The Kawasaki Racing Team's preparations for the coming MotoGP season suffered a setback on Monday, when the team's race transporter was involved in a road traffic accident while travelling from Barcelona to Jerez.
Just two hours after leaving Barcelona, the Kawasaki race transporter was buffeted by ferocious winds as it travelled along the highway around Peniscola, forcing the transporter to leave the road and onto uneven ground, where it toppled over at speed.
Race mechanic Jason Corney, who was the passenger in the truck, suffered injuries to his right foot, losing his little toe as a result of the crash. The Australian underwent surgery to repair damage to his remaining toes on Monday evening in Spain and was returned to a clinic in Germany on Wednesday afternoon for further treatment.
Driver and race mechanic, Josef Buchner, was also injured in the crash, suffering a dislocated shoulder. Buchner was fit enough to travel back home to Germany on Tuesday, where he will undergo surgery to repair torn ligaments in his injured shoulder.
First on the scene at the accident were two tyre technicians from Dunlop, who were also travelling to the IRTA test at Jerez. After extinguishing a potentially dangerous fire in the cab, the two Dunlop technicians then pulled the injured Kawasaki mechanics from the tractor unit and administered first aid by the side of the road.
The race truck, in which the Kawasaki Racing Team's Ninja ZX-RR MotoGP bikes were being transported between the IRTA tests, was completely destroyed in the crash, and required three cranes and more than ten hours to put back on it's wheels.
The trailer unit was transported to the Valencia circuit, where team members who'd flown from Jerez to Valencia were able to gain access to the interior and assess the damage.
Fortunately, while equipment inside the trailer had been dislodged, there was surprisingly little damage, with most of the force having been dissipated through the trailer unit itself.
All four Ninja ZX-RR machines were found to be undamaged, with even the fragile carbon fibre bodywork surviving the crash mostly intact.
A replacement tractor unit and trailer travelled from Germany to collect the bikes and equipment from Valencia on Wednesday, and all the equipment has now been delivered to Jerez, where Kawasaki mechanics are working flat out to prepare everything for the start of testing on Friday.
Overseeing the recovery of the team's bikes and equipment in Valencia was the Kawasaki Racing Team's Operations Manager, Michael Bartholemy.
"While this is a setback for the team, the most important thing is that both mechanics were not seriously injured and are expected to make a full and speedy recovery," declared Bartholemy. "At first we thought we would miss this weekend's IRTA test at Jerez, but it now looks as if we will participate in all three days as originally planned."
"We are able to do this because of all the help we have received since the crash. I'd especially like to thank the two Dunlop guys who were so quick to help our mechanics immediately after the crash."
"Our two injured mechanics are being well looked after in Germany, so we can now focus fully on the upcoming IRTA test, where we hope to continue to run at the top of the timesheets, as we did at Catalunya," concluded Bartholemy, who cited the three days following the crash as "the worst of my life."
Kawasaki Team Manager, Harald Eckl, was kept informed of the situation and, while his Operations Manager dealt with the aftermath of the crash on site, Eckl ensured that, on their return to Germany, his two mechanics would receive treatment from the same doctor who treated Alex Hofmann after his crash at Estoril last season.
"Equipment can be replaced, but people can't and I'm so relieved that our two mechanics were not seriously injured in the crash," said Eckl.
"Our initial reaction was to cancel the IRTA Jerez test, but by some miracle the damage to the equipment and the race bikes inside the truck was minimal, so with the help of some of our partners we were able to salvage the situation. Our truck supplier, MAN in Munich, quickly arranged a replacement tractor unit, while Bischoff and Scheck prepared for us a replacement trailer and organised two drivers to bring it to Valencia for us."
"So, while the crash has obviously been a setback to our pre-season preparations, I'm happy to say that it is only a minor one, and one I am confident won't affect our performance on track once testing starts tomorrow."
"I just hope our two mechanics, Jason and Josef, make a speedy recovery and that we will see them back in the team very soon," added Eckl.