Discovering why Brookes crashed into Guintoli

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Why did it take so long to decide that Josh Brookes was the guilty party in the crash, which left Sylvain Guintoli with a badly broken lower right leg?

The decision to hand Brookes a one race ban, suspended for three races was not made until 21.00hrs on the evening of the race following a two-hour Judicial Panel meeting.

The bizarre crash happened on the sighting lap for the first BSB race at Donington on Bank Holiday Monday. Initially there was no clear reason for the crash, Brookes blaming the brakes, the HM Plant insisting there was nothing wrong with them.

The race organisers initially issued a statement that ‘an indeterminate brake system failure of machine #25 (Brookes’ Honda) was the cause of the incident,’ but, due to time constraints, on-board data from the bike would not be examined until later in the day.

Once racing finished the organisers got together with the team and tried to ‘forensically’ piece together the events, which led to the crash.

Race Director Stuart Higgs said: “It is important to understand what caused the accident. Initially, the crash was thought to have been caused by a braking issue. But then the team confirmed there was no technical issue involved. That meant it had to be a rider issue.

“We sifted through video and stills footage and a lot of on-board data supplied by the team. I have to say the HM Plant team, particularly Brookes’ crew chief Adrian Gorst, were more than helpful and we were able to overlay the data from other (former) HM Plant Honda riders’ data from the corresponding point on the course this point to offer some comparisons.”

The data proved that Brookes was approaching the Loop at racing speed, where other riders were at a speed more consistent with the penultimate corner on a sighting lap – that is, a lot slower. Brookes therefore was adjudged to have breached the safety rules (see Judicial Panel statement below) and was handed a one-race ban, suspended for three meetings.  The HM Plant Honda team did not appeal against the decision.

However, in the official Honda press release issued late on Tuesday afternoon, Brookes was still not accepting the blame for the crash and was quoted: “Regarding my suspended one race penalty, I understand that the series organisers have to make judgments and take possible action if necessary with racing incidents. However we still need more clarity about what exactly happened as the data shows the correct initial braking power, but also a drop in brake power just prior to the crash, which the team is investigating further.”

Here is the MCRCB/MSVR Judicial Panel statement, issued on May 25 at 21.00hrs:

“The Judicial Panel comprising Mike Blakey (MCRCB), Adrian Addison (MSVR) in the presence of Dave Francis (Deputy Clerk of the Course) and Norman Williamson (MCRCB Safety Delegate) considered the following:

During the sighting lap period for British Superbike race 1, a collision occurred between riders #25, Josh Brookes and #50, Sylvain Guintoli, at the approach to the Melbourne Hairpin.

Following an inspection of machine #25 and an interview with the rider, it was concluded that an indeterminate brake system failure of machine #25 was the cause of the incident. Due to time restrictions for repairing the machine in preparation for the second BSB race, examination of on-board data from the machine was deferred until later in the day.

The data recorded by machine #25 was supplied by the team and has now been examined. It was found that:

The rider pumped the brake lever in the braking area on the approach to the Melbourne Hairpin.

The pressure developed in the braking system and the reduction in wheel speed on the approach to the corner was consistent with a lap at racing speed, up to the point where the rider pumped the brake lever.

The point at which the brakes were applied was consistent with a lap at racing speed.
The exact reason the rider pumped the brake is not known, but he stated that the brakes did not feel that they were working properly.

The Judicial Panel agreed that there was no evidence of mechanical failure; however, the difference in speed between #25 and the riders around him was incompatible with the end of a sighting lap. Accordingly we have determined that this a breach of MCRCB regulation B2.9; riding in a manner not compatible with general safety.

A ban of one race has been applied to Josh Brookes, suspended for three British Superbike championship meetings. The rider was informed of his right to appeal.
No appeal having been received, the penalty is confirmed.

MCRCB/MSVR Judicial Panel. Issued at: 21:00 May 25th 2009.

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Gary Pinchin

By Gary Pinchin