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Lorenzo's battle back from injury - against his subconscious
by Mat Oxley on 5th November 2019
What’s wrong with Jorge Lorenzo? Has he lost it or is he merely waiting till his back is fully fixed? And why HRC’s plans for its 2020 RC213V should give cause for optimism
Jorge Lorenzo in the Repsol Honda garage
Lorenzo's 2019 season isn't easy on the track or in the garage Photo: Repsol Honda
The MotoGP paddock and fans around the world are agog with talk of Jorge Lorenzo. What’s up with the three-times MotoGP world champion? Has he lost it? Why doesn’t he retire? Why hasn’t he been sacked? Why don’t they put Johann Zarco on his bikes?
It must be said that the three-times MotoGP king is in a hole. A very deep hole. At Phillip Island two weeks ago he finished more than a minute (one minute!) behind winning team-mate Marc Márquez.
Last Sunday at Sepang, the 32-year-old Spaniard finished 34 seconds down. After the race he outlined his target for next week’s season-ending Valencia GP: “we are getting closer and closer to the goal of being 30 seconds from the winner”.
Something is obviously very amiss. But what is it? It’s been obvious since the start of the season that Lorenzo doesn’t get on with Honda’s 2019 RC213V. However, his body is also in a mess. The last time he was fully fit was when he was sat on the grid at Aragon in September 2018, before he fell at the first corner
Two weeks later a huge crash at Buriram caused serious ligament damage to his left wrist, which demanded surgery. The after-effects of that operation caused his left scaphoid to snap during winter training, which hampered him at every race, until he broke his back at June’s Dutch TT.
His disastrous results since his return from injury aren’t simply because he doesn’t feel confident on his bike. They are due to the fact that – and there’s no nice way to put this – he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. His Assen crash was uncomfortably similar to the fall that paralysed Wayne Rainey from the chest down in 1993.
“When you have such a huge injury you do have your doubts – these thoughts do cross your mind"
Lorenzo’s two fractured vertebrae – which began to crack when he crashed heavily during post-Catalan GP testing at Barcelona – still hurt. His surgeon says the breaks are healed, but if he still feels pain, how can he convince himself that if he has another big accident he won’t break his spine? That right there is his biggest problem, because a broken back is very different to a broken arm or leg.
The best way to illustrate Lorenzo’s situation is to compare his results from before and after Assen.
Lorenzo finished the season-opening Qatar GP 14 seconds behind the winner. In Argentina (where he was last away after accidentally engaging the pit-lane speed limiter) he finished 27 seconds down. At Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello he took the flag, 18, 15 and 20 seconds down. Bad results, but at Barcelona he was only four-tenths down in free practice, which may explain why he got over-excited on the first lap and ended up taking out Andrea Dovizioso, Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi.
On his return at Silverstone where he was in “high pain with my back” he finished 56 seconds behind the winner. At Misano, Aragon, Buriram and Motegi he was 47, 46, 54 and 40 seconds down. At chilly Phillip Island he was caught in the cold-tyre Catch 22 (see last week’s blog) and finished 66 seconds behind winner Márquez.
These are beyond disastrous results, but when you frame them in the context of someone who’s worried about breaking his back, they look a bit different.
Jorge Lorenzo suffers a fractured vertebrae during the Dutch TT
The body flip that fractured Lorenzo's vertebrae at Assen Photo: Dorna Sports S.L.
So why is Lorenzo even riding? Why didn’t he take the rest of the year off and get strong for 2020? Because riders are notoriously insecure about losing their rides, especially when they’re not getting great results. They know how racing works – leave your seat empty for five minutes and someone else will take it. Then there’s the small matter of collecting your wages.
Lorenzo has always been in his own man. You might say he lives in a bubble – let’s call it Lorenzo’s Land – where he is oblivious to the thoughts and concerns of outsiders. He has his own game plan, which involves no one else. Thus when critics suggest he should retire he doesn’t even notice.
“The criticism doesn’t affect me so much,” he said at Sepang.
Presumably (because no one else knows) Lorenzo’s current game plan is to work step by step towards preseason testing in February 2020.
