Sunday 16th August 2020, our sport dodged a massive bullet. It took the loss of Ayrton Senna in 1994 for our 4 wheel cousins to learn their lesson. We almost had our Aytron Senna moment, Valentino Rossi.
Just take a moment to think about how you would feel right now if Rossi and Vinales were struck and what the consequences would have been.
Are we going to learn from this or do we need to wait until something worse happens?
The action the Austrian GP delivered was nothing like we can remember in recent history and most of it was bloody awesome! But some of it wasn’t. We, like everyone else are just so thankful that no one was more seriously hurt.
While we accept our sport is dangerous and we absolutely love bar to bar action. Just like performance and technical innovations, safety also needs constant focus and improvement.
There is a concerning trend in Grand Prix racing that filters down to all levels of racing.
As someone who has unfortunately seen the dark side of our sport firsthand, Sunday’s GP was a stark reminder of how ugly things can get.
Opinions are divided and the crash has been deemed a ‘racing incident’ by officials, for the moment anyway. That’s a very big concern right there. At the time of writing this the Race Direction have announced there will be a further hearing on Thursday which is great to hear 😊. Hopefully further action will be taken once they have time to review and think about this properly.
Let's take a bit of a look at the diagram below.
Sure at the time of contact Zarco was in front and Franco was off line. However you need to see how they got there. The pass, Johann ZARCO was behind Franco on the run up the hill. He went up the inside and took a line that was always going to require him to roll off the throttle much earlier than normal just to stay on the track.
Furthermore he was going to need to do this while crossing the normal race line, right in front of the bike he just passed. What did he actually think was going to happen? Well he probably didn’t think.
Sure Zarco had a mega run out of turn 1 and the speed to pass MORBIDELLI, but the move wasn’t on. Zarco needed to roll out of the throttle and wait for a better opportunity. Especially with his experience.
Franco would have been shocked and probably didn’t even know what to do or how to react. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he froze a little bit.
I can’t see how you can turn a bike doing 310km/h on the line Johann ZARCO chose.
How does race direction deem this a racing incident rather than reckless riding?
The Bigger Issue
Very experienced, top level racers are doing some pretty dumb things on track and race direction hasn’t really been doing much about it.
We watch MotoGP, idolise them and aspire to our own dreams with the example they set. See the problem?
If MotoGP riders do dumb things without any consequence it spreads through the whole sport.
Aleix ESPARGARO in Q1. Cruising around on a slow lap looking for a tow. Then decides to pull right on race line smack bang in-between Rossi and Danilo PETRUCCI who were both on hot laps. Ummm excuse me but WTF was that utter rubbish? And….. where was the penalty?
Pol ESPARGARO, I don’t even know where to start with him. In fact he is getting his own separate article.
Marc Marquez. Remember Argentina 2018? Marc did a lot of dumb stuff….. but he got penalties for it all. That was perfect! If you take away his results he’ll slowly learn because he is results driven. Do dumb stuff, cop a whack.
Remember 2018 at Phillip Island. Zarco smashed into the back of Marquez into turn 1. Yep Marc swerved just before the incident. But Marc was taking the normal race line. Again how did Zarco not know this was going to happen? Penalty? What action was taken?
Back last weekend. Johan ZARCO on Franco MORBIDELLI, one of the worst I have ever seen. There was no hope of that pass working. No Hope.
Due to the speed of this accident and the seriousness I really think Zarco needs a ban and some time on the sidelines, especially seeing his track record.
I am sure he had no intent and maybe he didn’t even think it through. But whether he thought it through or not is no excuse. The point is he should have thought it through.
Unfortunately, the best way human’s learn is through consequence. Race bans are a whole lot better than what very nearly happened on Sunday.
These riders need to think. If they can’t manage that they need to be penalised. If the behaviour continues with no change, tear up their license and give another rider a go. If we don't do this, we are condoning the behaviour.
In my own career as a rider and a mentor at local level, I have seen my share of dumb things… and yes I have even contributed to them and done my fair share of dumb things too.
I have seen some nasty stuff and people hurt for no good reason. Incidents that could have been avoided. Yes some that couldn’t but many that could.
Moves that have next to no chance of working aren’t just plain dangerous, they don’t even give you a chance of a good result, they wreck your result. So why hell do we see it so often?
Can we do better as a sport?
There are some great programs out there like the training juniors receive and some of the awesome work our clubs have done for beginners and novices. Awesome stuff!!
However Race Craft and reckless riding is something we need to work a lot more on. Both for riders and officials.
Penalising these crazy moves consistently, for a long period of time will change the culture of our sport. And it's the culture that needs to change.
Seeing a gap and then just shoving your nose into without an understanding or thought of if it's going to work or not is just dangerous. It's reckless.
Are we going to wait for our Ayrton Senna moment or is this one enough for us to encourage culture change in our sport and discourage reckless riding more actively?
Passing attempts that have a low chance of success or cutting across race line that results in an incident or a rider being impeded in qualifying deserve penalties. The severity of the incident the harsher the penalty.
We are not saying we don't want hard and brave racing, we do. Close, hard battles and yep they will end in tears sometimes. Let's just get rid of this reckless crap.
We need a culture change and encourage better education and understanding.
A quick bit on passing
It is kind of pretty simple. If the pass you are attempting doesn’t have at least 60-70% chance of sticking, wait until it does. If you have no idea if it does then wait until you actually do, else it;s just hope and not skill.
Sure the % changes depending on the stakes, last lap, last corner of MotoGP, yep try a 30% chance. A ride day, make it 95% or better. Horses for courses.
Oh the Track itself
Is the Red Bull Ring Dangerous for bikes? Well all tracks have a level of danger but yes, I’d say the Red Bull Ring is a bit dangerous for MotoGP at the moment.
Turn 3 – The bikes a travelling at over 300km/h to a very slow corner that comes back on itself. Sunday showed us what can happen here
Turn 1 also produced a monster crash in Moto2. I don’t think it’s a particularly dangerous in isolation. However the line required to take the kink up the hill properly makes this more dangerous because a late high side is likely to end with bikes on the track. As Sunday showed.
What can they do? Well that’s a really hard one. Do nothing? I am not sure I’d be doing nothing if it was my head on the chopping block this weekend.
As a short term measure, I’d be putting a no pass zone on that straight. Any rider that passes another rider (unless that rider is clearly going slow) has to serve a penalty. It’s really sad that we even have to consider things like this but if riders can’t work this stuff out what choice do we have.
I know that might seem extreme and the purists will hate it but I’d prefer that to seeing another incident like Sunday. And I still want them to race.
Sorry it was such a long read but let us know your thoughts.