By Matt Zollo
The 2011 motorcycle grand prix season may not be remembered as one of the greatest, certainly not as far as MotoGP is concerned, but it will go down as one of the most accident-packed: There were 894 crashes in all classes during the 2011 season, the highest number since records began in 1997.
Falls per Year (all classes)
Season Total Falls
It would be easy to lay blame on the introduction of bike-packed Moto2 grids, or the high corner speeds of 800cc MotoGP bikes, or the tricky warming-up procedure of Bridgestone's control tyre for the high 2011 figure. But analysing the data doesn't indicate that any one factor specifically is to blame.
For instance, the second highest number of falls recorded over a season, at 876, was in 2008, two years before Moto2 bikes were swamping grids, and before the control tyre was introduced – although it was the year of Michelin's disastrous campaign, which may go some way to explaining it. Similarly, during the first year of 800s, in 2007, only 672 falls were amassed; lower than the 2003/4/5 990cc seasons.
More likely, the high 2011 figure is a combination of all three factors mentioned, along with what seemed to be an unusually high number of meetings with rainfall.
It must also be noted that until 2004 there were only 16 races per season, but 17 and then 18 per season thereafter (though 125cc and 250cc/Moto2 classes have never visited Laguna).
Falls per Category
No surprise to see Moto2 with the highest number, and MotoGP the lowest. This might partly be down to the differing experience levels of the grids, but in the main it is simply a result of the size of them: there were more than twice the number of Moto2 bikes than MotoGP bikes in 2011.
Falls per Rider
Calculating the average number of falls per rider in each class (based on the number of riders on each championship's 2011 entry list) gives a fairer picture.
Over the whole 2011 season, a Moto2 rider suffered on average only two more falls than a MotoGP rider (who admittedly did compete at one extra round).
It is interesting to note, then, that although still influential, large grid sizes and large speed differentials (often a handful of the slowest Moto2 riders post fastest laps some three or more seconds slower than the fastest riders) perhaps don't have quite as large an impact as feared.