Monday, April 30



Many motorcycle racers have suffered from it over the years. It first raised its head in motocross but top level road-racers are not immune, with Casey Stoner the latest to be afflicted.

Generally it affects the right forearm due to the complex coordination of the right hand and wrist required to control a high powered motorcycle, braking and accelerating. Not only is the right hand squeezing the brake lever, but the arm is then locked almost rigid to hold the rider’s body weight against braking forces.

The term ‘arm-pump’ is jargon: the correct term is ‘Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome of the Forearm’. The list of known MotoGP riders who have suffered from it includes Toni Elias, Sylvain Guintoli, Nicky Hayden, Chris Vermuelen, John Hopkins, Makoto Tamada, Marco Melandri and Kenny Roberts Junior.

Casey Stoner’s first known problem with ‘arm pump’ was at Silverstone in 2010 when he was battling his way up the field from 12th place on the Ducati 800 after running off track in the first corner.

Stoner does not say what he did to alleviate this situation but whatever he did, it worked. Or at least it did until the first race of the 2012 World MotoGP Championship when it cost him the win at Losail.

Stoner had experienced severe ‘chatter’ in the chassis of the new 1000cc Honda in practice, as had Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. Yamaha rival, 2010 MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo had no such concerns on the new 1000cc Yamaha which he put on pole, just ahead of Stoner but despite qualifying on the third row of the grid, Dani Pedrosa holeshot the race. Lorenzo got around him, Stoner followed and on the fourth lap the Australian passed Lorenzo to lead. From there he worked on building a buffer on the Yamaha man, who in turn was holding off the second Repsol Honda of Pedrosa.

Stoner maintained his lead for three quarters of the race, but what his rivals did not know was that he was having difficulty keeping the throttle wide open on the long straight and was losing time on the brakes. This made the TV commentators think he had struck tyre problems but Stoner later admitted the problem was deeper than that. The ‘arm pump’ had returned.

Consequently, first Lorenzo, then Pedrosa, overtook the hapless Stoner, with Lorenzo going on to win his first MotoGP race at Qatar since he dÄ—buted in the class at the Qatar track in 2008, when he took pole position and finished second to Stoner in the race.

For the Qatar race report, check out:

According to David Emmett of Motomatters ( click on: ): “Stoner explained afterwards that a combination of lack of attention to preparation, new gloves and Qatar's layout - lots of right-hand turns followed by lefts, meaning that you have to brake, push, flick the bike upwards to get it turned and then brake again, several times a lap - had caused the onset of arm pump.”

Emmett reports that Stoner had ridden with new gloves at Qatar and this may have been a contributing factor. But Stoner was reportedly not concerned about his problem, saying that he had successfully overcome it in 2010 after it raised its head at Silverstone, indicating diet was part of the answer.

Last Sunday, the problem reared its head again, this time at the Spanish GP at Jerez. It was not as bad and Stoner was able to hold on to score his first win on the Spanish circuit, beating off a strong challenge from Lorenzo who in turn was being chased down by a fast finishing Pedrosa with Tech 3 Yamaha satellite rider Cal Crutchlow just astern.

“I was struggling to grip the bike to change direction,” Stoner revealed later. “I'd put my body to the other side of the bike and pull myself forward to get the weight transfer of the bike [to turn].”

Stoner had no problems in practice or qualifying with his right arm because the weekend was marred by rain, with the track rarely fully dry. Thus the Honda rider was never experiencing the loadings on his arms that he would on a dry track.

But despite the Moto2 race being red-flagged due to rain, and further rain wetting the whole track half an hour before the start of the MotoGP race, the circuit dried.

Lorenzo had once again set pole, with Pedrosa alongside him, and amazingly, Ducati’s Nicky Hayden rounded out the front row. But despite starting from the second row, Stoner kept his wits about him in the action-packed opening laps before taking the lead and pulling a slight gap over Lorenzo.

In an almost repeat performance of his effort at Qatar, Lorenzo rode a very smooth race, keeping the pressure on Stoner from less than one second behind. On lap 18, Stoner lost half a second and Lorenzo was right on him, looking for a way past.

Despite the ‘arm pump’ issue resurfacing, Stoner not only held Lorenzo off, he put his head down and eeked out an almost one second margin on the final lap.

"We didn't get a great start so I tried to stay out of trouble,” Stoner said later. “There were people out-braking each other, touching and it was important just to keep out of the way! Then I managed to gain a lot of positions in a short space of time and reached the front. I didn't try to pull a gap, as I knew Jorge and Dani were very fast, but I just wanted to stay in front with them and pull away from the others. Then I saw that Jorge and I had slightly better pace and we could make a gap. I was focusing on where I wanted to go as there were a lot of wet patches and it was easy to make a mistake. We managed the race for the conditions of the circuit and as they improved I pushed a little more, the bike on a whole felt much better than in qualifying. I did get some arm pump again but thankfully not to the extent I had it in Qatar. Considering the weekend in general and how fast Dani and Jorge are at this track, to win here is something very special for me".

But with practice ahead of the Portuguese Grand Prix less than five days away, Stoner will doubtless seeking further advice, and treatment, for the condition.

“We need to have a talk with some people and try and come up with something different again, but it's difficult because I really want to stay away from the surgery,” he says.

His first win at Jerez means Stoner is just four points behind Lorenzo in the title chase and as Stoner points out, that’s 15 points better off than he was at the same point last year – after he was taken down by the sliding Ducati of Italian Valentino Rossi.

For a full Jerez race report, click on:

And for more on Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome of the Forearm’ click on: