This article won the Eni-Energy for Success press award in the under-36 category.
The first time I saw a WSBK race my mouth fell open, jaw touching the ground. Where is the poetry and grace of a MotoGP race? There is none. In its stead, there is raw power, the kind that increases the heart rate, makes you fall off the seat, and watch the television screen, unblinking. Madness, it is sheer madness.
These riders are the artists that paint the track in bold strokes. They push, bully, slide, swerve, overtake, and fall back, only to twist the throttle once again, becoming one with a machine that screams power. Wow. With every race I watch, I am convinced that these are not superbikes, but a group of Lockheed SR-71 Blackbirds outpacing each other, determined to break the sound barrier. There is such beauty there. So, like every normal motorhead, I watch the races, learning slowly about the dynamics of the machine, the teams and the riders. And, just like every other motorhead, I search for my favourites; the riders that make me want to sing at the start of every race. It takes time, doesn’t it, to find your favourites. I love the Kawasaki, so Tom Sykes just about seemed the natural choice.
Until April and Imola. The Italian track, for me, has always had ominous undertones. This was where my hero, Ayrton Senna ran his last race. So, when I heard that there had been an accident during the first SBK test, my heart sank and I felt a little sick.
Joan Lascorz. 27. Spanish. He runs under #17 for Kawasaki. We know him as Jumbo Lascorz. It was a day after the race in Imola, on April 3rd during the first session of the official Superbike testing. Joan lost control of his Kawasaki in the uphill section of the circuit from Tosa to Piratella and crashed. He was rushed to the medical centre where he was diagnosed with a possible vertebra fracture. He was airlifted to a hospital in Bologna for surgery. A Kawasaki statement later stated that the “surgery to put the vertebra into the right place was successfully finished, due to the impact the vertebra was moved, partly damaging the spine”.
Last week, Kawasaki issued another medical update. It stated that Joan is now at the Guttmann Institute that specializes in spinal cord injuries. “Joan remains fully conscious, talking, without any mental consequences and remembers all the Imola crash, which in due time will be analyzed and explained. Joan has sensitivity and mobility in his arms and hands, but right now has no feeling in the legs and the abdominal area.” The team also thanked everyone involved in Joan’s recovery, as well as the Superbikes and MotoGP teams and riders.
There has been an outpouring of support. We are all rooting for Joan, for his recovery. We want him back on the grid. There is so much strength in Joan, in his determination to follow his dream. It is obvious isn’t it? In 2010 Silverstone, Joan crashed during his second-ever World Supersport race, and suffered severe injuries. Despite that, he ended the season third in the championship, with a 15-point lead. He was back the following year racing for Kawasaki in the World Superbike Championship ending the season at 11th spot. Determination is Joan’s middle name. And if his official website has anything to say about it, so is stubborn and obstinate.
Joan is the second of four siblings whose father runs a garage. He was 10 when he started riding, a hobby that soon became so much more. He didn’t have it easy. His father though supported his son, taking him circuit to circuit, whenever his family could afford it. He was a teenager when his talent finally became recognized. Disproject took him on to race for the Glaner Castrol Honda team at the Supersport Championship in Spain. The years 2005 and 2006 became important, giving him the experience he needed. Joan became a powerful contender the following two years. In 2008, he ranked fifth by the end of the season with four podiums (including one in Valencia, his home ground). The following year, he worked with Kawasaki, racing and developing their ZX-6R. It was commitment at its best, with his first win in France at Magny-Cours. This year, 2012, was supposed to be his year, when he would leave his mark, rise like the star he promised to be, and become a powerful force to reckon with. Until Imola.
Why? Why do I feel so strongly about a racer I haven’t really followed? I tried to explain this to a friend. But all I could say was, “It just isn’t fair.”
How could I explain to him that I saw this passion for a sport in so many of my friends – riders who share a deep bond with their superbikes?
How do I tell him that in Joan, I see a talent that is just waiting to burst forth?
How do I explain that in him, I see a man who has done what he needed to do, to reach for his dreams, and to live them?
It just isn’t fair.
Perhaps, the one person who said it the best was Joan’s team manager, personal manager and friend, Guim Roda. He said in a statement, “Let me remind you the great loss we’ve all had, each and every passionate enthusiast in the motorbike world, regarding 2012’s largest untapped talent. A pilot destined to make history, old school, with effort and tenacity, to carve his way without gifts and favors or media plaudits, quietly, little by little. At 27 years of age, he had wrought out the best bases to carry out his dreams, like all those who have passion and the tenacity to achieve their goals. Now we’ll see how far we can get, and if this crash has been a stumbling block or a shift in goals, dreams, our dreams… You cannot imagine how much hidden talent lies in the ICU of the Vall d’Hebron Hospital.”
Here’s to Joan. May he stay strong, forge ahead, and live his dreams, no matter what. We are with you, Jumbo Lascorz. Forza!