2016 Barcelona Saturday Round Up: Dealing with Danger, Data-Driven Design, and the Right to Complain

What does the MotoGP paddock do the day after a rider dies? Carry on as normal. Or nearly normal: bikes circulate, riders compete, but conversations are more hushed, the mood muted. The whole paddock is a quieter place, bar the bellowing of racing four stroke engines.

Heartless? That is putting it a little strongly. It is in part a coping mechanism, immersing yourself in your work to avoid dwelling on tragedy, and thinking too much about danger. But it is also a response to the request of Luis Salom's family and team. When Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta asked them what they wanted to do, they said they wanted the race to go ahead.

Their wishes would be respected, but it was not the first choice of everyone in the paddock. Danilo Petrucci told the Italian press he would have preferred to have packed up and gone home, and he was not alone. "Yesterday I was crying together with my brother because [Luis Salom] was really young," Aleix Espargaro told us. "This is a disaster. With Pol we were thinking that the best thing was to not race because actually now I feel empty inside." We all felt empty inside, and still do.

Still two more days to go

What made this situation more complex than after previous fatalities was that the last deaths in Grand Prix racing all came during the race. In 2010, Shoya Tomizawa crashed in the Moto2 race, was rushed to hospital, and was declared dead after the start of the MotoGP race. In 2003, Daijiro Kato was left in a coma after a crash at Suzuka, dying two weeks later. In 2011, Marco Simoncelli was killed during the MotoGP race, and the race was canceled.

Luis Salom was killed during the first day of practice. When a rider dies during a race, there is no time to reflect, no time to think. The race continues, or the race is canceled, then everyone goes home and has time to come to terms with what happened with their loved ones. On Friday, riders retired to their motorhomes or their hotels, as did team members and media, and had time to sit and brood.

The riders still came out to prepare for the race, however, and ride the newly revised layout of the track. The danger was there, but they accept it as part of the sport. "You never think about that," Pol Espargaro said. "Why do people love our sport? Because we go at 350 km/h on the straight. Or we go through the corners at 200 km/h. Some people love our sport because it’s risky and we give to people the adrenaline that they cannot get."

Dealing with death and danger

But how do you deal with that danger, I asked him, how do you deal with the knowledge that you could die? "I understand, but you don’t realize it," Espargaro answered honestly. "I’ve spoken a lot of times like that with my girlfriend. She said, ‘No, don’t say that!’ But it’s like that." Despite knowing the risks, Pol Espargaro would change nothing. "Maybe one day I can crash and get injured or even die. If I die in three years and I restarted my life again I would do the same. It’s our life. For sure Luis would do the same now."

The riders tuck the danger away in a corner of their minds, and don't think about it. How do they ride after such a clear demonstration of the danger? "It’s very easy because the riders can’t think too much about the bad things happen in the track," Andrea Dovizioso explained. "Every time we ride you can’t think about everything can happen, because every lap is not enough for what you did. You have to pass every time your limit." You have to push at the limit ever lap, trying to go faster, ignoring the risks. "You have to be focused on that to be really fast, faster and faster, and every practice try to improve."

Only when a bad incident such as Salom's happened were the riders forced to act, Dovizioso explained. They had tested the F1 layout at Turn 10 in 2014, and rejected the idea of using it. "When we try at that time, some riders say it’s not nice and it is slow," Dovizioso told us. "So until something bad happens, you don’t put the safety on top priority."

What happened?

So what happened to Luis Salom? Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and FIM Safety Officer Franco Uncini gave a press conference to explain what had happened, and why the riders had decided to change the track. Salom had lost control of his bike on the exit of Turn 11, had fallen, and his bike had gone straight ahead into the air fence, bounced off it, and Salom had hit the bike as it rebounded. The impact was sufficiently forceful to cause massive internal injuries, and put him into cardiac arrest.

How the crash had happened was a bigger mystery. The point at which Salom crashed was strange, however. The marks left by the Spaniard were on the outside of the turn, well outside of any standard racing line. Salom was pushing hard on his out lap, but there is no real explanation for why he crashed where he did. The strange point at which he crashed is what would prove fatal, Salom's odd line putting him in a direct trajectory with the wall, running straight on across the relatively small sector of asphalt put in to allow F1 cars to brake in time before hitting the wall if they missed the entrance to the F1 chicane.

The combination of air fence and asphalt run off proved to be ill-fated. If Salom had hit the air fence on his own, he would probably have survived. The air fence was put there in response to a crash two years ago by Niccolo Antonelli, and if it hadn't been there, and Salom had hit the wall, the impact would have been very severe. Then again, the bike would have bounced off the wall differently, and probably not hit Salom. Because of the asphalt, Salom and his bike followed the same trajectory. Had there been gravel there, then the differential in friction would have seen Salom and his bike take different paths, and they would have been less likely to collide.

