Safety concerns following Argentinian MotoGP

There are a number of safety issues that arose from the second round of the MotoGP at the Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina; surely it is time for Race Direction to act now in case something serious happens.

Safety concerns following Argentinian MotoGP
Bautista crashed during his mandatory pit stop | Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp

Naturally, Race Direction’s concerns lay mainly with the Michelin tyres and their race endurance capabilities at Argentina following the incident with Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati rider Scott Redding. The riders’ safety is optimum and they had to act quickly to put precautions in place to ensure the health and safety of the riders was not endangered further throughout the race.

The decision was made to allow riders to still run with the medium and hard compound tyres that were initially to be replaced by a special compound tyre from suppliers Michelin. However due to weather conditions, timings, fuel and tyre allowances, when the race was declared a ‘dry race’ riders were able to run on the hard and medium compound tyres but had to make a mandatory pit stop between laps nine and eleven.

Redding's tyre to undergo tests at Michelin HQ

MotoGP officials will address the safety concerns over the Michelin tyres once results from the investigation as to what went wrong with Redding’s tyre are released, following the tests it will now have to undergo.

There are other issues that are causing concerns at the moment, including what happened in the pits during the compulsory pit stop.

Bautista crashed during his pit stop

All weekend riders were aware of the weather changing for the worse and many were seen practicing the technique they were going to use had they needed to make a pit stop and change bikes.

On race day, the majority of riders did this successfully, all in their own individual ways, however, Aprilia rider Alvaro Bautista messed up, completely. (Understandably it is not an easy thing to do especially in these circumstances.)

Marquez pracising switching bikes | Photo: sportrider.com
Marquez pracising switching bikes | Photo: sportrider.com

The Spaniard entered the pits and when he got to his pit garage, he crashed, falling off his bike and knocking over a mechanic in the process; Bautista then jumped onto his other bike straight away and exited the pits to re-join the race.

Hopefully the mechanic was not injured as the MotoGP bike ran over him; the footage shows he is conscious but in shock and possibly pain as the team run to help him up.

How are Race Direction going to act in future?

Now this pit stop was mandatory because of the tyre issues. The concerns come from the fact that, there are so many people in the pit lane and riders may have to enter the pits to swap bikes for whichever reason (mechanical fault, crash, weather, tyres) in the future, so what are Race Direction going to do to ensure the safety of those in the pit lane?

What will be the solution, if any?

Hi-viz vests will not work, Bautista crashed under pressure. Should the race be stopped rather than a pit stop completed? The pit stop prevents riders from losing any time advantages they have accumulated on track and, under circumstances where the rain flag is presented by the marshals, riders may choose to risk completing the race with the tyres they are on, so will stopping and restarting the race from the grid be beneficial?

What about the possibility of limiting the number of race-team members in the pit lane? (One to hold new bike, one to collect old bike and one to direct rider to garage; three per team and teams with more than one rider to pit on different laps?)

The winglet saga continues!

Then there is the ongoing saga with the ‘aerodynamic winglets’ that riders in the MotoGP class are permitted to use. It was recently announced that the wings were to be banned immediately for the Moto3 class and in the next forthcoming weeks for the Moto2 class.

The winglets are thought to be used to prevent the front wheel from lifting under hard acceleration; this lift would mean vital time lost in a race/qualifying situation. The different teams using the winglets have their own designs; the winglets now come in different shapes, sizes and quantities.

How affective and necessary are the wings?

Now the riders in the MotoGP class are known for getting close on the track. VAVEL UK has previously questioned the safety of these winglets, whether they are actually necessary and how much affect they will have on the other riders around the one whose bike is wearing them.

If a rider with the wings was to brake later than the one in front that they are about to overtake and the wing makes contact with their opponent or their bike, what happens then and how is this safe and allowed by race officials?

It can be compared to a handlebar or a brake lever/protector coming into contact, but these components are necessary, the winglets are not.

Not all riders are choosing to run with the wings

Compare the two Movistar Yamaha riders - Valentino Rossi has tried them and prefers not to ride with them, Jorge Lorenzo has chosen to ride with them and complained that he was struggling with the front end of his M1 all weekend in Argentina.

Rossi managed not only to qualify in second place, but to finish second; sure, this was due to the fact that the two Ducati riders and Team Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales crashed out ahead of him, but previous to the mandatory pit stop Rossi was up there at the front battling closely with race winner Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez (Marquez also runs without wings and Rossi was unable to match Marquez’s pace in the second half of the race due to problems with his second bike).

Wings must be causing a high risk distraction for other riders

A photograph has emerged from on-board a Ducati at the ArgentinianGP and the wing on the Ducati can be seen poking in the back of Marquez.

Unnecessary distractions are unwanted and surely this is not something that the riders should have to contend with when riding at such high speeds. It has also been rumoured that the wings disturb the air around them as well as helping the bike, so what other safety issues does this have for other riders bar sensing them up their ‘rear end’.

Have Lorenzo's wings come in to land yet?

The 2015 MotoGP Champion Lorenzo struggled all weekend and crashed out on turn one of the second lap at the Termas de Rio Hondo after touching a damp patch with his rear slick tyre.

Amongst the gravel you could see that the wing, which Lorenzo had modified the shape of even further since Qatar, had detached from the bike and lay a fair distance from the bike as it had ‘flew’ off. If this crash had happened on track, this is another piece of debris that is at risk of hitting another rider.

Jorge Lorenzo crashes out | Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp
Jorge Lorenzo crashes out | Photo: Mirco Lazzari gp

Is there also an issue with riders picking up their bikes and running in the track? (At club level, riders are not permitted to re-join the race after crashing out; they are allowed to re-join if the bike did not fall.) We witnessed Moto3 Drive M7 SIC Racing Team rider Adam Norrodin and Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso do so in order to finish the race after crashing out of the last lap. Both were heroic efforts to claim valuable points towards their championships; however both were surrounded by riders focused on crossing the finish line as quickly as possible.

Norrodin pushing bike over the line to finish eleventh | Photo: www.nst.com/my
Norrodin pushing bike over the line to finish eleventh | Photo: www.nst.com/my

As if Race Direction does not have enough to do; now they will have to decide if and how to act on these situations in the very near future. Or is this just health and safety going too far?