Until then, only one thing matters to him: looking after his spinal cord.
“I guess I’m conscious of it – your brain prevents you from pushing to the limit,” he added. “I still feel pain, even when I’m lifting weights in the gym. Until I feel okay and I don’t feel any pain, then my subconscious won’t change the chip that tells me: okay, now I feel normal again, now I can push.”
Most MotoGP riders, including Lorenzo on a normal day, push to within 99.9 per cent of the limit every time they ride out of pit lane. That means they are always 0.2 per cent away from going over the limit. That’s life on a knife-edge, which is where Lorenzo cannot afford to live at the moment.
Before Assen, Lorenzo’s average race-lap deficit to the winner was 0.7 seconds. Since he fractured those two vertebrae the gap has tripled to 2.1 seconds. That’s how slow you need to go to make sure you don’t crash.
Inevitably this run of results (14th, 14th, 20th, 18th, 17th, 16th, 14th) have had thoughts of retirement swirling around his head.
“When you have such a huge injury you do have your doubts – these thoughts do cross your mind. But once you start feeling better you say, okay, I want to start again and do what I’m able to do.”
This is an important point to remember. Top racers don’t think like you and me. They would never scale the heights they do with an everyday mindset that habitually takes the path of least resistance.
If you or I were Lorenzo we would tell ourselves: I’ve won five world titles, I’ve got tens of millions in the bank and I’m 32-years-old. You know what? I feel like kicking back in a luxury beachside villa in Bali for a few months. Then perhaps I’ll try the Caribbean. And who knows where after that, but’s time to relax and enjoy the fruits of my toils…
Jorge Lorenzo on the grid at Sepang
Lorenzo on the back row of the grid in Sepang Photo: Oxley
Lorenzo insists his daydreams haven’t got that far. Thus we can only assume that he is working towards changing the chip in his brain early next year, once he is certain his spine is as solid as it needs to be.
“It will come together,” he explained. “The feeling that I’m 100 per cent will give my subconscious the mood to flow more, it will allow me to risk more and I will be able to train harder in the gym, so I’ll arrive at the track in better physical condition.”
If Lorenzo does get that far there’s only one other question: his motorcycle.
Honda’s RC213V has never been an easy ride, especially for someone who goes fast by riding smooth, gliding lines.
So what are the chances of HRC building a 2020 bike that works for Lorenzo? Possibly better than you might think.
Márquez, Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow have all tried early prototypes of the 2020 bike and didn’t notice much difference. But HRC says its final prototype RC213V will have a different chassis with revised geometry and centre of mass.
HRC knows it needs to make the changes. Its 2019 RC213V featured a major boost in horsepower and torque, which helped Márquez dominate the championship. However, making big changes to a motorcycle’s engine performance usually affects chassis performance.
Why Yamaha ruled at Sepang: 2019 MotoGP Malaysian GP
How I ride: Jorge Lorenzo
The 2019 RC213V has much more torque than the 2018 bike. And when you increase torque you increase negative torque. This is why all three HRC riders – to varying extents – have struggled with corner entry, because the 2019 engine has more engine-braking, which affects corner entry.
“I think the 2019 bike engine creates some kind of difficulty entering the corners, so it doesn’t give the rider the same feeling with the front,” revealed Lorenzo. “This is why I suffered some big crashes, losing the front at high speed. But some riders who ride more with the rear wheel, like Marc, have struggled less with the bike.
“I hope the new bike will fix these negative aspects and I think Honda understand what they must do to solve the problems. It’s not only me saying these things – Cal and even Marc say more or less the same things. Our comments are not the opposite, they are quite similar. The only difference is that Marc is winning and we are very, very far away! But it’s one thing to know where your problems are and why you are failing, it’s another thing to solve them on the racetrack.”
There may be some people that want Lorenzo gone, but HRC engineers consider him a technical challenge, like Dani Pedrosa, his predecessor at Repsol Honda. Pedrosa is the size of a 14-year-old boy but HRC nearly made him MotoGP champion on a bike that was three times heavier than him.