Bone of contention

The issue of whether Turn 12 was known to be dangerous became a bone of contention. During the press conference, Carmelo Ezpeleta denied there had ever been a request from the Safety Commission to put gravel at that point, and Franco Uncini denied the corner had ever been designated as dangerous by the riders.

The riders disagreed. Valentino Rossi said he had brought up that corner several times in the past six years, and specifically after the crash of Antonelli. That led to an uncomfortable moment in the press conference. Paolo Ianeri, journalist for the Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, asked Jorge Lorenzo who was lying, Ezpeleta or the riders, and Johann Zarco, also present in the press conference, interjected to accuse the journalist of trying to create a problem, instead of looking for a solution. Was the question inappropriate? It was a valid question to ask, though the timing of the question was poor, and the way it was phrased made it sound more like it was meant to generate controversy than uncover the truth. The job of a journalist is an ugly one sometimes, asking the questions nobody wants to ask at times when nobody wants to speak. But Zarco, personally affected because he knew Salom well, understandably took offense, and reacted in a very human way.

In the end, Marc Márquez handled the question masterfully, saying that neither side was lying, but that the riders in the Safety Commission, Race Direction and the circuit owners had agreed that putting air fence in that corner should be sufficient to make the track safe. Salom's strange crash had proved them all wrong, but it was so unusual that it was hard to predict.

Time to act

Once it had happened, though, something had to be done. The speed at which events moved left Aleix Espargaro feeling bewildered. "The most sad thing is how fast we forget everything," Espargaro said. "Yesterday at 4pm everything happened, and at 6p we were in the track trying to change the track for the next session, so this was even more sad. The world is like this, try to improve the safety in every track. We will try to work harder in the Safety Commission."

The Safety Commission is the formal liaison committee between the riders, Dorna and Race Direction, and meets every Friday at 5:30pm in the Dorna offices in the paddock. Normally, the riders are under strict instructions to treat the Safety Commission like Fight Club – the first rule of the Safety Commission is that nobody is to talk about what happens in the Safety Commission – to allow the riders to speak freely and uninhibited. Pol Espargaro gave a flavor of what goes on in the Safety Commission. "It’s like a bar," he said." We say things like, ‘You are stupid, why did you go there?’ "

Because of the extraordinary events at Barcelona, Bradley Smith explained in depth what had happened there, and how the decisions had been made to alter the track and switch to the Formula One layout, with a hairpin at Turn 10, and Turn 12 replaced by a sharper right hander, then the tight chicane. Ten riders had turned up to the Safety Commission: Pol and Aleix Espargaro, Bradley Smith, Cal Crutchlow, Marc Marquez, Andrea Iannone, Jack Miller, Alvaro Bautista, Andrea Dovizioso, and Tito Rabat.

Inside the Safety Commission

"I was the first one in the room," Smith told us. "Because for me it was important to turn up there, that day of all days, and assume our responsibility. Because our responsibility there is not as a MotoGP rider, but as a safety adviser, as someone like that. So for me, the key thing was that everyone that turned up there assumed their responsibilities. The riders who did not turn up there, I'm a little bit disappointed in, because we all know exactly what time it starts and where it is."

"The first thing we had to address is, do we continue with the weekend? And the first people to ask were Luis Salom's team, and his family. Which was done, so firstly, it's like if we are continuing, what can we do?"

"Initially we wanted to add gravel to Turn 12. Because although the incident that Luis had there wasn't a normal one, it wasn't in the normal racing line trajectory. So looking at that asphalt runoff, it isn't in the normal trajectory of a rider falling. But if we were going to continue, we had to address the situation of the problem that we had there. Which the only way to do that would be to put more gravel on top of that surface, a bit like we do in certain areas of the Sachsenring. You put gravel on top of tarmac, you would have it going up at a degree slope to slow down the speed. Which was the first initial plan."

"Then, having said that, the riders said, well what about the Formula One layout? Because we remember two years ago we tried the layout at the end of the back straight, at Turn 10. And then we discussed using that chicane."

"And that's when the riders went out, as I'm sure people saw. We assessed the situation as best we can. That's why you can see paint on the race track, because we deemed that had we done the normal racing line for Formula One, the trajectory would bring us too close to the wall, so we're bringing the riders straight, and we're coming up with that idea. That was the main focus for us, in that direction."

Turn Ten too?

