Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - What will be Salom’s legacy?

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


What will be Salom’s legacy?

Hopefully the creation of some kind of system that delivers the right kind of run-off for both MotoGP and Formula 1

Sadly, it is a reality of racing that safety improvements are sometimes only made after a rider gets killed or badly hurt.

So what will be the legacy of Luis Salom’s untimely death?

We have known for years that asphalt run-offs aren’t always a good thing for motorcycle racing. But striking a balance over the desires of car racers and bike racers has never been easy. Back in the 1970s, Armco was introduced at racetracks across the globe. The steel barriers probably saved the lives of many car drivers but certainly cost the lives of many bike racers.

More gravel trap might have prevented the loss of Salom’s life, but no one can be certain about that. All we do know is that MotoGP safety officer Franco Uncini told us he had asked the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) for a return of the wider gravel run-off area at Catalunya’s Turn 12 – where Salom crashed – but he was told the asphalt had to stay. The asphalt run-off has been there since 2009.

Valentino Rossi said he has discussed the need for more run-off at the corner for the past six years; although Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta denied he had ever received a request from the Safety Commission for more gravel run-off. Certainly, nothing changed at Turn 12 until Salom died when the track was immediately changed; to a Mickey Mouse chicane that spoils the circuit’s flow and character.

There surely must be a better way. Salom’s legacy needs to be the FIM and the FIA developing some kind of adaptable system that delivers the right kind of run-off for both Formula 1 and MotoGP.

It won’t be easy, but as Motor Sport magazine’s Grand Prix editor Mark Hughes says, “I’m sure the minds that came up with counter-rotating vortices to accelerate the airstream through a gap and direct it where it’s needed can come up with something.”

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 85
Total votes: 86

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Comments

It seems like the future of rider safety may likely continue in the direction of actively responsive systems, like the leathers-embedded air bag systems that have prevented some serious injuries over the last several years. Might we some day see selectively placed airbags on the bikes themselves? Would they help? 

With regards to run off areas, I'd be curious about the potential for developing surfaces with actively variable viscosity. Thinking of tech like electromagnetically manipulated suspension components that can be either firm or soft depending on the current applied, could a similar capability be devised for track run offs? A surface that behaved like asphalt most of the time, but could become something like thick mud when a crash was detected? I realize this sounds like science fiction, but half the tech we have in the sport today would have seemed impossible just a few decades ago. 

Total votes: 96

This article is one of the best I've read about the topic.

As Safety officer of the FIM in my country, I do all that's possible to ensure we have the safest possible conditions.

In my country, we don't have the luxury of a proffesional circuit with huge run-off's ,I've witnessed death and severe injury first hand, before I got involved in FIM. It was those accidents that made me stood up and tackle the problem, in those days nobody ever put up even a haybale and our "tracks" were full of walls and stuff, yet we kept on signing in and racing, because we didn't knew better.

Nowdays we do take care, and because we have no options on our tracks, we do put haybales where we can and we do modify the circuits so that we dont approach dangerous corners at dangerous speeds, so far we've done well with no serious injuries, none related to wall accidents.

My point is, like in the old times, we racers do sign in and line up almost anywhere to get a fix.

It's the responsibility of the organizers to put out the safest circuit possible, there are always instances where Murphy's Law will come in full effect, but aside from those, safety should be as good as possible and it's up to the rider to go out to check the circuit,and make the final decision before signing up. Nobody's putting a gun in your head to force you race. Nobody but the racer himself.

I can't explain it.

We go canyon carving on weekends knowing there are cars around, yet we do it.

We go racing on sub-standard circuits, everywhere.

Danger atracts us like flames atract bugs. I guess it's part of human nature, of us adrenaline junkies.

Total votes: 126

That active safety isn't such a bad idea.  While it's quite science fiction today, it wouldn't always have to be.  Going down the guise that typically one of the bigger issues is Riders/Bikes colliding at speed.  If you had electro-magnets with the Riders configured on South, Bikes on North and charged them in the event of a crash, it could potentially distance riders/bikes enough.

I'd say it's tricky now, but not impossible.  The trick would be adding enough intelligence into the system, so it doesn't activate while a rider is riding in normal conditions launching them off said bike!

The idea of the variable run-off grip is also quite nice, again, not impossible.  As with most things though, it'd be cost vs actual chance of situations occuring I guess.

Total votes: 93

I believe that the His Legacy should at least be doing everything possible make damn sure communication on Dangerous Situations are addressed. To me it is an insult to Luis Salom that there is still too much to be answered .

Specifically the question as to who said what to who because from the Article it seems very unclear with denials comming from Ezpeleta about a conversation on the corner Rossi had said he had concerns about ,and from the FIA, over the Denial for the gravel.