The inside of Lorenzo’s brain will be an interesting place in the coming months. Perhaps one hemisphere of his consciousness will occasionally be disturbed by thoughts of palm-fringed beaches on Bali, while the other waits for February, hoping that HRC is building a bike that will allow him to return to his former greatness.
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« on: November 08, 2019, 09:10:17 PM »
The backstory behind the movie....very informative
Le Mans '66 Special
Ford's forgotten superstar
A Hollywood film with an English hero? We profile the remarkable Ken Miles, who laid the groundwork for Le Mans glory – only to see it snatched away
writer Gordon Cruickshank
That muddled triumph of 1966, when three Ford MkIIs bellowed across the line at La Sarthe to claim victory for the Blue Oval without knowing who was first, forms the dramatic core of the new fact-based film Le Mans ’66 (or Ford v Ferrari in the US), and surprisingly it picks out a relatively unknown English driver and engineer to head the US cavalry against the bad guys – in this case that foreign fiend Enzo Ferrari.
So does a rangy, laconic bloke from Sutton Coldfield deserve a film built round him? Is he the key to Cobra and Ford MkII success? He certainly won a bundle of races right from the start, in cars he modified himself to go absurdly fast. That’s a good mix – rapid driver, inventive engineer, intuitive tester. And if you throw in your lot with a powerful Texan who can assemble the might of the Ford Motor Company behind him to tackle the biggest prize in European racing, then you have the makings of a pretty good story. And that’s real life, before Hollywood gets its hands on it.
Far from the film lights, and California, Ken Miles displayed mechanical talent through his 1930s Midlands childhood playing with bikes and cars and visiting Donington Park. He’d built an Austin 7 special by the age of 15, abandoned school to join Wolseley a year later (his wife Mollie later wrote that “as a scholar he was a dead loss”), joined up within days of war being declared in 1939, and became a staff-sergeant in REME, the army’s engineering arm. There he developed a respect for American machinery, and in 1943 wrote to Motor Sport about its “great promise” and suggesting he would build a “supercharged 4WD trials job of my own design”.
Standard issue was never going to be enough for this ambitious man.
What he did do was drop a blown Mercury V8 into a Frazer Nash which went like stink on hillclimbs and circuits. Miles was marking his territory but the British motor industry, struggling back from war, wasn’t interested. A stint building 500cc F3 cars proved a financial failure, so when a Wolseley contact offered him a job in a Californian MG dealer he jumped, with wife and young son. December 1951 brought a permanent goodbye to a ration-stifled, inward-looking England.
A chance move to America set Miles up to chase his racing dream. He started out modifying MGs, and then moved on to bigger things
And within four months at Gough Industries this beaky beanpole was racing and winning in a standard MG TD, while also building an MG special which won its first race in 1953. A year or so after, he produced The Flying Shingle, another MG hybrid which showed the dominant Simcas and Porsches the way home.
Photos show him usually wearing a tie, hair neatly parted, BRDC badge evident. He might be living under West Coast sunshine, but he doesn’t look American. There was a trace of Brum in his speech, and he talked from the side of his mouth – some Americans didn’t understand him. It wasn’t affectation, says his son Peter today: crashing a motorbike paralysed the facial nerves on one side. Nor did he modify his demeanour: first-hand memories quoted in Art Evans’ book on him use words like outspoken, aggressive, opinionated, sure of himself, maverick – as well as warm, fun, nice to be around, keen to help others. One day he’d be your best mate; the next he’d walk right past you. There’s another message too: Miles drove his cars “right out to the edge”; second would never be good enough. The impression is of a man who saw his path and was not to be deflected; a good friend if you weren’t trying to direct him. No surprise that in 1955 an argument precipitated his departure from Gough.
He’d been noticed, though. Racer Tony Parravano loaned him his Maseratis and Ferraris that year, and as “the number one 1500cc pilot” he began to drive Porsches extremely quickly for marque importer John von Neumann.
Despite that early departure from school Miles proved a literate writer, contributing many articles to racing titles including Road&Track, about wearing helmets (he always did) or trying to persuade the blazered West Coast crowd not to worry about pro drivers, a sticky point socially.