Bradley Smith also explained why the Safety Commission had decided to change Turn 10, and use the F1 layout there, despite the fact that no incidents had happened there. "I suppose we got to a point where it's like if we're doing it there, and as we had seen on video quite a lot of riders running on at the end of the back straight for Turn 10 and getting to the wall, we decided that if we're going to do it once, let's do everything. That's the only way for us to continue with the weekend, and to allow the event to continue. Basically all the riders agreed that was the only way they would be happy to continue on having seen the incident that happened."

Safety is impossible

This raises the question of exactly how safe a race track can be made, and how much money and effort any racing series should put into it. "At the end of the day, we all line up on the grid knowing that this sport – as I'm sure you can read on your pass – this sport is dangerous. We as individuals know what we are getting ourselves into," Bradley Smith said. "You're never going to have the perfect situation, we shouldn't try and create a perfect situation. We can't fix this sport to be safe and have everyone go home after every weekend. It's just not something that we can do. "

Valentino Rossi said that it was impossible to make race tracks completely safe, as strange accidents can happen. He recalled an incident from 2007, during the IRTA Test in Jerez before the start of the season. "I remember in Jerez some years ago when Roberto Locatelli exit turn ten. The steering stuck on the left and he went into the wall on the left, on a place that is straight." A technical issue with the bike had caused it to veer off, but it was not practicable to take crashes such as that into account, Rossi said. "It’s impossible that you have 100 metres of run off area next to a straight. If not we have to race in the desert. Maybe Qatar is the only place where it is OK. If you remember Marquez tried the start this year and he locked the front, and went left. In that point it’s very difficult to have 100 percent safety. Unfortunately it’s not something that you can fix."

Bradley Smith agreed, and said the role of the Safety Commission was to try to foresee such situations and preempt them where possible, by taking action to prevent serious injury. "As riders, we are trying to think of every possible situation that could happen, hence the reason why the air fence was there in Turn 12. Because in previous years, it hasn't been. So we needed an accident like Antonelli's to show us what can happen. Now, unless you have a simulator which can show you every possible way you can go on a motorcycle, which is basically anywhere, what are you going to do?"

Designing safer tracks with data

What Smith apparently is not aware of is that such a simulator exists. Jarno Zaffelli, of circuit designers Studio Dromo, has a complex piece of simulation software which is capable of modeling exactly such instances. Having visited his offices after Misano last year, and seen what the software can do, I was impressed by its capabilities. Based on data collected in the real world, including tests done with both crash test dummies and real riders in protective gearing, Zaffelli is able to predict both the likelihood of a crash in a particular place, and what trajectory a bike will take after crashing. The system used by Zaffelli is rated highly in both four-wheeled and two-wheeled worlds, and has been certified by DEKRA, the organization charged with evaluating crash test safety for new vehicles for most car manufacturers, and also for the FIA.

Zaffelli used it while redesigning the layout for the Argentina circuit. That track is fast – the second fastest on the calendar, behind Phillip Island – but has a very low number of crashes, and a very low number of injuries. He even used the software to plot the best places to locate ambulance posts, based on the likelihood of crashing.

This kind of expertise is invaluable, and the kind of data-driven approach offers the best path to reducing risk. The alternative is to take the approach used by Hermann Tilke, and create vast areas of run off around the track. That leaves the crowds a long way from the action, making for a disappointing spectator experience, and is not even always effective. It would mean the end of many classic tracks such as Mugello, Jerez, Phillip Island, and Assen, to be replaced with sterile circuits like Qatar. Eighteen rounds of MotoGP at Qatar is an extremely unappealing prospect.

Danger, danger, everywhere

Turn 12, the point where Salom crashed, was not considered particularly dangerous, though Aleix Espargaro had started to notice it more when he took part in a long-distance bicycle race a week ago. "I did ten days ago a bicycle race, and I did a lot of laps and the wall there is very close," Espargaro remarked. Cycling past it many times had given him time to look at the corner, and realize it was not as safe as he had thought it was. "Even if you put gravel, there is not enough room. So I say [the Safety Commission] to go there and when we arrive everybody was agreed, just maybe 20 meters, I don’t know how, but the wall is really close. It’s a third gear, almost 200 km/h corner, very fast corner, so the best thing was to take a very slow corner."

Riding past the corner on a bike meant Espargaro had noticed the corner, but Valentino Rossi told reporters that it was far from unique. Throughout the season, there were a dozen or so corners at tracks around the world with similar problems. "If I think for a little bit there are minimum ten corners," Rossi said. "Like in a lot of other races, we say that we need more run off area. But sometimes this is impossible. In other places it’s not possible. They put extra air fence but they say to us that it’s not possible to have more run off area."