At the very least if communication is clear and concerns are recorded along with the responses more people can be aware of the dangers and work towards solutions that will at least help lessen the risk for major injury.

There could be air fences or something else that have a high level of energy capture so as not to make a motorcycle rebound and be able to swallow and slow the bike and or rider down.

There are many many Safety issues i see and cringe at when i watch the Motogp Races and I'll just say Two of them, First is that when a bike slides off track the helpers trying to get the bike off or back on are too exposed many times without a spotter to look out for them and better tools to help drag the bike out and get back to a safe position every second counts. 

The second is When a rider is in a pretty bad accident A doctor with life saving equipment should be there as fast and safe as possible. BMW should provide a Safety Motorcycle with Two riders one being a Doctor that could enter the track Immediatley under red flag conditions and be there as fast and safe as possible.

I don't think ive ever posted and sorry if this sounds like a rant.

 

Total votes: 102

Most marshalling teams use a spotter while retrieving a bike. You can't see them on TV, because TV is showing the bike.
There are trained emergency medics (including doctors) at the medical marshal points around the track. Most marshal posts are designated as medical posts.

Total votes: 99

"The second is When a rider is in a pretty bad accident A doctor with life saving equipment should be there as fast and safe as possible. BMW should provide a Safety Motorcycle with Two riders one being a Doctor that could enter the track Immediatley under red flag conditions and be there as fast and safe as possible."

I believe that what is required is pretty well covered in the FIM STANDARDS FOR CIRCUITS document.  I can tell you from first hand experience that there will be more than one "fast car" with physicians in place and there will be paramedics and/or doctors at each ground post along with a variety of ALS and/or BLS equipment.

Total votes: 84

"Specifically the question as to who said what to who because from the Article it seems very unclear with denials comming from Ezpeleta about a conversation on the corner Rossi had said he had concerns about ,and from the FIA, over the Denial for the gravel:

I think this is the misinterpretation that is is made often, even in de persconference after the trianing. I think the article mentioned it perfectly clear:

VR and riders discussed it over the years. Ezpeleta is not denying whether a conversation took place. Ezpeleta stated that he did not receive a formal changerequest. Fully understandable: why putting up a changerequest if it is clear it will not succeed at all.

I think we all also have to take in mind that last years the trackfacilities almost got bankrupt, since Spain government is taking back it's financial support and maybe of European rules that are after transparancy. The changes  you ask must be realistic. Changing back a situation maybe even more challenging. And I think they find safety of F1  more important in the end

It is easy to say "we are not gonna race here" but there are not many tracks that are save enough. En who want to wipe the GP of Barcelona form the calender?

All about the legacy? In my opinion reality is that over time the businessmodel of racing and the logic of human mind will turn this extremely sad event to just another one on the list

Total votes: 85

Salom's death was a preventable tragedy - from which lessons must be learned.

As Zarco pointed out, now is not the time to apportion blame, but it is an opportunity to discover solutions in order to prevent an unnecessary re-occurrence.

Would this circuit (pre-Salom) achieve FIM 'Grade A' status if it was to be submitted for consideration today? It's doubtful.

The link to the FIM Regulations is posted below.

http://www.motorsport-total.com/motorrad/FIM-Standardreglement-f%C3%BCr-...

One final thought - Safety Meetings should publish 'The Minutes' of each and every meeting. RIP Luis Salom.

Total votes: 96

I'd go one step further; don't even think about who's to blame, treat it that everyone has acted in good faith in the past and just look forward. When people (which includes us) start pointing the finger, those on the other end quite naturally think about self-esteem protection even when they are blameless. Better that they speak freely and honestly, without fearing the consequences.

Total votes: 113

Having read Mat's article asking about the legacy of Salom. He says "Salom’s legacy needs to be the FIM and the FIA developing some kind of adaptable system that delivers the right kind of run-off for both Formula 1 and MotoGP." The way I interpet his words: There must be a proactive safety work aiming to develop runoff areas that are safe for both F1 and Moto GP. 

We are all upset about the untimely death of Salom and I agree, safety is all important and his death could likely have been avioded if FIM/FIA had been listening to Rossi and others about the turn 12 danger. 

Then in the Isle of man article Mat says "I see little difference between riding the TT and climbing Everest. If someone wants to do either, why stop them?"
Five people have died in this years IOM TT and very few know their names as opposed to Salom's. Should not the same reasoning be applied to the IOM TT as in MotoGP races? Why are the risks acceptable in the TT different to the ones in MotoGP Mat? After all the riders in MotoGP are there of there own free will as well. Five racers have died and there is not much arguing for safety measures. Where is the logic?

 

 

Total votes: 95