The United States is witnessing something of a motorsports renaissance. Calling it the ‘drive to survive’ effect, his F1 isn’t the only series seeing a resurgence of TV audiences. Last season was one of the most watched in IndyCar history.
But ask most of these newly converted racing fans about MotoGP, and that enthusiasm quickly turns to anxiety. Who can blame them?The rider hits 220 mph on the straights and drags his elbow on the pavement in corners. Only a millimeter of kangaroo leather separates them from serious injury.
“Both F1 and MotoGP come from a dangerous background, for example,” Ducati Lenovo rider Jack Miller told ESPN at the San Marino and Rimini Riviera GPs in Misano earlier this month. “At the end of the day, anything you do, whether it’s driving your car in the morning or biking to work, is risky.”
“As you can see, most of the time I can just get up and walk away. There are far fewer injuries than before, at least once. [big crash] Weekends, and now maybe once a season, maybe.”
– Watch all seasons of Formula One and W Series on ESPN
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access
As Miller hinted, and like most racing series more than 30 years ago, the sport used to be dangerous. is dead In his previous 30 years, 59 had died, and nearly a third of them had been held at the Isle of Man, the circuit on public roads where his 1976 World Championship was last visited.
For context, in Formula 1 and its feeder series like Formula 2 and Formula 3, three drivers have died from crash injuries in the last 30 years.
When Madrid-based Dorna Sports became the organizer of the sport in 1991, Dorna Sports and the International Motorcycle Federation (FIM) set out to improve safety. Public roads and temporary circuits were soon removed from the calendar, and run-off he areas and gravel traps were installed or enlarged to minimize the chances of a fallen rider hitting a wall, tree or other obstacle. rice field.
Dorna and FIM now use software developed jointly with the University of Padua. The software accurately calculates the required run-off room on both asphalt and gravel, ensuring minimum safety standards on every corner of every racetrack. Advances in tire grip, braking performance and aerodynamics keep these motorcycles constantly evolving, but they’re growing faster, the math is always changing, and they’re ensuring regular tracks that require more run-off room. doing.
Today, the majority of accidents end with the rider slipping to a stop before encountering anything other than asphalt or gravel. It is the bruises and fractures caused by the fall itself that MotoGP and protective gear suppliers like Alpinestars and Dainese have been trying to eradicate over the past decade.
Nearly 20 years of research and development, much of which continues to be done with the world’s best riders on MotoGP race weekends, has resulted in a leather with an airbag system that not only protects against severe road rashes, but also cushions most impacts. produced a suit. crash. The early system primarily protected the collarbone, and while its fracture was once a scourge of the series and an injury that has now been nearly eradicated, it now covers the shoulder, chest, and even hips.
Six accelerometers, three sensors, and a gyroscope work in concert at Alpinestars to see if the rider’s movements are normal, whether they’re struggling for control of the bike, or because of a crash. Provides real-time data for algorithms to interpret whether Occur.
Alpinestars Media and Communications Manager Chris Hillard said:
Speaking at Misano, an Alpinestars technician charted every moment of the crash from that morning, showing when the rider lost control of the bike, when it was thrown into the air, when the airbags deployed. , I’m looking at a sensor input that tells me when the foot is. The rest of his body also collapsed when he touched the ground. Less than a second into his tenth minute, the system recognized that a collision was in progress and deployed the airbags.
MotoGP’s ultra-slow motion cameras captured this high-side crash of six-time series champion Marc Márquez at the 2019 Malaysian Grand Prix, where the rider was thrown onto his bike. The footage below shows Marquez’s airbag deploying before the left hand lets go of the bike.
Best clip of 2019! 📽️
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) January 27, 2020
In 2018, the FIM made it mandatory for all riders in MotoGP and its supporting classes to wear such safety technology during all practice, qualifying and race sessions.
“We don’t think about airbags until it’s too late, they’re already deployed when we’re in the air,” Miller said. “Maybe not a big deal, but[his fingers an inch or two apart]put that much distance between you and the asphalt or whatever you are going to land on. It makes a difference.”
When MotoGP visited the Red Bull Ring in Austria last month, Team Suzuki Ecstar rider and 2020 World Champion Joan Mir endured an almighty high side. The data Dainese downloaded from Mir’s suit was shocking. In the air he spent 1.02 seconds, about 64 feet, before hitting the ground at 41.9 mph on his 18-gram impact.
He suffered a “fracture and bone fragment” in his right ankle and missed the ensuing race at Misano. He later abandoned the effort.
— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) August 21, 2022
“After a highside like the one we suffered in Austria, [the airbag], it could certainly be worse,” Mill told ESPN. Maybe if you had a crash like this in the past, your career would be over. ”
Despite all this progress, there is still much work to be done. A rider is most vulnerable in the path of the rider immediately behind him after falling in his line of racing. This is Dorna’s focus as MotoGP safety technology continues to evolve. This means that the rider instantly warns of a competitor who has fallen forward.
Carlos Ezpeleta, Dorna’s chief sporting officer, said: “I think the biggest challenge that we are facing right now, unfortunately, is the big challenge: protection against traffic, riders behind you running over you. It’s about protecting the rider in the event of an accident or collision,” he told ESPN. “A bike going 60 or 70 mph can hit a rider, so it’s very difficult to tackle.
“But if you think about airbags in leather suits, 20 years ago they would have said it was impossible.”
As Mir can attest, what seemed impossible in MotoGP 20 years ago is now a life-saving technology as common as a helmet.