Rossi then proceeded to give examples of such corners. "This is also in Jerez, on the exit from the last corner," he said. "In Motegi, turn four, we say every year we need more run off there. You check all the situation, in Motegi we have one bridge, and you cannot extend the run off area." It was only once a bad accident happened that they were reminded of the dangers. "This is the reality. Unfortunately something very bad happened that reminds us of the risk of our sport. It was another crash and another problem. During the season you have occasions that if something happens on the bike there is not enough space."

Hard to bear

Both Rossi and Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo went on to criticize the changes made, especially at Turn 10, but also at Turn 12. Both Yamahas suffered a lot more from the changes, the tight corners taking away the advantage of the Yamaha on the old layout, which was all fast, sweeping corners.

Rossi was at least honest enough to acknowledge he had missed his chance to have a say. "I don’t understand sincerely why they modify another corner where nothing happen," he told reporters. "This is not very clear and I don’t know why. But on the other hand I wasn’t in the Safety Commission. I take that decision so we will race like this."

Jorge Lorenzo felt that a special meeting of the Safety Commission should have been convened before such drastic changes were made. "After what happened yesterday, the Safety Commission decided to change the corners together with some riders," Lorenzo told the press conference. "I miss a little bit not to be there, as leader of the world championship and champion of last year. But I didn’t receive any communication [about it]. I don’t understand why we weren’t there together all the 24 riders to take such an important decision, to modify it after Friday the track. Disappointed but it’s like this, and with this condition we have to manage, to get the best result possible tomorrow."

No complaining afterwards

The criticism of the track changes by the Movistar Yamaha riders were met with almost universal scorn by the attendees. "They know what time it is," Cal Crutchlow said relatively diplomatically. "They know where it is. Probably the ones that never came are the ones complaining at the end of the day." The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders were far less conciliatory. "Valentino was a guy that didn't turn up at the Safety Commission, hasn't assumed any of his duties, hasn't assumed any of his duties throughout the season, so he can't comment," Bradley Smith said flatly.

Both Smith and Pol Espargaro felt that Rossi and Lorenzo had been derelict in their duties towards other riders in not giving their experience and insight to the Safety Commission. "Why did Valentino since Malaysia has not been going to the Safety Commission to say that?" Pol Espargaro snapped. "We need Valentino. We need him and his experience. We also need Jorge, who is never going."

Espargaro felt that both Rossi and Lorenzo had shown a lack of respect by not attending the Safety Commission, and that Rossi made things worse by saying that there were still so many dangerous corners on the calendar. "This is really stupid and not respectful to the riders that went [to the Safety Commission] yesterday," Espargaro said. "You are saying that there are corners that you know are dangerous but you don’t go to the Safety Commission to say that. If someone crashes at that corner [that you think is dangerous] next year and dies what are you going to do? You’d say ‘F***, I knew this was dangerous.’" It was the duty of all MotoGP riders, who have an automatic seat in the Safety Commission, to be there, and to represent the interests of the Moto2 and Moto3 riders, who are not invited, Espargaro said.

Sepang again

Smith was fiercely critical of Rossi as well. "Yesterday was the day to assume his responsibilities," Smith said. "He hasn't been once this year, so he doesn't have any reason to speak about this decision." Both Smith and Espargaro pinpointed the incident at Sepang as the reason Rossi didn't attend the Safety Commission. "He has not been to the Safety Commission once this year. Not once since Malaysia. So he spat his dummy," Smith said. By not being at the Safety Commission, he had no right to complain. "Why spit your dummy again when you did nothing? You have no leg to stand on!"

Rossi needed to put his own feelings to one side and work for the good of the sport, Smith said. "Whatever problem he has, that he is not going to the Safety Commission any more, then he should swallow his pride and turn up there and do what it is his job to do as a MotoGP rider, to look after safety," Smith told us. "But then he didn't. So don't say, oh, it should be changed. I don't care what he says."

Espargaro put it in even harder words. "What happened in Malaysia?" he asked. "F***, he can’t forget. I had something like that in my past and I understand the situation. It’s something so important and yesterday one guy died. If there was one day that you have to go to the Safety Commission it was yesterday because it’s about respect. I hoped to discuss with all the riders."

Personal reasons

Why didn't Valentino Rossi go to the Safety Commission? "I know about the Safety Commission but I don’t go because I was busy," he told the press on Saturday. What he didn't tell them is that he has been busy on 5:30pm on Friday afternoon at every race since the fateful incident in Sepang. Since then, the thought of sitting in the same room with Marc Márquez, whom he blames for conspiring to rob him of the 2015 MotoGP title, has become completely unbearable. In the past, Rossi has had rivals he has disliked intensely, but the antipathy was always more like contempt. Rossi's view of Márquez is more like pure, unadulterated hatred. That is a relationship which has been destroyed completely, and probably for good.

