The seventh round of the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 championships at the Circuit de Barcelona will be very memorable, not just for the racing, but for reasons you wish had never happened because it was the weekend that #39 SAG Team Moto2 rider Luis Salom unfortunately passed away following an incident during Free Practice 2.
No telling what the future holds
It was ideal conditions on Friday as the riders took to the track for the first time that weekend. All of the sessions leading up to it ran as usual with the same racing incidents during a majority of the sessions. Free Practice 2 for the Moto2 class was the last session of the day. Salom had been out on track and set his fastest lap of the weekend before returning to the pits to change his rear tyre. However disaster struck when he returned to the track from the pits, as on this lap he crashed at turn twelve.
Everything was done to save Salom’s life
Immediately the session was red-flagged so that medics could tend to the young Spanish rider at a corner where incidents are very rare. Straight away track medics were tending to him, they were joined by more circuit medical staff and the helicopter was deployed. Medics were seen performing CPR on him as he had gone into cardiac arrest from the impact, and then they had to get him stable so he could be transported to the hospital. It was decided that they would transfer him via ambulance to the local hospital where they operated on him; however he was pronounced dead at 16:55pm despite all of the amazing efforts of the medical team both at the track and the hospital.
Apparently the media cameras were not on Salom at the time of the incident however it was meant to have been caught on CCTV. At turn twelve there is only a short run off area of asphalt and an air-fence in front of the barrier. There is no gravel which would significantly slow this down, however gravel may prove dangerous in the event that a rider was to miss a braking point as the lose surface may cause the rider to lose control rather than rescue it.
Safety Commission meeting after incident to ensure riders’ safety
Salom’s mother attended every race for her son, and after receiving the family’s blessing it was decided that the event should continue. As they do every Friday of a meeting, riders met with officials for the Safety Commission meeting and took to the track where they analysed and discussed what could be done to avoid this fatal accident happening again. As a result, the ten riders who did decide to attend, along with the officials concluded that it would be best to adapt turn ten to make it tighter which would in affect slow riders down on the approach to turn twelve; the ‘old’ turn twelve was to be bypassed though and that would become a run-off area as the turn was made tighter and a chicane included. The new layout was the same as the one used in the Forumla 1 series and riders were given extra time to familiarize themselves with it in an extended final Free Practice session ahead of qualifying.
SAG Team have released statement of their findings
As incidents at this turn are so rare, and due to the lack of footage it was down to the telemetry to understand what went wrong. The following statement was released by the SAG Team on their website:
“Official SAG Team press release after the deep telemetry analysis done on Luis Salom’s bike
On Friday June 3rd Luis Salom passed away during the Gran Premi of Catalunya FP2 session after an accident suffered at the turn 12 of the Catalunya circuit.
After receiving the telemetry data yesterday Sunday June 5th by the organization, the technical staff of the SAG Team held immediately a meeting to personally determinate the facts of the accident and to communicate afterwards with exactitude what happened in technical terms at the fatal turn 12 of the Circuit of Catalunya. In the comprehensive analysis done on the telemetry data assisted the owner of the team Edu Perales, the team manager Jordi Rubio, the chief mechanic of Luis Salom Bernat Bassa, the chief mechanic of Jesko Raffin Michael Ferger, the Moto2 rider Jesko Raffin and the manager of Luis Salom Marco Rodrigo.
During the course of the FP2, Luis Salom faced his first laps and makes his best lap (1’48.608) before making his first pit stop to change the rear tire of the bike. After that, Salom comes back on the track and during that same out of the pits lap he suffers the accident. In that lap, Luis arrived to the turn 12 braking reference point 6 km/h slower than his fastest lap, according to the telemetry that was because a lower acceleration at the exit of turn 11. Due to that reduced speed, Luis operated the brakes 9 meters later to maintain a proper corner speed at the turn 12. At the entry of the corner there is an irregularity on the asphalt known by all the riders (bump). The delay of the braking instant made Luis to maintain the brakes operated running over that asphalt irregularity, as opposed the previous laps where he already had released the brakes on that spot. All of that added to an even speed than his best lap of the FP2 produced a stress on the front tire and a grip lost on the irregularity of the asphalt. That grip lost produced the crash with the tragic outcome that we all know.
These telemetry data provided by the organization are available to any qualified technician with desires to analyze it.”