He also wrote praising the little guy – the shoestring privateer racing for pleasure, not glamour. Maybe it was such disruptive views that nettled people: he was soon embroiled in an unpleasant anti-Miles print campaign. Objecting to being made to take a rookie test, he resigned from the SCCA and was refused re-entry. As a three-time president of the California Sports Car Club and the man steamrollering the 1500cc classes this was an embarrassing spat that looks entirely personal. In creating a competitive sports car race programme Miles had upset the old boy world of Southern California racing.
Having won with smaller-capacity cars, Miles found himself as a key part to Shelby and Ford’s GT40 programme
Still, in 1956/57 those 550 Porsches were bringing in the silverware – 24 wins and 12 seconds; in between Miles decided a better mix was to drop a four-cam Porsche unit into a Bobtail Cooper, which was a winner until Porsche importer von Neumann got a message from Stuttgart saying stop it. More ingenuity, casting the ideas net wide.
Faster cars were now coming Ken’s way despite falling out with von Neumann – Otto Zipper’s RSK Porsches and Ferraris, even faster Porsches for wizard tuner Vasek Polak – and as Ken often contested the big-engined class he was mixing with up and comers like Phil Hill and Carroll Shelby. They noticed.
By now a naturalised American citizen, he had opened his own tuning and preparation shop in North Hollywood, where in 1961 a Londoner called Charlie Agapiou saw a sign saying ‘English mechanic wanted’. “I walked in and Ken took me on right away,” says Charlie today from his California Rolls-Royce showroom. “I didn’t know he raced, but soon we were going to meetings in his ’54 station wagon towing the Alpine. I loved it, and so did he, so much so it was bad for the business! Ken was both a great boss and an impressive driver.” That was confirmed by his winning the 1961 USRRC championship.
That Sunbeam Alpine was a flag-waver for the British maker, but noting Shelby’s experiments with a V8 in an AC, it asked Miles to fit a 260 Ford V8 in an Alpine. “We had six weeks to do it, and we did it,” says Charlie, London still clear in his accent. “He was fast, and I learned so much from him.”
The spoils of victory in a 1959 USAC race at Pomona. Miles got a celebratory kiss from actress Jayne Mansfield. Otto Zipper, the car’s owner, sits in the passenger seat
Meanwhile Shelby, now retired from racing, asked Miles to test his Cobra-to-be and recognising a good development man made him an offer. “Ken closed the shop and I was out of a job!”, says Charlie (although in fact it was the tax authorities who made that decision…) “Then a few weeks later he invited me to join him at Shelby. I said I didn’t know enough, but he said ‘you bluffed me, you can bluff them’”.
Very soon Miles was competition manager as well as development driver for Shelby American, and thanks to his rigorous work and firm project management the unsophisticated 289 Cobras got faster, taking SCCA GT honours in 1963 and the USRRC constructor’s crown in ’64, all leading to the low-drag Daytona coupé which took the WSC GT title in 1965. But Miles was frustrated, says Agapiou. “He couldn’t just watch, he wanted to drive.”
By now the GT40 and Ford’s project to unseat Ferrari was under way. Books, and the film, love to depict this as a personal bullfight between capricious Enzo and a red-faced Henry Ford II, incensed at Ferrari rejecting his buyout offer. Leo Levine’s 1968 book The Dust and the Glory tells a different story: that the GT40 scheme was driven by Lee Iacocca, Ford’s vice-president. Unlike Henry II he believed racing sold cars and instigated the Total Performance programme that embraced Indy, NASCAR and drag racing plus saloons and rallies in Europe. But with nothing to contest the sports car arena Ford turned to – Slough, creating Ford Advanced Vehicles (FAV) combining Eric Broadley with John Wyer and US-based British engineer Roy Lunn, both of them involved in Shelby’s 1959 Le Mans victory with Aston Martin. It was a circle waiting to be closed.
