Just imagine the panic of crashing into the back of another racer’s motorcycle at speed and flipping over the bars. Then imagine hitting the pavement and feeling your helmet squeeze itself off your head as you slide along at 100+ mph!

That’s what Luiz Franchi had to deal with at New Jersey Motorsports Park when fellow racer Jeremy Whitehurst unexpectedly shut the throttle of his bike as he crossed the finish line after a Superstock race. Franchi was closing in on Whitehurst but came up a bit short at the checkers. Whitehurst, carrying the onboard camera, backed out of the throttle soon after reaching the finish line, which surprised Franchi who ran into Whitehurst’s bike and flipped over the front of his Yamaha R1.

As Franchi fell on his back, the impact bounced his AGV helmet off his head, despite the chin strap still being intact and attached. This makes us think he didn’t cinch it up snugly or his helmet was too large for his head. Either way, he was extremely lucky that his bare skull didn’t impact the track, which could’ve created a scene so ugly we wouldn’t be able to show it.

“This was a lot more my fault than I had originally thought,.” said Whitehurst in the video’s description. “I did not think I chopped the throttle like that after the finish line. I take responsibility for what happened and I apologize to Luiz Franchi. Live and learn. I’m glad no one was hurt and from now on, race pace into T1 after the checker.”

  • Gruf Rude

    His helmet pops off without ever touching pavement! Hard to imagine wearing a helmet that fits that badly. He really is extremely lucky his head never touched the ground through the whole crash. He needn’t bother buying a lottery ticket for the next few years – he’s used up his ration of good fortune.

  • DickRuble

    No.. I can’t imagine what went through the idiot’s numb skull.. I can imagine Whitehurst repeatedly smacking him in the face with the lost helmet and saying: “secure helmet, secure helmet, apply brakes, apply brakes, stay home moron, stay home”.

  • Larry Kahn

    Had a friends Bell Star (back @ 1974) come off in a street crash. One of the “D” rings broke and the strap came loose. And the Bell was the best you could buy back then.

  • HazardtoMyself

    That helmet looks like it is loose and shifting even before impact.

    How the hell did it stay on at race speeds to begin with? Can’t imagine how much movement he must have been dealing with the entire race.

  • Auphliam

    Curious why you chose the verb “squeezed” to describe what happened. Personally, I would think Popped, Bounced or Knocked would be more fitting (pardon the pun) 🙂

    • Kevin Duke

      Popped is most appropriate, but I already used it in the headline. Knocked was considered, but nothing actually knocked the helmet. 🙂

      • hipsabad

        considering that, as far as the video shows, his helmet bounced against nothing nor knocked on anything, it would appear that ‘slipped’ or ‘squeezed’ are perhaps the best descriptors

  • Bob Dragich

    His helmet is already coming off before he hit the ground. Rider error in securing the helmet or in choice of helmet size, which would have had to been way off. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ec88ea9ed9392ce2f1c92b692950039c86562e047ed8ec6e454dcce1dfddd797.jpg

    • Kevin Duke

      “Hey, I’d like to buy a Rossi helmet!”
      “Sorry, we don’t have your size…”
      “I’ll take it anyway!”

      • Bob Dragich

        I don’t see the strap coming out of the helmet just below where the AGV logo is on the side where you would normally see it, do you?

        • Auphliam

          Having never participated in sanctioned racing, I don’t know, but is that something that they (race officials) would check before the start? If it’s not strapped, that poses the obvious question…How many others are out there racing with their helmet simply pulled on?

        • Kevin Duke

          I think I see it…

  • john phyyt

    Dear Mr Whitehurst please do a lot of soul searching and give us a true account. Marco Simoncelli died when his helmet came off after the crash ( As I am sure we all remember) and lots of specualtion ensued . Marco had a huge head of hair and it has always been a contention that this allowed helmet to slip. You Do not:
    Was Helmet correct size?
    Did you tighten it as usual? Was there significant stretch of the chin strap?
    Was it an older helmet which you believe was past its prime.
    Any other contibutions would be welcome. Just to stop this occuring again.
    Thanks for allowing the video to be shared.

    • Born to Ride

      Whitehurst was the guy that got hit, not the guy that took the digger. Super Sic died because of blunt force trauma induced cardiac arrest. He was simultaneously hit dead center in the spine and the neck. Completely different circumstance.

      • john phyyt

        . No Problems.
        Marco’s helmet did come off. And so did Whitehurst’s . So not COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Actually ; whatever! It may be informative to get honest answers,

        • Born to Ride

          Yeah if you watch the footage, which I did one time and don’t intend to again, you’ll see that Rossi’s front wheel slams into Sic right at the base of the skull and the back of the helmet. It’s possible with that kind of force applied against the chinstrap that it simply snapped. Here the helmet just sorta flies off unprovoked. That’s the only reason I said “completely different”.

  • Brian Clasby

    Boot smoke!

  • Patriot159

    I used to club race for eight years. At morning safety inspection, they checked helmets for age and condition (prior damage) but not fit. I’ve seen guys line up loosely strapped, un-strapped, guys suiting up who’s helmet popped on like a baseball cap and flopped around, suits partially zipped up…lots of stupid stuff. I had crashed 4 times on track, two of the times my helmet never touched the ground, the other two it most likely saved my life because I took BIG hits to the head. Does it really have to be said that helmet size, shape and proper securing are vital? Guess so.

  • mog

    Try this view. The strap IS being used. The rider’s beard is of no help and provides ample slippage capability. Clean shaved, clean cut hair, no jewelry and a decent imprint of the cheek pads after a tour of the track are real safety indicators.

    My suggestion is that an article based on this incident be done with AGV or another helmet maker (it would be big kudos to them) to point out specific points to be measured when seating a helmet on the head.

    There should be minimum clearance areas and force/fit under chin. Ways to measure for the novice and pro such as “can you slip a piece of ???? between the chin and strap or the back of the neck and ??? with a resulting pull out force of ?? pounds.

    Choice and type of helmet are one thing but the words ‘snug fit’ is not appropriate for track day speeds or roads for that matter. Such an article would require a good bit of sleuthing. I would not be surprised that some very applicable field tests could come of this that each rider could use to easily check a fitting.


  • JWaller

    I wonder if that guy bought a powerball lottery ticket, with his kind of luck. Bad luck that the helmet flew off (but, it probably either didn’t fit or wasn’t strapped down tight enough) but what kind of luck was it to keep his head off the pavement like that? Those few moments before coming to a stop must have been excruciatingly frightening.

  • Dmitrii Kilishek

    I’m a new rider… and luckily I had a conversation with one good sales man(former racer) in a motorcycle shop. He told me a lot about helmets and their sizing. I remembered following things the most:
    1. Put your helmet on, do not use the strap
    2. The helmet should be placed two fingers higher than your eyebrows.
    3. Try to roll the helmet off forward from behind – The helmet should not roll off your head.
    4. Try to roll the helmet left and right – The helmet shouldn’t roll both ways.
    5. Try to put your finger between your helmet and your forehead – Finger shouldn’t come in.
    6. Check the pressure on the top of your head – you should feel the lining snug but it should not be too tight.

    This helped me to determine that my old helmet was too big for me… I first bought Bell size XXL, but ended up with Shoei size L…

    • Kevin Duke

      Glad to hear you got some good advice! Helmet reps often say most people are wearing helmets too big for their heads.