Chaos and confusion at start of Moto2 race: Equipment blamed

There was chaos at the start of the Moto2 season opener at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar after many riders had a jump start and came under investigation throughout the race; meaning two different penalties were issued for the same race.

Chaos and confusion at start of Moto2 race: Equipment blamed
The 'false' start the Moto2 Season opener in Qatar - Getty Images

The grid is a tense atmosphere with all the riders keen to get the best start. With the amount of errors that occurred as the riders sat and waited for the lights, the number of investigations and the penalties that would have had to follow, should the race start have been abolished and done over? Or would this have incurred fuels issues for the Moto2 riders?

Race Director Mike Webb denied claims

There was some talk of the lights ‘flickering’; Federal Oil Gresini Racing Team rider Sam Lowes was one of those who mentioned this in a post-race interview. However, Race Director Mike Webb denied any claims of this saying, “A check of the video shows nothing unusual and I was unable to get them to misbehave when I tested them later.” The lights were checked to see if they were on for the correct amount of time within regulation and he said, “It was exactly 3 seconds; which is right where it should be as the rules state 2-5 seconds.”

The Race Director defined a jump start as, “Moving forward at the moment the red lights go out. It’s a matter of fact and there’s no decision on whether an advantage has been gained or not.” Race Direction are allowed to make a judgement when it comes to riders who may edge forward a little whilst on the grid, but they must be stationary before the red lights go out.

Clear evidence is required

It was clear that there were many jump starts however Webb spoke of how the coverage viewers see is nowhere near as accurate as the footage used by Race Control. “Clear evidence is required which is why we have a camera with 500 frames per seconds on each rider with the red lights show in the same frame.” This is different compared to what viewers see on the TV feed of the start as it, “Shows the bikes but not the red lights in the same frame for every bike so even if on TV it looks like a jump start, it is not hard evidence.”

Pit teams, commentators, riders and viewers all witnessed the false starts but had to await the final decisions to come as early on as possible in the race, as Webb reminded us, “Long gone are the days when we relied on a grid Marshall to call in a jump start!”

Technical issue with equipment

Webb laid blame to the fact that, “There was a technical issue with the jump start camera recording and playback system; some images would not display correctly. However we were able to identify six jump starts and these riders were informed immediately and made ride through penalties.”

This is what caused the ‘chaos that left viewers confused and wondering should the race have been restarted; as some riders’ mistakes seemed more obvious yet were not highlighted by Race Direction. British rider Lowes, who has been so fast throughout testing and practice, was one of the first group penalised along with Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), Marcel Shrotter (AGR Team) and 2015 Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport); it seemed to be Zarco who started the ‘chain-reaction’ off causing the other riders to react too soon. These riders received a ride through penalty which meant that lost over twenty-five seconds of time by the time they made their way through the pits.

Controversy from late decisions

More news came from race control that Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) and Robin Mulhauser (Car Xpert Interwetten) both received penalties. But the controversy has come from the late decisions made at the end of the race that made the penalties vary and the race results now unfair. Once again blaming the system Webb said, “We identified two more jump starts, Morbidelli and Cortese, but this took time.” He reiterated the rules which state, “A ride through penalty must be communicated to the rider before the end of the fourth lap. When a ride through is not possible, the standard time penalty of 20 seconds is applied.”

The punishments given to the front runners Lowes, Rins and Zarco left them at the back of the grid once completed. Rins and Lowes were able to maintain their magnificent race pace from throughout the weekend and they were able to make their way back through the field to gain eighth and ninth place; Lowes was pushing it so much that he almost lost it. Zarco was able to manage a twelfth place finish and Nakagami fourteenth meaning they both finished within the points; but Schrotter only made it up to seventeenth and Mulhauser finished in twentieth.

Penalties only came in the last few laps

Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Dynavolt Intact GP Team rider Sandro Cortese’s penalties only came in the last few final laps and meant that they only received the twenty second penalty; when this was applied it meant that Morbidelli finished in seventh ahead of Rins and Lowes and Cortese finished fifteenth still in the points. Had the penalties all have been equal or the race start abolished and restarted, we may have seen a completely different result on track. If this was to happen in future, how are Race Direction going to deal with it so that the all the penalties are equal? 

Lowes ride-through penalty took him twenty-seven seconds which was seven more than those who were given a time penalty; he then had to make his way back through the field with the other riders who were penalised. Had the sanctions been equal Lowes would have finished fifth just looking at the timesheet. However with the pace he was running and the determination he had, he possibly would have gone on to contest for the win.

Luthi took the win

Moto2 is now off to Argentina with only slight inkling of who are the ones to watch this season, but hopefully it will not be long before we soon find out. The chaos from the jump start meant that Car Garage Plus Interwetten rider Thomas Luthi was able to go on to win, ahead of Luis Salom (SAG Team) and Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) however this is not how it finished on track after the eight riders were penalised. Dynavolt Intact GP Team rider Jonas Folger had initially took the lead from his pole position on the grid and had gained two seconds on the riders behind him but he race crashed out after just two laps.