Rossi, Hayden And Dovizioso Speak About The Safety Commission Meeting On Tomizawa And Astroturf

After the dramatic events of Misano, which saw Shoya Tomizawa lose his life after crashing during the Moto2 race, attendance at the Safety Commission meeting at Aragon - the first convened after Misano - was very strong. Everyone had come to hear Race Direction explain their actions, and give their reasons for not red-flagging the Moto2 race, and a long discussion ensued over the pros and cons of having astroturf on the outside of corners.

All of the riders who attended described the meeting as very positive, and the atmosphere as very open. The riders said that Race Direction was very open to the ideas of the riders, and everyone in the room was looking for lessons that could be learned from the incident involving Tomizawa, Scott Redding and Alex de Angelis.

Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso were three of the riders present at the meeting. Here's what they had to say about the meeting afterwards.

Nicky Hayden

On the opinion of the riders on astroturf:
It's mixed. I think that astroturf's good but it's too grippy, you know, it don't scare anybody. Especially 125 and Moto2 riders, people don't even slow down for it. They get their tires onto it. I think they need astroturf but more slippery. So when you get onto it, you have to slow down.

On red flags:
Obviously, the riders, we want a little bit more to see some red flags. Now we have a big long procedure whenever we have a red flag, we just want to shorten that up. Now we go back to the grid, bring out the umbrella girls again, the generators, go through that hoopla, it just seems like a waste of time. If we have a red flag, let's just stop, and regroup. But we don't need that whole dog and pony show again.

Also, when a guy's on the track, I think they should be a little bit more quick to show the red flag. I'm not a big fan of those Ambulance blocks, when they come and put those in front of a rider. If a guy's on the track unconscious, we should get a red flag. But we're not pointing the finger, it was a really good discussion, those guys were listening. What happened there, they did the best they possibly could. The reason they didn't red flag is was because they needed to get him out of there as quick as possible. It was a really positive meeting, it wasn't anyone in there pointing fingers, just trying to work out how we can make it better.

And it was more the Redding situation than Tomizawa. The riders felt like there's where the red flag should have come, he was rushed off the track a little bit too quick.

Valentino Rossi

Yes, [the Safety Commission meeting] was good, there were a lot of riders, more than normal. Everybody agreed that the Race Direction made a mistake not to red flag the race after the bad crash. So we also said this to the guys and we hope for the next time they will change their behavior, and at the end the race direction agreed with us.

We spoke about the artificial grass, but everyone has his own idea. Especially, Casey explained better what he thinks, and this was not not the same as what I read in the newspaper. But we don't arrive at one decision yet, because everyone has different ideas, maybe take out the astroturf from some corners, some dangerous corners, but not everywhere. If not, all the riders also use the runoff area. And everybody is agreed that for bikes the best way is normal grass with gravel, like in the old times, but unfortunately we have to race a lot of times at the tracks the are used for the Formula One, for car racing, that all want artificial grass, and concrete run off area.

I more or less agree with Casey, because he said that with the normal grass and gravel, a rider is more scared to go over the kerb. So when you understand you are a little bit wide, you know that if you go also 5 centimeter out onto the normal grass, you know you crash, for sure. Maybe on the artificial grass with the concrete runoff area, you try, you try to reach the last centimeter, and if you touch the grass, this is a problem.

But we also saw a lot better the crash of Tomizawa at Misano, and Tomizawa did not crash on the artificial grass. Tomizawa crashed on the asphalt, he lost the front on the track. So the artificial grass is not to blame.

So I agree with Casey, but what do we do? It is difficult now to modify all the tracks with normal grass and especially gravel. The other option is we go to the track that Formula One and other cars don't use. But this is not the answer for me.

For me another problem is that the Moto2 bikes are too wide. When you lose the front on a MotoGP bike, the bike is narrower and the bike falls flatter. So the tires don't touch the ground, and the bike slides to the outside.

The Moto2 is more wide. For a lot of riders when they crash, when you lose the front, the bike remains on the tires. So with the bike on its side, the tires bring the bike back into the track. This is more the problem than the artificial grass. It happened again today: If you see Elias' crash, he crashed, the bike is wide, the bike continued to go on the tires and came back [on the track].

