Top 10 Racing Highsides

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

Because who doesn't like to see a good highside?

Apologies in advance if the headline of this week’s Top 10 baited you in, but by virtue of being here, at least a small part of you enjoys seeing a good highside. There’s something about seeing a rider, bike, or both catapulted into orbit that captures our imagination.

For this particular list, I found 10 of my favorite racing highsides available on YouTube, each sure to make you go OOOHHHHH! like the commentators in the clips. Most are from the Grand Prix circus, both two- and four-stroke, but there are entries from other championships as well. Clearly, a list of 10 isn’t nearly enough for a category like this, so if you have a favorite highside, share it with us in the comments section. And, oh yeah, none of the riders on the list were seriously injured.

10. Sylvain Barrier

We start this list with the first of many cringe-worthy highsides. Here we have Frenchman Sylvain Barrier, riding an EVO-spec BMW S1000RR during the first Superpole session of the 2014 World Superbike round at the Losail circuit in Qatar. Watch as he hangs on for as long as he can (I can save it!) before the rear snaps violently. Up, Up and Awaaaaay…

Dorna won’t let us embed this video, so hop on over to YouTube to see the full clip.

9. Kevin Schwantz

I know, this list could have been comprised entirely of Revvin’ Kevin’s tumbles, but in order to add some variety I’m only including one. The scene: Donington Park, 1994. As Schwantz ducks on the inside of a backmarker, he gets a little greedy with the throttle and off he goes. The crash itself isn’t too astonishing, but what gets me is the lapped rider. Without anywhere to go, he ends up nailing Kevin’s Suzuki head on and somehow manages to keep it upright!

8. Stefan Bradl

As far as style points go, Stefan Bradl and his 540-degree dismount wins top honors. What a strange crash; first the front tire starts to fold as he’s backing it in, then the rear tire slides over the painted curb, catches, then throws the German into a pirouette any ballerina would be proud of. Then he flies quite a distance, giving him enough time to think, “WTF?!” in mid air.

7. Ronan Quarmby

During the 2012 World Supersport race at Brno in the Czech Republic, Ronan Quarmby’s race went downhill quickly. As you can see in the vid, a massive rear slide almost resulted in a relatively harmless lowside. Instead, once Ronan can’t hang on to the throttle anymore, the rear catches traction again and spits him off. Quarmby does the full Superman for a bit, but more spectacular was the massive airtime his Honda CBR600RR got. I count at least six cartwheels before the clip rewinds.

6. Casey Stoner

My apologies for the lame music, but MotoGP doesn’t allow embedding its YouTube videos on other sites. Anyway, a combination of factors make this Casey Stoner highside memorable to me. First, it’s Casey Stoner. If anyone can save a rear slide, it’s him. Second, this slide looked innocent enough at first, another example of him using the rear to steer. However, once it snapped, look how far it sent both Stoner and his Honda RC213V into the ground-sky-ground-sky dance! Good thing the Indy track has plenty of run-off.

5. John Hopkins

This clip is only 16 seconds long, but it’s a dramatic 16 seconds. The scene is the 2005 MotoGP round at Sachsenring in Germany. Suzuki-mounted John Hopkins had already crashed before earlier in the weekend, and during the opening laps of the race he enters the left-right chicane a little too anxious on the gas. The result is this rapid separation from his bike, where he lands square on his back and gets the wind knocked out of him. Ouch.

4. Mick Doohan / Pier Francesco Chili

This one rivals Stefan Bradl in the number 8 spot for style points. In what almost seems like choreographed motorcycle dismounts, the great Mick Doohan, and the talented – though not quite as successful – Pier Francesco Chili take flight together as they are chasing down Kevin Schwantz for the lead. Fast forward to the one minute mark if you’re impatient, but it almost seems as if Chili was so fixated on Doohan that he would mimic whatever the Australian did in front of him. Including highside. What endeared Chili to his many fans is his never-say-die attitude. Look at Chili after the crash; he’s holding his bike’s fuel tank in his hands, hoping he can just plop it back on and continue racing. The balls on this guy…

3. Alvaro Bautista

Highsides are best viewed in slow motion, and this video of Alvaro Bautista catching air during practice at the 2014 Indianapolis Grand Prix is a prime example. Just watch how much the rear of his Honda RC213V slides, and how much it’s compressed. Then, at the fateful moment, the Honda simply flicks the Spaniard off the bike and off the screen entirely! Bautista’s reacclimation with Earth doesn’t end well either, landing on the side of his head and his hands. The commentator’s reactions sum up the scene quite well.

2. Randy Mamola

This one starts off in rather exciting fashion, as Randy Mamola is sliding his Cagiva all over the place during the 1988 Grand Prix in Brazil. He’s also looking behind him at certain points to keep tabs on the rest of the competition. Of course, he looked back one too many times; at the one-minute mark he checks behind to his right, twists the throttle just a tiny bit, and that 500cc two-stroke spit him off in a big way. Let this be a lesson: the only thing that matters in a race is what’s in front of you.

1. Jorge Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo’s early MotoGP career was marred with crashes and inconsistency, and it was this highside in particular that got me thinking about this topic in the first place. The scene is the 2008 MotoGP round at Laguna Seca, where Valentino Rossi pulled off “The Pass” on Casey Stoner at the Corkscrew. Lorenzo qualified fourth and got a decent start off the line, but by turn 5 his race was all over, his YZR-M1 launching him into the stratosphere. Upon landing, he’d immediately grab his left ankle, the impact hard enough to break some bones. Nowadays, Lorenzo is considered one of the best at being metronomically consistent, his get-offs few and far between. It wasn’t always this way.

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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