Jun 4, 2009
© 2014, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by Michael Gougis
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Roadracing World 2009 Young Gun Peter Lenz is recovering from a massive crash in Turn One at Portland International Raceway that left him with a badly broken leg, a broken arm and a severed nerve, but doctors say they anticipate the 12-year-old will make a full recovery.
Lenz, a multiple-time mini road racing Champion, was having an excellent season on his Honda RS125, scoring wins in WERA West, USGPRU and CCS competition and setting a lap record at Firebird Raceway.
According to Peter's father Michael Lenz, the youngster was racing May 31st with the Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association (OMRRA) at the Portland track when he left the pits and arrived at Turn One with no brakes. His Honda RS125 bounced through the recently-mowed grass on the outside of the turn and slammed into a tire wall a barrier of three separate double-row stretches of old tires. No impact-absorbing soft barriers (such as Airfence inflatable modules) or haybales were placed in front of the tire barriers.
Lenz' bike speared through the first tire barrier and landed in the second one, and Lenz himself landed atop the final tire barrier against a cyclone fence. Safety crews had to cut away part of the fencing to remove Lenz.
Lenz was transported to Legacy Emanuel Children's Hospital in Portland, where he was diagnosed with a broken tibia and fibula just above the boot line; a broken femur where, doctors suggested, he hit the handlebar when he was launched from the bike; and a broken upper arm just above the elbow armor. The arm also suffered a severed nerve, which doctors re-attached in a follow-up operation yesterday Wednesday.
"Right now, they're expecting a 100% recovery," Michael Lenz told Roadracing World. "He's at Legacy Emanuel in Portland, they have pediatric trauma specialists, they've got pediatric everything. It's the same place that handled Ryan Matter's compound leg fracture a few years back. They plated the upper arm, the lower leg is in the external fixator, and they pinned the femur, so he won't have any casts. He'll be walking soon."
Lenz says his son won't be back on the track until the family can afford a more recent motorcycle.
"Peter's bikes are very old, he's riding 1996s, and we've had perpetual issues with the bikes because parts are fatiguing," the father says. "On Sunday morning, we had a cylinder detonate, and not in a normal place. There was a machinist (at the track) who builds all the engines in the Northwest, and he took a look and says, 'Uh, yeah, never seen that before.' So I'm rebuilding the thing on Sunday, and I can't get the front wheel to go on without binding. I finally get it on, it doesn't bind. He goes out, has no brakes, and hits the tire wall.
"When Peter woke up, he was intubated, he wrote, 'No one pumped my brakes.' We looked and there's a hole in the master cylinder. There's no other damage there his CRG levers aren't abraded. We're not 100 percent sure what it was, more than likely either the brakes weren't pumped or we had a master cylinder failure that was catastrophic."
Michael Lenz says when his son stopped crashing, the boy saw blood flowing across his face shield of his helmet. Fortunately, it was from a relatively minor injury a chin laceration and a small wound inside his mouth. But it was a frightening moment.
"He started talking to God and saying he didn't want to leave," Michael Lenz says.
Michael Lenz insisted on the best safety gear he could find for his son. That, he believes, is the reason Peter Lenz is alive today.
"He uses Impact Safe-T Armor. It's the same stuff that Colin Edwards wears today. It's hard plastic on the outside, foam that crushes on the inside. It's one-time use the same concept as a helmet," Lenz says. Impact, the USGPRU, RS Taichi and the Ethan Gillim "Chasin' a Dream" program have joined forces this year to make body armor available to young USGPRU racers at a discounted rate or even free.
"His body armor was completely crushed but internal injuries, completely zero. He has a raspberry like from skateboarding, the slightest possible one you can get, on his chest. No bruising on his chest, back, shoulders, upper body nothing. If he was not wearing Impact Armor, he would not be here today. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that it saved his life it did its job 100%. There is a pretty distinct mark from his helmet from where his helmet chin bar made a mark on his chest protector."
Lenz gets a new, custom-fit Arai helmet each year for his son, as well. The Arai did its job the younger Lenz had only a small bruise on his forehead, and no concussion.
"Every year, there's a motorcycle show in Seattle. We drive the four hours, see Bruce Porter (the Arai rep at racetracks across North America), he sizes Peter up, and then he sends us to the Arai shop and that's Peter's helmet for the year. We go to Laguna for the mid-year check, to make sure the helmet is still fitting right. There are so many people who just don't have a helmet that fits. A proper fitting helmet it's a huge difference."
Peter Lenz is looking forward to getting back on the track, his father says, but there will be a newer bike under him next time.
"Right now, he's more pissed off about his championship in the USGPRU than he is about his physical state," the father says. "Part of it is the fact that he's 12, and the doctors are saying he's gonna be OK, and he's trusting them that he's going to be OK. He knows how much he's sacrificed, how hard he's worked. But he's not going back out until he has a bike that is up to caliber."
The crash clearly was uncomfortable for Michael Lenz to talk about. But he felt there was an important message to the road racing community to come from talking about it buy good safety gear, and use it.
"After it happened, we actually saw some people pulling out chest protectors and putting them on," Lenz says. "If we can leverage this into something about kid safety, or chest protectors "¦"