Andrea Dovizioso

We spoke a lot about how we and they can improve what happen in Misano with Tomizawa and Redding and De Angelis, because they are open 100% to improve the situation. They thought they were OK they made the maximum, but always there is a possibility to make better. They say our feeling, we say our feeling. We speak also about the practice and the tarmac, if it can be better.

On whether the riders agreed on removing the astroturf:
Overall, all the riders agree more or less that the natural grass was better. That was the best, because the grip is much less, but nobody push like now to go out [to the edge of the kerb]. When there was that situation, almost nobody went out [to the edge of the kerb]. The risk is higher and you lose too much. So everybody doesn't use maximum the kerb. This [natural grass] is the best for the bike. The problem is we race many tracks which the cars use. So, we can't take it away and put it back again when we have a race, so it's not easy to find the best material to put for the race.

Back to top

Comments

I feel that the car racing should give in and understand that the life of a rider is more important than the possible damage to a race car from going into the grass, etc. It sounds like they want the artificial turf so they can go off track with little to no consequence to the race car.

At least it sounds like Race Direction is listening to the riders' concerns and suggestions to learn and move forward in a better way for the future.

Total votes: 122

It's good to see the riders getting actively invovled and that the safety commission is allowing them to express their points. Hopefully they will listen and make the sport safer.

Total votes: 138

It's nice to see another rider, like Rossi, backing up some of Stoner's comments and it was good that Stoner had the chance to defend his comments. Too often he is portrayed by the press as a bad guy ..... sensationalism most times I think. Same thing used to happen to Max.

Very interesting comment from Rossi ... "When you lose the front on a MotoGP bike, the bike is narrower and the bike falls flatter. So the tires don't touch the ground, and the bike slides to the outside."

I hadn't actually thought too much about this fact.

Total votes: 133

this was the salient point for me as well. immediately reminds me of de angelis getting taken out by a riderless bike travelling back onto the track and into the racing line earlier in the season

Total votes: 114

I respect what Casey has to say. Casey isn't concerned with political correctness; he just wants what's right.

Total votes: 122

... they had a productive meeting. That's the best way to improve rider safety, work together and listen.

Total votes: 127

I think the most important question is: Would Tomizawa have been killed if he were hit by a 250?

I'm not saying that as a sleight to the Moto2 bikes b/c I wanted the change to 4-strokes b/c no one (spare Aprilia) was really committed to the 250s. But, truth be told, the consequences of adding weight and horsepower can quite literally be lethal in the event of a rider strike or multiple rider strikes.

I think that is the valuable lesson to learn now. Be smart about raising weight and horsepower via artificial legislative fiat. It is not as stable or predictable as the incremental performance gains over the decades, and it isn't simply a matter of commercial cost/benefit.

Imo, if the safety council cannot reach a consensus, things should be left alone.

Total votes: 111

Wow. Consequences of adding weight and horsepower. You really pulled that in from way out left field, eh?

O.o

Total votes: 116

If it is so obvious, then why are the riders on the safety council wasting time by considering the dangers of fake grass.

Tomizawa didn't die from carpet burns, he was killed by blunt force trauma. The force of this blunt trauma was increased exponentially by Dorna at the end of last season. I don't hold them liable, but why the hell are people talking about fake grass when the only pertinent questions regarding blunt trauma relate to the forces involved and how they are distributed?

Yeah, it sounds obvious when I say it, but considering it has even entered into the FIMs discourse on safety, I guess it's important to say it out loud.

Total votes: 119

I really don't want to be crass or rude, but how in the world is that the most important question? More important than, "How can we try and prevent this from happening again?" I realize that, in racing, there will always be the risk for deaths and injuries, but what appears to be happening is a look into a valid concern: that the astroturf at these tracks could be unsafe. The most important question isn't, "Would Shoya have lost his life if he were hit by a 250?" Those kinds of questions don't accomplish anything.

The lethality we find in racing comes from the speed and the tracks primarily. And, no matter what, everyone will always try to find ways to go faster. That's what these guys do. So, the only thing we can do is try to control the tracks. Which, as it seems, is whats being discussed.

Let's not sully the loss of a great life by politicking over the creation of Moto2. Sadly, it was part of the fallout of Kato's tragic loss, and it led to the misery that has been the 800s. Let's focus on finding ways to make things safer, not pining for the past.

