There have been fears of early-lap carnage in the Moto2 class ever since it was announced that there would be over 40 riders on the grid, so when Shoya Tomizawa and Simone Corsi tangled on lap 2 at Jerez, nobody was particularly surprised. What was surprising, however, was to see a further 8 riders go down immediately behind the Technomag-CIP riders, wiping out without warning on a trail of oil left on the track by Tomizawa's bike.
Speculation on the nature of the fluid started immediately in the media center at Jerez, with opinions divided between oil, water or fuel. Given the speed at which the following riders lost the front end, water seemed unlikely, and it was hard to see how fuel could have affected grip so radically.
The ever-vigilant Toby Moody immediately dashed to pitlane to search out the problem, and quickly got to the bottom of the matter. The nature of the crash had meant that Tomizawa's Suter had flipped over onto its side, grinding a hole in the crankcase cover and allowing oil to spill all over the track (pictures over on the Autosport website). The fact that there are very strict specifications about what can and cannot be altered on the spec Honda engine meant that no protective covers - common in racing - had been fitted to the bikes, allowing the aluminium casing to be worn away quickly.
After the incident, new rules to mandate use of crankcase covers are likely to be introduced by the time the paddock reaches Le Mans, but the incident highlights the problem of racing spec engines based on production equipment. During MotoMatters.com's visit to the Buckingham base of FTR, who supply chassis to the Aeroport Castello team of Alex Debon and the FIMMCO Speed Up team of Gabor Talmacsi and Andrea Iannone, both FTR boss Steve Bones and bike designer Mark Taylor talked about the problems they had run into while designing the bike. Though emphasizing that MotoGP's technical director Mike Webb had been extremely helpful in getting issues sorted, the FTR design team had put in requests for modifications of various ancillary systems and the airbox, just for reasons of packaging. With so many details to discuss - and decisions to be made in Japan, in consultation with Geo Tech, the engineering firm handling maintenance of the engines - it is easy to overlook the obvious, such as damage to specific parts in a crash. Crankcase protectors will be the first step to solving this issue, but no doubt there will be more as the season progresses.