Of course, Rossi wasn't the only rider not present, Jorge Lorenzo was also absent. Lorenzo did not give an excuse for not attending, but he has been absent for much longer than Rossi. Rossi was a stalwart of the Safety Commission until October last year, when he clashed with Marc Márquez. Lorenzo has not attended for several years, after his criticisms of dangerous riding by various people – most notably Marco Simoncelli – went unheeded, and more often than not, were met without outright ridicule.

Why does it matter that Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo were not present in the meeting of the Safety Commission? As reigning champion, Jorge Lorenzo's opinion carries a lot of weight. As the most powerful figure in the paddock (with the possible exception of Carmelo Ezpeleta), Valentino Rossi has the power to make things happen. If Bradley Smith tells the Safety Commission he thinks a change needs to be made, then it will be taken into consideration. If Valentino Rossi says a change needs to be made, the change will be made before MotoGP returns to the track a year later. It is not fair, but it is the way of the world.

The changes to the final sector so far have benefited the Hondas, though the Repsol bikes also found a set up change which worked a lot better. Marc Márquez was basically unstoppable, as fast round the new layout as Bradley Smith was round the old layout, despite the fact that the new layout is theoretically two to three seconds faster. The hard braking areas and tight turns work well for the Hondas, and less well for the Yamahas, which are quicker through the kind of fast flowing turns with the track lost in the fourth sector. This is the real root cause of the Movistar Yamaha unrest. But they had their chance. They just chose not to take it.


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Total votes: 82
Total votes: 66

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Comments

As usual, a very well written article on the heart of the matter. Riders, especially ones of the stature of Rossi and Lorenzo can't complain if they do nothing to contribute to the solution. To critcise afterwards from the sidelines only compounds their lack of effort.
I sincerely hope that they both put aside their feelings towards their duties on the commission and help situations, rather than stand aside and hope others do their job for them.

Total votes: 36

I have no arguments with anything the riders say, they know better than all of us ever will and even if they didn't they have a right to any opinion they feel they want to express. I think Pol's comments about Rossi being irresponsible in regards to dangerous corners in other parts of the world is a bit irrelevant. Rossi has been around for considerably longer than Pol at tracks that have been around considerably longer than Rossi. I can't imagine a scenario that these issues haven't been brought up before (as Rossi pretty much says outright.)

This all feels a little like picking any side and vehemently sticking with that side in a highly emotional time when really it isn't actually unbelievable that there is nothing sinister about riders who did or didn't show up. Is it hard to believe that a death is not normal and safety concerns afterwards would be dealt with differently as Lorenzo suggested? Of course not. When has a track layout been changed mid-race weekend before? They've never hestitated to call everyone together before for serious issues. On the other side, there's nothing hard to believe that the safety meeting would be at the normal time and would be, relatively, more important on that day of all days. It's a matter of perspective not an indication of some form of intent or disregard for Luis Salom as some people are now ridiculously suggesting in more pointless areas of the internet. 

It's easy to criticise riders for moaning or making inappropriate comments but they are only dealing with the questions being put in front of them. 

Danger: Unknowledgeable people say some people are crazy for putting themselves in danger or have a death wish or no respect for themselves. The reality is that these people have dedicated their lives to their craft with massive hard work and self development. They've worked their way through levels of difficulty and competition. When you watch a video of someone wearing a stupid costume diving off a building with a massive grin and a parachute they haven't just decided to have a go, they've developed the art of parachuting to an extreme level. The danger isn't removed or ignored but the right to put the thoughts to the back of the mind and have an incredible level of focus has been earned in an intelligent way. 

Eugene Laverty was in the commentary box a short while ago and Keith Heuwan commented that riders are a different breed and bounce back so quickly and Eugene himself stated that they all started on smaller, slower bikes a long time ago and build the ability to deal with pain. That's another example in a similar vein. 

Total votes: 50

thanks david, a well rounded summary. couldn't have said it any better. wish for rossi to put aside his personal feeling for betterment of the sport, lorenzo too. although the two are two different situation.

while the movistar riders are been condemn for saying theirs opinion, what about the remaining motogp riders who didn't attend the safety commission?

Total votes: 40

I may be the odd duck here, but when riders, or others, cannot express themselves without profanity, their comments carry little to no weight with me, and I cease reading articles about them.  Pol has now joined my "don't care" list, along with Cal, Jack, Vale, and a few others.