Total votes: 129

The most influential number that effects the severity of injuries at a bike impact on a rider is probably the kinetic energy. But in kinetic energy mass has only a linear effect while velocity effects it by the power of 2.

What I'm missing in the "post Tomizawa death" discussion is analyzing the underwhelming performance of rider protection gear. I don't understand why racers still go out with a soft leather shell instead of hard body armor. Yes sure, not hindering rider movement while still providing a complete hard outer shell is a tricky challenge for Dainese et. al. but they had *decades* time to develop something like that.

Total votes: 129

Gear is something that is extremely important. But the levels of kinetic energy involved (at these speeds, equivalent to a couple of hundred grams of TNT) are such that materials simply do not currently exist to provide sufficient protection. With airbags making their debut (both Dainese and Alpinestars now have them in their racing leathers), this is one area which will start to see very rapid advances in the next few years.

Of course what we really need is a personal force field, but that's quite a long way off right now. A few fundamental problems of physics to overcome first. 

Total votes: 121

A F1 monocoque survives crashes with 300+ km/h so why shouldn't body armor made in the same way withstand kinetic energy that is only approx. 1/9 of that of the F1 car?

Using a hard outer shell would have the important advantage that point forces (think bike hits rider with the foot peg ) would either be handled completely by the armoring or translated into an areal load witch should reduce injuries dramatically. Further, if damping materials would be fitted between the hard outer shell and the rider skin acceleration forces on the body could be reduced.

Total votes: 126

Comparison to an F1 car is a big stretch.
They have 1 to 2 feet of crushable structure around the monocoque.

What you're describing is putting the equivalent of a helmet around the body.
But it's got to be articulated so the rider can move.

Total votes: 120

They have 1 to 2 feet of crushable structure around the monocoque.

Yes, granted, a big stretch. F1 crashes on TV might be misleading, but my impression of what I saw was that front suspension and carbon nose was shredded at crashes without any noticeable deceleration of the car.

But then again, it doesn't have to bee as tough as a monocoque b/c a human body can survive acceleration forces only unto a certain level. Above this level the body armor can disintegrate.

But it's got to be articulated so the rider can move.

Yes. I didn't say it's easy to design. But hopefully Dainese and Alpinestar have also a few technicians in their company capable to solve such challenges.

Total votes: 138

Weight is a big deal when it is increased overnight by 30%.

I don't think people understand the magnitude of adding 30% more horsepower and weight b/c Moto2 bikes weigh less than WSS and have less power. But the big picture is what matters.

This is the second time the governing body have many substantial increases in weight and power, and it is the second time a death has followed close behind. Kato's death followed the switch to 990s. Tomizawa's death followed the switch to Moto2 bikes.

That is the only link between the two deaths, and while correlation doesn't prove causation, the governing body would be completely remiss in their duties if they didn't question they way in which they implement change. If suddenly adding massive amounts of kinetic energy puts riders at risk, then they need to incrementally change the formula.

It might sound absurd, but a big part of the risk in motorcycle racing is derived from what the riders think is safe or unsafe. People take time to adapt.

Total votes: 110

If suddenly adding massive amounts of kinetic energy puts riders at risk, then they need to incrementally change the formula.

How should that be implemented? You have to specify a minimum *and* maximum weight of the bike. And couldn't that end in dangerously light and weak frames and suspensions?

And how should riders adapt when they step up from the 125's to Moto2 or to MotoGP?

Total votes: 128

You don't need to specify a maximum b/c heavy bikes generally are not competitive.

You would incrementally change the formula by stepping up the min weight and the horsepower over time. They didn't have to jump straight to Honda 600s. They could have used an SV650 engine which just so happens to be 81mm. If they had used a Suzuki SV engine instead the bikes would have had similar power to weight as a 250, but with lower kinetic energy. The bikes would also have been much narrower which would prevent Rossi's gripe about bikes that right themselves and then run across the track. The most dangerous manifestation of the ghost-rider bike was the DeAngelis at LeMans episode.

I'm not saying they should have done, but they could have. Considering that they didn't even remember to add crash protection to the spec engine, you've got to wonder exactly how much thought went in to Moto2.

Total votes: 119

Peter Lenz was lost just a week prior in an incident where a "smaller" bike, in both wieght and horsepower, was involved, yet at a much slower speed. I'd say that shows that weight and horsepower aren't the determining factors in a fatality.