“Ken deserved more credit for Ford’s success than anyone”
But long-distance corporate management doesn’t work in racing, as a dismal 1964 proved with seven DNFs, and deciding that the British end was not performing Ford split its efforts, handing two cars to Shelby American in Los Angeles while letting FAV go its own way. For Miles this was perfect – an experimental car he could steer to success, but he wanted to steer it in both senses, and his cowboy-hatted boss gave in. After two months’ frenzied development inserting a brawnier 427 motor and a ZF gearbox, Ken Miles and Lloyd Ruby crossed the 1965 Daytona 200 finish line to score the car’s first triumph. It looked as though Shelby had worked his magic, and if it was that Limey who’d done the donkey work, who cared? Charlie is clear about this: “Ken deserved more credit for Ford’s success than anyone. He was brilliant.” He adds “Shelby used to come in and chat but he never bugged us in the shop”.
Ken Miles and Denny Hulme shared the number 1 Ford MKII at Le Mans, and should have won the race were it not for a bungled PR attempt
You might think two alpha males were set for trouble, but Shelby and Miles in fact had a good rapport. “We got along just fine,’ said Shelby in Evans’ book. “He was the heart and soul of our testing program. He took a pile of s**t, the Daytona coupé (and I hope you print that) and made it work. Every day Ken was out there testing, or he was in the shop cutting metal and bending things around. He made a racehorse out of a mule.”
Ken’s sensitivities as a test driver – he drove with fingertips and memorised behaviour like a human data-logger – along with the skills of legendary fabricator Phil Remington had turned a corner for the faltering GT40 project, but it was a false dawn. Apart from second at Sebring (Miles and Bruce McLaren), the rest of 1965 was embarrassing, culminating with six cars failing at Le Mans – Shelby’s 7-litre pair plus the smaller-engined quartet Wyer and FAV were determined to make work. ‘Total Performance’ had turned to ‘Total Embarrassment’. Miles had done better in 1955 when he came 12th in a works MGA.
“Ken was always out there testing, or in the shop working. He made a racehorse out of a mule”
Yet Shelby was set on hewing an American winner out of this fractured Anglo-American enterprise, and so was Miles. “He was determined to make it a winning team,” says Agapiou. “He wanted that car to work. He was committed to Shelby 100 per cent”.
As well as testing, Ken was also developing the GT350 Mustang and racing the Cobras. It was another of his strengths – sheer toughness. Stringy as he looked, and by now in his 40s, he exercised and ran every day, and didn’t smoke or drink much. Fellow driver John Morton recalled him driving a Cobra in a very hot 100-mile race at Watkins Glen, then doing another 180-miler in it without any signs of strain.
His son Peter Miles, later an off-road racer and now in charge of Chip Connor’s magnificent car collection, remembers those times. “He was away a lot, but he took me to Le Mans in 1965, and we went on the road in one of the GT40s to test at Willow Springs. And he let me drive a pre-production street car Cobra on the track – I was about 15. He was interested in science fiction and psychology and extremely focused – he would walk down the grid and stare out each driver to intimidate them before the start. He was really competitive.”
Yet rivals knew him as that proverbial tough but fair opponent who’d leave you space plus one inch, and not a complainer: he just shrugged his shoulders when once disqualified for grabbing a cup of water during an SCCA race while way ahead – constituting an illegal pit stop…
Did Bruce McLaren (car 2) put on a final charge to beat Miles in ’66?
After two turbulent years, 1966 would finally justify the millions of Ford dollars, and Ken Miles was right in the centre. Arriving at Daytona with three 7-litre MkIIs, flanks bulging with air scoops, the team had talent to spare: Miles/Ruby, Dan Gurney/Jerry Grant and Bruce McLaren/Chris Amon. Yet it was Miles who set pole, and 24 hours later, Miles who headed a Ford 1-2-3. Sebring, next round of the World Championship, added another Ford triple with Miles ahead, this time against works Ferraris. The MkII was finally fit for Le Mans.
No-one had ever seen an operation like it: eight cars in three teams, a dozen spare engines, 21 tons of spares – and Henry Ford II himself languidly flagging off the race. There was no option – Ford was going to win and with the works Ferraris falling out in the latter stages it put three MkIIs ahead. Miles, though, could not stop racing his team, first Gurney/Jerry Grant until a gasket went, then Chris Amon and Bruce McLaren. Then Ford decided that three abreast would make a perfect PR coup and issued ‘close up’ orders.