More to the point, I was unaware the Lorenzo had stopped attending the safety meetings.  Assuming you are correct, that makes perfect sense to me.  After all the abuse he took for telling the truth about Simoncelli, I never saw any report of anyone apologizing to him afterwards, nor admitting that he was right.  To his credit, I never heard him say "I told you so", either.  IMHO, Jorge learned (or decided) than nobody wants to do anything proactive about safety, but everybody wants to be the first in line to do something reactive, whether it is helpful or not.

I guess it's up to the riders and the fans to decide what their standards are, and whether they want to continue to participate if they cannot get their voice heard.

Total votes: 55

over this one too, Champ.  So often we hear "PR-speak" and complain about the bland mechanised statements from riders, yet here we have completely unfiltered words straight from the heart and head of an incredibly talented individual at the epicentre of proceedings.....and someone chooses to ignore it because of some naughty words?  It just blows my mind, that a completely open and honest message is lost because someone doesn't like the way it is delivered.  AAAAARGHH!

 

Total votes: 23

I would've thought that the Safety Commission would make a special request of all riders being required to attend. Sure some might be mourning but it should've been mandatory. For the most experienced riders and those with the most influence it should be no question, they need to be there. I hope they are from now on in honor or Salom.

Is Capirossi still on the Safety Commission? His experience is valuable as well.

Total votes: 34

but this all seems more than a little farcical and sad at this point. Has the Safety Commission ever actually enforced such drastic changes to a race weekend? Not that I can remember.

 

A truly horrible incident has occured, and yes they have now 'shut the gate after the horse has bolted' in regards to the track layout. But for me, they had 10 of 24 riders present and to say that there were notable absentees is an understatement of the year. Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Vinales, Bradl, Bautista and so on, not in attendance and with this type of unprecendented decision being taken during this time was absurd-I'm sorry. The only race winners in attendance were Marquez and Dovi, and Dovi's 1 win was in 2009-yes I respect the riders that were there but it wasn't even half the field.

How is this allowed to happen? didn't someone think, maybe we should ensure that all riders understood the seriousness of this particular meeting and the decisions being made? which again is completely without precedence. I'm sure Rossi in particular, Lorenzo and Dani have attended these meetings many, many times in the past but from what I can gather their concerns are normally not acted upon. And in this case, this relatively small group of riders had the power to change the track! And did. 

Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Vinales, Bradl, Bautista and the others should have all been sent for once the meeting was moving to the point of changing the track layout, they should have been summoned to attend and told what was going on-for me this is very unprofessional and even odd. Whilst I don't completely agree with Jorge, I think he has a point-this was no ordinary meeting and this should have been communicated to the riders not there. 

And Smith and Espargaro can complain all they want about Rossi and Lorenzo, but many notable riders were not there and from what I can gather no one made any attempt to get them there. And then, to add insult to injury we see Marquez nearly punt Barbera off the track straight after! AS far as safety and commissions set up for these matters, perhaps thay should look at why a lot of riders don't turn up and why the most dangerous and realtively inexperienced rider in the field seems to have been at the helm on Friday?    

Total votes: 54

As clearly stated in the article, you can even see him on the photos and videos that were made when they checked the track for the corner change.

Compulsory safety commission meetings don't always make that much sense as you don't always have important issues or even anything to discuss and I'm sure many riders have different obligations to attend to if the commission meeting is not necessary. On a day like this however, you would have expected them as human beings and racers to put aside whatever issues they had and show up for something that was clear to be important, even if you don't know the outcome.

It is much like voting actually. You have the right and the responsibility to make your voice heard, but if you don't show up to vote when it is necessary, you have no right to complain afterwards if the outcome is not to your liking.

Total votes: 40

While I beleive Rossi and Lorenzo should both feel obligated to attend such meetings simply because of the wealth of their experience, I now understand why Rossi might not want to be in the same room with Marquez (thanks, Mr. Emmett). That said, he has to get over it at some point and resume his duties as Rider Emeritus.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure all MotoGP riders have mobile phones. It does seem like the absent riders could have been summoned when the riders who did show up took their track walk.

I mean, changing track configuration is a pretty big deal. As a spectator, and only that via the internet, I felt affected. I can only imagine how important such a decision was to those who were actually riding.

Total votes: 26

I think some of the riders like Lorenzo and Rossi know how much $ and effort it takes to make big changes to any circuit.  At the end of the day there is always associated risks with this sport or any two wheeled sport.  You can't fix everything.  Tragedy is hard and isn't fair.  I also think riders are like race car drivers and aircraft pilots.  They do not like to think about death, attend funerals, or have anything to do with them.  In the back of their minds, in their subconscious, they full well know the risks.  

