This is Casey Not Crashing

I have mixed feelings about crash photos. They’re usually interesting to look at, but they also often document some sort of injury. I try to make photographs that show what is astounding and beautiful about motorcycle racing, and injuries are not beautiful. Crashes aren’t beautiful either, but they can be astounding when you see frame by frame what happens when things fall apart.

Getting a good crash photo is a matter of luck, anyway. Crashes happen so fast you can’t say, “I think I’ll take some crash photos this session.” You have to be shooting a corner anyway, and just happen to have your finger on the shutter when the crash happens to record it.

On the second day of the Qatar test I thought that very thing was happening. I was shooting the inside of Turn 6 at Losail, quite a good corner that gets a lot of action with the photographers. It’s the sharpest turn on the track, you can get close, the riders brake hard as they approach and then put as much power as they can manage down coming out of the turn, which often leads to drama.

As Casey Stoner made yet another trip through this turn, I was photographing him, trying to show how he, more so than any other rider in my opinion, lives on the limit. All of these guys are exciting to watch when they are on a quick lap. It’s a kind of David vs Goliath, after all, a small, slight human being against an insanely powerful, much heavier thoroughbred beast that cares more about what Physics tells it to do than what its rider wants.

But Casey seems like he is closer to the limit than anyone else. As I looked through the lens, as soon as he got back on the gas I could see his rear tire say “That’s just a little too much stick, there, Mr. Stoner. Sorry, but I am out of here, mate.” The back of the bike snapped sideways and I thought “Ok, stay calm and stay in focus, here comes a crash. Don’t get all excited and wave the camera around and get a bunch of blurry photos.” I didn’t have time to use all of those words, of course. They simply represent the feeling I had in that fraction of a second.

But as soon as the rear tire moved sideways, Casey did something, I don’t know what, but something that stopped the rear of the bike from going off on its own adventure. Usually by this point in the turn’s exit he’s back over the top of the bike, but you can see he is hanging off the side for dear life. You can also see that the rear tire is not in line with the front. It’s farther from the rumble strip and the front wheel is turned to the right as part of Casey’s effort to save the crash.

Which he did. He then went very calmly on his way toward turn 7 as I sat there amazed at what I’d just seen. In my opinion, Casey is the most exciting rider to watch, and when he says he’s not yet really started to push the Honda, well, I suppose that the Goliath with the 27 on the front is in for some serious lessons in humility.

  • Upon1

    One word – awesome. Not just the photo, but the explanation to the photo. One question I do have…was it simply Traction Control that saved Stoner? I have been lucky enough to see him in action at Philip Island and the way he wrestled the red beast around was brutal and fascinating.

    Thank you for your amazing photos, they bring to life the GP world that I love.

  • Thanks! As for traction control, I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think so. In the past Casey has commented that he prefers the TC turned down to its lowest setting, which tends to reflect the riders’ general opinion of this technology. They don’t like it, and would rather have control via the throttle as in the old days, where it is the rider’s skill that makes the difference rather than one team’s software being superior to another’s. But the technology race is considered to be very important, so TC is here to stay. Riders are left to request their desired amount as long as they go faster if they choose to turn it down. This is the way I understand the situation, at least. In his early days at Ducati, when Stoner exited a corner you could hear the TC cutting the engine’s power via the jarring sound that accompanied the interruption of the ignition. That telltale sign seemed to diminish over the past few seasons, however, which supported Casey’s statement about turning the TC down as far as he was able. So I expect that that he has the Honda’s TC on a low setting as well, and I believe that what saved the crash in this instance was Casey’s skill rather than a computer’s.

    I may be wrong, though. Perhaps I can get David Emmett to stop by and weigh in on this interesting question.

  • It wasn’t traction control. Ironically, TC would not allow you to get this out of shape in the first place. Stoner (and most of the other top riders) use so little traction control (on the exit) that they can easily get it sideways. TC would not be able to save this in time, this is just Stoner using his weight and throttle control. TC still can’t compete with the rider.

  • James Godbolt

    How do I order one?

  • Just drop me an email (scott at and let me know what you’d like, we’ll go from there.

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  • Two people that have given me a totally new insight into GP actually answering my question. I feel very privileged. Thank you.

  • Ace Barker

    Awesome photos,any good ideas for a point & shoot camera <200.00 US appreciate any advice,Thank You.Love the exhaust photo,A+ for tenacity.Bravo

  • Ace Barker

    Camera use mostly in a tank bag,going riding etc. Olympus VG-140 v. Canon Powershot A2200.

  • Thanks, Ace, I appreciate the compliments. As for a compact camera, I’m afraid I don’t have any recommendations for that price range. The cheapest camera I suggest people look at is the Canon PowerShot S95, which is just over $400. Sorry I can’t be of more help there.

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