Moto3 and WorldSSP300 deaths: something needs to change

MotoGP

Three Moto3/WorldSSP300 deaths in identical circumstances in less than four months is too much – Dorna and the FIM must act

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Moto3 ETC rider Millán (died July 25th), Moto3 GP rider Dupasquier (died May 30th), WorldSSP300 rider Viñales (died September 26th

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I can’t believe I’m writing about this grim subject for the third time in just a few months. In fact I can, because deaths like Dean Berta Viñales’ at Jerez will be inevitable for as long as the sport continues with the new kind of racing created by the Moto3 and Supersport 300 classes.

I said the same when Jason Dupasquier was killed at Mugello in May and I’m saying it again following the deaths of Hugo Millán at Aragon in July and Viñales on Saturday.

The pack racing created by Moto3 and Supersport 300 – the most dangerous class ever, according to superbike rider Loris Baz – has reached an intensity that leaves the lives of riders in the hands of lady luck.

“Grand Prix racing is now as deadly as it was before that work began in the 1980s”

Motorcycle racers crash – that’s a given – which is why circuit safety and riding gear have been hugely improved in recent decades, but when you fall amid a tightly packed group of riders there’s only one thing that can save you – good fortune – and that’s not good enough.

Fifteen-year-old rookie Viñales crashed in the closing stages of Saturday’s Supersport 300 World Championship race at Jerez and was hit by three riders immediately behind him. He died from severe head and spinal injuries, because there’s no riding gear that can save you in those circumstances.

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This current death rate – whether it’s children or adults – is unacceptable, and it’s sad that after decades of hard graft by teams association IRTA, Dorna and riding-gear manufacturers that Grand Prix racing is now as deadly as it was before that work began in the 1980s.

The problem with Moto3 and Supersport 300 is straightforward – the bikes are too similar and too easy to ride, which is why talented riders often can’t make the difference to get out front and stretch the pack. This is also why riders resort to maniacal manoeuvres to make passes. Of course they are to blame for these moves but so too are the technical rules for putting them in that situation.

It’s no coincidence that the ten closest top-15 finishes in 73 years of 125cc/Moto3 GP racing have all been achieved not since Moto3’s inaugural 2012 season but in the eight seasons since 2014, when random engine allocation was introduced, so that everyone has essentially the same engine performance and all the bikes are basically clones of one another.

And it’s no coincidence that Viñales, Millán and Dupasquier all died the same way – not through acts of outrageous riding, but simply by falling off and running out of luck.

MotoGP 2021, Aragon

The MotoGP paddock mourns Millán’s death during the Aragon GP earlier this month

MotoGP

The way to prevent similar accidents is therefore simple: adjust the technical rules to break up the packs, otherwise more riders will die the same way. And surely any failure to make changes when there’s a self-evident problem could be deemed negligent?

Dupasquier, Millán and Viñales all lost their lives at Dorna events – MotoGP, World Superbike and so-called Road To MotoGP – so the company needs to work with the FIM (the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme), its partners and stakeholders to urgently fix these problems.

Will that happen? I don’t know.

Two weeks ago at the San Marino grand prix Deniz Öncü crashed on Saturday and was knocked out cold for at least ten minutes – “I woke up in the medical centre,” he tweeted later – but the next morning was passed fit to race.

This was an utterly bizarre decision, especially in the wake of Dupasquier’s recent death, which suggests a cavalier mindset in the sport’s corridors of power.

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It sometimes seems to me that these people are only capable of seeing motorcycle racing from the inside and make no effort to see the sport from the outside, to get a glimpse of how the rest of the world sees us.

Because beyond the tragedy of these deaths there’s another factor to consider. Every fatality – especially those of children like 14-year-old Millán and 15-year-old Viñales – has a negative impact on motorcycling as a whole.

Indeed if you wanted to destroy motorcycling you could hardly come up with a better PR campaign than recurrent child deaths in major, televised championships that grab headlines throughout the world. This is one reason why minimum age limits in Dorna’s Road To MotoGP and World Championship events should be raised.

Of course, it isn’t Dorna’s job to promote motorcycling. It is Dorna’s job to make money for itself, its private-equity owners Bridgepoint and its shareholders. But it is the FIM’s job to promote motorcycling and the FIM needs to convince Dorna to fix this problem, for the sake of the riders and everyone else.

I hope this will happen, and soon, because people are getting fed up crossing their fingers every time a Moto3 or Supersport 300 race gets underway. That’s not how motorcycle racing should be in 2021.

Motor Sport magazine would like to send its condolences to the family and loved ones of Dean Berta Viñales.