Total votes: 36

I have a lot of respect for Bradley and Pol speaking up and voicing their displeasure of Jorge and especially Vale's absence from the Safety Commission meeting. Glad they both had the onions to stand up to Rossi even though they know his fans can cross the line sometimes. Good on them! 

Total votes: 63

I've been a Rossi fan since early 2000s, when I was living in Spain & got to watch his quixotic move from Honda to Yamaha on local television. It seemed a compulsion toward the difficult, an almost ideological rejection of easy success. It gave me a great respect for him. Now I wonder if he deserves that respect. (Emph. wonder--no real position taken here.) Márquez, whom I used to see as a self-involved punk, showed such grace and wisdom in today's press appearance that I said to my honey, "If he and Rossi both live to be old, they're going to end up friends." Now I wonder if Rossi has it in him to grow up that much. Still love to watch him ride, though. Ditto Márquez.

Total votes: 52

Good article Krop but if I may ask with regards to the airfence comments, what role was played by the tyres behind the airfence?

By this, I refer to the situation that generally if a bike enters an airfence which is on a concrete wall the airfence absorbs some of the energy and the bike is often throw up and over the wall, or the energy is absorbed so well it just falls back to the ground. In the incident of Friday, the bike is propelled back towards the following Salom and alomost seems to be propelled with equal or near equal force as that with which it had hit the airfence.

In photos I have seen there is 4 rows of tyres behind the airfence which would or could have acted to bounce the bike back rather than to continue to absorb the energy of the bike.

It may be rare but I have seen double and triple packed airfence and would feel that a setup of that kind without the tyres behind would have provided better impact absorption (no, no expert but have seen the setup in a few races and it works well).

No doubt that there will be investigations but I have seen no mention made of those tyres and/or their possible role

Total votes: 37

Aesthetically, not rationally, I really like Qatar. For a flat circuit with unusual logistical issues due to its desert location and nighttime schedule, I think it is an interesting layout with some nice corners: in particular, the 1-2-3 chain and 10-11 accelerating into the 12-13-14 fast right-handers. I recall that there are even a few Tilke tracks popular among MotoGP and WSBK riders (Chang, perhaps Sepang?). Shocking, isn't it?!

As for the issue at hand, I'm guessing there's some confusion around corner numbers as turn 10 for MotoGP's normal layout is replaced by 2 corners from the F1 layout. If Salom's accident was between 12 and 13 (as numbered by F1's layout) then the slower entry to the sharper F1 corner, plus the chicane, seems a sensible action - if possibly just to be seen to be doing something considering how unusual Salom's accident was.

Again aesthetically, in my opinion, the single longer turn 10 as per the MotoGP layout is significantly more interesting than 10-11 (F1 layout) and removing it unnecessarily is a small shame.

The track layout on Wikipedia:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circuit_de_Barcelona-Catalunya#/media/File...

Findally, from a great distance, and to strangers whom I will never meet, and will probably never even read this, I wish I could spare Salom's family and friends some of the pain and sorrow they will carry forever. Sincerely.

Total votes: 23

Kudos to them for standing upto Rossi.
People are blaming Honda and Marquez for taking advantage of the terrible situation and for  playing politics although 2-3 members from each factory were present, the descision was unanimous. Now they are angry because the 2 Yamaha riders are moaning on the press.
They changes were for safety reason not because Dorna favors Marquez/Honda over Rossi.

Total votes: 46

Watching the post qualifying interview made me aware of the stress these guys are under post Luis's passing, finger pointing and other similar actions serve no purpose other than to provoke entirely justified reactions ala Johan Zarco's. That journo could have displayed a lot more sensitivity. Having recently been involved in a near fatality I'm intimately aware of how badly that kind of questioning is/would be received.

Jorge Lorenzo was correct in that such an important decision should have been made after all involved had been consulted, was good to see him reassure Johan who looked quite distressed as did most judging from body language.

Total votes: 30

Thanks David for a stunning piece of journalism, especially at a time when too many 'journos' are busy recycling press releases. You have given us great insights into what happens off the track.

In the end, racers survive and succeed not just because they take risks but because they are good at managing them. It's good to learn about how they do that.

Total votes: 30

I think that that was perhaps the greatest article you've written to date David. Beyond brilliant in the way that it provides more insight than can ever be gleaned from simply watching the Dorna footage.

Now, about that post-qualifying press conference...

Aye yi yi! That got kind of intense near the end there. My heart goes out to Zarco. He more than any of the other riders there seems to be taking Salom's tragic death directly on the chin.

Seeing how I was able to feel the tension in the room from watching it from my living room, I can only imagine how thick it must have felt being there live at the press conference.