Just my 2¢ worth.

Total votes: 129

Rossi's comments on the width of the bike and the post go-down bike reaction because of it was really interesting...

The moto2 bikes have less hp then 250's. They are slower too.

Total votes: 107

It seems that race direction and Paul Butler are backing away from some of their crass statements in the aftermath, absolving responsibility for not showing the red flag by saying it was the medics call attending poor Shoya..anyone who witnessed the crash knew it was a no brainer red flag and if they are prepared to hold up a hand admitting mistakes were made, it is the start of a process that could see a change for the better.

They have gantry lights at the start finish line to start the race..would it not be possible to have them around the circuit, say just before braking marks on straights? A simple red, yellow and green system would inform riders of track conditions and a change in circumstance could be backed up or even instigated by a flag waving chief marshall at each corner who is in direct contact with race control..chief marshalls could travel with the GP circus and be present at every event, ensuring high level decision making is fast and consistent. Training drills should ensure local crews know what to do as second nature if things go wrong.

Total votes: 142

This is currently being done in ASBK (Australian Superbikes). They have been using lights on the inside of the track, only showing yellow or red in case a rider does not see the flag. I would have thought that all marshalls would have been in contact with race control? That is how it's always been at ASBK and other races I've marshalled at.

But why the comment about lights? Is there something I'm missing, was that bought up during the meeting?

Total votes: 109

I'm not a marshall nor knew they currently use the system you mention in ASBK, but it seems a sensible idea to me..
At Misano Shoya was laid on track with the rest of the field streaming by at pace, it's lucky nobody else was involved..if a warning light system was in place, with the riders able to see the yellow or red light before entering the corner, slowing the train, maybe we wouldn't have seen what appeared to be panic and the consequent rough handling of injured riders..
just throwing it out there..?

Total votes: 111

I spoke to a couple of Moto2 riders at Misano, and they all clearly saw the yellow and oil flags being waved. That was not the problem.

I like the thinking, but I do not believe that lights would be more visible than waved flags. Only lights in the dash might be more useful, and easier to implement. 

Total votes: 108

Great idea... except for the one rider's lights that don't go on when everyone else's does for some reason. IOW, every bike on the track is a potential point of failure; this is not a good way to make a reliable system.

Total votes: 108

would help but they would need to be very strategically placed in order to be effective. The other question in my mind then becomes, who controls the individual lights? Corner marshals, corner captains, race control? The FIM require many more flag stations than 1 location per corner. Their locations are well thought out and placed for optimum line of sight. The problem with "slowing the train" is that none of the riders want to back off, even a little bit, for fear of losing time to a competitor, unless they are forced to. It's been that way for years and will continue as long as there is racing.

I'll agree with David about some type of flashing light (various colors?) on their dash/insturment cluster would probably also be quite an aid for alerting them to dangers on the track ahead. This could also be used in conjuction with starting a race as well. With GPS, transmitters, and the wonderful world of wireless we all enjoy now. I would think this should be that far out of reach to see in the near future and it could be controlled by what section of the track the bike is in.

Total votes: 117

Adding weight and horsepower is too dangerous???

Hell, well, we'd better ban the MotoGP class from racing, and superbikes, and supersport .....

In the end racers race whatever bike is required for a given class - yes, it's dangerous and shit happens - moves can be made to reduce risks, but I honestly think it's a long bow to draw in blaming the increase in weight and horsepower for the accident.

Total votes: 133

You can clearly see that the moto2 bikes don't slide as much to the outside of the turn when they go down. But what puzzles me is that the same goes for the rider.
In motogp they always seem to have enough speed to slide accros the tarmac into the gravel.
I looked at 3 crashes in moto2 QP today were the bike remains close to the racing line, but the rider also in most cases. Why is this happening? Is the cornerspeed so low that they don't sllide to the outside of the track, or are they falling in different placed?
If you want to prevent accidents like Tomizawa's, it's imortant to understand why this happens.

Total votes: 107

Wouldn't be pretty easy to interpose a first strip of real grass between the track and the astroturf-running off concrete? This could provide the low grip-psychological obstacle for bike riders and still be good for F1.
On the size of moto2, I'm sure that if the series was open to more engine constructors, engines would become much smaller and bikes lighter.

Total votes: 116