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.