“We began to see ‘slow down’ signals,” Amon told me in 2006, “but Ken kept going and Bruce was pretty pissed off about that.”
In the last minutes Miles did back off, letting McLaren close up, with a Holman Moody MKII following, but it was McLaren who crossed the line feet ahead.
“There was no way Bruce was going to finish second”, said Amon. “He said Ken backed off; well, maybe – or maybe it was that Bruce put on a little spurt…” Hulme too later said the New Zealander had put on a final sprint to the line.
Miles (in hat) was less than pleased on the podium
Yet everyone assumed it was Miles and Hulme’s win. “We tried to push the car into the winner’s enclosure,” says Agapiou, “but they waved us away. Ken shook his head and walked away, but he came back in his duffel coat, congratulated the winners, posed for photos. But he was very upset. He was gipped out of it.”
Victory would have given Ken Miles a unique triple – Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. Thankfully there was the new composite Ford J-car to develop to keep him occupied. Two months later it killed him.
“It was the last lap of the day, and I just saw a ball of fire. They kept me away, but I could see him…”
There’s no definitive explanation of what happened that August test day at Riverside; Peter Miles says two black lines suggest the rears locked. But Charlie Agapiou reckons a last-minute mod to the seat belts was crucial: “Ken was a skinny guy. We had to shorten the belt mount, but while we welded it, on the J-car they riveted it and when he hit the rivets snapped. He slid under the bulkhead and his helmet got caught.”
Peter Miles was there. “It was the last lap of the day, and he was pushing hard. Suddenly it went quiet and I saw a ball of fire. They kept me away but I could see him. It’s a bit traumatic seeing your father lying dead in the dirt.”
Miles died from massive head and internal injuries. The following Saturday the funeral chapel overflowed with mourners. Shortly after, says Peter, his mother disposed of all Ken’s trophies. “I’m still trying to collect some back…”
To create our series of GT40 images, we gained access to a certified continuation car from Le Mans Coupes, the UK agent for Superformance
Now it’s big-screen time for the man from Sutton Coldfield. Charlie Agapiou was a consultant on the film. “Matt Damon was into the Shelby thing, but Christian Bale wanted to know everything – how did Ken walk, talk, his traits. He did a good job; he does seem like Ken. They weren’t allowed to do pitstops the right way – too dangerous. But they made a bloody palaver of Ken’s door! [Miles had to stop for a loose door] It took about 20sec, but they have three guys hammering at it.”
Peter Miles: “I gave Christian everything I had on Dad including voice recordings. He hired a linguist to try to pin down Dad’s accent, but I haven’t seen the result yet.”
However filleted and simplified the screen version, it doesn’t change Ken Miles’ legacy. Prickly, maybe, but talented, with the ability to find the limits that wring victory from a reluctant car, to feel what was going on underneath him and use that to extract yet more speed. “The best test driver I ever knew,” said Shelby.
“He put Shelby American on the map,” says Agapiou. “They were lucky to have him. I still miss him.”
Says Peter Miles of the father he lost trying to find that next tenth, “He was an extreme Type A-plus personality”. The sort of guy who makes a good movie hero.
This looks great..yet to try.
« on: September 30, 2019, 07:14:14 AM »
From F1 CLASSIC
For the last couple of years I have been working on a Touring Car Legends mod. It started as a little side project but it turned out to a full mod pack containing 15 different cars. Some of them I've released as separate cars in the past. But for this pack all cars have a proper BoP so they can compete with eachother. My goal was to use a realistic physics set, with as much real data as possible. This means that most cars have unique 'build from scratch' suspension physics, engines and gearbox. I tried to reproduce the vehicle dynamics of the era, thus no old cars with modern suspensions, high spring frequencies and heavily adjusted roll centers. So you do need to balance the cars and be gently with your weight transfers, else you will be fighting inertia big time Smile
Currently I'm balancing the cars out in the physics department and some polishing of the models has to be done. For models initially released by 3rd party modders I tried to reach all the respective modders. Many already gave me permission, still awaiting a few replies.
Here are some links to preview video test drives.
Looks good , have not tested it yet.