated in 0.050 seconds).
- Maximum (recorded) energy in crash: 25g (the Tech Air system accelerometers maximum energy recording capability).
- Duration of significant data during the accident: 4.250 seconds.
- Data detail from the initial accident detection to first impact highlighted.”
Ten years of research and testing on the MotoGP and Superbike circuits resulted in a suit with two shoulder-mounted airbags and a micro-processor that begins detecting the rider’s movements from the moment the rider gets on the bike. If the rider goes down, the airbags inside the suit deploy and within 20-25 seconds are back to normal so the rider can pick up their bike and carry on riding.
During my discussion with Alpinestars I mentioned that if I had that kind of confidence in a suit, I would probably ride super sport (crotch rocket) type bikes more often but simply put, I like my skin better than to ride that style without full protection.
By the time this column is printed, I too will be in Laguna Seca. Alpinestars wanted me to try the complete GP experience for myself and have hooked me up with a ‘onesie’ for ladies – the Stella Anouke One Piece Leather Suit – which I will test out during my ride from Los Angeles to Monterey (www.alpinestars.com/moto).
Granted I won’t have a computer or airbags in my suit but then again I won’t be riding 300 km/h either. However, I will be fully protected on a busy stretch of highway that will be littered with bikes all heading in the same direction so if I do go down, I am confident that I will be getting back up with my skin in tact.
Follow motorcygal.com this weekend for regular updates from Laguna Seca and the MotoGP.