Tributes to an amazing and talented rider
This season was the Salom’s first with the SAG Team, he had been competing in the Moto2 since 2014. Previous to that he competed in the 125cc championship since 2009 and the Moto3 class for two years from 2012. The Spaniard collected nine victories, twenty-five podiums in total and before his incident had collected thirty-seven points in the 2016 Moto2 championship.
Tributes have since poured in remembering Luis Salom and offering condolences from many of the riders, teams and fans, proving that it is like one big huge family. Many gestures made in tribute to Salom were carried out across the whole weekend. In the SAG Team pit arage stood Salom’s bike and his pit board beside it read, “Always in Our Hearts”, riders wore stickers or ribbons on their helmets and bikes, moments of silence took place, races and victories were dedicated to the Spaniard and riders did their own individual things in memory of their friend and former competitior.
Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) won the Moto2 race, to ‘celebrate’ he rode to turn twelve where he did a burn-out, kissed his hand and pointed to the sky in an emotional tribute. Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) who was in second place carried Salom’s flag around the track and to the podium and raised that along with his trophy. MotoGP rider Pol Espargaro(Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) picked up a board with the number ‘39’ on it and rode it to the corner where he placed it.
The mood was very subdued the remainder of the weekend especially in the Moto2 parc ferme after the race, the celebrations were subtle if not non-existent understandably. Riders wore black t-shirts with Luis Salom decals on and the message echoed that by his team as printed on them was “Always in our hearts”. Riders did not have a champagne celebration, instead all three on the podium Zarco, Rins and Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) took to the top step where they stood shoulder to shoulder for the national anthem and a moment’s silence.
Wake-up call for MotoGP rivals
The harsh reality dawned on two riders in particular in the MotoGP class. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) won after an amazing battle with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) in second. The once friendly duo had become rivals since the 2015 Sepang GP, riders received penalties, lost championships, accusations were thrown about, but when they entered that winners’ area after what happened to Salom they realised that it should not continue. The feud was over, the two were acknowledged each other for the first time, shook hands and discussed their battle as they put an end to it; they realised they are here to race, of course it is a competition but they clearly did not want to continue with it due to the risks involved in the sport.
Salom’s family make statement
The family of the late Salom took to Twitter to make a statement following the loss of the twenty-four year old.
“The family of Luis Salom would like to express our thanks for the many expressions of condolence and solidarity that we have received from Luis’ fellow riders, the members of his team, members of his paddock, friends, athletes and fans. We also wish to thank all the medical team and persons who attended Luis in the aftermath of the accident, doing everything possible to keep him with us.
At this difficult time, we ask for comprehension and request that our privacy be respected.
Information regarding the date and time of the funeral, which will take place in Palma de Mallorca, will be announced soon so that everyone who wishes to may say goodbye to Luis.”
Funeral arrangements now made
Since that statement was released the family have announced the following funeral arrangements:
“The family of Luis Salom wish to inform that the wake to say goodbye to Luis will be open from 3pm until 9pm on Tuesday, June 7th, at the Son Valenti funeral home in Palma de Mallorca.
The funeral will take place at 9pm on Wednesday, June 8th, at Palma de Mallorca cathedral.
Once again, the family wish to thank Luis' colleagues in the World Championship, the authorities, fans and media for their displays of support at this difficult time.”
Now what will happen?
Many events occur at the Circuit de Barcelona in Catalunya including the Formula 1 among others. The track is well used and luckily there are alternative routes available which meant that the layout could be adapted to help with safety. The adhesion of the track reduces as temperatures increase, riders speak of it becoming slippery, and it was clear to see, especially from slow-motion images, that the track is very bumpy; experienced riders fortunately are aware of the locations of the bumps and adapt their lines to avoid wasting time and momentum on them.
The run-off area has now become the scene of a tragic and fatal accident and the telemetry suggests that the combination of the bump and the short run off area is extremely dangerous. Surely it is time now for money to be invested into the circuit; to possibly relay tarmac to eliminate the ‘bumps’, or to retire the corner from the track or to not use it in future races and stick with the new layout. The barrier cannot be moved back any further as the grandstands are immediately after it, in that case would it be worth shortening the straight so that the run-off can be extended to including an asphalt and gravel area before the air-fence in case any machinery gets in between that of the rider and the fence in the event of another incident.