Perhaps I'm wrong about this but it sure seemed like Ianeri was looking to assign blame to some one or some group. Perhaps something was lost in translation and perhaps his words would have been more eloquent in his native Italian but as I was sitting back and listening to him ask his question I was almost immediately thinking "Oh sh*t!, he's going there!"

Maybe that was just how it appeared from my vantage point.

At any rate, brilliant piece David. Brilliant.

Total votes: 34

But too be honest....

Can we blame the most experience for not attending the safetycommission as the probably already adressed all corners with safetyissues over and over again... over the years but most of the time there is (because of the situation) no (affordable) solution, only room for small changes. You cannot move a bridge per example. Why is it bad to leave the process for others then ?

Why should you turn up at his safetycommision if you 'never' showed up.

I think the remarks of Jorge Lorenzo on the decisions are simply very unwise. Makes people think that some people can only feel their own pain. Probably they feel that some riders took advantage to change the track in their advantage. But even if this the case dont fight over it with the media and make it secondary to what happend at friday. It is still just a track!

In psychological terms I think we can adress another point, now... on the path that brings out the best and most successful sportsman social skills are not a requirement, even bites the nails of succes maybe since dedication for sporting and being on the road forever is not a social activity at all. Left out that there is some abnormality in the need to live a life just for proving you are the best. Good that there is such a life and championship, but i think such a place is not the place to look for and make a verdict on highly developed social elements

 

Total votes: 33

problem is VR and JL criticize the result of safety commision that determined by unanimous desicion by riders. it's common sense that they don't have the right to criticize when they can give their opinion if they're attend it, which they don't. so it's completely understandable why the tech 3 riders gave critics towards them. maybe a little harsh but understandable.

Total votes: 27

From what I know, there are a few different kinds of air fence being use in motorsport. Some are suppose to deflate upon impact, as there is a huge flap that's suppose to open upon impact thus absorbing the energy (of bike or racer). Those are to be kept inflate continuously with an electric blower pumping air into them. It appears (I have not seen any footage yet) that the ones beeing use in this particular instance were of the second type. Those are inflated once and they keep their pressure indefinitely. They are used where there is no power available, their main drawback beeing (been observed here) they will return any energy absorbed (action = reaction).  Maybe this should be looked upon. 

My condolence to the family, this is very, very sad. RIP Luis Salom.

Total votes: 30

The safety commission has no formal role within the FIM structure. It's not mentioned once in the FIM regulations. It's an informal meeting between riders and representatives from Dorna and the FIM and it's intended for the riders to have a direct line to voice concerns regarding their safety. It did not fall to Dorna or to the FIM to mandate attendance by the riders at the meeting on Friday. The riders did not take a decision to alter the track. Those in attendance at the meeting simply made it clear that they would not race if the track layout was not altered. Race Direction then made the decision to alter the track. Had more riders attended the meeting, those opposed to track alterations could have had their say and maybe the track would not have been altered. RaceDirection is not obliged to consult the riders but obviously it makes sense to hear what they have to say, and the proper forum for this is the safety commission, which is why it takes place at the same time in the same place every race weekend. 

 

Riders have been ambivalent about this meeting for years. I remember Rossi urging riders to attend a few years ago. Stoner said after Jerez 2011 when Rossi took him out that the safety commission meetings were a waste of time and he'd given up attending them because only certain riders were listened to. The first safety commission meeting after Tomi Showaza's death saw far more riders than normal in attendance, all eager to voice their anger at Race Direction for not red-flagging the Moto 2 race after Showaza's crash. Stoner and Rossi both attended that day and were both in agreement with each other about the steps to be taken.

i fully understand Espargaro's anger towards Rossi and Lorenzo and the other riders who didn't show up on Friday. To dismiss Espargaro's remarks because he used "profanities", as an earlier commenter here has done, is extremely unfeeling in my opinion. The lad was obviously very affected by Salom's death so I think you need to be  quite precious not to be able to hear the sincerity in what he said or to dismiss out of hand his point of view because of how it was expressed.

if ever there was a day for riders to show up at a safety commission meeting, regardless of their opinion of its efficacy, it was Friday.

Total votes: 33

After decades of reading articles and commentary that dance around the harsh truths about racing, David Emmett's words, and those of the MotoGP riders at the safety meeting ... finally ... hit the nail right on the head.

While I realize that the rules of journalism and the need for diplomacy often result in watered-down reporting of racing fatalities and their cause, which delay needed changes, and that quick knee-jerk reactions aren't the answer either, it's refreshing to read an article that tells it like it is. 

Nice work, Mr. Emmett. 

Total votes: 31